‘The Perfect Nine’ by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o – The Eternal Verities


‘The Perfect Nine’ – The epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (2021) – 227 pages


I’m going to start with some lines from ‘The Perfect Nine’:

The trinity appears in many states of being.




The trinity of Birth.




The trinity of Life.




The trinity of Day.




The trinity of Time.”

This is brilliant. I have never encountered such a profound meditation on the number three before. This is religion without the excess baggage. Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o reaches for the eternal truths that all religions share.

The words seem etched in stone rather than written.

‘The Perfect Nine’ is an epic that deals with the timeless verities, the continuation of life from generation to generation. It is based on the lore of the Gikuyu people of Kenya. These are the origin stories that have been told and retold from the early days.

One unusual feature of this saga is that the women are at least as heroic as the men.

It is an ancient tale of Gikuyu and Mumbi.

They faced hazards big enough to shatter the hearts of many.

Their bodies trembled, but their hearts remained unshaken,

For Gikuyu and Mumbi had robed themselves with hope

And fastened themselves with courage and had moved on.”

They now have ten daughters. The youngest Warigia is born with crippled legs.

When the daughters get to be of marrying age, 99 male suitors arrive. Each daughter must select the suitor who is right for her.

The birds hopped up and down in their nests, letting forth their rapturous song,

As if whistling advice to the man and woman that

They too should set up their own nest there, under the trees.”

As a test, the daughters and their suitors must go on a hazardous journey to the Mountain of the Moon. They must contend with several ogres that threaten their existence. Several of the suitors are lost along the way.

This primitive heroic poem is by turns joyful and elegiac.


Grade:    A




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: