THE WOPSY STORIES
The White Fathers published various books over the ages, and none were more
popular than the Wopsy series for young children.
(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)
7th September 1943 (Price 4/-)
Now at that time there
was in Heaven, a very small angel whose name was Wopsy. It wasn't really
an angel's name, for they have to be long and beautiful, but even the
Archangels were hard put to remember Wopsy's real name, for it had fourteen
letters and was pronounced differently from any of the fourteen.
(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)
Seventeenth Impression, Nov 1967 (Price 4/-)
(Taken from the back cover of "Wopsy Again")
|(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony
Seventeenth Impression, Nov 1967
|(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony
Ninth Impression, Undated
"Over 80,000 Copies of the Wopsy books
have already been sold"
Below is the first chapter of "Wopsy and the Witch Doctor"
Warning : these books were written decades ago and therefore reflect the culture of that time. Whilst they are to be commended for their wonderful story-telling and inspired illustrations, some of the language used and attitudes shown would be wholly unacceptable in modern times. In other words, they are no longer suitable as bed-time stories for young children !
MARGARITA-MARIA did not often leave her own village
of Matongu. One reason was that she could not trust Bugomi to behave
himself for long without her. True, he had improved of late, for he
attended regularly the catechism classes held by Father Christopher,
and the old missionary had a way of putting things that made even Bugomi
think. But he was still only at the beginning, and he had been heard
to say that catechism was all very well, but there was a lot to be said
for banana beer.
"I know," replied Wopsy, nodding his head. "It used to be like that at Matongu, but thank goodness there aren't so many about now. I haven't seen the Mid-Day devil for a long time, and the Business has only been once lately, because he thought I was away in Heaven!" "Well, they're just like mosquitoes here!" said the other Guardian. "You find them all over the place. As for the Mid-Day devil, there's hardly a day that doesn't put in an appearance. One day I chased him the way to a concentration camp for devils in Egypt, and do you know, he was back the very next morning!
"Never mind," said Wopsy, "when I get back Ill tell Father George to hurry up and send a catechist, and who knows, perhaps one day you will have a Father George too and a little church and all the devils will go away."
"That would be lovely! " said the Guardian with a sigh, "but I suppose we shall have to wait a long time, they don't seem to be sending many missionaries out of Europe just now. They will keep on having wars and making it difficult, they're even worse at fighting than our black men, and they can't blame the devils for it either! What a crowd! "
"But there are lots of good people," replied Wopsy, who was always a cheerful little angel and never depressed. "I know some of them, and I know a boy who might come out here and be a missionary one day! "
All the Guardians cheered up when they heard this, and they praised God together for a bit, to make up for all the black people of Bikonda who never thought of it, then they went off to look after their charges and hunt for devils.
Wopsy made up his mind that he would have to take Special care of Shiny-John in this village with so many devils about. The little boy was playing with a new friend, one of Njunaki's children, and seemed quite safe. After a bit, however, they got tired of playing and had a fight to liven things up a bit. Margarita-Maria came out and, not knowing who began it, boxed the ears of both of them to be on the safe side and they stopped being friends for a bit. Shiny-John thought it would be rather fun to go for a little walk by himself, and although Wopsy whispered in his ear that perhaps it wasn't quite the right thing to do he set off all the same.
The plantation was surrounded by a hedge of shrubs, but John soon found an opening that led out into the great wide world of freedom. All around could be seen other banana plantations and other huts, with wisps of smoke curling up from the fires; smoke that smelt to those who were near of stewing bananas and mixed vegetabIes, including such queer things as sweet potatoes.
Shiny looked all round, paying no attention at all to Wopsy who was looking as cross as it is possible for an angel to look. Then it occurred to him that there might be interesting things to see behind some of the other hedges. He could see another opening from where he stood; and he trotted off towards it.
There in the middle of the banana trees, no higher than a tall man, he saw an untidy-looking hut, and seated before it, listening to the bubbling in a stew-pot, sat an interesting looking man. He was old, for his black face was puckered and wrinkled, and he smoked from a long thin pipe quite a foot long. From his shoulders an ancient and very grubby-looking leopard skin was hanging, and round his neck there were strings of beads and cowrie shells. Altogether he looked most exciting, and Shiny-John trotted up to him and stood before him, considering him attentively with his head on one side.
The old man said nothing at first but just smoked away, rather like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. But, of course, this didn't occur to John, who had never heard of Alice. Then the old man took his pipe from his mouth and said, "Ho! " which might have meant anything. He put the pipe back and smoked again for a bit, then once more be spoke, this time in rather a dreamy sort of way; and this was what he said: "When I was your age and the trees of the forest were twigs, small boys minded their own business and sat by their own fires." Then he looked at John attentively and added in a thoughtful sort of way, "There was a time when I should have cooked and eaten a small boy like you, and then come home for a meal! "
Shiny did not seem worried by this piece of information, for he simply replied, "You must be a very old, old man, and I think you must have been very wicked."
The old man bent over to the pot and picked out a banana that was almost cooked. This he handed to John, who seized it greedily and sat down to enjoy it. Then the old man continued as if talking to himself.
"Those were the good old days. There were no Bwana white men then. Ah, King Karagwe was a great King! And he never had a more faithful chief executioner than old Kamanzi. The man of blood they used to call me, and it was a good name. Every morning before breakfast the King used to line up the people of the court, and he would say, 'Kamanzi, this one you will kill this moming because I do not like the look in his eye, and this one you will kill this afternoon because his necklace is round the wrong way, and this one you will fry for supper this evening because it is my wish.' And if anyone sneezed, he would say, 'Kamanzi, take him away and cut off his head.' And sometimes after a battle we would make a great fire and we would bum all the prisoners, and we would dance round the fire and shout 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' "
While he was talking thus Kamanzi's eyes grew large and fierce, and when he had finished he stood up and began to dance round the fire in a horrible crouching sort of way. Then he shouted to John, "Dance! dance I" and John, with a look of fear in his eyes began to walk round the fire, too.
Goodness knows what would have happened if it hadn't been for Wopsy. Quite possibly John would have been popped into the stew with the bananas in no time and there would have been no more stories to tell about him. But while the old man was talking Wopsy had flown as fast as he could to Margarita-Maria and she listened to what he said. That was why just as John began to walk round the fire, Margarita-Maria appeared on the scene. In her hand she held a heavy wooden spoon and with this she made straight for Kamanzi. When he saw her coming he began to dance even more quickly and awkwardly, but Margarita-Maria went after him and began to whack him with the spoon, crying at the same time: "Kamanzi, you old villain, so you would teach my John your horrible dances, would you? Then dance for that, and that!"
At each whack the old man gave a little jump, until he suddenly sat down on the ground and then Margarita-Maria stopped. Shiny-John in the meantime was sitting on the ground with big tears rolling down his cheeks, for he suspected that it would soon be his turn to feel that wooden spoon.
He was right, too, for his mother tucked him under her arm and gave him a good whacking all the way home, and even Wopsy approved for it is good for small boys to be whacked sometimes.
After that, Shiny-John never strayed far from the hut of Njunald, and he was quite glad when after a few days Margarita-Maria. took him back safely to Matongu. Even Bugomi was glad to see them; for he said Mulaya couldn't cook bananas half so well as Margarita-Maria, which pleased her very much.
Wopsy was glad to be home, too, but he didn't forget his promise to speak to Father George.