AN AFRICAN DELUGE LEGEND
[Extracted from Stanley, Through the Dark Continent, vol. 2, pp. 12-15.]
The Wajiji lake-traders and fishermen have two interesting
legends respecting the origin of the Tanganika. Ruango, the veteran guide, who
showed Livingstone and myself the Rusizi liver in 1871, and whose version is
confirmed by Para, the other guide, related the first as follows:
"Years and years ago, where you see this great lake, was a wide plain, inhabited by many tribes and nations, who owned large herds of cattle and flocks of goats, just as you see Uhha to-day.
"On this plain there was a very large town, fenced round with poles strong and high. As was the custom in those days, the people of the town surrounded their houses with tall hedges of cane, enclosing courts, where their cattle and goats were herded at night from the wild beasts and from thieves. In one of these enclosures lived a man and his wife, who possessed a deep well, from which water bubbled up and supplied a beautiful little stream, at which the cattle of their neighbours slaked their thirst.
"Strange to say, this well contained countless fish, which supplied both the man and his wife with an abundant supply for their wants; but as their possession of these treasures depended upon the secrecy which they preserved respecting them, no one outside their family circle knew anything of them. A tradition was handed down for ages, through the family, from father to son, that on the day they showed the well to strangers, they would be mined and destroyed.
"It happened, however, that the wife, unknown to her husband, loved another man in the town, and by and by, her passion increasing, she conveyed to by stealth some of the delicious fish from the well. The meat was so good, and had a novel flavour, that the lover urged her to inform him whence and by what means she obtained it; but the fear of dreadful consequences, should she betray the secret of the well, constrained her to evade for a long time his eager inquiries. But she could not retain the secret long, and so, in spite of all her awe for the Muzimu of the well, and her dread of her husband's wrath, she at last promised to disclose the mystery.
"Now one day the husband had to undertake a journey to Uvinza, but before departure he strictly enjoined his wife to look after his house and effects, and to remember to be silent about the fountain, and by no means to admit strangers, or to go a-gadding with her neighbours, while he was absent. The wife of course promised to obey, but her husband had been gone only a few hours when she went to her lover and said, 'My husband is gone away to Uvinza, and will not be back for many days. You have often asked me whence I obtained that delicious meat we ate together. Come with me, and I will show you.'
"Her lover gladly accompanied her, and they went into the house, and the wife fed him with Zogga (palm wine) and Maramba (plantain wine), Ugali porridge made of Indian corn, and palm-oil, seasoned with pepper—and an abundance offish meat.
"Then when they had eaten the man said, 'We have eaten and drunk, and we are now full. Now pray show me whence you obtain this wondrous white meat that I have eaten, and which is far sweeter than the flesh of kid or lamb or fowl.'
'"I will,' said she, 'because I have promised to you to do so, and I love you dearly; but it is a great secret, and my husband has strictly warned me not to show it to any human being not related to the family. Therefore you, my love, must not divulge the secret, or betray me, lest some great evil happen to me and to us all.'
"'Nay, have no fear of me; my mouth shall be closed, and my tongue tied, lest danger should happen to the mistress of my heart.'
"So they arose, and she took him to the enclosure, jealously surrounded by a tall thick fence of matet cane, and taking hold of his hand she led the impatient lover within, and showed him what appeared to be a circular pool of deep clear water, which bubbled upward from the depths, and she said:
"'Behold! This is our wondrous fountain—is it not beautiful?—and in this fountain are the fish.
"The man had never seen such things in his life, for there were no rivers in the neighbourhood except that which was made by this fountain. His delight was very great, and he sat for some time watching the fish leaping and chasing each other, showing their white bellies and beautiful bright sides, and coming up to the surface and diving swiftly down to the bottom. He had never enjoyed such pleasure; but when one of the boldest of the fish came near to where he was sitting be suddenly put forth his hand to catch it. Ah, that was the end of all—for the Mazirau, the spirit, was angry. And the world cracked asunder, the plain sank down, and down and down—the bottom cannot now be reached by our longest lines—and the fountain overflowed and filled the great gap that was made by the earthquake, and now what do you see? The Tanganika! All the people of that great plain perished, and all the houses and fields and gardens, the herds of cattle and flocks of goats and sheep, were swallowed in the waters.
"That is what our oldest men have told us about the Tanganika. Whether it is true or not 1 cannot say."
"And what became of the husband?" I asked.
"Oh, after he had finished his business in Uvinza, be began his return journey, and suddenly he came to some mountains he had never seen before, and from the top of the mountains he looked down upon a great lake! So then he knew that his wife had disclosed the secret fountain, and that all bad perished because of her sin."