The Honey Tragedy – Adapted from an ancient Guyana Amerindian myth – By Peter Halder

The Honey Tragedy

(Adapted from an ancient Guyana Amerindian myth)

By Peter Halder

Mead, a drink made from honey, was a favourite of the Gods of ancient mythology. The overpowering yearning and taste for honey by an Amerindian maiden at Tiger Hill, Upper Demerara River, led to tragedy in her life.

Lutu Alstrum was the only daughter and child of a Macushi Amerindian couple who lived at Grassfield, some 40 miles south of Linden. When she was born, for whatever reason, she refused to suckle on her mother’s breasts. A family member suggested to her mother to put honey on her breast nipple. Lutu loved the taste and so was able to feed on her mother’s breast milk. There was no honey available at Grassfield, it was brought from time to time by family and friends from a Sacred Grove of medicinal trees located at Tiger Hill. A huge honeycomb on a golden coloured leafy tree in the centre of the Grove, dripped honey. No one saw any bees around.   

The residents at Tiger Hill believed it was a blessing from their ancestral Gods and so they collected calabashes of the sweet thick golden honey which they sold upriver and downriver. But there was never enough. Lutu’s parents were able to obtain a regular supply and she thrived on it. She grew up into a tall, beautiful maiden.

She was 18 years old when she met a young handsome Amerindian hunter, Marin Klautky. They fell in love and got married. By that time, her honey supply had all but dried up. Lutu became ill.

Concerned over his wife’s ill health, Marin asked her one day,

“My beautiful, kind and loving wife, I am so unhappy over your illness. Is there anything I can do to make you well again? Name it. Your wish will be my command.”

His wife explained that she grew up on the sacred honey which was obtained from Tiger Hill and that she was not able to obtain any for nearly a month and the lack of it made her ill.

“I was weaned on that honey daily as a baby and during my growing up years. During our wonderful marriage, I was able to buy regular supplies from a trader named Oslen Paul who lives at Butuba. He however told me a month ago that when he approached the Grove in Tiger Hill, he heard the growling of tigers in it and did not want to risk his life going to the Honey Tree. I took ill and have remained that way because I no longer have any honey,” she said.

“Well if you have to have the honey to live, then we must find a way to get it and on a regular basis. I cannot live without you. I am not a thinker, just a hunter. So you think about a way overnight and let me know in the morning. I will do whatever you ask,” he replied.

Lutu had dream that night which lifted her spirits.

She woke Marin and told him about the dream. “The solution in the dream was that we should remove from Grassfield and go and live at Tiger Hill. Thus, as a hunter, you can go into the forest, find the Grove and the Honey Tree, and collect calabashes of the honey for me on a regular basis,” she said with a smile.

“Settled,” answered Marin, “We shall do what the dream said.”

“There is one thing I forgot to mention. In my dream I heard the growling of tigers near the Honey Tree,” she added.

“Not to worry, my beautiful wife, I am a match for any tiger. I am a mighty hunter and my two brothers Neran and Gerad, who you met at our wedding, are also great hunters. In fact, we will have a farewell feast and invite our family,” said Marin.

The couple was able to obtain a boat ride from Grassfield to Tiger Hill on a timber tug and was able to take all their belongings.

“We can sleep in a tent, which I am taking with me, on the grassy ground near the bank of the river until I can build a decent hut to live in,” said Marin when they reached Tiger Hill.

The couple settled down to their new life, Lutu feeling much better since the honey she sought was nearby.

In a couple of days, Marin went searching for the Sacred Grove and found it. From his back sack he took out two large well cleaned and covered calabash gourds and boldly entered the Grove. He found the Honey Tree with a huge honycomb on it. He filled the calabashes and returned home with them.

Lutu was wildly ecstatic when she once again tasted the honey. “Marin, I will love you until the day I die,” she swore.

All went well until Marin had to return to the Grove for more honey. On this occasion, the honey was not dripping steadily as before so he took out his hunting knife and tapped it. The drips increased. But when he tapped the honeycomb with his knife, he heard the growls of two tigers. He ignored the sounds. He set out for home.

As soon as his back turned, two sides of the trunk of Honey Tree suddenly opened and two black and yellow striped tigers dashed out growling and gnashing their teeth in anger. They took out after the man who dared to hit the honeycomb.

Marin was a few yards in front of his home when the tigers jumped on his back. He had no time to grab his knife or cutlass. The two tigers soon ripped his body to shreds.

Hearing the sounds, Lutu ran outside only to behold the grisly sight of her husband lying dead on the ground and  two tigers running away. She burst into tears and fainted next to him.

When she recovered, she still had her wits about her. She ran quickly to the river bank and, as luck would have it, saw a speedboat heading Grassland way. She waved to the pilot. He espied her and drove to her. She explained that her husband had been killed by tigers and asked him to call on his family at Grassland and ask them to come to her swiftly. By nightfall, Marin’s parents, brothers and uncles arrived and set about arranging the burial of the young man. During the process, Neran, the late Marin’s brother, could not keep his eyes off Lutu.

The burial over, Neran spoke to Lutu tenderly. “You cannot live here all by yourself. Besides, you need someone to hunt for meat and to protect you from tigers in the area. So, I have have fallen in love with you and would like to marry you. I know its not the time to say it with Marin only lately dead and buried but its true,” he said.

“Indeed now is not the time but if you love and care for me, you may return, with your parent’s permission and we can get married and live here,” Lutu replied.

And so, in a few months, the two were married. By then Lutu’s honey supply was all eaten and she took ill once more. She explained to Neran the reason for her illness and he, without hesitation, volunteered to find the Honey Tree.

The next morning bright and early he went in search of the Sacred Grove. He found it and in its midst, the Honey Tree. The honeycomb on it was dripping with honey. He filled his two containers and headed home. Lutu ate the honey with glee and soon recovered her good health. When that supply was finished, Neran set out for the Grove for refills.

The honeycomb was no longer dripping. He took the handle of his hunting knife and tapped it. The honey dripped once more. He filled his calabashes and headed home. The tap on the honeycomb had, however, awakened the two spirits inhabiting the trunk of the Honey Tree. They stretched and stretched and changed into two tigers which dashed out of the tree trunk. They followed the scent of Neran and soon caught up with him in front of his hut. They attacked him, ripped him to pieces and ran back to the Grove, changing back into spirits.

Lutu heard the growls of the tigers and the shout of Neran in pain during the attack. By the time she ran to him, he was dead. She took the two calabashes of honey into her hut and as before ran to the river bank. Again she was lucky. A speedboat was passing by and she sent a message to Neran’s family at Grassfield.

The family buried their second son Neran. During the traditional ceremony, the last son, Gerad, like Marin and Neran before, became stricken by the beauty and womanhood of Lutu. He approached her after the burial of Neran and pleaded with her to marry him. She told him, as she did before with his brothers, to seek his parents’ permission. They were reluctant but were moved by his tears and his lamentation that there were no females of marriageable age where they lived.

And so Lutu and Gerad were married. All went well at first. The couple were happy and Lutu soon forgot the events that led to her third marriage. In a while, the honey she had was all finished and she took ill. Gerad was devastated. His wife explained to him the reason.

“Don’t you worry none. You are my wife and I have a duty to take care of you. I will go tomorrow in search of the Grove and the Honey Tree and I will bring back your two calabashes filled and will refill them from time to time. I am not afraid of any tigers. Like my brothers before me, I am a hunter,” he said.

The next day, Gerad went in search of the Sacred Grove and found the Honey Tree in it. He looked at the honeycomb and it was dripping. He filled his two calabash containers and returned home. Lutu fed on the honey. Gerad returned to the Grove once again to obtain honey. On the third occasion, the honeycomb was not dripping. He tapped it with the handle of his knife and honey poured from it. He quickly filled his two containers and was soon homeward bound. The tap on the honeycomb awoke the twe spirits in the Honey Tree. They quickly changed into tigers. The two sides of the trunk of the Tree opened and the tigers sped from it, following the tracks of Gerad.

The two demon beasts caught up with him near his home, grabbed him, ripped him to pieces and returned to their home in the Honey Tree. The young man called out to Lutu during his travail but by the time she reached the scene, it was all over. Like Marin and Neran before him, Gerad was dead.

The parents and family of the three former husbands of Lutu buried their last son with sadness, grief and tears.

The night before they returned to Grassland, the mother had a dream in which she saw how and why her three sons were killed. It was all because of Lutu’s insatiable and overpowering taste for the honey from the Sacred Tree. She told the family of the dream and they decided that they must put a stop to it before any more husbands were killed.

The next day, the two parents went in search of the bitter aloes

plant. They found one and cut off a stem that contained the thick bitter liquid. They returned to the hut, grabbed Lutu and spread the bitter liquid in her mouth. “There,” said the mother, “you will never have a taste for sweet honey. Bitter your mouth is now and bitter it shall remain.”

“I don’t think that is enough. She will wash her mouth constantly at the river and its water will take away the bitterness. Our three sons must be revenged and Lutu must pay with her life,” her husband said angrily.

The two grabbed Lutu, tied her hands and feet and transported her to the Sacred Grove. They took her to the Honey Tree and laid her on the ground below the honeycomb. The honeycomb was not dripping. They tapped on the honeycomb. They rubbed the honey that now dripped on the lips and face of Lutu and then sped to a thick bush nearby. Hidden behind it, they watched the proceedings.

The two spirits in the Honey Tree, disturbed by the taps on the honeycomb, transformed themselves into tigers and ran out of the trunk. They saw Lutu lying on the ground with the sacred honey on her lips and face. They jumped on her and tore her to pieces.

And thus Lutu Alstrum met her end. Her insatiable taste for the sacred honey created a tragedy that led to her death and those of the three Klautky brothers who had married her.


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