Vol. 16 #3
For hundreds of years the Pastoral Maasai of the East African plains have been gathering around their evening fires telling stories. These stories are the way Maasai introduce their children to their values, the things that are important to them as a people. Here is one of them.
THE STORY OF THE GREED OF THE OLD MAN AND HIS WIFE
There was once upon a time an old man who lived in a kraal with his neighbors. And this old man had a wife and a small child, and he possessed a very fine ox.
One day he said to himself: “How shall I slaughter my ox” and he said aloud to his wife: “My child! I will call the men and tell them that I am going to move. We can then slaughter our ox all by ourselves.” His wife agreed, and in the evening the old man blew his horn as a signal to his friends that he had something to tell them. His neighbors collected together, and he told them that be wished to move as the air did not agree with him. The others consented, and in the morning
he saddled his donkeys, separated his cattle from the rest, and started off, accompanied by his wife, who was carrying the child. When they had gone some distance, they halted and erected their kraal, after which they rested.
At dawn the next day the old man called his wife, and asked her why they had not yet slaughtered their ox. The woman replied: “My husband! How shall we manage to slaughter the ox? There are two things to be considered, the first is that we have no herdsman, and the second, that I am carrying the baby.” The old man then said:
“Oh, I know what we will do. I will stab the ox in the neck, then I will leave you to skin it, and I will carry the child to the pasture when I go today to graze our cattle. But when you have skinned the animal, roast some meat so that it will be ready on my return.”The old man then killed the ox, after which he girded himself with his short sword, picked up his spear and bow and quiver, put the child on his back, and drove the cattle to the grazing ground, where he herded them.
In the afternoon, as the child was asleep, the old man put it down in the grass, and went to drive back the cattle, for they had wandered far. But when be returned to the spot where he had left the child, he was unable to find it, so he decided to set light to the grass, ‘for,’ be thought, I when the fire reaches the child, it will cry, and I will ran to the place and pick it up before it is burnt.’ He made a fire with his fire-sticks, and the fire traveled to where the child was. He ran to the spot, but when he reached it, he found that the child was dead.
The old ran bad left his wife in the morning skinning the ox. And while she was skinning it, she had just reached the dewlap, the knife slipped, and she stabbed herself in the eye. She went and lay clown, and the birds came and finished the meat.
After the child was burnt, the old man drove the cattle to- the kraal, and when they were opposite to the gate, he heard his wife weeping, and saying: “Oh, my eye!” He therefore asked her who had told her the news.
“What news!” she inquired.
The child has been burnt,’ he replied.
The woman exclaimed: “Oh, my child!”
The old man then asked where his meat was, and his wife informed him that the birds had eaten it, whereupon he cried out: “Oh, my meat!” They both wept, the old man crying: “Oh, my meat!” and the woman: “Oh, my child!” “Oh, my eye!”
Look well at these people. It was for their greed that they were punished; they lost their child and their ox, the woman lost her eye, and they had to return in shame to their former home.………………………………………………………………………………………………
March 17, update…
The car battery died yesterday so Mike, the Canadian volunteer, went into Arusha with the car this morning to buy a new one. There hasn’t been a trip to Arusha for over eight weeks so there is a lot of shopping for the school and house to do anyway. We got the hospital car to give us a pull to get the car started for the trip.
I have been scanning pictures I’ve taken over the years and now have filled up a zip disk. I gave the disk to Mike with over 90 mg. of stuff on it. He will send it to Fr. Ralph Poirier, who is constructing the Endulen web site. Ralph may find some of the material useful for the site.
One of the things, I bought on my last trip to Arusha was a 5 x 50 gal. capacity rubber water tank and enough guttering for both the boy’s and girl’s dormitories. We got the guttering installed on both rooves and the one tank on the girl’s dormitory. It has been a great help collecting rain water during each rain; it is raining almost every day now. Mike will bring back a second tank to put on the dorm of the boys, which will double our capacity. The tanks are very light and can be carried on the carrier on top of the land cruiser.
Sukuma warriors raided a large here of cattle in the Endulen area the day before yesterday. Most of the herd belonged to our head teacher here at Osotwa Prep. He is also chairman of Endulen village and a member of the pastoral council that advised the Conservation Authority on the needs of the Maasai. There was calling in the distinctive Maasai way in time of danger when the raid took place from hill-top to hill-top. Maasai warriors gathered from every direction and went after the Sukuma raiders. They’re not back yet, so we don’t know what happened.
One day last week, hearing the crying of some women, I went out onto the front porch. Laying on the grass in front of the porch was an unconscious boy of about twelve or thirteen. It turned out that he had fainted from hunger. We gave him some food and let him rest. When able that evening, he explained to me that he and his father had come from OldoinyoGol. That is a Maasai area on the edge of the Eastern Serengeti some six days walk from here. He and his father had come with donkeys to buy ground corn to take back to the family a OldoinyoGol. It seems that on nearing Endulen, one of the donkeys was frightened by something or other and took off in a straight line toward the forest above us here and hasn’t been seen since. The father blamed Sangoi, his son, for the loss of the donkey. He was so angry, they he chased Sangoi away, telling him that he never wanted to see him again. After wandered around the Endulen area, a place totally strange to him, for a few days someone told him he might be able to get something to eat at the mission. He has been here now for three weeks and still no sign of his family. I’ve enrolled Sangoi in first grade at the locally primary school and am still waiting to hear from his father.