George Grenfell and the Congo

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selects by preference a girl child of six or seven years, because she can be bought cheaper at that age. Her price—some five years before the nubile age—is usually ten milch goats, ten spears, ten knives, and ten dogs.

On each visit of the betrothed husband to his parents-in-law he is expected to bring a spear or a knife; it is a species of rent. At the time when his betrothed has attained the required age and development, the intended husband comes to take her, leads her away to his house, and definitely takes up his abode with her. However, if after a given time the wife remains childless, the parents are obliged to take back their daughter and return a part of the price which has been paid them.

A grown woman who has already been a mother costs quite six times the price of a little girl. But after the Mongwandi wife has produced three or four children, the husband considers he has a sufficient family. He is then ready to "lease" his wife to another man for an initial period of ten or twelve months in return for a fixed sum in goods. If during the period of the "lease" the woman becomes a mother, her child is legally the property of the tenant. If, on the other hand, the child is born after the expiration of the agreed period, it is the property of the lawful husband. Sometimes, in return for a further sum, prolongations of the assignment are granted. Yet the Mongwandi are very rigorous on the subject of marital fidelity (where the woman is concerned). A woman who commits adultery either against her real husband or any temporary mate to whom he may have allotted her is punished as follows. Her body is coated with a mixture of soot and oil and her head is grotesquely tesquely decorated with cock’s plumes. Then a string is tied to her waist and she is led by her relations to an enclosure in the village square made of hunting nets stretched on stakes. Inside this enclosure all her family defile before her, loading her with reproaches and whipping her with rods. Then the nets are drawn aside and the wretched woman makes a rush for her husband’s house, followed by many missiles—sticks, stones, clods of earth.1

1Johnston, H.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 2: 677 (Hutchinson and Co. By permission).

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Chicago: George Grenfell and the Congo in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . George Grenfell and the Congo, Vol. 2, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , George Grenfell and the Congo. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from