Once there were three sisters collecting sticks in the forest when they heard the sound of men forcing their way through the undergrowth and making their way towards them.

The sisters were afraid, the men were getting closer and the girls knew that these weren’t ordinary men, but cannibals out hunting for their favourite lunch, girls!

Luckily these sisters were the daughters of a magician and they had picked up a trick or two while they were growing up.

copyright Dez Quarréll

Eldest sister said, “I am butterfly”, and transformed into a butterfly and flew away.

copyright Dez Quarréll

Middle sister said, “I am bee”, and transformed into a bee and flew away.

copyright Dez Quarréll

Little sister, who still had so much to discover about magic spells, said, “I am little pick handle”, and transformed into a little pick handle and fell with a crack to the ground just as the first cannibal arrived in the clearing.

When cannibals are looking for lunch they aren’t much interested in watching butterflies or bees flying away, they are interested in looking for girls to eat. Even when they are disappointed and lunch-less they do not overlook something useful that they find just lying at their feet. And the first cannibal said “Oooh! A little pick handle that will be useful someday”, and he picked up little pick handle.

He took little pick handle back to his village, back to his hut and then threw her into the outhouse with the rest of the treasured tools.

Now, I don’t know how much you know about little sisters but one thing is certain, they can’t keep quiet for long. Little sister had been shocked into silence all through that journey to the cannibal’s village but now she was ready to experiment into finding her voice as a little pick handle. She howled, albeit in a very wooden way, and it was loud enough to attract the attention of the cannibal. The hair on his head rose and off he went running to his wife screaming all the way, “my pick handle is bewitched, my pick handle is bewitched”.

His wife tried to calm him, but he insisted she come to the outhouse to hear what he had heard. And when she heard that howling pick handle her hair rose too, and she went running with him to the hut of the Chief Cannibal screaming all the way, “our pick handle is bewitched, our pick handle is bewitched”.

The Chief Cannibal was made of stern stuff but when he stood outside that outhouse door and heard that howling pick handle his hair started to rise too. But he simply said, “your pick handle is bewitched, stay out of the outhouse”, so they did.

In the middle of the night when the cannibals were asleep in their huts, little pick handle wasn’t asleep in the outhouse. She was still howling. And now she was howling so hard she knocked herself over and found out that little pick handles can roll.

She rolled this way, she rolled that way, she rolled to the outhouse door. She hit that outhouse door and she hit it hard, it flew open and she rolled out.

She rolled this way, she rolled that way and she rolled all the way home.

some story facts

This story comes from West Africa. A version of the story appeared in Ruth Manning-Sanders“A Book of Enchantments And Curses” published by Methuen Young Books, London, in 1976.

The butterfly in the picture is based upon a Gold Banded Forester Butterfly.

The bee in the picture is based upon a West African Honey Bee (Apis mellifera adansonii).

The pick handle is based upon a Primitive African Axe handle which would have housed a stone axe blade.