Run Away, Princess!

Mythological Africans
4 min readOct 5, 2022


The following is an excerpt from Helen Nde’s upcoming book “The Runaway Princess and Other Stories”, a collection of short stories recounting the deeds and misdeeds of memorable women from African history, legend, and folklore.

We stay in the tree all night and when morning dawns, still and peaceful, we slide down the tree and continue our journey. We walk until heat from the rising sun has chased away the chill of the morning. We stop to eat, hiding in the bushes as we nibble on the fruit and roots we gathered as we walked. When we resume our journey through the seemingly endless forest, I am no longer sure if we are headed away from, or back toward, the village. I realize that we’re lost when the forest around us starts to look familiar. Distracted by my worried thoughts, I am unprepared when we walk into a clearing and come face to face with a Makenyi. It is a female, and she has a baby strapped to her back. She gasps in fright when she sees us and raises the small axe she holds in her hand. Little Sister’s scream cuts through the forest like a machete through grass. I grab her and cover her mouth, frightened that there might be more Makenyi hiding in the bushes. The creature doesn’t move or call out to others. She just stands there, eyes wide, watching us with her axe raised. We wait in terrified silence, our harsh breath the only sound filling our ears. When the Makenyi finally moves, she does something so strange Little Sister and I look at each other in confusion: she throws her axe to the ground and then beckons toward us. Little Sister shakes her head so violently, my hands slide from across her mouth.
“No,” she cries, trying to wrest herself from my arms. “We can’t do that, Chigu.” Her words are loud in the quiet forest. The Makenyi flinches and looks around warily. When nothing happens, she covers her mouth with her hands and shakes her head before beckoning to us again.
“I think she is trying to help us, “I whisper to Little Sister. “Look, she threw away her axe and she’s not attacking us. She is trying to help us!”
“Or she will take us to where the others are!” Little Sister hisses. The sound is loud, carrying into the forest. Again, the Makenyi looks around nervously, shakes her head, and covers her mouth.
“She is trying to help us,”I say more confidently, taking a step toward the creature. She nods encouragingly and beckons, but Little Sister grabs my hand.
“Chigu,” she whimpers. “She will kill us.”
“We are lost,” I snap, suddenly irritated by her fear. “We will surely die if other Makenyi find us wandering around in the forest.”
A loud, buzzing sound overshadows my voice, and we all look up as my beetle returns. It flies around us noisily and then flies over to the Makenyi. The creature crouches as the beetle flies around her. When it lands on her nose, she rises from her crouched position carefully, arms out and eyes crossed as she focuses on the beetle. The beetle doesn’t fly off. It ripples its wings a few times, making the buzzing sound, and then flies back to settle on my shoulder. Relieved, the Makenyi pats her face and body and checks her baby. Then she laughs. The sound chimes through the forest and the gesture transforms her face completely. Suddenly, I see the young woman under the hair and strange coverings. It strikes me then how similar the Makenyi are to us. They are smaller and hairier but that is as far as the differences go. I start to wonder why they hate us so much, but the Makenyi starts chattering. She points at the beetle, waves her hands in the air while making a buzzing sound, and then mimics the beetles stinging. She laughs again and picks up her axe. Little Sister stiffens beside me, but the Makenyi smiles reassuringly at her, hangs the axe on the girdle around her waist, beckons to us again, and walks off into the forest. Little Sister hesitates, but I follow the Makenyi, so Little Sister has no choice but to come with us. We walk as quietly as we can but our efforts are clumsy compared to the near soundless way the creature slips through the forest, sometimes moving so quietly we wouldn’t even know she was there if we didn’t see her walking in front of us. I want to ask where she is taking us, but I don’t know how to. I know she means us no harm, but we need to be moving away from our village not toward it. I make a questioning sound and the Makenyi looks back when she hears my voice. But then her eyes widen, and she squeaks in alarm before turning around to run, crashing heedlessly through the forest where before, she was careful. We start to run too, knowing there is only one reason a Makenyi would be so afraid. Whistling sounds cut through the air and the Makenyi falls to the ground with a scream. The fall jostles the baby, who starts to cry loudly. I run to the Makenyi’s side but she gestures for us to keep running, her eyes wild with fear. When I see the arrow sticking out of her back, I grab Little Sister's hand and we run as fast as we can.

You can learn more about “The Runaway Princess and Other Stories” and support the Kickstarter here.



Mythological Africans

Exploring African mythologies, spiritualities and cultures