Maasai - Fables and Legends

Thunder and the Gods

I'm tempted to make a link between this story and the myth of origins of the Meru tribe, who were enslaved by 'Red people' in the distant past. The Kikuyu and Embu/Mbeere also have stories of 'little red men', whilst many other tribes refer to both Europeans and Arab slave traders as being 'red'.
   From Naomi Kipury's excellent "Oral Literature of the Maasai" (1983: East African Educational Publishers Ltd., PO Box 45314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

Thunder and the Gods, collected by Naomi Kipury

Once there were two gods: the black god and the red god. The black god was very humble, kind and loving, while the red god was malevolent and did not care about people at all. These gods lived together way up in heaven, but the black god lived below the red god, and therefore closer to the people on earth.
   One day famine spread all over the world. Cattle could find neither grass to eat nor water to drink and they were almost dying from starvation. Then the black god spoke to the red god and said "Let us give people water for they are about to starve to death." The red god was at first reluctant to let people have water, for he had no liking for them, but after much pleading from the black god, he relented. It was then agreed that water was to be released from heaven to earth. When this was done, it rained very hard for many days.
   After some time, the red god said to the black god: "You can now hold back the water, for the people have had enough." The black god answered: "Let us leave it for a few more days for the earth has been parched dry." This was done, and when the red god again told the black god to hold back the water, he did so and the rain stopped falling.
   A few more days elapsed and the black god once more asked the red god to release some more water for the people. The red god refused, and there ensued an argument between them, with the red god threatening to wipe out all the people, whom he described as having been spoilt, and the black god struggling to prevent him doing so. And so, up to this day, when one hears loud thunder, it is the red god who is trying to get past the black god to wipe out the people on earth. But when the sound of thunder is not very loud, it is the black god who is trying to prevent the red god from killing the people.


Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

also by Jens Finke
Chasing the Lizard's Tail - across the Sahara by bicycle - fine art photography