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My Dark Companions And Their Strange Stories   By: (1841-1904)

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My Dark Companions, by Henry M. Stanley.



The nightly custom of gathering around the camp fire, and entertaining one another with stories, began in 1875, after Sabadu, a page of King Mtesa, had astonished his hearers with the legend of the "Blameless Priest."

Our circle was free to all, and was frequently well attended; for when it was seen that the more accomplished narrators were suitably rewarded, and that there was a great deal of amusement to be derived, few could resist the temptation to approach and listen, unless fatigue or illness prevented them.

Many of the stories related were naturally of little value, having neither novelty nor originality; and in many cases, especially where the Zanzibaris were the narrators, the stories were mere importations from Asia; while others, again, were mere masks of low inclinations. I therefore had often to sit out a lengthy tale which had not a single point in it.

But whenever a real aborigine of the interior undertook to tell a tale of the old days, we were sure to hear something new and striking; the language became more quaint, and in almost every tale there was a distinct moral.

The following legends are the choicest and most curious of those that were related to me during seventeen years, and which have not been hitherto published in any of my books of travel. Faithfully as I have endeavoured to follow the unsophisticated narrators it is impossible for me to reproduce the simplicity of style with which they were given, or to describe the action which accompanied them. I take my cue from the African native. He told them with the view of pleasing his native audience, after much solicitation. He was unused to the art of public speaking, and never dreamed that he was exposing himself to criticism. He was also shy, and somewhat indolent, or tired perhaps, and would prefer listening to others rather than speak himself, but though protesting strongly that his memory was defective, and that he could not remember anything, he yielded at last for the sake of peace, and good fellowship. As these few, now about to be published, are not wholly devoid of a certain merit as examples of Central African lore, and oral literature, I have thought it best to consider myself only as a translator and to render them into English with as direct and true a version as possible.

I begin with the Creation of Man merely for preference, and not according to the date on which it was related. The legend was delivered by Matageza, a native of the Basoko, in December, 1883. [The Basoko are a tribe occupying the right bank of the Aruwimi river from its confluence with the Congo to within a short distance of the rapids of Yambuya, and inland for a few marches.] He had been an assiduous attendant at our nightly circle, but hitherto had not opened his mouth. Finally, as the silence at the camp fire was getting somewhat awkward, Baruti, one of my tent boys, was pressed to say something; but he drew back, saying that he never was able to remember a thing that was told to him, but, added he, "Matageza is clever; I have heard him tell a long legend about the making of the first man by the moon."

All eyes were at once turned upon Matageza, who was toasting his feet by a little fire of his own, and there was a chorus of cries for "Matageza! Matageza!" He affected great reluctance to come forward, but the men, whose curiosity was aroused, would not take a denial, and some of them seized him, and dragged him with loud laughter to the seat of honour. After a good deal of urging and a promise of a fine cloth if the story was good, he cleared his throat and began the strange legend of the Creation of Man as follows:



In the old, old time, all this land, and indeed all the whole earth was covered with sweet water... Continue reading book >>

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