There was once a Vodouist who lived on a large mango orchard. She was the only woman in the entire land blessed with the power to grant fertility to women unable to have children and beauty in women that were born homely. The Vodouist had one beautiful daughter, whom enticed many village men; many sought her daughter’s companionship. Unbeknownst to the Vodouist, while she lay asleep each night, her daughter was spending time with village men in a small wooden shed behind the orchard. Men were so captivated by her daughter that they abandoned their family and responsibilities just to be in her presence.
Word soon spread in the village, that the girl was an evil witch who used her power to cast a spell on every man. One night, while the girl was entertaining the village carpenter, the carpenter’s wife came to the shed with a group of angry men and women. With the Vodouist still asleep in her cottage, the daughter was forcefully taken out of the shed, by the angry mob. They took the girl to the center of the village where she was burned at a stake. The next morning the villagers told the Vodouist her daughter’s fate, and the Vodouist was banned from entering the village–as they believed her to be just as evil as her daughter.
The Vodouist mourned her daughter for many years. She wished to have a daughter again, but as she was now older, despite her powers, she simply could not bear any more children. And so the Vodouist remained alone on her mango orchard, separated from the rest of the village by a very tall black gate, for many years until a man and woman came to her seeking her help.
The young couple, like the rest of the villagers, believed the Vodouist was evil, but they yearned for a baby, and had no such luck producing one the natural way. Since she was the only one with the power to grant fertility, they came to the outskirts and begged her to help them have a baby. The Vodouist agreed to help the couple–under two conditions. The first was that the woman must eat nine mangoes from the Vodouist’s mango orchard to get pregnant, and once pregnant, she must eat one mango from the orchard every day until the child arrived. The second was that if she gave birth to a daughter, she must give the daughter to the Vodouist to raise as her own.
The man and woman were hesitant to accept the Vodouist’s second condition. Though they both only had brothers, and their brothers’ wives had only borne healthy, sturdy boys, the man and woman still feared the possibility of having, and losing, a baby girl. But they were desperate. They accepted both conditions.
The Vodouist’s mango orchard was located several miles behind her house; she led the man and woman there, and they picked nine mangoes to take home. The woman ate nine lush, sweet mangoes that very night.
Weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant. She went to the Vodouist’s home to pick mangoes. The Vodouist reminded her that she must get the mangoes exclusively from this orchard, and that she must continue to eat one every day.
Every month, the woman’s husband was tasked with walking to the outskirts of the village where the Vodouist lived and picking a month’s worth of mangoes for his wife to fulfill the promise. But in the seventh month, her husband became sick and could not make the trip. Nor could the woman—who was ill and swollen from pregnancy—make the long walk. So she went to the local village market and purchased mangoes from there instead. She ate the mangoes from the market for two weeks until her husband recovered. After that, the husband went to the orchard and picked mangoes for her to eat for the remainder of the month. The woman resumed eating the fruits from the mango orchard until she gave birth.
Much to the couple’s surprise, the woman bore a baby girl with light mocha skin, raven-black hair full of coils, and ebony eyes. Seven days after birthing, the baby’s lips darkened to peach, and her ebony eyes turned gray, and even in her infancy it was predicted that she’d grow up to be a beauty. The baby reminded the man and woman of the many ripe mangoes she’d consumed over the course of the pregnancy; and they named her Mangoliah.
Mangoliah was beautiful. The woman and man could not part with her. They knew the Vodouist would want Mangoliah if she came to their home and saw she was a girl, so in a panic they ran away to another village. They hoped the Vodouist would think they had a son and would not bother to look for them in this new village. Sure enought, many years passed, and the Vodouist never came to the new village to take Mangoliah.
Mangoliah grew up close to her papa, and spent as much time as she could with him. He was a fisherman. On Mangoliah’s seventh birthday, after much begging, he took her fishing in the river by their home. Mangoliah sang happily while she watched her papa fish. She always sang songs with her mama while her papa worked, so he’d rarely heard her voice, but on that day he had the chance to listen to her sweet melodies. Her singing was as soothing as velvety chocolate melting on the tongue, and it calmed him. That day, he caught more fish than he ever had before. He told her mother that night at supper that it was Mangoliah’s singing that gave him such luck.
At bedtime, he gave Mangoliah a peach dress with matching ribbons for her black hair. He read her a story, and wished her a happy birthday again. Before he left her room, he gave her a small loving peck on the lips.
The next day, Mangoliah’s father became deathly ill. In only a few hours, he physically aged ten years. By the middle of the week he looked like an elder. His once young, rugged face had become ancient, and he was so frail he could barely walk. No one in the village had heard of such an illness, and the doctor was unable to help him. After seven days of aging from this condition, her father passed away.
Mangoliah was heartbroken after he died. Her mother was so devastated that she felt she could no longer care for Mangoliah. So she took Mangoliah back to their old village, to the home of the Vodouist on the mango orchard. The Vodouist was surprised to see the woman with a little girl, who she claimed was her daughter. The mother begged the Vodouist for forgiveness and explained that her husband died and left her a poor widow.
The Vodouist grew increasingly angry as she listened to the deceitful woman explain herself. The last seven years the Vodouist assumed that the two had a son; never had she imagined that the two would break the second condition of their promise. Learning that the two raised the baby girl whom she was promised—and for the last 7 years—infuriated the Vodouist. In her state of fury, she felt pleasure that the father died, and felt it fitting that she kill this woman for betraying her too. Yet, when she looked at the angelic girl standing behind the mother, the Vodouist’s heart softened. She did not have it in her heart to kill the girl’s mother in front of her.
“She is very beautiful,” the Vodouist said calmly. “Did you eat the mangos from my orchard every day, like I asked you to?”
The woman nodded.
The Vodouist told her that she would only spare the woman’s life if she agreed to never contact Mangoliah again. The woman promised that she would not.
“Very well,” the Vodouist said. “I will take her in and raise her as my own. But be warned that if you break another promise, your death will surely follow.”
The mother agreed, and left the girl, and never came back. And so the Vodouist raised Mangoliah as her own daughter.
With age, Mangoliah’s body looked more and more womanly. Her doe-gray eyes were fringed with black lashes and naturally arched brows, and her mouth grew fuller like a ripening peach. Her black coils, sturdy as rope but fine as sheep’s wool, were now so long they reached her toes. Her hair was so thick and wild that she tied it into a very large curly bun on top of her head. The Vodouist would not allow her to cut it. Mangoliah still loved to sing, and her voice was now so beautiful it could calm the rowdiest of men.
In the seven years Mangoliah lived with the Vodouist, she had left the mango orchard many times to explore nearby farms and villages. When she became a young woman, the Vodouist noticed that Mangoliah’s womanly appearance was starting to titillate men and this troubled her. She did not want Mangoliah to suffer the fate of her own daughter, and so she stopped allowing Mangoliah to go anywhere unless she was there to chaperone. While Mangoliah loved her Vodouist, she often yearned for companionship with those closer to her age and wanted to explore the way she used to, on her own. One morning, Mangoliah woke up very early—before the Vodouist was up—and snuck out of the home to go to the bustling market-center at the edge of the village.
As she was shoving her way through the herd of village mothers with dirty children begging for scraps, and the merchants calling out about apples, gold, sugarcane, and mangos, she bumped into a handsome young man. He took one look at Mangoliah and was enthralled by her beauty. He asked her if she would like to taste some fresh sugar cane at his papa’s farm.
Mangoliah loved sugar cane; she followed the young lad to his home. He let Mangoliah taste as much of his papa’s sugar cane as she desired. Afterwards, when Mangoliah’s lips were coated in sticky sweetness, he asked her for a kiss. Mangoliah liked how the kiss felt and asked him if they could kiss again. Mangoliah enjoyed the young man’s lips so much that she spent the rest of the afternoon at his home eating sugarcane and kissing him.
Unbeknownst to Mangoliah, the young man was already promised to a wealthy farmer’s daughter. The young man’s mother walked in on the two of them kissing each other and immediately banished poor Mangoliah from her home to prevent scandal.
When Mangoliah arrived home late that night, the Vodouist was furious with her for running away. Mangoliah told the Vodouist about the young man, the sugarcane, and their afternoon of kissing. The Vodouist found it troubling that Mangoliah enjoyed kissing this man. She worried about Mangoliah’s reputation in the village; she could not let them hurt her like they did her first daughter! The next evening the Vodouist went to the young man’s sugar cane farm with some fresh mangoes from her orchard to give to the young man’s mother.
The mother graciously accepted the mangoes, but would not let the Vodouist in her home. The woman told her that the young man was very ill. He had woken up that morning no longer looking like a young man; rather, he looked as old as his father! The young man was now very weak and tired. The Vodouist begged the woman to tell her what ailed him.
“The doctor came by about an hour before you did, ma’am,” the mother said, through tears. “He said he had heard of a case like my boy’s only once, and it was seven years ago, in another village miles away. The man was a father, and grew very old overnight, and died by the end of week! There is no known cure.”
“What of this man’s family? Did the doctor mention if they were still alive?” asked the Vodouist.
The woman shook her head. “There was a wife and a daughter. The wife took the daughter to another village and left her with a guardian to raise her. No one’s heard about the mother or daughter since.”
The Vodouist now filled with dread, pardoned herself and left for her mango orchard. She recalled that Mangoliah’s mother mentioned a sickness that claimed the life of Mangoliah’s father. How could the only two men that had gotten close to Mangoliah get this sickness? The vodouist knew it couldn’t be a coincidence.
By morning, she’d concluded that since Mangoliah’s mother had broken the second condition of their agreement, she had probably broken the first condition as well. The mother lied; she had not eaten mangos solely from the orchard during her pregnancy. The Vodouist knew it so, because she had intentionally put a spell on all the mangos in her orchard during the woman’s pregnancy, to ensure that if the baby were a girl, she would feel repulsed by men and take no pleasure with them, and that men would be immune to her beauty. The spell was precise and if the instructions were not followed exactly, there were uncontrollable side effects. Since Mangoliah felt pleasure with men, and enticed men just like her daughter had once upon a time, it was quite obvious now that her mother did not follow the Vodouist’s instructions. For this, the poor girl was cursed forever.
The Vodouist decided that Mangoliah would never ever see another man again. The next morning, she told Mangoliah they were moving to another village far away. She took Mangoliah to a dilapidated tower in the outskirts of the new village’s forest. At the very top of this tower was a room with one window, and right across from this window was another tower, and at the very top of that tower was a room with one window, too. The Vodouist took Mangoliah to the room at the top of the first tower and locked Mangoliah inside; she told Mangoliah this was simply a punishment for being disobedient.
Yet, that night when she was sure Mangoliah was sleeping, the Vodouist came back to the tower. She spent all night building a brick wall in front of Mangoliah’s bedroom door, and when she was done she sealed it with a spell that would keep the wall there forever. By morning, though she was tired and sore, she had also built a brick barricade in front of the entrance of the tower and put a spell on it too, to be sure that Mangoliah could never get out. Satisfied, the Vodouist left and went home to rest. Poor Mangoliah woke up only to discover that there was no way for her to leave, or for anyone to come inside the tower to rescue her.
Since the brick barricades blocked anyone from getting inside Mangoliah’s tower, if the Vodouist wanted to see Mangoliah, she had go to the second tower. She had to go to the very top of the second tower, into the room with the window, stick her head out the window and call out: “Mangoliah, Mangoliah! Let your hair out!” And, when Mangoliah heard the Vodouist’s voice, she unpinned her wild, curly bun, leaned out her window, and tossed her hair across the tower. When the ends of the coils hit the window, the Vodouist grabbed hold and loosely tied the thick curly strands onto the hooks of the window and climbed across. This then became the way in which the Vodouist would go in to see Mangoliah.
Mangoliah yearned to leave the tower. She promised the Vodouist that she would never run away again, but the Vodouist did not let her out. To pass time, each day, she sang beautiful hymns and read the books the Vodouist brought to her, still hoping that one day she would be freed.
Years passed, and one afternoon the son of the wealthiest farmer in the village, passed by the tower while riding through the forest. He heard a song so ethereal and haunting that he stopped riding and just listened. Intrigued, he wanted to see who she was. But when he went to the entrance he saw a brick barricade blocking anyone from entering the tower! He couldn’t enter the tower, and so he rode home, still thinking of the beautiful voice.
After that, he rode by the tower every day listening to Mangoliah sing. On one of these days, he saw the Vodouist’s head hanging out of the window of the opposite tower. Curious, he hid behind one of the trees to see what she was doing. He heard the woman in the window call out, “Mangoliah, Mangoliah! Let out your hair!”
Then Mangoliah let out her coily black hair and the Vodouist climbed across to her.
After witnessing this, the young man said to himself, “If that is what must be done to get to her, then I must also try the same thing so I can have her.” The next night, when the Vodouist had left, he went to the other tower and stuck his head out of window and called, “Mangoliah, Mangoliah! Let out your hair!” The rope of hair came across the divide, and the young man used it as a bridge.
At first, his entrance frightened Mangoliah. But as the man began to talk to her, and told her how captivating he found her voice, she was no longer afraid of him. He was handsome, and reminded her of the young man who’d shown her sugarcane and taken her breath away with a kiss. They talked for many hours before he left.
From then on, the man came to Mangoliah’s tower every night, and spent each night getting to know her. She sang for him and he told her stories of his adventures. One night, he asked if he could kiss her. Mangoliah had long desired to be kissed the same way she was at the sugarcane farm, so she said yes. She loved the kiss so much that they kissed again and again. Mangoliah had never felt such pleasure before. They spent all night and the next morning in intimacy and ecstasy, wrapped in each other’s arms.
Then, a voice floated through the window. “Mangoliah, Mangoliah let your hair out!”
The young man panicked.
Mangoliah knew that if she did not let her hair out, the Vodouist would be angry with her for not listening. But she did not want the Vodouist to see that she was now impure. The Vodouist continued to call out, and eventually Mangoliah decided that she would have to let her in.
The Vodouist was shocked to discover the young man and Mangoliah together.
“Come here,” she said, to the man, ignoring Mangoliah’s cries. “You must come with me before it is too late.”
The Vodouist left Mangoliah in the tower, and took the man with her to her mango orchard. She made him an herbal medicine concoction to treat the illness she was certain was coming. She made him drink it right away. The Vodouist told him to never come back to visit Mangoliah. He promised he never would.
But the Vodouist needed to be sure that he would not come back. She gave a sad Mangoliah, a concoction that put her to sleep for the night, then she cut off all of Mangoliah’s hair. Afterwards, she waited to see if the man would really do as he promised. Sure enough, she heard him say, “Mangoliah, Mangoliah let your hair out!”
The Vodouist took Mangoliah’s rope of hair and threw it across from her window to the other tower’s window. The young man climbed across. When he came to the room and saw the Vodouist, he realized the trouble he was in. The Vodouist told him that Mangoliah was gone and that he would never find her again. Distraught, the young man left.
Fearing he would come back again, the Vodouist took Mangoliah away from the tower and to another village. There, she and Mangoliah lived in a small farm that was far away from everyone. The Vodouist kept Mangoliah locked inside the house. Mangoliah was very depressed, for she now had short hair, and would never get to experience pleasure with her love, or any man besides. Since she did not know how to get back to her love, she did not try to escape either. She sadly accepted that she would be locked up in the home with the Vodouist for the rest of her life.
For years, the young man wandered from village to village, hoping to hear Mangoliah’s sweet voice again. With time, he grew discouraged. He decided he would search one more day, and if he could not find her, he would give up.
On that very day, he came to a village and heard a sweet voice drifting on the breeze, and two children laughing in response. He recognized the voice immediately and knocked on the door. When Mangoliah answered and saw it was he, she cried and wrapped her arms around him. She showed him their two-year-old twin daughters. Despite the Vodouist’s protests, the young man took Mangoliah and the twins from the farm and brought her to his large home, which contained many rooms and luxuries that Mangoliah had never seen. He married her that very same day. The two then spent all night together in bliss.
Yet, upon the next morning, he woke up having aged many years and felt very ill. Mangoliah rushed to her Vodouist’s home hoping for a concoction or herb to cure the young man. There, the Vodouist finally told Mangoliah about her curse; that she had caused the sickness that killed her father, the sickness in the young man at the sugarcane farm, and now the sickness in her husband.
“Your mother ate tainted mangoes the seventh month of her pregnancy. Because of this, you were cursed. I tried to protect you from your desires, the same desires that plagued my first daughter. I tried to keep the village men away from your beauty and your voice. You thought me evil for keeping you locked up, but I was only protecting you.”
“Please! Please help my husband. I beg of you. You did not tell me I was cursed. If you had, I never would have kissed anyone,” Mangoliah sobbed. “I will do anything now. Anything.”
“I can help the young man with his sickness and keep him from death,” said the Vodouist. “Nevertheless, my herb will only stop his illness from progressing–he will still look aged as he does now. You must not ever put your lips on him again, or he will get sick and die and I will not be able to help him again.”
Mangoliah, eager to keep her husband alive, took the concoction to him, and agreed to never kiss him again. He was then cured. And so, the two of them grew old together, he looking much older than she, and lived as happily as they could, despite never being able to kiss.
When her husband was on his deathbed, sick with pain from his old age, Mangoliah was able to give him one final moment of bliss: the kiss that put him out of his misery.