Tanin! Tanin!

In our communities, the elderly usually tell stories to advise the youth about the things of life. Sometimes, these stories are passed by women to young girls, as is the case with the following story… It was told at my daughter’s 11th birthday party by my mom Jean Allicock. Seeing that her granddaughter would soon become a young woman and marry, she saw fit to give her a good warning…


Walking and walking, deeper into the forest, a hunter was just about to give up for the day when he heard a sound. Turning his head to hear where the sound was coming from, he said to himself:
“a party?”

Curious, he decided to head in the direction of the music. The sound was now loud and clear, and the man’s heart was pounding to the rhythm of the music as he entered the door of a house inside of which people were dancing. He greeted them and the head of the home greeted him back. For a while, the man just stood there, hesitant; he observed the ball, the people, and the head of the house, who was dancing with several pretty young ladies and wondered:
“is this all for real?”

The hunter closed his eyes, shook his head and gazed again at the dance floor. Everyone was still there, dancing and having fun. So he made himself confortable and just then, he heard a voice saying:
“look there, a bowl of kari!”

Someone was walking with a calabash full of kari and handed it over to him to consume. As he was really thirsty, he grabbed the calabash and started to drink it with all his might, not wanting to let it go. Minutes later, the calabash was lying on the floor, empty, and the hunter was now feeling very sleepy. He fell asleep on the spot.

When he woke up, he was lying next to a huge termite nest and his whole body was covered in termites. Still hung over, he wondered: was it this same termite nest that he was calling a home a few hours ago? A strange feeling crossed his mind.

The sun was still out so he started to get walking again to see if he could get to where he was heading prior to falling asleep. But on the way he saw a big silk cotton tree where he felt the urge to take another nap. This time, when he woke up it was completely dark. He said to himself he would go home the next day. But at around 4 in the morning, he heard strange noises. It was a chant with at least two voices:
“hurry and get bright day, I want to eat this lost stranger”
And another voice saying:
“Can I have the head”
To which the first one replied:
Tanin! Tanin!” (Don’t let him hear!)

The man moved a little, and thought:
“Am I hearing someone who wants to eat me? Am I dreaming?”
And he doze off again.

The chant continued:
“Hurry and get bright, day. I want to eat this stranger that is lost”
“Give me the head!”
“Tanin! Tanin!”

The man was now fully awake, sitting alert, and listening. He looked around and, to his surprise, it was again a termites’ nest on a bush rope and two pretty birds singing at the top, in harmony with nature.

This is when he realised he had left home the day before, at the command of his wife. She had told him to go fishing and hunting to get something to eat for the children. It was a custom for men to hunt for a few hours in the night, but they would normally return in the morning. How long had he been gone? He stood up and started to walk back towards the village.

At home, his wife, children and mother-in-law were getting worried about the poor fellow not returning home. The mother-in-law told her daughter that it was her fault; she had sent the man off to hunt while he was under the influence of alcohol. She went on to say:
“Now you will go and find him”

So the wife set off to find her husband. And as she walked out of the village, she saw a shadow approaching:
“Is that him?”

She ran fast towards the shadow and there he was, tired and hungry. She hugged him and they greeted each other at length before marching home together. Upon arrival, the couple sat down and they ate a meal. The man told everyone his experience in the forest, vowing never to overdrink again.

This is why we say: Never let your husband go on a hunting trip under the influence of alcohol, because their spirit becomes very weak and the evil spirit may take control of it.

Makushi words:
Kari: local drink made of fermented cassava juice
Tanin!: Shhhh, don’t let him hear!

Photo: Woman preparing kari