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Nundá


Nundá, is a gigantic and ferocious nocturnal feline, said to live in Tanzania. Legend has it that Nundá was once the cat of Sultan Majnún. Old tales say that as a cub, Majnún’s cat was unusually fierce and strong. The cat liked to roam the fields, and despite being well fed, one day it killed a calf. The Sultan was not worried, for it loved his cat, and dismissed the event saying, “The cat is mine, and the calf is also mine,” hence the beast had committed no crime. Soon enough, however, the cat killed again, first a goat, then a cow, a donkey, a horse, and a camel.

Each time, the Sultan shrugged and said, “I will not kill it, let it even eat a man,” and it happened, for next the cat killed a child, and then a grown up man. By this time, the creature had grown large and monstrous, bigger than a donkey, that people was terrified of it.


After killing the man, Nundá left the town and hid in the undergrowth outside city, feasting on anyone who passed by, human or animal. Night after night, it would sneak into the dark roads and abduct unlucky wanderers, but still the Sultan refused to see the danger. “You all want me to kill this cat, but it’s my cat, and everything it eats it’s mine,” the Sultan said and refused to hear any more complaints, and before long, the population of the town started to decrease for anyone and anything not locked up indoors was at risk of being eaten.


Finally, when there were not more maidens to serve in the Palace, the Sultan and six of his sons went out the countryside to search for the cat. But the cat was faster than before and it pounced on them, killing three of the Sultan’s sons. It was only then that Sultan came to his senses. “That is no longer my cat,” he said. “That is Nundá, the strange one, an eater of people, and it will eat even me if I give it the chance.” Then, he went back to the palace and sent all his soldiers to kill the Nundá.


Instead, Nundá killed most of the soldiers and scattered the rest.


When Sultan Majnún’s seventh son –the youngest of all— heard of the carnage, he swore to slay the Nundá, “I shall find the Nundá who killed my brothers,” he told his mother, and went out alone with a spear and a knife.


The young prince was strong and agile but not very experienced. The first vaguely intimidating creature he ran into was a large dog, which he promptly killed and dragged home. “Mama, I have killed the eater of people,” the prince sang triumphantly, but his mother shook her head sadly, “my son, this is not he. The eater of people is much larger.”


So the son set out again, and successively killed a civet, a larger civet, a zebra, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, and an elephant, bringing each one back only to be corrected by his mother. In time, a small group of people started following the prince. Tired of chasing after the wrong beasts, the young man asked his followers if they had seen the Nundá, and together they gave him description: larger than an elephant, it had small ears, was broad and not long, had two blotches like a civet, and had a broad tail.


Finally, knowing what to look for, the young prince found the Nundá sleeping under the shadow of a Baobab tree. Then, he and his slaves fired their guns at close range, but did not hang around for fear it might still be alive.

Instead, they came back next morning to discover that the huge cat was undeniably dead.

The beast was dragged back to the city in triumph, and the prince sang of his victory, to which his mother chanted back “My son, this is he, the Nundá, the eater of people.” Then, the beast carcass was buried, a house was built on top of it, and a guard was placed at the house.


This is but one tale of the insatiable Nundá, but in the old Tanzanian lore there are many similar versions, all with common elements: The beast is always an insatiable, swallowing monster, which sometimes wallows up the entire populace except for one hero and other times leaves most of the village alive. The father of the hero it’s too slow to take action, and sometimes the victims are really dead, while other times the hero kills the beast and cuts it open, releasing all the victims unharmed.


References to this beast in British records first occur in the 1900s. For example, In 1938, an open-minded discussion about this animal appeared in the then-world-famous British scientific journal Discovery. In this discussion there are some witness accounts, most notably that of William Hichens, a British administrator working in Tanzania, who reported that several natives were attacked by this animal, and how he originally thought it to be a giant, man-eating lion, but was proved wrong as both the fur samples and the tracks left by the beast were different from those of a lion.


According to the people of Lindi, and elsewhere along the seaward edge of Tanzania, this feline monster is no myth, and said to inhabit this country's temperate coastal forests. They distinguish it from both the lion and the leopard by its footprints, which in shape resemble that of the leopard but are large as a lion's. The Nundá itself is also said to be as big as the biggest lions but with unmistakable grayish fur striped with tabby-like markings.

References

-Steere, E. 1870. Swahili Tales. Bell & Daldy, London.

-Karl P.N. 1989. Shuker: Mystery Cats of the World. Robert Hale: London,

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