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Longar Defends the Fabulous Pastures


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(Dinka/Sudan)

Longar was a mythic hero.

A man called Jiel attended a lions' dance. When a lion asked him for his ring, he refused, and the lion cut off his thumb and pulled off the ring. Jiel died, leaving an old wife with a daughter. She wept by the bank of the river, where she told Malengdit, a power of the river, to whom smallpox was attributed, that her husband was dead and she had no son. Malengdit told her to come to him in the river, to lift her skirt, drawing the waves toward her with her hand so that they might enter her. Then he gave her a spear and a fish to sustain her, and told her to go swiftly home, for she had conceived a son. She went home and bore a male child whom she called Aiwel, a child born with its teeth complete, an augury of religious power. One day, while Aiwel was still a tiny baby, his mother went out, leaving him sleeping in the house. When she returned, she found that a gourd of milk that she had left in the house had been drunk; she punished her daughter for taking it, though the girl denied that she had done so. When this happened again, the mother pretended to leave Aiwel alone in the house with a gourd of milk, but hid herself where she could watch him. She saw him get up and drink the milk. She told him that she had seen him, and he warned her that if she told anyone she would die. She did tell someone else, and she died. He left his mother's people and went to live with his father, the power in the river. When he was a grown man, he came back from the river with an ox that had in it every known color, including the color of rain clouds. This was the ox by the name of which he was to become known: Longar. Aiwel Longar lived in the village tending the cattle that had belonged to Jiel. There was a drought in the land and all the people had to take their cattle long distances to find water and grass for them. The cattle of the village were thin and dying, but those of Aiwel Longar were fat and sleek. Some of the young men of the village, spying on him to see where he watered and pastured them, found that he took his cattle outside the village; there he would pull up tufts of the grass from beneath which springs of water flowed for his herd to drink. Longar knew that they had spied on him, and when they returned to the village and told the people they died. He then called together the elders of the village and said that they should all leave their land, for cattle and men were dying, and they too would die there. He offered to take them to fabulous pastures where there was endless grass and water and no death. The elders, refusing to be led there by Longar, set off alone. Aiwel Longar left the people, and God placed mountains and rivers between him and them. Across on river that the people had to cross, God made a dike like a fence. As the people tried to pass this fence of reeds to cross to the other side, Longar stood above them on the opposite bank of the river, and as soon as he saw the reeds move as men touched them, he threw his fishing spear at them, killing them as they crossed. Then a man named Agothyathik made a plan to save them from the fishing spear of Longar. He had a friend take the sacrum of an ox that he had fastened to a long pole and move through the water, holding out the bone so that it would move the reeds. Longar darted his fishing spear at the bone, which he mistook for a human head, and was held fast there. Agothyathik seized Longar, and they were locked together until Longar was tired. He told Agothyathik that he should call his people to cross the river in safety. Some feared to do so, but to those who came, Aiwel Longar gave fishing spears. When he had given out his powers with the spears, he told Agothyathik and the other masters of the fishing spear to look after the country. He would leave it to them to do so and would not intervene except when they encountered difficulties too serious for them to deal with alone, and he would then help them. See also: Aiwel, Wan Dyor.

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Subjects: Religion.


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