Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of an 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. Continue reading