A little wisdom from Africa
If only to prove that I read something beyond The New Yorker these days…when I was a young boy I prevailed upon my mother to buy a book, published in 1963, titled African Myths And Tales. I do not know exactly why I wanted it, save that it probably seemed to be about animals. I do not remember having had any particular interest in mythology, nor in Africa. And so the book sat on my shelves for a good 40 years.
Maggie, our almost six year-old, is fascinated by myths and legends. (She tied up one unwary babysitter and sacrificed her to the Roman gods.) And by animals.
So I’ve been reading to her at night, some nights, from this book which has made its way onto her shelves, now. I did have to find some reason not to read the explanation of female circumcision, and have not yet had to explain the story about pillow-talk…for which I am grateful.
We dabble at this book, and some months ago I came upon this little story, which I reproduce here because I have stored it against some future use, and haven’t been able to find one.
So. This is a Ngombe story. I know next to nothing about Africa, and so that is absolutely all I know about it.
“The sky is supported by two creatures, Libanja and Songo. Libanja holds up the sky in the east by an enormous pole, and Songo in the west. When they grow tired the sky will fall down and men will turn into lizards.”
That’s the whole story.
Make of it what you will!