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Kana, the Name of Three Boys


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(Ganda/Uganda)

Human history begins with a first family, the head of which is Kintu. There are three children in this family, all boys. Initially, all are called Kana, “little child.” Because this is confusing, Kintu asks God if they may be given separate names. God agrees, and the boys are given two tests. First, six objects are placed on a path by which the boys will pass—an ox's head, a cowhide thong, a bundle of cooked millet and potatoes, a grass head-ring for carrying loads on the head, an ax, and a knife. When the boys come upon these things, the eldest takes the bundle of food and starts to eat. What he cannot eat he carries away, using the headring for this purpose. He also takes the ax and the knife. The second son takes the leather thong, and the youngest takes the ox's head, which is all that is left. In the next test, the boys must sit on the ground in the evening with their legs stretched out, each holding on his lap a wooden milk-pot full of milk. They are told that they must hold their pots safely until morning. During the night, the youngest boy, dozing off, spills a little of his milk, and he asks his brothers for some of theirs. Each gives him a little, and his pot is full again. Just before dawn, the eldest brother suddenly spills all his milk, but his brothers refuse to help him because it would take too much of their milk to fill his empty pot. In the morning, their father finds the youngest son's pot full, the second son's nearly full, and that of the eldest empty. He gives his decision, and names the three boys. Because he chose the millet and potatoes, peasants' food, and because he lost all the milk entrusted to him, showing himself unfit to have anything to do with cattle, the eldest, and his descendants after him, is always to be a servant and a cultivator, carrying loads for his younger brothers and their descendants. He is named Kairu, peasant. The second son, because he chose the leather thong for tying cattle and had spilled none of his milk, providing some only for his younger brother, will, with his descendants, have the respected status of cattleman. He is called Kahuma, little cowherd; the cattle-herding people of this part of the interlacustrine region have since been called Huma or Hima. The third and youngest son, because he had taken the ox's head, a sign that he would be at the head of all men, will be his father's heir; he alone had a full bowl of milk when morning came, because of the help given him by his brothers. He is named Kakama, little Mukama or ruler. He and his descendants become the kings of Kitara, later to be called Bunyoro. The father tells the two elder sons that they should stay with their younger brother and serve him always. And he tells Kakama to rule wisely and well. See also: Kintu, Ruhanga.

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Subjects: Religion.


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