There are many messages in this !Xun story about a young man’s initiation into adulthood. It talks to us about our relationship with animals, as well as our bond with our own families.
This story is about two friends, !Tjenga and Ngu. They understood each other, played together, hunted together and shared their food. !Tjenga left his family and went to stay with Ngu’s family.
Early one morning, !Tjenga left to go and hunt in the bush. After searching for some time, the young hunter found the footprint of an antelope on the ground. It belonged to an eland, the most beautiful of all antelopes.
Quietly, !Tjenga followed the eland’s footprints. Careful not to step on the dry, noisy grass, he walked, crawled and crept all day long until he finally found the eland. The beautiful antelope was grazing on a hill.
Quietly, he set his arrow in the bow and pulled until the string was tight and ready. He aimed for the eland’s heart. !Tjenga released the arrow. It flew through the air. The sharp point pierced the eland’s heart.
!Tjenga’s heart was afraid because he had killed the beautiful eland. He lay down silently in the bush, resting, waiting for the poison arrow to do its work. The sky and air around !Tjenga shivered from the midday heat while the hunter waited for the eland to die.
Suddenly, the eland turned into a person. !Tjenga’s heart felt uncomfortable, for he did not mean to kill a person. He was afraid. What would the people say if they found that he had killed a person?
!Tjenga walked to his friend Ngu, to tell him what had happened.
“I am in big trouble, my friend,” said !Tjenga, “I hunted an eland and when I came close to inspect it, it became a person. Please, you must help me now so that I can bury it before the people see what I have done.”
Ngu replied: “Oh no! You are not my own family; I can not make your problem my problem!”
The young hunter returned to his own people. With a sore heart, he told them his story. His father simply asked: “Come, let us go and have a look.”
When they came to the hunting ground where !Tjenga had shot the eland, they found no dead person there. The father said: “Did you lie to me?”
“No,” said the boy, “I told you about my hunt and the eland man just as I saw it.”
His mother said: “You did not kill a person. This is meat, it is an animal and we must eat it because we are hungry. We need its skin to make clothes. That is why you shot the eland. From now on you must understand that people are people and animals are animals.”
The family slaughtered the animal and carried it home. They made fire and roasted the meat that the young hunter had brought home.
While the smell of the meat was in the wind, Ngu, came to ask for a piece of the meat. !Tjenga said: “Do you remember when you told me that my problems are not your problems? You must go to your family and I will stay to look after mine.”
The family made more fire. They danced all night and celebrated the food that the hunter had brought home.
Thank you to the Manyeka Arts Trust for allowing FunDza to republish this story. To find out more about the Manyeka Arts Trust, visit: www.manyeka.co.za