WHO THE CAP FIT
About the book:
This book (“Who The Cap Fits”) tells the story of how the otherwise simple matter of choosing a bride for a young prince became set in bitter conflict and subterfuge that threatened to set several villages and communities at war against each other.
Inspite of all the complicated developments, the hands of fate as well as the moral virtue of Adesewa eventually determined the choice of the queen to the satisfaction of everyone, and peace returned to all the villages.
Adesewa, Opeyemi and Oladayo headed back to Aje Village after fetching water from the stream early in the morning. They talked of nothing but the maiden dance that would take place at the village square at sunset. The three girls had heard so much about the maiden dance and were very excited that they would be participating in it for the first time as pre-initiation into womanhood.
Aje Village was surrounded by seven other villages. The stream served as main source of water for the villagers. A river however coursed through the villages, including Aje. The people of Aje earned their livelihood from farming, fishing and hunting; they lived in huts and every family had it’s own compound. The number of huts in a compound determined how wealthy the family was.
Aje was ruled by a king and a council of chiefs. The King lived in a fortified palace deep inside the village. The palace had many Chambers and an outer court where the King received visitors and held meetings with his chiefs; there was also a large courtyard at the back of the palace where Royal guests were entertained.
The tradition of Aje required that every girl should participate in the maiden dance twice before marriage; the first time was at puberty when a girl undergoes pre-initiation and the second time was after her sixteenth season; thereafter the girl was considered a woman and allowed to receive suitors. Thus whereas many men would have first spot their brides at the pre-initiation ceremony, they must wait until after the second maiden dance before approaching them for marriage.
The three girls talked about the new wrappers and beads they would wear, and the traditional hairstyles they would plait; they agreed to plait ‘kolese’. They soon reached the village and went to their different homes after agreeing to meet at Adesewa’s father’s compound later in the evening. Adesewa was the only child of her parents. Her mother gave birth thrice before her but the babies all died within three days of birth.
Her parents were devastated and could not understand why this was so. To avert further tragedy they consulted Efunwunmi, the village priestess, to help them ask solution from Eledumare the Creator and owner of heaven and Earth.
Efunwunmi foretold Adesewa’s parents that the next baby they would have would survive and that she would be an unusual girl child.
She instructed that the child must be brought to her after her first maiden dance the pre-initiation ceremony as she must undergo certain rituals to enable her fulfill her destiny. Adesewa was however not told about all these things.
As Adesewa entered her father’s compound, she saw a middle aged woman dressed in white apparel and holding a white staff speaking with her mother. The woman was tall, slim and fair in complexion, and with long hair.
As soon as the two women saw her, they kept quiet. Adesewa greeted then and took her pot of water into her mother’s hut. As she wondered who the old woman might be, her mother entered into the hut, looking worried.
“Mother, who was that woman and what was she doing here?” Adesewa asked.
“That was Efunwunmi, the village priestess.” She replied.
“What was she doing here?’ Adesewa asked curiously.
“I’ll tell you later, Right now we have to plait your hair for the maiden dance. Which style do you want?”
“Opeyemi, Oladayo and I agreed to plait ‘kolese'” Adesewa replied.
Adesewa’s mother had totally forgotten about Efunwunmi untill she came calling earlier in the day. Adesewa’s mother wondered how she would come without seeing her daughter for three seasons, even though she knew that it was for the good of Adesewa.
Meanwhile Adesewa kept thinking about the strange woman throughout the day. She guessed that her visit had something to do with her, but couldn’t fathom what the issue was. As evening drew near, Adesewa forgot about Efunwunmi and could only think about the maiden dance. The sun was already setting and her friends would soon arrive.
Adesewa’s mother helped Adesewa dress up for the maiden dance. She had woven a wrapper for her and it looked very nice on her. The white, grey and black threads that were used blended perfectly with Adesewa’s complexion. She indeed looked very beautiful with her tall and slim frame, thick lovely hair and piercing brown eyes. Her mother knew that many young men would have eyes for her at the maiden dance.
“You look very beautiful, my daughter. All the other girls will envy you tonight. Let’s go to your father’s hut for a special gift he has for you”.
“Thanks mother, I hope it’s only girls that will look at me.”
“The boys and young men will also look at you but they will have to wait for three seasons before they can approach you, at your second initiation into womanhood. Come let’s go to your father; he’s waiting for us.”
When Adesewa’s father saw her, his face broke into a smile. She was his princess. He had waited so long for a surviving child and now his daughter was going to take her first step into womanhood. When he had returned from farm, his wife had reminded him about Efunwunmi’s instructions concerning Adesewa.
“My child, come and Sir by my side” Adesewa’s father beckoned.
Adesewa did as she was told; her mother say on the mat beside them. Her father brought out a beautiful necklace made of white beads and placed it around her neck. Her eyes popped. Even as a girl, she knew that white beads were expensive and difficult to find.
“Thank you father, but it must have cost you a lot of money. White beads are very expensive and rare. I heard they are mostly worn by the Royal family”.
“You are our princess and we’ve been saving money since you were born to buy the beads for you. You will be the focus at the village square. Don’t forget to do as you are told and come back home after the festival. Your mother and I are not allowed to be there”.
” I will come home immediately after the festival. I can hear Opeyemi and Oladayo’s voices, they have come for me,” Adesewa told her parents. She stood up and bade her parents goodbye.
“You look very beautiful”, Oladayo said when she saw Adesewa.
“You are wearing white beads. Where did you get them from? Opeyemi asked.
“My father gave them to me” Adesewa replied.
“All the young men will have eyes for only you”. Opeyemi teased
“Well I’m not going to look at any of them, I’m going to sit quietly and watch the maidens roll their beaded waists”, Adesewa replied her friends.
“We have to leave now, we are almost late.” Oladayo said.
The three friends left for the village square located at the center of the village, holding hands. They had been friends since childhood. Adesewa always treated Opeyemi and Oladayo like the sister she never had.
By the time Adesewa, Opeyemi and Oladayo arrived, the village square had already started to fill up. They went to join other girls seated under a shade close to the square. All the younger girls where chatting excitedly at the same time and admiring the older girls.
Adesewa stood out not only because of the white beads that was on her neck, but also because of her beauty. As they waited for the ceremony to begin, someone announced that the crown prince of Aje Village, Prince Adeyanju, was going to attend the ceremony. The three girls were excited because they had never seen the crown prince before.
Prince Adeyanju was the last child but the only son of Adegbayi and Omojoyin, the King and Queen of Aje Village. Adeyanju had three sisters and one of them, Princess Adefunke, was participating in the maiden dance. The King and Queen were also attending the ceremony. Whenever a Princess was participating in the maidens dance, the ceremony was usually attended by all the cheifs and many men usually come from far and near to behold the Princess’s beauty.
Thia particular maiden dance was special for the Royal family because it was the first one that Prince Adeyanju was going to attend. The King, the Queen and the Crown prince were the last dignitaries to arrive at the village square; the ceremony began with traditional dances and a wrestling match. The girls could not see what was happening in the village square because they had not been admitted into the king’s presence.
The time soon came for the young maidens to enter the village square for pre-initiation. Being the tallest among the girls Adesewa was the last one the line. As they walked into the village square, all eyes were on them.
Adesewa stood out among the girls, she was tall, dark and beautiful, and her white beads gave her an aura of royalty. They walked round the square and finally stopped in front of the king. The King waved his Royal staff and welcomed them to the ceremony.
Thereafter the matron of the ceremony, who was responsible for the grooming of the girls and young maidens of Aje, gave each of them a white cloth as a symbol if their purity. They were then ushered to sit in a place reserved for them near the King.
Adesewa gazed at the crowd and was amazed at the number of people in the Village square.
Many of the faces were unfamiliar and she knew that they most have come from neighbouring villages. As she looked around,she noticed that many of the young men were staring at her.
“I told you that you will be the focus; all the young men are staring at you” Opeyemi told Adesewa.
“Even Prince Adeyanju has been gazing at you since we got here” Oladayo added.
“I cannot be the only one they are starring at, they are admiring all of us, the maidens are about to begin their dance, this is what we’ve been waiting for” Adesewa said, Changing the subject. One after the other, the maidens danced into the village square.
The tied the beautiful hand-woven wrappers of various colors. Apart from the beads they wore on their necks and wrists, they also wore many beads on their waists. All the maidens looked very beautiful. Princess Adefunke the king’s daughter, was also exceptionally beautiful, like Adesewa.
She wore white beads on her head, waist, wrists, and anklet and the young men looked admiringly at her.
The maidens first danced together around the square and ended up kneeling in front of the King who waved his staff at them. Next, each maiden danced alone around the square. This was the real initiation into womanhood dance. By dancing alone, each maiden was presenting herself to potential suitors. There was a loud cheer when it was Princess Adefunke’s turn to dance.
She knelt before her father and kissed his staff, after which she got up and danced before him. She danced gracefully in a way befitting of a princess. When she finished dancing, she went to sit beside her mother as the whole village gave another round of wild applause.
After all the maidens had danced, the king stood up to address the people. He was a very tall man with buldging eyes, built like a warrior. His voice was loud and clear he could be heard across the village square. He thanked all the chiefs and everyone for honouring the daughter of the village, with their presence at the maiden dance.
He wished all the young men luck in their search for brides. The ceremony turned out to be more exciting than Adesewa imagined. However she remembered that her mother had warned her to come home early.
“We have to go now the ceremony is almost over and my mother will be waiting for me,” Adesewa told her friends.
“We can’t leave now, this is the best part of the maiden dance. Many young men will approach the maiden of their choice now. My mother told me that this is where the courtship usually begins” Opeyemi told Adesewa.
“None of the men, howvever, is allowed to talk to us because we haven’t reached the stage of full initiation into womanhood. Let’s just watch.” Oladayo added.
“But not for long,” Adesewa pleaded.
The girls remained seated whilst they watched other events going on in the village square.
Eventually, the King and Queen left with the chiefs but the prince and princess stayed behind. Adesewa saw the prince approaching them and immediately tapped Oladayo on the shoulder.
“I thought you said that none of the young men are allowed to talk to us. Prince Adeyanju is walking towards us.” She told her friends in hushed tones.
“Maybe he doesn’t know, but that’s what my mother told me,” Oladayo replied.
Prince Adeyanju walked up to where the girls were seated and greeted them. He sat down beside Adesewa and asked her name.
“Adesewa, but my prince you are not allowed to speak to any of us tonight,” Adesewa intoned.
“I’m aware of that, but I only want to know your name,” he replied, staring at her intensely.
“You must leave now, everyone is watching us.” Adesewa alerted the Prince.
Prince Adeyanju got up, walked to where the Royal guards were waiting for him and together with his sister left for the palace.
“We should have left immediately after the ceremony. Then, this wouldn’t have happened,” Adesewa reprimanded her friends.
“It’s not your fault. The Prince ought not to speak with you,” Opeyemi said.
“Let’s go home,” Adesewa said, getting up.
Adesewa, Opeyemi and Oladayo left the village square for their homes. Adesewa saw her mother sitting outside the hut when she entered her father’s compound. The sight of her mother brought a smile on her face and she was happy to be home. Her father’s compound was a very big and it had three huts.
Her father occupied one of the huts while she shared one with her mother. The third hut was used to receive visitors. There was a big barn beside her father’s hut for storing farm produce and other items. Cooking was usually done beside the barn.
She walked to where her mother was seated and greeted her.
“Welcome home, my daughter. How was the maidens dance?” She asked.
“I wish you attended. King Adegbayi, Queen Omojoyin, and Prince Adeyanju were all there. All the chiefs were also in attendance.
Princess Adefunke took part in the maiden dance also. She is very beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you are, my princess. Prince Adeyanju was born a few seasons before you and he has never attended the maiden dance before. Maybe he was there because of his sister”. Adesewa’s mother said.
“Mother, is it true that the young men are not allowed to talk to us at the ceremony?”
“It is true. Your attendance tonight was your pre-initiation into womanhood. The white cloth you were given is a symbol that you have moved into puberty and required to keep yourself pure”.
“What will happen to a girl if a man spoke to her?”
“Why are you asking all these questions? Did a man spoke to you?”
Adesewa had never lied to her mother before and she wasn’t going to start now.
“Yes mother. Prince Adeyanju came to where Opeyemi, Oladayo and I were seated and asked for my name.”
“Did you tell him?”
“Yes, I did. If I hadn’t, he woul have found out and I didn’t want to disrespect the crown prince in front of everyone.”
“You did the right thing. Prince Adeyanju should have known that he was not allowed to speak to you. I don’t know the consequences of what he did, but don’t worry, noting is going to happen to you.”
“Why did Efunwunmi visit you today?” Adesewa asked, changing the subject.
Adesewa’s mother told her the story of her birth and what Efunwunmi foretold them many seasons ago, and that she would soon go to spend some time with the priestess.
“My daughter, it is to ensure that you fulfill your destiny” Adesewa’s mother told her, tears forming in her eyes.
“I don’t want to leave you and father,” Adesewa cried.
“You are no longer a child and you have to understand that this has to be done. Your father and I will be here when you return. I beg you not to cry,” Adesewa’s mother said, pulling her into her arms.
“I’m going to miss you too and father very much,” Adesewa said holding on tightly to her mother.
“We are going to miss you too. You have to sleep now. You have a long day tomorrow and a restful night will help you.”
They both went into her mother’s hut together.
That was when Adesewa remembered that she had planned to go to Opeyemi’s father compound for moonlight tales. She wondered when she would see her friends again. She was going to miss both of them very much.
At sunrise the next day, Adesewa’s father woke up early to take Adesewa to Efunwunmi somewhere outside the village. She was leaving home for the first time in her life. Her mother cried as she watched her daughter leave. Adesewa knew that her life was going to change forever; she was very sad to leave home. She took her father’s hand and walked together with him out of their compound. She couldn’t bear to look back.
Let’s go and have some rest as I bring to you the next season…