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Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore, by George McCall Theal, [1886], at


THERE was once a man and a woman who had two children, a son and a daughter. These children lived with their grandfather. Their mother was a cannibal, but not their father.

One day they said to their grandfather: "We have been long with you, we should like very much to go and see our parents."

Their grandfather said: "Ho! will you be able to come back? Don't you know your mother is a cannibal?"

After a time he consented. He said: "You must leave at such a time that you may arrive there in the evening, so that your mother may not see you, only your father."

The boy's name was Hinazinci. He said: "Let us go now, my sister."

They started when the sun was set. When they arrived at their father's house, they listened outside to find out if their mother was there. They heard the voice of their father only, so they called to him. He came out, and when he saw them he was sorry, and said: "Why did you come here, my dear children? Don't you know your mother is a cannibal? "

Just then they heard a noise like thunder. It was the coming of their mother. Their father took them inside and put them in a dark corner, where he covered them with skins. Their mother came in with an animal and the body of a man. She stood and said: "There's something here. What a nice smell it has! "

She said to her husband "Sohinazinci, what have you to tell me about this nice smell that is in my house? You must tell me whether my children are here."

Her husband answered: "What are you dreaming about? They are not here."

She went to the corner where they were, and took the skins away. When she saw them, she said: "My children, I am very sorry that you are here, because I must eat people."

She cooked for them and their father the animal she had brought home, and the dead man for herself After they had eaten, she went out.

Then their father said to them: "When we lie down to sleep, you must be watchful. You will hear a dancing of people, a roaring of wild beasts, and a barking of dogs in your mother's stomach. You will know by that she is sleeping, and you must then rise at once and get away.

They lay down, but the man and the children only pretended to go to sleep. They were listening for those sounds. After a while they heard a dancing of people, a roaring of wild beasts, and a barking of dogs. Then their father shook them, and said they must go while their mother was sleeping. They bade their father farewell, and crept out quietly, that their mother might not hear them.

At midnight the woman woke up, and when she found the children were gone, she took her axe and went after them. They were already a long way on their journey, when they saw her following them. They were so tired that they could not run.

When she was near them, the boy said to the girl: "My sister, sing your melodious song; perhaps when she hears it she will be sorry, and go home without hurting us."

The girl replied: "She will not listen to anything now, because she is in want of meat."

Hinazinci said: "Try, my sister; it may not be in vain."

So she sang her song, and when the cannibal heard it, she ran backwards to her own house. There she fell upon her husband, and wanted to cut him with the axe. Her husband caught hold of her arm, and said: "Ho! if you put me to death who will be your husband?"

Then she left him, and ran after the children again.

They were near their grandfather's village, and were very weak when their mother overtook them. The girl fell down, and the cannibal caught her and swallowed her. She then ran after the boy. He fell just at the entrance of his grandfather's house, and she picked him up and swallowed him also. She found only the old people and the children of the village at home, all the others being at work in the gardens. She ate all the people that were at home and also all the cattle that were there.

Towards evening she left to go to her own home. There was a deep valley in the way, and when she came to it she saw a very beautiful bird. As she approached it, the bird got bigger and bigger, until at last when she was very near it, it was as big as a house (ie., a native hut).

Then the bird began to sing its song. The woman looked at it, and said to herself: "I shall take this bird home to my husband."

The bird continued its song, and sang:

"I am a pretty bird of the valley,
you come to make a disturbance at my place."

The bird came slowly towards her, still singing its song. When they met, the bird took the axe from the woman, and still sang the same song.

The cannibal began to be afraid.

She said to the bird: "Give me my axe; I do not wish for your flesh now."

The bird tore one of her arms off.

She said: "I am going away now; give me what is mine."

The bird would not listen to her, but continued its song.

She said again: "Give me my axe and let me go. My husband at home is very hungry; I want to go and cook food for him."

The bird sang more loudly than before, and tore one of her legs off.

She fell down and cried out: "My master, I am in a hurry to go home. I do not want anything that is yours."

She saw that she was in danger. She said to the bird again: "You don't know how to sing your song nicely; let me go, and I will sing it for you."

The bird opened its wings wide, and tore open her stomach. Many people came forth, most of them alive, but some were dead. As they came forth she caught them and swallowed them again. The two children were alive, and they ran away. At last the woman died.

There was great rejoicing in that country. The children returned to their grandfather, and the people came there and made them rulers of the country, because it was through them the cannibal was brought to death.

The girl was afterwards married to a son of the great chief, and Hinazinci had for his wife the daughter of that great one.

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