Story of Namusu : The Secrets of the Bush

Kitumusote was founded because of a story we were told by an old Maasai women about a group of warriors who trick three hyenas into telling them the secrets of the forest. One of the hyenas, Namusu (discoverer) realizes that the warriors are trying to trick him, and he warns the others that they should leave. Because they do not listen to him, they are caught and forced to tell the warriors how to use all of the plants in the forest. This story teaches Maasai children about how to use the plants in their immediate environment and changes slightly depending on where you live.

This story inspired us to want to teach others about the importance of preserving and passing on traditional knowledge, especially when that knowledge is crucial to the survival of the African people. The Maasai people believe that if we don’t preserve our traditions and knowledge of the land, we will lose their indigenous uses. By developing and implementing local, community based programs, we will create a heightened sense of awareness and respect among the Maasai people for their environment to share with the world

Story of Namusu: The Secrets of the Bush
Narrated by Kesuma Ole KasiKasi

A long time ago, there were three hyenas and each hyena had his own name. The first one was called Namusu; the second was called Nanengoi, and the last was called Namayen. In the past, we did not know all of the plants in the bush. The warriors decided to meet and said, “How can we know about all of the plants in the bush?” One said, “The animals of the bush know about all of the different plants.” They said, “What can we do to catch hyena and get him to tell us about all of the plants?” One warrior said, “There are hyenas who come around our boma. What we can do is pretend that one of us has died and put him outside of the boma and cover him as if he is dead.” The warrior knew that the hyenas must come if a body was covered and laid outside, because they know he must be dead.

The warriors agreed to do it that evening.
When evening time came, they brought the warrior outside and covered him with a cloth like a dead man. The warriors told him, “Even if the hyena comes close to you, don’t move a muscle! Because if you do, he will know you are not dead and will run away and we will not catch him.” Hyenas are very greedy eaters so they are usually easy to catch.

So the warriors left him and went to the bush to wait. Later that night, the hyenas came and they laughed, saying, “There is a dead man!” They sat around him and looked at him. Namayen said, “Namusu, go and discover if he is really dead.” Namusu went close to the warrior and smelled him. “He’s not dead,” he declared and ran to the bush. So Namayen said, “Nanengoi, go and use your cleverness to see if he is dead.” Nanengoi went close to him and said, “He’s dead!” Nanengoi calls out to Namayen. “Now come and bless him so that we can eat.” Namayen came and jumped over the dead man four times. On the last jump, Namayen sat on the warrior. In surprise, the warrior jumped up and grabbed the hyena saying, “Today I have got you!!! Hahahaha!!” Namayen cried out to Namusu and Nanengoi. “I am dying, come and save me!” But Namusu replied, “I am not coming anywhere near you. I told you that man was not dead.”

Namusu and Nanengoi decided to run away, but as they ran they said, “Tell him all the secrets of the bush but one. Don’t tell him about Olekingo’ngore, because if you do, we will most certainly all be killed.” Namusu and Nanengoi ran very far away. That warrior called his fellows to come. They told the hyena, “You must tell us about all of the plants in the bush. If you don’t, we will beat you until you die.”
The hyena began to tell them about all of the plants by saying, “The warriors should drink the roots of Olkiloriti. Women should drink Engamai. Old men should drink Orimemenyi. You should give your children the roots of Endulelei. And you should give your cows the barks of Oldepesi if they have given birth to calves.” The hyena told the warriors all of the plants and their uses but one.” They said, “Tell us about Olekingo’ngore.” Everytime they ask him though, he refuses and only tells them about another plant. So, the warriors killed him, and to this day, no one knows the secret of Olekingo’ngore.