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Home :  African Legends :  Death Comes to Mankind

Death Comes to Mankind

The Bushmen share a story with the Hottentots and several other African races about the sending of the message of death to man. The Bushmen say that the moon sent an insect to man with the following message: 'As I die, and dying live, so ye shall also die, and dying live.' Off went the insect with his message, but his legs were rather short and, unable to see very well, he lost his way many times. Soon he was overtaken by an inquisitive hare, who found out the purpose of the insect's errand, and thought to himself, 'I will carry this message myself, and as it is an important one, it will bring me fame and glory.' He left the insect trailing along and bounded away. But the hare, being naturally hare-brained, soon garbled the message as he repeated it to himself over and over as he ran. He arrived at his destination and had his version of the message from the moon proclaimed to all men on earth: 'As I die and dying perish, in the same manner ye shall also die and come wholly to an end.'

The moon, when she heard of this miscarriage of messages, took a stick and angrily hit the hare, striking a cleft in his nose and lip which remains to this day. He, in retaliation, scratched the moon, inflicting bruises and blotches on her face. Some, however, say that the hare let the end of his kaross fall in the fire until it was scorched and hot, then hit the moon in the face with it, causing the dark 'burn' marks which are still visible today.

The Hottentots also believe this story. They despise the hare, and will not even eat its flesh. They say that it was the chameleon, however, and not the insect which first carried the message, and they mock its slow gait. Bushmen also mistrust the chameleon and if they find a dead one in their path they cover it with twigs to avert misfortune.


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