In cultures all around the world one can find mythical stories about the origin of death. According to many such stories in Africa,
“The supreme god meant for humans to be immortal, but through an unlucky mistake, they received death instead of eternal life. Some stories relate that the god told a cautious chameleon to carry the news of eternal life to earth, but a faster lizard with news of death arrived first. The Mende people of Sierra Leone say that a toad with the message “Death has come” overtakes a dog with the message “Life has come” because the dog stops to eat along the way. (African Mythology)
Here is a similar story in the Daffo dialect of Ron, told by Mr. Mafulul Lek. I recorded and transcribed it in 1989. At the end, Mr. Lek asks three questions. Do you have an answer for them? Write a comment
Fasa ti tul
Waatan si laak ta fulul ti, ta ren kwa. Mma si lak ta ren, fasa ti tul. Mma fasa ti tul, layi ti mawal. Waatan mu yo findel mai, mma ndee ɗafal si gasai la. Waatan ti nii, ɓwe ndee ti lulis ɗafal, ti nii: “Mma maɗafal a mot, ta tik la ahun ta kat ti?” Ka mbokol-fiɗok si ndara mi, ndee si yu ti laki. Ndara mai, a ziw, a tong mawan, a nii: “Naa fuk, maɗafal ta mot, ta kat ti.” Mbokol-fiɗok ti yes pwa-pwa taa takfai, ti nii: “Ni nii, maɗafal ta mot, ta tik la.” Ɓwe ti niyet: “Mawa kong, ni walan a halayi taa fo ta ndara, maɗafal ma wan a mamot, ta kat ti. Hu lak findel fo ɗanggat! Naa wan a halayi findel fo ful kwa.”
Taa tei nai maɗafal a mot, a kat ti. Mbokol-fiɗok ti tik la ti shaat ti. Ndara a nii: “Kwai i lakan andai, yaa wan a matik a yinde kong? Inii mai, yaa wan a matong mamot ti, i kat ti, i mawalen.”
Nai si tos shaat ma ahwak, si nii: “Kala ti motet, caa wan a yinde?” Si walai a gasayi ɗamani la, a fwashashis fat shash a mashash. Ɓwe ti kwet ti shaati, fasa ti tulai hai, si ndek sololol.
Taa tei si nii: “Ca mawalan. Ca motan, ca kat ti ndai kek. Ka ca tik a shaat kwa! Waatan shaat ma ahwak mai. Ka ca tik a laki ta ren kwa, gambwesh ta fulul yo, ɗak ta ren ɓwe ngga ti shit can. Kat ɗes, mma naaf a wan a masai mafwash, ta masai ta fulul, ta ren kwa, ka ɓwe ti shitis.”
Lul taa tu ti waatan tuni, yit mai:
- Mma fasa mu wan a matul, mu wan a matul a hai ta naaf ɗanggat mai ha?
- Ɓwe mu manda a nan ta wamai ahwis?
- Mimai a ti’ shaat ma ahwak?
How death came into the world
Tales are always told at night, never at daytime. If they are told at daytime, heaven will collapse. If heaven will collapse, the world will end. This tale tells about a great mistake made by mankind. According to the tale, God (a female) once asked mankind: “Should man rise again after death?” The toad and the frog went to give God their answers. The frog quickly diving went first and said to God: “We want man to remain dead.” The toad (a female) came slowly after him, she said to God: “We want man to live again after death.” God said to her: “Never! We have already heard from the mouth of the frog, that man shall die and not live after death. You must speak with one voice. We won’t listen to another opinion.”
From then on, man died and remained dead. The toad returned with the sad story. The frog apologized: “What can I do? I had already said it. I will be the first to die. I will also remain dead, I am finished.” Then they started mourning: “The chameleon is dead, what are we going to do now?” They confused the matter and it became even worse. God disliked their mourning and caused the heaven to collapse. They perished almost completely.
After that they said: “We are finished. We will die and never come back. Let’s never mourn again. Tales are like a mourning of a crow. Let us never tell tales in the daytime again, better in the nighttime, since in the daytime, God could see us. Likewise, if someone wants to do something bad, he should do it in the nighttime, not in the daytime, lest God should see him.”
- When heaven will collapse, will it collapse on one person alone?
- Does the sun shine on one person alone?
- What is meant by “mourning of a crow”?