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Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore, by George McCall Theal, [1886], at


The following is another version of this story of the Bird that made Milk, as current among the Barolongs, a tribe speaking the Sechuana language, and residing beyond the Orange River. It was written down for me by an educated grandson of the late chief Moroko.

IT is said that there was once a great town in a certain place, which had many people living in it. They lived upon grain only. One year there was a great famine. There was in that town a poor man, by name Masilo, and his wife. One day they went to dig in their garden, and they continued digging the whole day long. In the evening, when the digging companies returned home, they returned also. Then there came a bird and stood upon the house which was beside the garden, and began to whistle, and said:

"Masilo's cultivated ground, mix together."

The ground did as the bird said. After that was done the bird went away.

In the morning, when Masilo and his wife went to the garden, they were in doubt, and said:

"Is it really the place we were digging yesterday?"

They saw that it was the place by the people working on each side. The people began to laugh at them, and mocked them, and said It is because you are very lazy."

They continued to dig again that day, and in the evening they went home with the others.

Then the bird came and did the same thing.

When they went back next morning, they found their ground altogether undug. Then they believed that they were bewitched by some others.

They continued digging that day again. But in the evening when the companies returned, Masilo said to his wife:

"Go home; I will stay behind to watch and find the thing which eats our work."

Then he went and laid himself down by the head of the garden, under the same house which the bird used always to stand upon.

While he was thinking, the bird came. It was a very beautiful bird. He was looking at it and admiring it, when it began to speak.

It said:

"Masilo's cultivated ground, mix together."

Then he caught it, and said: "Ah! is it you who eat the work of our hands?"

He took out his knife from the sheath, and was going to cut the head of the bird off.

Then the bird said: "Please don't kill me, and I will make some milk for you to eat."

Masilo answered: "You must bring back the work of my hands first."

The bird said: "Masilo's cultivated ground, appear," and it appeared.

Then Masilo said: "Make the milk now," and, behold, it immediately made thick milk, which Masilo began to eat. When he was satisfied, he took the bird home. As he approached his house, he put the bird in his bag.

When he entered his house, he said to his wife, "Wash all the largest beer pots which are in the house," but his wife was angry on account of her hunger, and she answered

"What have you to put in such large pots?"

Masilo said to her: "just hear me, and do as I command you, then you will see."

When she was ready with the pots, Masilo took his bird out of his bag, and said: "Make milk for my children to eat."

Then the bird filled all the beer pots with milk.

They commenced to eat, and when they were finished, Masilo charged his children, saying-,

Beware that you do not tell anybody of this, not one of your companions."

They swore by him that they would not tell anybody.

Masilo and his family then lived upon this bird. The people were surprised when they saw him and his family. They said:

"Why are the people at Masilo's house so fat? He is so poor, but now since his garden has appeared he and his children are so fat!"

They tried to watch and to see what he was eating, but they never could find out at all.

One morning Masilo and his wife went to work in their garden, and about the middle of the same day the children of that town met together to play. They met just before Masilo's house. While they were playing the others said to Masilo's children:

"Why are you so fat while we remain so thin? "

They answered: "Are we then fat? We thought we were thin just as you are."

They would not tell them the cause. The others continued to press them, and said: "We won't tell anybody."

Then the children of Masilo said: "There is a bird in our father's house which makes milk."

The others said: "Please show us the bird."

They went into the house and took it out of the secret place where their father had placed it. They ordered it as their father used to order it, and it made milk, which their companions drank, for they were very hungry.

After drinking they said: "Let it dance for us," and they loosened it from the place where it was tied.

The bird began to dance in the house, but one said: "This place is too confined," so they took it outside of the house. While they were enjoying themselves and laughing, the bird flew away, leaving them in great dismay.

Masilo's children said: "Our father will this day kill us, therefore we must go after the bird."

So they followed it, and continued going after it the whole day long, for when they were at a distance it would sit still for a little while, and when they approached it would fly away.

When the digging companies returned from digging, the people of that town cried for their children, for they did not know what had become of them. But when Masilo went into the house and could not find his bird, he knew where the children were, but he did not tell any of their parents. He was very sorry for his bird, for he knew that he had lost his food.

When evening set in, the children determined to return to their home, but there came a storm of rain with heavy thunder, and they were very much afraid. Among them was a brave boy, named Mosemanyanamatong, who encouraged them, and said:

"Do not be afraid; I can command a house to build itself."

They said: "Please command it."

He said: "House appear," and it appeared, and also wood for fire. Then the children entered the house and made a large fire, and oegan to roast some wild roots which they dug out of the ground.

While they were roasting the roots and were merry, there came a big cannibal, and they heard his voice saying: "Mosemanyanamatong, give me some of the wild roots you have."

They were afraid, and the brave boy said to the girls and to the other boys, "Give me some of yours."

They gave to him, and he threw the roots outside. While the cannibal was still eating, they went out and fled. He finished eating the roots, and then pursued them. When he approached they scattered some more roots upon the ground, and while he was picking them up and eating, they fled.

At length they came among mountains, where trees were growing. The girls were already very tired, so they all climbed up a tall tree. The cannibal came there, and tried to cut the tree down with his sharp and long nail.

Then the brave boy said to the girls: "While I am singing you must continue saying, 'Tree be stroncr, Tree be strong!'"

He sang this song:

"It is foolish,
It is foolish to be a traveller,
And to go on a journey
With the blood of girls upon one!
While we were roasting wild roots
A great darkness fell upon us.
It was not darkness,
It was awful gloom!"

While he was singing, there came a great bird and hovered over them, and said Hold fast to me."

The children held fast to the bird, and it flew away with them, and took them to their own town.

It was midnight when it arrived there, and it sat down at the gate of Mosemanyanamatong's mother's house.

In the morning, when that woman came out of her house, she took ashes and cast upon the bird, for she said: "This bird knows where our children are."

At midday the bird sent word to the chief, saying, "Command all your people to spread mats in all the paths."

The chief commanded them to do so. Then the bird brought all the children out, and the people were greatly delighted.

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