The Beginner of the Earth

The elders told us that when God came to prepare the world he found three things in the land, a Dorobo (a hunter-gatherer), an elephant, and a serpent, all of which lived together.

After a time the Dorobo obtained a cow. One day the Dorobo said to the serpent: “Friend, why does my body always itch so that I have to scratch whenever you blow on me?” The serpent replied: “Oh, my father, I do not blow my bad breath on you on purpose.” At this the Dorobo remained silent, but that same evening he pick up his club and struck the serpent on the head and killed it.

The next day the elephant asked the Dorobo where the thin one was. The Dorobo replied that he did not know, but the elephant was aware that eh had killed it and that he refused to admit his guilt. During the night it rained heavily and the Dorobo was able to take his cow to graze, and he watered it at the puddles of rain.

They remained there many days and at length the elephant gave birth to a young one. After a time the puddles became dry except in one place.

Now the elephant used to go and eat grass, and when she had had enough to eat, she would return to drink at the puddle, lying down in the water and stirring it up so that when the Dorobo drove his cow to water he found it muddy. One day the Dorobo made an arrow and shot the elephant and killed it.

The young elephant went to another country. “The Dorobo is bad,” it said, “I will not live with him any longer. He first of all killed the snake and now he has killed mother. I will go away and not live with him again.”

On its arrival at another country the young elephant met a Maasai, who asked it where it came from. The young elephant replied: “ I come from the Dorobo’s kraal. He is living in the forest and he has killed the serpent and my mother.” The Maasai said: “Let us go there. I would like to see him.” They went and found the Dorobo’s hut, which God and turned upside down, and the door of which looked toward the sky.image2

God then called the Dorobo and said to him: “I wish you to come tomorrow morning for I have something to tell you. The Maasai heard this and in the morning he went and said to God: “I have come.” God told him to take an axe and to build a big kraal in three days. When it was ready, he was to go and search for a thin calf, which he would find in the forest. This he was to bring to the kraal and slaughter. The meat was to be tied up in the hide and not to be eaten. The hide was to be fastened outside the door of the hut, firewood was to be fetched and a bit fire lit, into which the meat was to be thrown. He was then to hide himself in the hut, and not to be startled when he heard a great noise outside resembling thunder.

The Maasai did as he was bid. He searched for a calf, which he found, and when he had slaughtered it he tied up the flesh in the hide. He fetched some firewood, lit a big fire, threw in the meat, and entered the hut leaving the fire burning outside.

God the caused a strip of hide to descend from heaven, which was suspended over the calf skin. Cattle at once commenced to descend one by one by the strip of hide until the whole of the kraal was filled, when the animals began to press against one another, and to break down the hut where the Maasai was.

The Maasai was startled and uttered an exclamation of astonishment. He then went outside the hut and found the strip of hide had been cut, after which no more cattle came down from heaven. God asked him whether the cattle that were there were sufficient, “for,” He said, “you will receive no more owing to your being surprised.”image3

The Maasai then went away and attended to the animals, which had been given him. The Dorobo lost the cattle and has had to shoot game for his food ever since.

Nowadays, if cattle are seen in the possession of other tribes, it is presumed that they have been stolen or found, and the Maasai say: “These are our animals, Let us go and take them, for God in olden days gave us all the cattle upon the earth.”

One thought on “The Beginner of the Earth”

  1. Thanks, Ned. First time I read / heard the whole story. That’s a good one. Somehow I recall that there are similar stories about how death came into the world, and similar. Every people has these stories – it helps them understand how things work.

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