The Man on a horse and a dreamer

Funmilayo was a beautiful girl, she always had dreams about marrying the prince on a horse, it was a fantasy her grandmother filled her head with. But when the man on the horse arrived, she never realized it, maybe because he didn’t come with a horse but another animal instead and was he a prince?…

Funmilayo grew up with her grandmother in the popular village of Bibire, Her grandmother Mrs. Badore, popularly known as Mama Tayo was a popular storyteller in the village, she always sits at the village square every night telling tales about legends and folklore about the old times.

She was a short woman in her old age, she barely had wrinkles and was as beautiful as ever. Mama Tayo was called a Vampire because of her absence of wrinkles and her beauty but she was loved and respected by all.

When she had been young she was said to have been the most beautiful girl in the village, men flocked around her seeking for her hands in marriage. Every day was a day of visitations to Mama Tayo’s parents, as men came in troops bearing gifts and hoping to gain favors from her parents as to marry her, the men will work on her parent’s farms, and also bring fat animals which their traps had caught for her parents.

This had made her exposed to the jealousy and malevolence from females of her peers, they tried all means to ensure she lived in misery by behaving terribly to her but she never despaired.

Despite all these love showered upon her, she wasn’t arrogant and she always had smiles for everyone. When she had finally chosen a husband, it was a man just as humble and as handsome as can be.

Their wedding was the most attended, as both couples were loved by many and also the men could not believe she had chosen to marry and then had come to bear witness to the wedding.

The couples had lived for many years in love and harmony and had given birth to only one child which was Tayo. Baba Tayo had died a year before Tayo turned eighteen. Baba Tayo and Mama Tayo had both been the storytellers at the time, they would both fill Tayo’s head with stories about their love and old times but Tayo wasn’t a lover of tales, she only sits with them politely to listen.

When Baba Tayo had died, Mama Tayo was still very beautiful and agile, and so men still came to ask for her hands as their second wife but she had turned them all away and focused on taking care of her only child.

Tayo was also a very beautiful girl and just as humble as her parents. She had her fair share of suitors as well but she had her eyes set on a rich cocoa farmer and had married him. They had given birth to Funmilayo, who was just a year old when they had both died from an accident.

It was a beautiful, bright and sunny afternoon, Tayo had said she wanted to go horse riding with her husband and had left little Funmilayo at her mother’s place.

They had been going at a walking pace on the horse, laughing and holding each other in the hands when something in their path had scared the horses and the two horses had sped off in fear.

They had both tried to grip tightly on the horse rein but it was too late, the horses had dragged them both, legs hooked on the reins, head on the ground till they had died. It was such a terrible way to die. This incident gave rise to the forbidding of horses from the village by the chief.

Mama Tope had wailed terribly and had locked herself up for days in her home after they had been laid to rest. If it had not been for the child she was to care for, she would have shut herself up for months.

That was how she became Funmilayo’s custodian and mother, and when the child had grown up she had filled her head with tales about horses and the prince just to help forget about the bad incident.

Funmilayo had on her own soaked up everything she was told and had her head spinning in a fantasy about marrying a prince who would come into the Village on his horse and take her away with it as his bride.

Funmilayo had been dreaming about marrying the prince since she was a little girl till she had grown into a stunning woman.

Funmilayo was described as the next Mama Tope because she was beautiful, with long, black and curly hair, she had sparkling white and even teeth, tall, well rounded with dewy brown eyes. She was an epitome of beauty.

Her friends often tease her that she took her grandmother’s beauty and mixed it with her mother’s own since they had heard her mother was also a very beautiful woman before she had died, people do swear Funmilayo’s beauty had surpassed hers.

This incessant compliments and adulation had filled her head and also fueled her fantasy of marrying a magical prince so much so that she felt no man in the village was worthy of having her as a wife.

Several men had tried to win her over as their wives but she had not yielded to any of them. Often she had insulted and ridiculed them, making them a laughing stock in the village. This made many give up on their quest to win her and they had gone ahead to marry other women in the village.

Funmilayo remained single and hopelessly dreaming for many years while her friends had married and bore children. This worried Mama Tayo and she tried to dissuade her mind from her fantasy quest of a prince and marry a real man in the village but she was adamant.

Years later, a gunshot was said to have been heard at the village border, it was some young men in pursuit of a sport, some ladies had cited them on some animals and had come to tell everyone that they had seen some men on horses in royal regalia at the border.

This rumour quickly spread like wildfire and had gotten to Funmilayo, even some of her friends had told her that it may be her dream prince finding his way into the village to claim her.

Funmilayo had been very happy and had screamed in excitement as she ran back into the house to dress her best, she thought that if it was her dream prince then she wanted to look like a princess.

She had dressed in her favourite and most expensive attire donned her beautiful long hair up in a knot and touched her face with some powder, slipping a piece of necklace around her neck and a chain on her feet, she then walked as slowly as a queen to join the other people gathered at the village square waiting to see who the men on the horses were.

It has been a long time since anyone had seen a horse, many young men and women had never seen one, they have only heard about it from the tales Mama Tope and other older people had told them, so they were curious to see how the animal looks like.

After waiting for a long time, the men the ladies had seen at the border were soon seen coming through the path that leads to the village, they were all wearing the same kind of clothing, only that the man at the front was putting on a cap, a long cap.

They soon stopped in front of the villagers in wonder at what had had them all gathered at the village square and gawking at them but most especially at their animal with curiosity.

The man with the cap got down first from the animal and walked to stand in front of them making a show to speak, he, first of all, saluted them but no one replied and he continued to tell them who they were. He told them they were hunters and warriors from another village and they had caught a beast which they had shredded into the sack on their animal and had wanted to greet the villagers, share their games with them as was their tradition before passing by.

After he had finished speaking, the village chief was the first to reply to him and welcomed him to the village and told him why they had gathered around that way, he told that some women had heard their gunshots and spotted them at the border, they had come to report what they had seen and since they were curious to know who they were, they had waited to see them.

As soon as Funmilayo had seen the men on the animals she particularly had been smitten by the handsomeness and power the man with the long cap exuded, but when she had heard he was just a warrior and the animal he had gotten down from had not been the one her grandmother had described, she thought to herself it couldn’t be a horse but she braced herself to ask what animal it was.

The man wearing the long cap turned to reply to the question, but when his eyes met with hers, he was mesmerized and dumbfounded at the beauty, it took someone’s cough and chuckle for him to remember what she had asked.

When he had said it was a donkey, she frowned and turned to walk away. The man had watched her leave.

He was completely captivated by the beauty of the woman, he caught himself this time and motioned for his companions which consist of four other men to come to join him, the look on their faces made it evident that they were also captivated by the woman, this made him jealous and wishing to slap them hard, which doesn’t even make sense since he doesn’t even know the woman at all and he was already feeling protective over her.

When they had finished the introduction, the village chief had them settle into the room usually used to receive guests in the village, foods were made from their beasts and they ate to their fill.

The second day, the man with the cap whose name was soon known to be Akanni made it his business to ask every villager about the young beautiful woman he had seen the previous day, nobody wanted to answer him but he was persistent and by afternoon he had found out everything he needed to know about her.

Akanni secretly sneaked out of their room and went to Funmilayo’s house that evening, he met Mama Tayo under a shade at the front of the house. He greeted her, smiling and jesting with her and told her he has heard a lot about her and her stories and would love to hear some stories too.

Mama Tayo knew what he had come for because she was at the village square the previous day and he had seen the way he had stared after her granddaughter, even if she had not been there, the way he constantly looked at the passage leading into the house was telling enough.

She obliged him and had told him one of her favourite tales, and the most loved of her tales by the villagers, she spoke softly and slowly and was staring at the young man, admiring his composure, even though he had not wanted to hear her tales, he had sat with interest written over his face.

A few moments later, Funmilayo walked out of the house, yawning loudly and stretching her body, she had just woken up from an evening nap, she had wanted to greet her grandmother when she noticed the man sitting with her under the shade, she quickly ran back into the house.

She arrived later with her face washed clean and powdered, her legs also had traces of water on them telling them she had also just washed them clean. She walked up to them, greeted her grandma and the young man shyly.

Mama Tayo stared at her with mild curiosity, if there was something she knew about her granddaughter it was that she had never been self-conscious as to want to dress to impress or look presentable to a man, which left no doubt in her mind that she was just as taken to the man just as he was taken to her. This made her so delighted.

She took the cue and cleverly excused herself saying she wanted to visit the restroom to ease herself. She stood up, looked at both their faces and walked away as quickly as leg could. But as soon as she got to the passage where she could not be seen from the shade, she turned and peeped at them, smiling and praying for her granddaughter to not hurt the feelings of the man.

Funmilayo and Akanni spoke for an extent till it got somewhat dark and she told him she had to prepare dinner, Akanni stood to leave though reluctantly.

As soon as Funmilayo walked into the passage, she knew her grandmother had been there, so she wasn’t surprised to meet her there. Mama Tayo queried her about the man and what their talks were about but Funmilayo explained it was nothing.

Akanni came visiting for two days after that trying to woo her to marry him but she was adamant. He was to leave the third day but he couldn’t leave without her and so he asked his companions to leave ahead of him while he stayed to win Funmilayo over.

Akanni stayed for three full months in the village beseeching with her to be his wife but she had refused. Since she had refused to give him a positive response even though she seemed to like him, he finally decided to return to his village and try to forget her.

The next day he had tied his load on the donkey and was about to leave, he had wanted to see Funmilayo one last time but he couldn’t stand being rejected again. He thanked the villagers that came to see him off for their hospitality, paid his homage to the village chief. He climbed on his donkey and rode out of the village.

He had gotten to the border of the village when he heard a voice asking “Were you leaving without me, dear prince?”.  He knew who had the voice even before he turned around to see who it was.

He turned to look at Funmilayo, there she sat on a donkey, her real horse, his heart leapt with joy when he said, ” You never wanted to leave with me”.

“Now, I do,” she said softly “I’ve got a horse and you are my prince”

“But that is not a horse”

“I know it is a donkey but to me, it’s my real horse”

Pleased with her responses, He further inquired “And how did you know, I am a prince?”

“I heard your companions mentioning it on the day they were leaving”

“So are you leaving with me now because I’m a prince?”

“I don’t care about you being a prince or not, all I know is you are the man I want to be with now and forever”

His heart leapt in joy at her statement and motioned for her to come to him and they both rode back into the village to get married after which they left the village to his home village promising to come back visiting Mama Tope every time.

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