Anton Quintana (a writer with Dutch and Spanish roots) has written an intruiging story set in Kenya. He had never visited this country, but he did take time to study about this country and its people. It has resulted in a captivating book.
The protagonist of this book is a man called Morengáru. Just like the writer he has double roots. His father is a Maasai and his mother is a Kikuyu. He was raised among the Maasai, but he always was the odd man out. He gained the status of a moran. As a grown man he decides to move to the village from his mother, where his grandfather is the local chief. He notices the differences between the hunting Maasai and the sedentary and farming Kikuyu. Also at this community hew lives at the sidelines, for he keeps on hunting and living more like a Maasai. He has some Kikuyu friends.
One day when friends play a prank on him, he kills one of them. The village elders decide to ban him from the community. He leaves without saying farewell to his friends. He follows the trail of a deer with one horn, a deer he had seen before. Day after day he walks and walks, living on his own, determined to follow the deer, for he is convinced there is a message somewhere in this all.
One day he meets a group of baboons. A fight between Morengáru and the king of the baboons follows. The result is the death of the king and a heavily wounded Morengáru who barely survices. He hides in a trunk of a baobab. A few times a baboon has a quick look at this strange creature. Slowly Morengáru recovers, but he discovers that his right arm and his right leg are severely damaged and he can hardly use them. He is handicapped.
The group of baboons stay near the baobab and slowly but surely Morengáru discovers that the group accept him as their new king. He has to study the ways of the group and the language it uses and the interaction of these animals. One of the elder baboons takes the lead in keeping the others in check. Between this baboon and Morengáru develops a special relationship. In one way he is not able to assert his authority, but on the other hand the old baboon takes over part of his role.
Near the end a leopard nears the groups and kills one after the other of the family group. Finally Morengáru decides to take action. This action puts his relationship with the group at a different level, while at the same time he wonders how top communicate and how he misses the interaction with fellow human beings.
As I said before, this is an intruiging story. It is about the diversity in your background and the questions where one belongs. He does not belong to the Maasai, he does not belong to the Kikuyu and he does not belong to the baboons. Where is his home? Where are his roots?
Anton Quintana – De bavianenkoning – 1982
(The book has been translated into English with the title “The Baboon King”.)