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Mvelinqangi and the Sick Woman


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(Zulu/South Africa)

Mvelinqangi, the creator, came out of the reed. He brought out men, women, animals, corn, and all the fruits of the earth. Men did not have to eat or drink, they did not die. Crops grew, but humans did not know their use. Animals roamed at will, and all were happy. But then a baby emerged, something they had not seen before. Then the mother became ill, something that had not happened before. The people, not knowing what to do, fed her corn and pumpkins that they saw growing, assuming that these would kill her. But she grew healthy and fat. The people tasted the food, and liked it. And they killed livestock and liked the meat. So they brought the more pliant beasts, the cattle and sheep and goats, into enclosures.

When Mvelinqangi had finished his work, he sent two messages, one by a little stone lizard and one by a chameleon. The first message was to be delivered by the chameleon: the people would not die, they would live forever, would die but rise again. Later, he sent the lizard to tell them that they would die and never rise again. Because the chameleon loitered, the lizard passed him and delivered his message. When the chameleon arrived, the people, not knowing what death was, refused to listen to him, saying they had accepted the word brought by the lizard.

Subjects: Religion.


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