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Ditaolane, Pursued by Those He Saved, Is Transformed into a Stone


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(Sotho/Lesotho)

Ditaolane is a mythic hero.

Once, all men perished. A prodigious animal, called Kammapa, devoured them all, great and small. It was a fearful beast—there was such a distance from one end of his body to the other that the sharpest eyes could hardly see it all at once. There remained but one woman on the earth who escaped the ferocity of Kammapa by carefully hiding herself from him. The woman conceived, and brought forth a son in an old stable. She was surprised, on looking closely at the child, to find his neck adorned with a little necklace of divining charms. She therefore decided that his name would be Ditaolane, the Diviner. She was worried about the child being born at a time when Kammapa was ravaging the world. Of what use, she wondered, would his charms be? And she took straw to make a bed for her child. When she went into the stable, she was shocked and terrified: the child had already reached the stature of a fully grown man who was uttering words of wisdom. He went out and expressed surprise at the solitude around him. He asked his mother if they were the only ones on the earth. She told him how, until a short time before, the valleys and mountains were covered with humans, but the beast whose voice makes the rocks tremble had devoured them all. She pointed the beast out to her son. Ditaolane took a knife and went to attack the devourer of the world. Kammapa swallowed him, but he was not dead. Armed with his knife, he went into the stomach of the monster and tore his entrails. Kammapa roared fiercely, then fell dead. When Ditaolane set about opening the beast to get out, the point of his knife made thousands of human beings cry out, beings who were buried alive with him. Finally, he made an opening through which the nations of the earth emerged. Those who had been delivered from death wondered about the identity of the man who had released them. Surely, they reasoned, such a person could not be a man, he was a monster. And they vowed to cause him to disappear from the earth. They dug a deep pit, covered it with turf, put a seat on it, and sent for Ditaolane, telling him that the elders requested his presence. When Ditaolane was near the seat, he pushed one of his adversaries into it, and that person disappeared forever. The people knew that Ditaolane daily rested in the sun near some rushes. They had an armed warrior hide in the rushes, but he was not successful. Ditaolane knew every thing, his wisdom always confounding his persecutors. Some of them, attempting to throw him into a great fire, fell into it themselves. One day, they were pursuing him, and he came to the shores of a great river. He changed himself into a stone. One of his enemy, surprised not to find him, seized a stone and threw it to the other side of the river, saying that that is how he would break his head if he caught him. The stone turned into a man again, and Ditaolane smiled at his adversary and went on his way.

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Subjects: Religion.


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