Ngap and Nyakwiy

A Nuer Story

Before you read the story

  • Are you the oldest, the youngest, or the middle one in your family?
  • Are you like your brothers and sisters, or are you different from them?
  • Do your parents have a favourite child?
  • What are the good things about having brothers and sisters?
  • What are the bad things?

This story is long. There are three parts to it. Answer the questions to each part before you read on.

Part One

Once upon a time, there were two sisters called Ngap and Nyakwiy. They lived in their parents' home under an old mango tree in the forest. 

Ngap was a beautiful girl but she was lazy and selfish. She never carried the fish home from the river for her father. She never brought water for her mother. Every morning, she stood at the edge of the river and looked at her beautiful face in the water. Every afternoon, she lay down on a cowskin under the mango tree.

"I'm hungry!" she called out to her sister Nyakwiy. "Bring me a mango. I'm thirsty! Get me something to drink."

The girls' parents loved Ngap.

"Oh Ngap," they said. "You are very beautiful. One day you'll marry a rich man. Come here, my darling, and sit beside me."

Poor Nyakwiy did all the work in the house.

"Nyakwiy!" her parents always said. "Go to the river and bring some water! Put some wood on the fire! Where's our dinner? Haven't you cooked it? Be quick, you lazy girl!"

One day, the girls' father went to catch fish.

"Come to the river this afternoon," he said to Nyakwiy. You can help me bring the fish home."

That afternoon, Nyakwiy began to walk to the river.

"Where are you going?" her mother shouted. "You lazy girl! You want to go and play with your friends! Come back here. Sweep the floor. Bring wood for the fire. Help your sister to comb her hair."

"But my father said..." began Nyakwiy.

"Be quiet," said her mother, "and do your work."

The sun began to go down and the girls' father came back from the river. He was angry.

"Where's Nyakwiy?" he said.

"Here I am, father," said Nyakwiy.

"You lazy girl," said her father. "Why didn't you come to the river and help me? Look at all this fish! I needed you to carry it home."

"But my mother said..." Nyakwiy began.

"That's enough!" her father shouted. "I don't want to hear another word from you. Bring me a knife. We must cut up the fish."

"I'll help you," said Nyakwiy quickly.

Ngap was watching them. She was frowning.

"Don't cut the fish on the ground," she said. "I don't want any dust on my fish."

"You're right, my darling," her mother said. "Nyakwiy must be the table. Lie down, you stupid girl. I'll cut the fish on your back."

So Nyakwiy lay down with her face in the dust. Her mother put the fish on her back and began to cut it. The knife was sharp. Sometimes it went through the fish and cut into Nyakwiy's back. Her blood ran down into the dust. Tears fell from her eyes, but she didn't say anything.

"Look at her," Ngap said. "She doesn't feel the knife. She doesn't feel the blood. What a stupid girl!"


Exercises for Ngap and Nyakwiy Part 1