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Chinye finding the smallest gourd.

Chinye is a tale collected from West Africa by Obi Onyefulu. The main character is an unjustly oppressed orphan who finds fortune in her journey throughout the forest, while her stepsister who is unjustly spoiled provides for her family misfortune.


Long ago in Africa, this is a Cinderella story so, there lived an orphan by the name of Chinye. Chinye lived with her stepmother Nkechi, and stepsister Adanma. Quietly, Chinye worked hard every day to please Nkechi, who forced her to do all the work on her own. Adamna was not required to help because she was spoiled by Nkechi and was very lazy.

One night Adanma had used all the water in the house for a bath, leaving none to cook with. Angrily, Nkechi demanded Chinye to go to the stream and to get more water. However many wild animals went to the stream at night and even the bravest villagers dared not to go when the sun fell. Chinye begged Nkechi to let her borrow water from a neighbor instead but Nkechi again demanded that the water from the stream. Nkechi thrusted a heavy waterpot into Chinye's arms and sent her into the forest.

Chinye wept as she journeyed through the forest. Soon a shadow could be seen along the path. Chinye screamed and paralyzed with fear, she shut her eyes and prayed. But the voice of the animal was very gentle as it asked her where she was going. Chinye opened her eyes to find an antelope. Relieved, she explained that she was fetching water. The antelope warned Chinye to hurry home and reminded her of the forest's dangers at night. But Chinye had to refuse. Her mother stepmother would be very angry with her if she did not return with the water. Releasing a sigh, the antelope allowed Chinye to pass.

As Chinye continued down the path, another shadow loomed upon her that looked like a hyena. Chinye screamed and shut her eyes, but this creature's voice was also kind like the antelope's. After telling her story to the hyena, the hyena wished her well on her journey but warned that a lion was following. The hyena told Chinye to hide behind a tree until it had passed. Chinye obeyed before hurrying towards the stream and filling her water pot.

Running home, an old woman would then appear in front of her. The elderly woman blessed Chinye as she reached to hold her. She would then tell Chinye of a hut she would pass that made the sounds of drums and songs. When she got there, she would find gourds all along the floor within. The old woman then warned that of all the gourds, one of which carried evil things would call to Chinye be taken. Chinye was instructed not to take it, but instead, to take the gourd which was smallest and quietest.

The old woman then disappeared and Chinye did as she was advised to do and ignored the large gourd that asked for her to take it. When she'd finally left the hut with the smallest, quietest gourd, the old woman appeared again. Inspecting the gourd, she congratulated Chinye on her wise decision and to make use of what fortune it gives her. Tenderly, the woman touched Chinye's cheek and sent her on her way home.

Chinye's stepmother was at the door waiting. Nkechi demanded to know why Chinye had not arrived sooner, and eyed the small gourd she carried with suspicion. When Nkechi heard that an old woman had given Chinye the gourd she snatched it and shook it violently. It made no sounds at all. Nkechi tossed it aside and demanded Chinye to prepare the fire for their food.

Chinye had obeyed Nkechi's request and would had no chance to break the gourd until the next morning. It was early and Nkechi and Adanma were still resting. She took the gourd into her father's old hut, locked the door and smashed it as she was told. From the tiny gourd the entire hut was filled with treasure: Gold ornaments and ivory flooded the floor. Chinye then saw rare damask in all colors. When her disbeleif subsided, she ran to tell Nkechi.

Nkechi saw the treasure and was stunned to think that it could come from such a small gourd. She soon wished it had been Adanma who had met the old woman. Filled with greed, Nkechi wondered if it was not too late and that night sent Adanma to the stream. Adanma met the antelope hyena and the old woman just as Chinye had. However Adanma did not listen to the old woman's advice to take the not to listen to the largest gourd. When it called to her “Take me” from inside the hut she listened to it, and carried it home.

When Nkechi saw the size of the gourd she guessed they would amass an even greater fortune. But when they smashed the gourd, there was a flash of lightning and thunder. A great whirlwind gathered all of their belongings before finally leaving the hut. Nkechi and Adanma were left with nothing. As Chinye shared her wealth with the rest of her village and lived happily ever after, Nkechi and Adanma left, too prideful to ask for help.

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