Oral Literature: African Myth – The origins of the universe

In the beginning, there was nothing but water everywhere; only in the centre emerged a bit of barren land, buffeted by winds and rain. There were two winds: Musololi, impetuous and bad, and Mutekeleshi, cool and light. One day Musololi blew with extreme violence, raising waves as high as mountains so as to irritate Mutekeleshi. A dispute ensued. Musololi despised his rival, accusing him of weakness and ineptitude.

“When you blow, – he said -, the water doesn’t even notice! If I blow, the water swells, dances, screams and rises up to the sky.”

Mutekeleshi felt offended and, to show off his skills, he thought of creating something that would respond to his caresses and bear his kindness. And he created lupunga, a small root which he buried in the centre of the desert island.

After some time, a stem sprouted that unfurled three little leaves and opened a beautiful flower towards the sky.  Then Mutekeleshi blew and watched with joy as the flower danced and the foliage waved as if to applaud him and thank him for the gift of life. He was delighted. But there came a furious Musololi who tried to snatch the seedling by blowing with all his might. But in vain.

The seedling, bending this way and that, resisted all assaults. Once the storm had passed, it returned to show off its splendid colours and embalm the air with its perfume. Then Musololi realised that, after all, his adversary knew how to do something good too, and he retreated to a remote corner of the ocean, leaving his rival in peace.

The little lupunga grew and became a tree, laden with flowers and fruit. From the seeds of the fruit that fell on the ground sprouted more and more plants until it formed a forest that covered the whole island.

After a long time, one of the trees died of old age and out of the rotten wood came the paso insect. It was a white caterpillar, a couple of centimetres long and very greedy for the tenderest leaves of the plants. And he multiplied so much that he endangered the life of the plants themselves.

So, Mutekeleshi chased him away with all his progeny. He allowed only one caterpillar to remain who had promised to be wise and moderate. From him all peaceful animals were later born. Instead, from the others were born the ferocious animals.

After many years, something new and incredible happened: from a peaceful animal came a beast unlike any other. It walked upright on two legs and had no hair to defend itself from the cold; it always sought the sun and spent the night under a pile of branches. He was man, the most ingenious animal of all. He soon managed to build himself a solid shelter to protect himself from the other ferocious animals. But he was able to conquer his enemies for good when he found a way to have fire.

Fire, however, showed itself to possess a very dangerous force. Unchecked, it attached itself to grasses and plants and destroyed part of the forest. Mutekeleshi was indignant: if the rain had not come to his aid, all his work would have been destroyed.

For a moment he thought of driving the man from the earth. But then he thought that he, by better mastering fire, could decrease the rains and reduce the waters of the ocean, giving the earth greater extent. So, he let him live by reserving a part of the earth for him.

Man also had children and multiplied. To live they began to eat the other animals and these dispersed into the forest leaving men alone. Later the sons of men became divided because of quarrels and discord. They went to different and distant places, giving rise to the various tribes of the earth.

(Photo: 123rf.com)(Folktale from Liga people, DR Congo)

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