Maasai - Fables and Legends

The Women's Cattle

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.

The Women's Cattle, collected by Naomi Kipury

Long ago wild animals used to be women's cattle. Then, one morning before the cattle were taken out to graze, a cow was slaughtered.

Soon the cattle started moving away to graze by themselves and wandered off. One woman told one of the children to go and drive the cattle back before they went too far. When the child's mother heard this she said:
   "Oh, no, my child is not going until he has eaten the kidney." It followed that whenever a child was asked to go, his mother forbade him to go until he had had a bite of the meat. This went on until all the cattle, sheep and goats wandered away into the bush and got lost. When all the children had eaten the meat, they tried to bring the cattle back, but they found that they had all gone wild. And so that is how it came about that women lost their cattle. They then went and lived with the men who had all along taken good care of their cattle. This is why up to this very day, all the cattle belong to the men and women simply wait for the men to provide for them.


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

also by Jens Finke
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