Duang and his Wild Wife

The story: from Dinka Folktales: African Stories from Sudan by Francis Mading Deng. New York: Africana Publishing Company, a division of Holmes and Meier, 1974. 
AMOU was so beautiful. She was betrothed to a man from the tribe. But she was not yet given to her betrothed. She still lived with her family.

There was a man called Duang in a neighbouring village. Duang’s father said to him, ‘My son, Duang, it is high time you married.’

‘Father,’ replied Duang, ‘I cannot marry; I have not yet found the girl of my heart.’

‘But my son,’ argued his father, ‘I want you to marry while I am alive. I may not live long enough to attend your marriage.’

‘I will look, Father,’ said Duang, ‘but I will marry only when I find the girl of my heart.’

‘Very well, my son,’ said his father with understanding.

They lived together until the father died. Duang did not marry. Then his mother died. He did not marry.

These deaths made him abandon himself in mourning; so he no longer took care of his appearance. His mourning hair grew long and wild. He never shaved or groomed his hair. He was a very rich man. His cattle-byres were full of cattle, sheep and goats.

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Ankole-Watusi cattle. Rwanda. Specialized horns serve to cool animal

Photo: Copyright Adam Bacher, 2007

Because Duang cannot choose a wife his connection to the feminine is injured. When his mother dies he loses his last connection to the feminine (a repetition of the same idea by means of a different image helps to confirm the interpretation). Since the lack of a wife and the loss of his mother are the introduction to the story, they may represent the main theme: what happens when the connection is broken between masculine and feminine, yang and yin.

Duang goes into wild mourning. His wildness means that the unconscious is expressing itself in uncivilized ways, without mediation by cultivated patterns (this idea too is going to be repeated in different images). When the unconscious has no cultivated pattern of release it sometimes express itself in neurotic or somatic symptoms; for Duang it expresses itself in wild or.

For a man, because feminine psychology is mysterious to him, the feminine represents access to the mysterious unconscious. (Sometimes access to the unconscious is represented by an image of person of an unfamiliar – mysterious – race or of a person from an unfamiliar continent. Sometimes the unconscious reaches us through an unfamiliar mental function, perhaps through feeling for an intellectual, or through ideas for a person who normally relates through feeling.) Through the feminine a man can rebalance his personality: the unconscious can bring him new resources, thereby renewing and enlivening him. Without such a relationship his personality becomes tired, dry, and sterile.

A man’s (or a woman’s) relationship to the feminine need not be truly conscious. Sometimes I use the term “conscious” to mean a degree of awareness which includes a deep understanding of the unconscious, but sometimes I use it to mean merely the daytime state of being awake rather than asleep. By following the customs of his culture a man can marry and go through the lifecycle, being nurtured by the feminine without recognizing the feminine as an independent power or understanding that the feminine is also a part of himself. (But if his connection to the feminine is injured then he may not be able to sustain a marriage.)

One day he left for a trip to a nearby tribe. On the way he heard the drums beating loud. He followed the sounds of the drums and found people dancing. So he stood and watched the dance. In the dance was the girl called Amou. When she saw him standing, she left the dance and went near him. She greeted him. They stood talking.

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Ethiopian woman, Omo Valley
John Kenny, 2010

Amou meets Duang when she is dancing. Through this community ritual she expresses vitality flowing from the unconscious. She is attracted to him and she courts him – the image of her courtship repeats the idea that the feminine permits communion with the unconscious.

When the relatives of the man who was betrothed to Amou saw her, they became disturbed. ‘Why should Amou leave the dance to greet a man who was merely watching? And then she dared to stand and talk with him! Who is the man, anyway?’

They called her and asked her. She answered, ‘I don’t see anything wrong! I saw the man looking as though he were a stranger who needed help. So I went to greet him in case he wanted something. There is nothing more to it.’

They dismissed the matter, although they were not convinced.

Amou did not go back to the dance. She went and talked to the man again. She invited him to her family’s home. So they left the dance and went. She seated him and gave him water. She cooked for him and served him.

The man spent two days in her house and then left and returned home. He went and called his relatives and told them that he had found the girl of his heart. They took cattle and returned to Amou’s village.

The man who had betrothed Amou had paid thirty cows.

Amou’s relatives sent them back and accepted Duang’s cattle. The marriage was completed, and Amou was given to her husband.

She went with him and gave birth to a daughter, called Kiliingdit. Then she had a son. She and her husband lived alone with their children. Then she conceived her third child. While she was pregnant, her husband was in the cattle camp. But when she gave birth, he came home to visit her and stay with them for the first few days after her delivery.

They marry – a ritual in which daily life is renewed by communion with universal unconscious archetypes. They have three children – more repetition of the idea that rituals evoke the unconscious and renew daily life. In all of this Duang remains unconscious of the feminine: he is doing what he has been taught, unaware of the meaning of his actions.

After she delivered, she felt a very strong craving for meat. She was still newly delivered. She said to her husband, ‘I am dying of craving for meat. I cannot even eat.’

As a mother Amou is closely connected to the archetype of the Great Mother: one pole of the Great Mother is all-fertile, the other pole is all-devouring. Here Amou reveals a disturbing aspect of the unconscious. The devouring aspect is frightening and young women tend not to express it openly. When the conscious personality first encounters the unconscious as an independent other, an other which has its own center and its own direction, then the conscious personality fears that it will be devoured.

Her husband said to her, ‘If it is my cattle you have your eyes on, I will not slaughter an animal merely because of your craving! What sort of a craving is this which requires the killing of livestock? I will not slaughter anything.’

Duang senses that there is something destructive in her craving. He is also greedy and does not want to sacrifice any material wealth. Duang is stuck in conscious values and will not engage with the feminine’s need.

He becomes impatient and embittered and plans to poison her – another violation of feeling, that is, a repetition of the suggestion that Duang is alienated from the natural energy of the unconscious. Within the unconscious the cycle of death and rebirth plays continuously, which is why the unconscious is a continual source of creativity and renewal. But Duang – the conscious ego – fears the cycle and tries to block it.

That ended the discussion. But she still suffered and could not eat or work. She would just sit there. Her husband became impatient and embittered by her craving. He slaughtered a lamb openly so that she and the others could see it. Then he went and killed a puppy dog secretly. He roasted both the lamb and the puppy in smouldering smudge.

When they were ready he took the dog meat to his wife in her women’s quarters. He grabbed his children by the hands and took them away with him to the male quarters. His wife protested, ‘Why are you taking the children away? Aren’t they eating with me?’

He said, ‘I thought you said you were dying of craving. I think it would be better for you and the children if you ate separately. They will share with me.’

He seated them next to him, and they ate together. She never doubted what he said, even though she felt insulted. That he would poison her was out of the question. So she ate her meat.

As soon as she ate her fill, her mouth started to drip with saliva. In a short while she became rabid. Then she ran away, leaving her little baby behind.

Her husband took the boy to the cattle camp and left only [Kilingdit and the baby] at home.

Amou’s craving controls her completely; she cannot eat or move. She has become identified with the archetype and can no longer express her ordinary humanity; because the natural expression of her unconscious has been blocked, she has become focused upon that expression.

Duang removes their children to protect them, both from Amou’s hunger and from what he is about to do. He identifies her hunger as rabid and plans to make it more so. Again he rejects her instinctuality.

In therapy these actions would be expressions of resistance. The patient adopts attitudes and takes actions which block the natural movement of the unconscious.

Duang infects Amou with rabies and then abandons his daughter and baby son. He is false, cruel, irresponsible – all he cares about is his material wealth. Symbolically Duang does not value the inner life, not truth, not feeling, nor his psychological future. He splits off the feminine completely.

When a drive is rejected from consciousness it operates destructively in the unconscious. No longer loved by her husband, Amou reverts to a primitive level of hunger. This is the opposite of coniunctio (Jung’s term for the symbolic union of yin and yang): what happens when union is completely broken? One thing that happens is that the feminine splits between affiliation and devouring. Because the feminine principle is not contained and discriminated by yang, by understanding, discipline, insight, morality, limitation, consciousness (all of these are yang), the feminine returns to its archetypal forms.

At another level, this story shows the breakdown of a marriage, how destructive to the marriage is the husband’s greed and dishonesty, how brutal the intersubjective exchange can be.

Kilingdit suffered very much taking care of her baby brother. Fearing that her mother might return rabid, she took the remainder of her mother’s dog meat, dried it, and stored it. She would cook a portion of it and place it on a platform outside the hut together with some other food she had prepared.

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Children of Welverdiend, a South African village just outside of Kruger National Park
Photo: Sally Kneidel, PhD. welverdiendvillagetours.blogspot.com

For a while, her mother did not come. Then one night, she came. She stood outside the fence of the house and sang: ‘Kiliingdit, Kiliingdit, Where has your father gone?’

Kiliingdit answered: ‘My father has gone to Juachnyiel, Mother, your meat is on the platform, Your food is on the platform, The things with which you were poisoned. Mother, shall we join you in the forest? What sort of home is this without you?’

Her mother would take the food and share it with the lions. This went on for some time.

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Lions feeding
Albie Venter, www.africa-unlocked.com

In the meantime, the woman’s brothers had not heard of her giving birth. One of them, called Bol because he was born after twins, said to the others, ‘Brothers, I think we should visit our sister. Maybe she has given birth and is now in some difficulties taking care of herself and the house.’

The little girl continued to labour hard looking after the baby and preparing food for the mother and themselves. She also had to protect herself and the baby so their mother would not find them and, having become a lioness, eat them.

What does it symbolize that the daughter takes responsibility for the baby and for feeding her mother? The daughter represents the affiliative pole of the feminine which holds people together in a family. She even asks if she should join her mother in the forest: “What sort of a home is this without you?” The feminine has split. The mother shares her food with the lions which affirms that she is possessed by the devouring pole of the archetype.

Kilingdit also represents relatedness. She is related to her mother, to the baby, to her uncle, and to the possibility that the family can be restored. Not seized by any unconscious complex, she continues patiently to do the work of consciousness, fulfilling her daily responsibilities, holding it all together, and sustaining hope that the situation will evolve. Relatedness includes affiliation cultivated and balanced by consciousness, affiliation in which the links between people can support the freedom, expression and development of each person.

She came again another night and sang. Kiliingdit replied as usual. Her mother ate and left. In the meantime, Bol took his gourds full of milk and left for his sister’s home. He arrived in the daytime. When he saw the village so quiet, he feared that something might have gone wrong. ‘Is our sister really at home?’ he said to himself. ‘Perhaps what I was afraid of in my heart has occurred. Perhaps our sister died in childbirth and her husband with the children have gone away and abandoned the house!’

Another part of him said, ‘Don’t be foolish! What has killed her? She is a newly delivered mother and is confined inside the hut.’

‘I see the little girl,’ he said to himself, ‘but I do not see her mother.’ As soon as the little girl saw him, she raced towards him, crying. ‘Where is your mother, Kiliingdit?’ he asked her in haste.

She told him the story of how her mother turned wild, beginning with her mother’s craving for meat and her father’s poisoning her with dog meat.

‘When she comes in the evening,’ she explained, ‘her companions are the wives of lions.’

‘Will she come tonight?’ asked her uncle.

‘She comes every night,’ answered Kiliingdit.

‘But, Uncle, when she comes, please do not reveal yourself to her. She is no longer your sister. She is a lioness. If you reveal yourself to her, she will kill you and the loss will be ours. We shall then remain without anyone to take care of us.’

‘Very well,’ he said.

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Lioness roaring, Kenya

That night, she came again. She sang her usual song. Kiliingdit sang her response.

As she approached the platform to pick up her food, she said, ‘Kiliingdit, my daughter, why does the house smell like this? Has a human being come? Has your father returned?’

‘Mother, my father has not returned. What would bring him hack? Only my little brother and I are here. And were we not human beings when you left us? If you want to eat us, then do so. You will save me from all the troubles I am going through. I have suffered beyond endurance.’

‘My darling Kiliingdit,’ she said, ‘how can I possibly eat you? I know I have become a beast of a mother, but I have not lost my heart for you, my daughter. Is not the fact that you cook for me evidence of our continuing bond? I cannot eat you!’

Kilingdit rushes crying to meet her mother’s brother: human feeling is contrasted with the mother’s bestiality. Again Kilingdit represents relatedness and the possibility that people can sustain links to each other and support each other’s consciousness. Through talk we rise above the beasts and create human culture which sustains consciousness. Even her mother affirms her human feeling for Kinlingidt and says she would never eat her.

By relating to her uncle Kilingdit is beginning to restore the balance of yin by yang.

When Bol heard his sister’s voice, he insisted on going out to meet her, but his niece pleaded with him, saying, ‘Don’t be deceived by her voice. She is a beast and not your sister. She will eat you!’

So he stayed; she ate and left to join the wives of the lions.

The next morning, Bol returned to the cattle camp to tell his brothers that their sister had become a lioness. Bewildered by the news, they took their spears and came to their sister’s home. They took a bull with them. They walked and walked and then arrived.

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Samburu Man with Spears.
© 2002-2009 The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum 

They went and sat down. The little girl went ahead and prepared the food for her mother in the usual way. Then they all went to sleep. The little girl went into the hut with her baby brother, as usual, but the men slept outside, hiding in wait for their sister.

She came at night and sang as usual. Kiliingdit responded. She picked up her food and ate with the wives of the lions. Then she brought the dishes back. As she put them back, she said, ‘Kiliingdit!’

‘Yes, Mother,’ answered Kiliingdit.

‘My dear daughter,’ she continued, ‘why does the house feel so heavy? Has your father returned?’

‘Mother,’ said Kiliingdit, ‘my father has not returned. When he abandoned me with this little baby, was it bis intention to return to us?’

‘Kiliingdit,’ argued the mother, ‘if your father has returned, why do you hide it from me, dear daughter? Are you such a small child that you cannot understand my suffering?’

‘Mother,’ Kiliingdit said again, ‘I mean what I say, my father has not come. It is I alone with the little baby. If you want to eat us, then eat us.’

As the mother turned to go, her brothers jumped on her and caught her. She struggled in their hands for quite a long time, but could not break away. They tied her to a tree. The next morning, they slaughtered the bull they had brought. Then they beat her and beat her. They would tease her with raw meat by bringing it close to her mouth and pulling it away from her. Then they would continue to beat her. As she was teased with meat, saliva fell from her mouth and formed little puppies. They continued to tease her and beat her until three puppies had emerged from her saliva. Then she refused raw meat. She was given roast meat from the bull and she ate it. The brothers beat her some more until she shed all the hairs that had grown on her body.

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Denning African Wild Dog pups
Copyright © 2007-2009 The Wild Source 

Then she opened her eyes, looked at them closely, sat down and said, ‘Please hand me my little baby.’ The baby was brought. He could no longer suck his mother’s breasts.

Amou’s brothers come to reclaim Amou’s humanity. They embody yang used constructively to contain her split-off devouring energy. Yang takes the form of men, numbers, spears, and trickery or strategy. They tease and frustrate Amou’s devouring hunger and beat her until the puppy dogs emerge – until she is released from her possession.

The violence of these images suggests the intense, difficult work which is required to separate oneself from an unconscious bond to an archetypal pattern (a complex). The puppy dogs suggest the many new possibilities which emerge when the complex is subdued and made more conscious.

When the mother had fully recovered, her brothers said, ‘We shall take you to our cattle camp. You will not go to the cattle camp of such a man again!’

But she insisted on going to her husband’s cattle camp, saying, ‘I must go back to him. I cannot abandon him.’

Her brothers could not understand her. They wanted to attack her husband and kill him, but she argued against that. When she saw that they did not understand her, she told them that she wanted to take care of him in her own way. She was not going back to him out of love but to take revenge. So they left her and she went to her husband.

When she got to the cattle camp, he was very pleased to have her back. She did not show any grievance at all. She stayed with him, and he was very happy with her.

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Herdsmen driving their cattle into a camp in southern Sudan in 2006.
Photo: Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas Images/Contact Press Images, courtesy of the Peter Fetterman Gallery 

One day she filled a gourd with sour milk. She pounded grain and made porridge. Then she served him, saying, ‘This is my first feast since I left you. I hope you give me the pleasure of finding it your heartiest meal.’

First he drank the milk. Then came the porridge with ghee and sour milk mixed into it. He ate. Then she offered him some more milk to drink on top of the porridge. When he tried to refuse, she pleaded with him. The man ate and ate and ate, until he burst and died.

Amou’s strategy for killing her husband shows that she has reintegrated the power of nurturing and now turns the man’s devouring attitude against him: his hunger destroys him.

The fearful, defensive attitude (Duang) which had gripped consciousness has been overcome. It has been replaced by a richer version of consciousness (Amou) in which yin and yang work together. The devouring and nurturing poles of the feminine have been integrated and now both can be used with conscious purpose. Relatedness has evolved further now to include appropriate aggression and self assertion.