Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: E. Jacottet - 1908

Translated into English
  by E. Jacottet - 1908

Source: The Treasury of Bas-Suto Lore

Original title (Sotho):

Country of origin: South Africa


English - aligned

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The Nyamatsanes

E. Jacottet

Once upon a time a woman said to her husband : If you loved me, you would kill a nyamatsane, bake its liver, and give it me to eat. If you do so, I shall see that you love me. He said to her : When you cook your bread take out the scrapings of the pot, and fill a bag with them. The wife took out the scrapings of the pot for days, she filled a bag with them for days. The bag was completely filled. Then she told her husband, she said : To-day the bag is full. Her husband said : Now I shall go and kill a nyamatsane.

So he went away on a long journey in search of the nyamatsanes. He went on, eating his bread scrapings ; at last he arrived where there were lots of nyamatsanes ; they were living near a large marsh. He found that the nyamatsanes were away, having gone to pasture far away. They had left only an old nyamatsane woman at home. That man approached quickly, killed the old woman, flayed her, took out the liver quickly. He then made a bag of the skin of the old woman, and went into it.

The nyamatsanes arrived ; they came up, coming back to the dld woman. When they were near, they said : We smell human flesh. They walked all round the hut, saying : We smell human flesh. The old woman said : No, my children, there is no human flesh. But they said : We smell human flesh. Then they were silent and slept. In the morning they rose and went in search of food.

As they were still distrustful they said : Grandmother, let us go in search of food. It was pebbles they were eating. Now that man also stooped down on all fours, took pebbles, but instead of eating them was eating the bread scrapings in his bag. So they were satisfied that it was really their grandmother. They slept again. Next morning they said : Let us go and jump over the great donga. They drew near, and all jumped saying : You also must jump, grandmother. He jumped. Now they left off being distrustful. They went again on a long journey far away, and left him at home.

Now that man took the liver of the nyamatsane from where he had hidden it. He went out of the skin of the nyamatsane, and ran away quickly. He took a small, smooth stone, and kept it in his bag together with the liver of the nyamatsane. They came back, the nyamatsanes, home to their grandmother. When they arrived, they found that their grandmother was dead ; it was only her hide. They were very angry, and said to the others : You see we were right to be distrustful, and to say that we smelt human flesh.

They took his spoor and followed him. When he had already gone far, he looked behind and saw a thin column of dust going up in the air. He exclaimed : Alas, there are the nyamatsanes. They are going to kill me to-day. They came, they came with a great swiftness ; they saw him when they were already very near. He took the stone from his bag, and threw it on the ground when he saw them near him. It became a mountain, steep and smooth ; he climbed it. They tried to climb ; they could not as it was too slippery. They tried it all day, over and over again ; they could not climb. They were tired and slept.

Now during the night, when they were asleep, the man arose and went on ; he went on a long, long way. They arose and found that he had gone ; they took his spoor, felt it with their noses, and pursued him, running with a great swiftness. They drew near to him again ; he was watching them all the time. When he saw them quite near, he took the stone from his bag and threw it on the ground. It became a mountain ; he climbed it. They arrived, tried to climb it, but, as before, could not. They tried the whole clay, then they slept again for the second time.

He rose again and went on his way, the nyamatsanes being still asleep. When he was already far away, they arose, smelt his spoor, and pursued him. They went on, they pursued him, they overtook him. When he saw them near, he took the stone from his bag, threw it on the ground ; it became a mountain. He climbed it and sat there. When they arrived, they tried to climb but could not. They went all round the mountain to find a way. They got tired and slept.

In the middle of the night, when they were asleep for the third time, he came down, went on his journey, and passed through the desert with all his might, so that he might succeed in reaching home. When he was already far away, they arose, smelt his spoor with their noses, and followed it. They went on. He looked behind again, and saw a column of dust going up into the air. He cried : Woe to me, I have eaten something which will not leave me. He went on his way, at a loss what to do. They came, they came, they drew near. When he saw them near, he took the stone from his bag, and threw it on the ground. It became a mountain, and he climbed it. They arrived dreadfully angry. They went round the mountain; they kept on doing so the whole day, trying to kill him. But they could not.

Now they had run many, many days.. They went to sleep very tired, because they had run so long and so hard. Now the man ran away again during the night. He descended from the mountain when they were asleep, and at last reached home. When they arose they found that he had arrived at his village. When they tried to go there, they were afraid of the dogs, and went back.

Now the man exclaimed : Ichu-u-u ! how tired I am. He said to his wife : Give me water to drink. He drank. He found himself refreshed after his fatigue. He said to his wife : Fetch some dung to make a fire. The wife took some dung and made a big fire. She made a great fire of dung. Now the man opened his bag, took out the liver of the nyamatsane, and said :

Here is a liver of nyamatsane. You said you would believe that I loved you, if I killed a nyamatsane. He added : Send away all my children, let them remain outside. The woman roasted the liver of the nyamatsane, and put it on a piece of broken pot. The man said : Eat it, the whole of it ; do not give any part of it to anybody ; do not give any part of it to my children ; you alone must eat it. His wife ate it, the whole of it.

When she had finished, she became thirsty. She drank the water in her pitcher, all of it. She went to another woman and said : My sister, give me some water. She gave her some in a big calabash. She drank it all, and said : My sister, give me some more. The woman said : Why, you want to finish the water of my children. She went to the court of another woman, and said : Give me some water, please, my sister ; I am thirsty. She answered : Go yourself to the pitcher and drink. She took it, and finished it at once. She went out. She went to another court again, and said : Oh, my sister, give me some water to drink ; I am thirsty. The woman said : Go and take the water in the pitcher, and drink. She took the pitcher and drank all the water at once. The woman went to the pitcher and found that all the water was gone. She clapped her hands in wonder, and exclaimed : The mother of so and so has drunk all my water.

She went on, entered another court, and said : Give me some water, I am thirsty. They said : Give her some water. They gave her in a calabash. She finished it and said : Give me some more ; I am thirsty. They gave her some ; she asked again a third time. The people of the but wondered and said : Why, you finish all our water. They gave her the pitcher, she took it and finished all the water at once. She went away, going-round all that big village. She asked for water again in another court. They said : There is water in the pitcher, you may drink. She finished it. Now when she had finished all the water of the village, she went to the fountain, she drew near, stooped down, and gulped all the water of the fountain, the whole of it. She went up to another fountain, she drank all the water at once, all of it. She went to a third one, she drank all the water at once, all of it. She finished all the fountains of the village.

Now she went to the brook near the village, she drew near and stooped down where the brook entered another rivulet. She drank, she finished all the water of the brook. She weni. on to the river, she drew near, knelt down and drank all the river. She drank even the mud, She rose and said : I am not yet satisfied. She went on to another river; she drank it, she finished all its water. Now she went to the big pool of the animals. She drew near, knelt down, and drank. Now when she had finished all the water in the pool of the animals, she was unable to go away, because her belly was very big ; it was higher than her own head, it was even bigger than the mountains.

The animals arrived very thirsty, wanting to drink. They found that all the water in the pool was gone. Now they saw a very big object lying near their pool. Then Great Lion said : Who is it, who is it, who is lying near the fountain of my grandfather ? Great Lion asked a second time : Who is it, who is it, who is lying near the fountain of my grandfather ? They drew near and found that it was Mokhali oa Molata. Now they asked her : Why are you lying near the fountain of our grandfather ? She anwered : I wanted to go away, but the fountain held me fast. They asked her a second time and told her to go away. She answered : I wanted to go away, but the fountain held me fast.

Now the chief said to the animals : Who is going to pierce her ? They said : Rabbit, pierce her. He said : Oh chief, I am afraid. They said : Little hare, pierce her. He said : Oh chief, what can I do to such a big thing ? They said : Reebock, pierce her. He said : Oh, I cannot do it. Thus they refused, all the animals. But at last little hare pierced her. He stood up and pierced her with his nail. Now lots of water came out of her. The pool was full, and the rivers, and the brooks, and the fountains.

Now Great Lion gave the order that nobody should drink till the water was clear again. The animals went away into their dens. It was said that they would drink in the morning when the water had become clear. When little hare saw that all the animals were asleep, he rose during the night and went to drink in the pool of Great Lion. Then little hare took some mud and besmeared the rabbit's knees with it, the lips, the forehead, the nose, and the tail, so that it should be seen that it was he who had drunk the water during the night.

In the morning Great Lion arose and went before the others to the pool of the animals. He examined carefully and found that somebody had troubled the water. Great Lion asked : Who is it, who is it, who has drunk my water ? Little hare hastened to answer him quickly with cunning. He looked all round and pointed to the rabbit, saying : Look at him, it is he who has drunk the water of the chief. He said : Look at the mud on the knees and mouth of the rabbit. The rabbit tried to deny it, saying sorrowfully : It is not I who have drunk the water. Now Great Lion said : Get hold of him and thrash him.

Next morning, after the rabbit had been taken and beaten, little hare boasted about himself, and said : I drank the water,, I drank the water, and I said it was the rabbit. One of them heard him, and said : Hear ! little hare, what do you say ? Little hare answered quickly with cunning : I asked you to give me your walking sticks. He said again another time, when they were watching him : I drank, I drank, I drank the water, and said it was the rabbit. Now one of the animals said to Great Lion : Do you hear what little hare says ? Great Lion answered : Yes, I hear it. They asked little hare : What are you saying ? He said : It is I who drank the water, and I said it was the rabbit. And little hare hastened to run away quickly. The animals pursued him.

Now little hare saw a crevice in the rocks, and entered quickly into it, only his ear projected outside. They vainly tried to draw at the ear; little hare held fast in the crevice. They pierced his ear with their needles. At last they left him and returned home. Little hare came out ; he found the rabbit and told him : Well man, to-day I have been beaten like you. The rabbit answered : Oh man, you have clone me wrong, you drank the water and said it was I. Little hare answered quickly : Come my friend, let us go together and I shall teach you cunning.

They went on together, and arrived near a hole. Little hare said : Let us burn each other. The rabbit answered : You must begin. Little hare picked some prickly berries and held them in his hands. He said : Well man, let us make a big fire. They made a big fire in the hole. Then little hare said to the rabbit : Put me in. The rabbit took little hare and put him in. When little hare felt that the fire was becoming very hot, he threw the berries into it. They went pop. He said : Rabbit, hear, my skin is beginning to burst ; oh man, quick ! take me out. The rabbit took him out. Little hare put the rabbit in. The rabbit said : Little hare, take me out, I am burning. Little hare took him out. The rabbit said : Look how my skin is already scorched. Little hare said : As for me, my skin is very hard ; it does not get scorched quickly. Let us make a big fire, and go into it again.

The rabbit and little hare made a bigger fire. Little hare put the rabbit in again. But when the rabbit cried : Little hare, I am burning, little hare refused to take him out. He was burned, he died, only his bones were left. When the fire was out, little hare went into the hole and found the bones of the rabbit. He took them to make flutes. He sang :

Pii, pii, the rabbit is but a little boy.

He burned me, but I was not roasted; I burned him and he was roasted. A frog asked him : What are you saying, little hare ? Little hare sang again a second time :

Pii, pii, the rabbit is but a little boy;

He burned me, but I was not roasted; I burned him and he was roasted. Afterwards little hare became the servant of Great Lion. He said to him : Grandfather, let me show you what you must do to kill lots of game. Great Lion said : All right. L ittle hare said : Let us dig a hole. They dug it in the cattle kraal. They dug a big hole. Little hare said : Grandfather, go into it, and lie down as if you were dead, with only your teeth showing. Great Lion did so. Little hare stood on the wall of the kraal, took his flutes and sang : l

Pii, pii, all animals come and see, Teeth have grown out from the ground. The animals heard and came running. Little hare said : All of you must go into the kraal, none must remain outside. They all came inside. At last came the baboon, carrying her little one on her back. She drew near, took a bit of grass, and pricked Great Lion in the anus; the anus contracted. The baboon said : My grandchild, come and let me carry you on my back ; Here lies a corpse whose anus contracts.

So the baboon went away with her little one on her back. Now little hare said to the animals : Come, let us shut the kraal. They shut the gate, they closed it with stones. When they had finished closing it, little hare said : Grandfather, arise. Great Lion arose. They killed all those animals and flayed them.