The story is told of a couple who after ten years of marriage were unable to have children. After visiting doctor after doctor, it was determined that the woman was unable to conceive. This news saddened the man for he loved his wife dearly. Family and friends suggested that he take another wife to bear him the sons he desired. ‘If the gods wanted me to have a son,’ he would say to them, ‘they would come through my wife’. For he had seen how the barren wife gets treated with scorn by her mate, and he could not bring himself to put her through such a harrowing experience. Some people respected him for this, while others thought him rather odd.
As it is with women, she feared that one day he would start caring what people said and take another wife. ‘What would become of me then?’ she thought. So on this day, after giving it much thought, she called her husband to herself and said she wanted their property divided equally between them. ‘My love,’ she said, ‘you know that I love you. I always have, but I fear that you will take another woman to bear you the sons I have not been able to. I do not fear that you will stop loving me, my fear is that when the sons start coming, I will not have a legitimate claim to anything in this home we built together. And while the new woman might be an angel, she may as well be the devil content to hand me scraps – if at all. So please my love, do not fight me on this, but give me something now to safeguard my tomorrow.’
Hearing her speak so broke his heart to pieces. ‘My all. Keeper of my heart. I hear in your voice that I cannot dissuade you. I hear that your mind is made up, so I will not insult you with pleas or attestations of love. All I ask is that you give me four market weeks to give you a reply.’ And leaving her side, he went away to ponder his dilemma. Give her what she wants, and you prove you plan to take another woman in the future; do not give her what she has asked, and not take a woman who can give him sons. An alternative he had recently caught himself contemplating.
As the days passed, he was nowhere near a solution and as a last ditch effort, he went to his in-laws. After laying his predicament at their feet everyone present burst into laughter. Not seeing what was funny, but not wanting to offend his in-laws, he bit his tongue and waited for the moment of mirth to pass. ‘A simple matter really’, said his wife’s father. And in the way of elders, they proceeded to instruct him on what to do.
The day came bright and sunny. The compound was packed, for never before had a man’s belongings been shared while he lived. With everyone assembled, the couple were called out and asked to state their dispute. Everything was divided down the middle, and then they were asked to choose. The man deferred to his wife and asked her to choose first. She insisted that he chose first as he was the head of the house and the lord of her life. Without hesitation, he marched purposefully towards her, took her by the wrist and declared: ‘Today I have been asked to choose of all my property the most valuable and before everyone gathered here I choose my wife and other self as the most valuable and dearest to me.’
A gasp went up in the crowd, and then everyone gathered started cheering as one. They sang, they shouted, they screamed, and young maidens swooned and fainted. A celebrity had been born in their own community. So loud was the cacophony of voices, it drowned out all her protestations. The feasting and drinking lasted well into the night. Justice had been done. At least that is what everybody present felt, except her.
Before her family left the next day she went to her father, and seeing her distress, he advised her to take a young virgin for her husband. That way any child from the union will be hers legally. This she did and the girl she took was fertile, and bore her sons.
The story is told of a couple who after ten years of marriage were unable to have children. After visiting doctor after doctor they called in family and this is what they did. This is not a sappy love story; this is the story of my people as I heard it from my Great-uncle all those years ago. This is the story of my Grand-father’s Grand-father.