Balladeer’s Blog begins a new serialized feature – the neglected epic myth of the Nyanga people of Africa.
Many of the myths from Africa survived mostly in oral form until comparatively recent decades, so there are even more variations of African epics than readers may be used to. To cite just one example: Mwindo himself is usually referred to by the epithet Kabutwa-kenda, “the little one just born yet walking”. However there are a few versions of the myth in which Mwindo and Kabutwa-kenda are TWO SEPARATE FIGURES and are half-brothers.
In the versions where they are two separate entities Mwindo is a villainous figure while Kabutwa-kenda is the main hero of the epic. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will be reminded of the Navajo twin gods Nayanazgeni and Thobadzistsini. Nayanazgeni was usually the hero of the epic about the defeat of the evil gods called the Anaye but in the Apache version of the myth his brother Thobadzistsini is the hero and Nayanazgeni is reduced to being a comic relief coward.
To stay in the area of comparative mythology for a moment Mwindo also shares qualities with the Sumerian demigod Gilgamesh. Like Gilgamesh, Mwindo goes from being brashly overconfident about his own supernatural powers to becoming a more humble hero and more capable ruler as the tale goes on.
The Mwindo Epic begins in the village of Tubondo, surrounded by raphia trees and located on a high hill. The founder and Chief of the village was named Shemwindo and he had seven wives because the Nyanga considered seven to be the number of perfection. Nyanga villages had seven separate kinship halls even if there were not seven separate kinship groups in the village. This was done out of deference to the sheer perfection of the number seven.
At any rate in accordance with the Nyanga version of polygamy Chief Shemwindo had a favored wife and a despised one. The despised wife lived near the village’s waste dump, the others lived in the center of the village. Shemwindo gathered his wives and announced that if any of them gave birth to a male the child (and in some versions the wife, too) would be put to death.
This is meant to show Shemwindo’s villainous nature. He is resisting the natural order of things, which is for a younger male child to take over for the father as the father grows older and feebler. By not wanting the implied rivalry of a male heir Shemwindo is condemning his people to a destructive decline in the long run since he will eventually be too weak to lead in war and too senile to govern properly. Also, daughters would net him bride-gifts but sons would mean he would have to one day GIVE bride-gifts to his son(s) intended.
At any rate Shemwindo laid with his seven wives and all of them became pregnant at the same time. Each wife was nervous, fearing they would give birth to a boy and thus incur the wrath of their husband.
Meanwhile the common women of the village of Tubondo were doing washing and gossiping along the shore of the nearby river. They happened to discuss how beautiful Chief Shemwindo’s sister Iyangura was. Everything discussed along the river was known to Mukiti the serpent-god who ruled the river depths. Upon hearing how beautiful Shemwindo’s sister was the deity decided to call upon the Chief and demand to marry Iyangura.
I WILL EXAMINE ADDITIONAL PARTS SOON. CHECK BACK ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK FOR UPDATES.
FOR ANOTHER EPIC MYTH CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/03/17/iroquois-epic-myth-hodadeion/
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