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Specimens of Bushman Folklore, by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd, [1911], at


With all its shortcomings, after many and great difficulties, this volume of specimens of Bushman folk-lore is laid before the public. As will be seen from the lists given in Dr. Bleek's "Brief Account of Bushman Folk-lore and other Texts", Cape Town, 1875, and in my "Short Account of Further Bushman Material collected", London, 1889, the selections which have been made for it form but a very small portion of the Bushman native literature collected. Whether future days will see the remainder of the manuscripts, as well as the fine collection of copies of Bushman pictures made by the late Mr. G. W. Stow, also published is a question that only time can answer.

In the spelling of the native text in the volume now completed, various irregularities will be observed. These have their source chiefly in two causes. One of these was the endeavour always to write down, as nearly as possible, the sounds heard at the time; the other, that Dr. Bleek's orthography was of a more scientific kind than that of the other collector, whose ear had been mainly accustomed to English sounds.

In a few instances, the "new lines" in the native text and translation do not correspond; as the Bushman and English proofs had often to be sent over separately to Germany for correction.

The corresponding marginal numbers, by the side of the native texts and the translation (which refer to the pages in the original manuscripts), will, it is hoped, be of material assistance to those wishing to study the Bushman language from this volume.

With regard to the extra signs used in printing the Bushman texts, it should be explained that Dr. Block, in order to avoid still further confusion in the signs used to represent clicks, adopted the four marks for these which had already been employed by some of the missionaries in printing Hottentot. He added a horizontal line at the top of the mark |, used for the dental click, for the sake of additional clearness in writing (see the table of signs on page 438 of the Appendix). This addition he intended to discontinue when the time for printing should come; and it no longer appears in the table of signs he prepared for the printer in 1874. The sequence of the clicks, in this last table, he has also somewhat altered; and has substituted the mark @, instead of the previously used @ for the "gentle croaking sound in the throat".

| indicates the dental click.
! cerebral click.
|| lateral click.
# palatal click.
@ labial click.
X an aspirated guttural, like German ch.
Y a strong croaking sound in the throat.
U a gentle croaking sound in the throat.
~ the nasal pronunciation of a syllable.
= under vowels, indicates a rough, deep pronunciation of them.
indicates the raised tone.[1]
= indicates that the syllable under which it stands has a musical intonation.
` indicates an arrest of breath (as in tt'uara).

[1. The tone is occasionally the only distinguishing feature in words spelt otherwise alike, but having a different meaning.]

o placed under a letter, indicates a very short pronunciation of it.
- under a vowel, indicates a more or less open pronunciation of it.
ng indicates a ringing pronunciation of the n, as in "song" in English.
r placed over n indicates that the pronunciation is between that of the two consonants. There is also occasionally a consonantal sound met with in Bushman between r, n, and l.

A description of how to make the first four clicks, in this list, follows; taken from Dr. Bleek's "Comparative Grammar of South African Languages", Part I, Phonology, pp. 12 and 13.

The dental click | is sounded by pressing the "tip of the tongue against the front teeth of the upper jaw, and then suddenly and forcibly withdrawing it". (Tindall.) It resembles our interjection of annoyance.

The cerebral click ! is "sounded by curling up the tip of the tongue against the roof of the palate, and withdrawing it suddenly and forcibly" (Tindall.)

The lateral click || is, according to Tinddall, in Nama Hottentot generally articulated by covering with the tongue the whole of the palate, and producing the sound as far back as possible, either at what Lepsius calls the faucal or the guttural point of the palate. European learners, however, imitate the sound by placing the tongue against the side teeth and then withdrawing it." * * * "A similar sound is often made use of in urging forward a horse."

The palatal click = is "sounded by pressing the tip of the tongue with as flat a surface as possible against the termination of the palate at the gums, and removing it in the same manner as during the articulation of the other clicks".

The labial click, marked by Dr. Bleek @, sounds like a kiss.

Transcription notes: The stories in this document are translations from Bushman. The Bushman were nomadic hunter-gatherers who inhabited the Kalihari desert in the area of western South Africa known as Namiba and neighboring regions of Angola. The Bushman language, which has many rare phonemes including clicks, is transcribed in the original using typographic symbols which have no correspondence in the HTML character set. All Bushman transliterations are given in italics. For the purposes of this transcription, we use the following symbols for the clicks and other phonemes:

| is a dental click. This is sounded by pressing the tip of the tongue against the front teeth of the upper jaw, and then suddenly and forcibly withdrawing it. It resembles our interjection of annoyance.
! is a cerebral click. This is sounded by curling up the tip of the tongue against the roof of the palette, and withdrawing it suddenly and forcibly.
|| is a lateral click. This is pronounced by covering with the tongue the whole of the palette, and producing the sound as far back as possible, at the guttural part of the palette. A similar sound is often made use of in urging a horse forward.
# is a palatal click. The palatal click is sounded by pressing the tip of the tongue with as flat a surface as possible against the termination of the palate at the gums, and removing it in the same manner as during the articulation of the other clicks.
@ is a labial click. This sounds like a kiss.
X is an aspirated guttural, like German ch.
Y is a strong croaking sound in the throat.
U is a gentle croaking sound in the throat.

All other diacritics have been omitted; however, the dotted n is transcribed as 'ng'.

This transcription presents the English translations. The original book has Bushman text on the facing pages.--JBH

In the arrangement of these specimens of Bushman folk-lore, Dr. Bleek's division has been followed. The figures at the head of each piece refer to its number in one or other of the two Bushman Reports mentioned above. The letter B. or L. has been added, to show in which report it was originally included.

"The Resurrection of the Ostrich," and the parsing of a portion of it, were not finally prepared for the printer when Dr. Bleek died; and it was, here and there, very difficult to be sure of what had been his exact intention, especially in the parsing; but the papers were too important to be omitted.

The givers of the native literature in the "Specimens" are as follows:--

|a!kungta (who contributes two pieces) was a youth who came from a part of the country in or near the Strontbergen (lat. 30 deg S., long. 22 deg E.). He was with Dr. Bleek at Mowbray from August 29th, 1870, to October 15th, 1873.

||kabbo or "Dream" (who furnishes fifteen pieces) was from the same neighbourbood as |a!kungta. He was an excellent narrator, and patiently watched until a sentence had been written down, before proceeding with what he was telling. He much enjoyed the thought that the Bushman stories would become known by means of books. He was with Dr. Bleck from February 16th, 1871, to October 15th,

1873. He intended to return, later, to help us at Mowbray, but, died before he could do so, |hang#kass'o or "Klein Jantje" (son-in-law to ||kabbo) contributes thirty-four pieces to this volume. He also was an excellent narrator; and remained with us from January 10th, 1878, to December, 1879.

Dia!kwain gives fifteen pieces, which are in the Katkop dialect, which Dr. Bleek found to vary slightly from that spoken by ||kabbo and |a!kungta. He came from the Katkop Mountains, north of Calvinia (about 200 miles to the west of the homes of |a!kungta and ||kabbo). He was at Mowbray from before Christmas, 1873, to March 18th, 1874, returning on June 13th, 1874, and remaining until March 7th, 1875.

!kweiten ta ||ken (a sister of Dia!kwain's) contributes three pieces, also in the Katkop dialect. She remained at Mowbray from June 13th, 1874, to January 13th, 1875.

|Xaken-ang, an old Bushman woman (fifth in a group of Bushman men and women, taken, at Salt River, in 1884), contributes one short fragment. She was with us, for a little while, in 1884; but, could not make herself happy at Mowbray. She longed to return to her own country, so that she might be buried with her forefathers.

To the pieces of native literature dictated by ||kabbo, no giver's name has been prefixed. To those supplied by the other native informants, their respective names have been added.

Portraits of ||kabbo, Dia!kwain, his sister, !kweiten ta ||ken, |hang#kass'o, and |Xaken-au will be seen among the illustrations; from which, by an unfortunate oversight, that of |a!kungta has been omitted.

The few texts in the language of the "Bushmen" calling themselves !kung, met with beyond Damaraland, which are given in the Appendix, are accompanied by as adequate an English translation as can at present be supplied. These texts were furnished by two lads, whose portraits will also be found among the illustrations. The extract given below, from the Bushman Report of 1889, sent in to the Cape Government, will explain a little more about them. The additional signs required for the printing of the !kung texts are almost similar to those employed in printing the Specimens of Bushman Folk-lore, but fewer in number.

"It had been greatly desired by Dr. Bleek to gain information regarding the language spoken by the Bushmen met with beyond Damaraland; and, through the most kind assistance of Mr. W. Coates Palgrave (to whom this wish was known), two boys of this race (called by itself !kung), from the country to the north-east of Damaraland, were, on the 1st of September, 1879, placed with us, for a time, at Mowbray. They were finally, according to promise, sent back to Damaraland, on their way to their own country, under the kind care of Mr. Eriksson, on the 28th of March, 1882. From these lads, named respectively !nanni and Tamme, much valuable information was obtained. They were, while with us, joined, for a time, by permission of the authorities, on the 25th of March 1880 by two younger boys from the same region named |uma and Da. The latter was very young at the time of his arrival; and was believed by the elder boys to belong to a different tribe of !kung. |uma left us, for an employer found for him by Mr. George Stevens, on the 12th of December, 11 1881, and Da was replaced in Mr. Stevens' kind care on the 29th of March, 1884. The language spoken by these lads (the two elder of whom, coming from a distance of fifty miles or so apart, differed slightly, dialectically, from each other) proved unintelligible to |hang#kass'o, as was his to them. They looked upon the Bushmen of the Cape Colony as being another kind of !kung; and |hang#kass'o, before he left us, remarked upon the existence of a partial resemblance between the language of the Grass Bushmen, and that spoken by the !kung. As far as I could observe, the language spoken by these lads appears to contain four clicks only; the labial click, in use among the Bushmen of the Cape Colony, etc., being the one absent; and the lateral click being pronounced in a slightly different manner.[1] The degree of relationship between the language spoken by the !kung and that of the Bushmen of the Cape Colony (in which the main portion of our collections had been made) has still to be determined. The two elder lads were fortunately also able to furnish some specimens of their native traditionary lore; the chief figure in which appears to be a small personage, possessed of magic power, and able to assume almost any form; who, although differently named, bears a good deal of resemblance to the Mantis, in the mythology of the Bushmen. The

[1. It will be observed that, in some instances, in the earlier collected !kung texts, given in the Appendix, the mark !! has been used to denote the lateral click, in words where this differed slightly in its pronunciation from the ordinary lateral click, ||. Later, this attempt to distinguish these two sounds apart was discontinued.]

power of imitating sounds, both familiar and unfamiliar to them, as well as the actions of animals, possessed by these boys, was astonishing. They also showed a certain power of representation, by brush and pencil. The arrows made by them were differently feathered, and more elaborately so than those in common use among the Bushmen of the Cape Colony."[1]

As the suggestion has been advanced that the painters and sculptors were from different divisions of the Bushman race, the following facts will be, of interest. One evening, at Mowbray, in 1875, Dr. Bleek asked Dia!kwain if he could make pictures. The latter smiled and looked pleased; but what he said has been forgotten. The following morning, early, as Dr. Bleek passed through the back porch of his house on his way to Cape Town, he perceived a small drawing, representing a family of ostriches, pinned to the porch wall, as Dia!kwain reply to his question. (See illustration thirty-three.) The same Bushman also told me, on a later occasion, that his father, Xua-tting, had himself chipped pictures of gemsbok, quaggas, ostriches, etc., at a place named !kann where these animals used to drink before the coming of the Boers. Some other drawings made by Dia!kwain, as well as a few by |hang#kass'o, and the !kung boys, will be found among the illustrations. In the arrangement of these, it has not, been easy to place them appropriately as regards

[1. Taken from "A Short Account of further Bushman Material" collected By L. C. Lloyd.--Third Report concerning Bushman Researches, presented to both Houses of the Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope, ".--London: David Nutt, 270, Strand.--1889. pp. 4 & 5.]

the text, as anything standing between text and translation would materially hinder the usefulness of the latter; and, for this reason, the main portion of the illustrations will be placed at the end of the volume.

To show the living activity of Bushman beliefs, the following instances may be given. Some little time after Dr. Bleek's death, a child, who slept in a small room by herself, had been startled by an owl making a sound, like breathing, outside her window in the night. This was mentioned to Dia!kwain, who said, with a much-pleased expression of countenance, did I not think that Dr. Bleek would come to see how his little children were getting on?

Later, I brought a splendid red fungus home from a wood in the neighbourhood of the Camp Ground, in order to ascertain its native name. After several days, fearing lest it should decay, I asked |hang#kass'o, who was then with us, to throw it away. Shortly afterwards, some unusually violent storms of wind and rain occurred. Something was said to him about the weather; and |hang#kass'o asked me If I did not remember telling him to throw the fungus away. He said, he had not done so, but had "put it gently down". He explained that the fungus was "a rain's thing"; and evidently ascribed the very bad weather, we were then having, to my having told him to "throw it away".

To Dr. Theal, for his most kind interest in this work, and for his untiring help with regard to its publication, to Professor von Luschan, for his kind efforts to promote the publication of the copies of Bushman pictures made by the late Mr. G. W. Stow, to Herrn Regierungsbaumeister a.d., H. Werdelmann, for the copies of Bushman implements that he was so good as to make for us, to my niece, Doris Bleek, for her invaluable help in copying many of the manuscripts and making the Index to this volume, and to my niece, Edith Bleek, for much kind, assistance, my most grateful thanks are due.



May, 1911.


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