Embu & Mbeere - Fables and Legends

The Origin of Death

This story, narrated by Kaunju wa Gacugo - an 81 year-old Embu elder from Gakwegori - is from Ciarunji Chesaina's outstanding book "Oral Literature of the Embu and Mbeere" (1997: East African Educational Publishers, PO Box 54314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

The Origin of Death, narrated by Kaunju wa Gacugo

This animal called Hyena, do you thing it is a good thing?
   Nto! Nto! Nto!
   Hyena is a very bad thing! An animal which is jealous, loves itself and is greedy beyond measure!

Long long ago, there was Hyena and Mole. What did I say? Hyena and Mole. Now people reflected and asked themselves, "Who can we send to Mwene Njeru [God], to find out what should be done to people when they grow old?"
   So they thought and decided they should not send one person. They said they would send two people so that, in case one of them was unable to continue, the other one would. So they decided to send Hyena and Mole.
   Hyena and Mole, when they reached Kirinyaga [Mount Kenya], up there the home of Mwene Njeru, they explained to him the people's message. Mwene Njeru listened and told them he would send both of them just as both of them were sent by the people. He told them that the message which would arrive first would be the one to be confirmed.
   Hyena was given the message of Death while Mole was given the message of Life.
   Kubu! kubu! kubu! They travelled sometimes together, sometimes one ahead of the other.
   When they neared Earth, Mole started hurrying so as to deliver his message before Hyena. He went. Kubu! Kubu! Kubu! Mole hurried for sure.
   He arrived before Hyena. On arrival, Mole stood upright in readiness to deliver his message. He stretched himself to relax his muscles. He scratched his head, and asked himself, "Now what was I told?"
   "I was told ..ee.. I was told...ee... I was told..." Before Mole had uttered the message, Hyena arrived and said, "Were we not told that when people grow old they should be dying and then be thrown outside for me to eat?"
   "Oh! Yes! I was told that when people grow old they should be kept outside so that they can come back to life!" he said.
   But by the time Mole said that, the decision had already been made. The news that had been delivered by hyena had already been confirmed.

Now Hyena is the person who hates you. he is the person who could look for an opportunity to bring about your death.

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