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A NOBLEMAN of Ile-Ife had a beautiful and virtuous wife named Moremi, and a handsome young son, Ela.
The country of the Ifes was at that time subject to fierce raids by a tribe called the Igbos, who were of such an uncanny appearance in battle that the Ifes thought them not human, but a visitation sent by the gods in punishment for some evil. In vain did they offer sacrifices to the gods; the raids of these strange beings continued, and the land was thrown into a state of pamc.
Now the heroic Moremi, desiring to bring an end to this condition of affairs, resolved to let herself be captured during one of the raids, so that she might be p. 15 carried as a prisoner to the land of the Igbos and learn all their secrets.
Bidding farewell to her husband and her little son, she went to a certain stream and promised the god of the stream that, if her attempt was successful, she would offer to him the richest sacrifice she could afford.
As she had planned, she was captured by the Igbos and carried away to their capital as a prisoner. On account of her beauty she was given to the King of the Igbos as a slave; and on account of her intelligence and noble heart she soon gained the respect of all and rose to a position of importance.
Before she had been in the country very long, she had learnt all the secrets of her enemies. She found that they were not gods but ordinary men. On going into battle they wore strange mantles of grass and bamboo fibre, and this accounted for their unnatural appearance. She also learned that because of these mantles of dry grass, they were much afraid of fire, and that if the Ifes were to rush among p. 16 them with lighted torches, they would quickly be defeated. As soon as it was possible, she escaped from the palace and from the territory of the Igbos and returned to her own people. Her tidings were joyfully received at Ile-Ife, and shortly afterwards the Igbos were utterly defeated by the trick Moremi had suggested.
Moremi now went to the stream and made a great sacrifice of sheep, fowls, and bullocks; but the god of the stream was not satisfied and demanded the life of her son.
Sorrowing, Moremi was forced to consent, and sacrificed the handsome boy Ela. The Ifes wept to see this sad spectacle, and they promised to be her sons and daughters for ever, to make up for her loss.
But lo! Ela as he lay upon the ground was only half dead, and when the people had departed, he recovered consciousness and sprang up. Making a rope of grass, he climbed up to heaven, and it is certain that he will some day return to reap the benefits of his mother’s noble sacrifice.