The Brown Fairy Book
The Sacred Milk of Koumongoe
Far way, in a very hot country, there once lived a man and woman who had two children,
a son named Koane and a daughter called Thakane.
Early in the morning and late in the evenings the parents worked hard in the fields,
resting, when the sun was high, under the shade of some tree. While they were absent the
little girl kept house alone, for her brother always got up before the dawn, when the air
was fresh and cool, and drove out the cattle to the sweetest patches of grass he could find.
One day, when Koane had slept later than usual, his father and mother went to their work
before him, and there was only Thakane to be seen busy making the bread for supper.
'Thakane,' he said, 'I am thirsty. Give me a drink from the tree Koumongoe, which has the
best milk in the world.'
'Oh, Koane,' cried his sister, 'you know that we are forbidden to touch that tree. What
would father say when he came home? For he would be sure to know.'
'Nonsense,' replied Koane, 'there is so much milk in Koumongoe that he will never miss a
little. If you won't give it to me, I sha'n't take the cattle out. They will just have to stay all
day in the hut, and you know that they will starve.' And he turned from her in a rage, and
sat down in the corner.
After a while Thakane said to him: 'It is getting hot, had you better drive out the cattle
But Koane only answered sulkily: 'I told you I am not going to drive them out at all. If I
have to do without milk, they shall do without grass.'
Thakane did not know what to do. She was afraid to disobey her parents, who would
most likely beat her, yet the beasts would be sure to suffer if they were kept in, and she
would perhaps be beaten for that too. So at last she took an axe and a tiny earthen bowl,
she cut a very small hole in the side of Koumongoe, and out gushed enough milk to fill
'Here is the milk you wanted,' said she, going up to Koane, who was still sulking in his
'What is the use of that?' grumbled Koane; 'why, there is not enough to drown a fly. Go
and get me three times as much!'