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Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1898], at


Two wives busied themselves preparing chicoanga, or native bread, for their husband, who purposed going into the bush for six months to trade. Each of these women had a child; and the husband, as he left them, adjured them to be very careful with the children, and see that no harm came to them. They promised faithfully to attend to his entreaty.

When it was nearly time for the husband to return, the women said: "Let us go and fish, that we may give our husband some good food when he returns."

But as they could not leave the children alone, one had to stay with them while the other fished. The elder wife went first, and stayed in the fishing-ground for two or three days to smoke what she had caught. Then the younger wife left to fish, and the elder remained to take care of the children.

Now the child of the younger wife was a much brighter and more intelligent child than that of the elder; and this made the latter jealous and angry. So she determined to murder the child, and get it out of the way while its mother was fishing. She sharpened a razor until it easily cut off the hairs on her arm, and then put it away until the evening when the children should be asleep. And When it was evening and they were fast asleep, she went to the place where the child was accustomed to sleep, and killed it. The other child awoke, and in its fright ran out of the house and took refuge with a neighbour.

In the morning the elder wife went to look at her evil work, thinking to put the child away before its mother should return. But when she looked again at the child she was horror-struck to find that she had killed her own child. She wept as she picked up its little body; and wrapping it up in her cloth she ran away with it into the woods, and disappeared.

The husband returned and at once missed his elder wife. He questioned the younger one; but she could only repeat to him what her child had told her, namely, that during the night the elder wife had killed her child. The husband would not believe this story, and asked his friends, the bushmen who had come with him, to help him to search for his wife. They agreed, and scoured the woods the whole day, but without success.

The next day one of the bushmen came across a woman who was nursing something; so he hid and listened to her singing. The poor woman was for ever shaking the child, saying:

"Are you always going to sleep like this? Why don't you awake? Why don't you talk? See! See! it is your mother that nurses you."

"Surely," said the bushman, "this must be my friend's wife. I will go to him and tell him that I have found her."

"Let us go," said the husband; and as they approach her they hide themselves so that she cannot see them. And they find her still shaking the child and still singing the same sad song.

Then the father calls in her relations, and together they go to the woods, and make her prisoner. And when they saw that the child had been really murdered, they gave casca to the woman; and it killed her. Then they burnt her body, and scattered its ashes to the wind.

Next: VIII. Ngomba's Balloon.