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Mwindo Moves to the Heavens


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The Heroic Side of Man Soars to the Heavens.

The epic hero, mythic, belonging to the realms of earth and heaven and moving between the two, embodies the essential qualities of the relationship between God and man. The heroic epic is a majestic blending of tale and myth, heroic poetry and history, dwelling on major turning points in history, always with a towering historical or nonhistorical figure who encapsulates the turning point, linking pivotal events to tradition. The effect of the epic is to mythologize history, to bring history to the heart of the culture, to endow history with the resonant roots of the society as these are expressed in myth, tale, motif, and metaphor. The significant genre involved in epic is not history but tale and myth. As the tales take routine, everyday experiences of reality and, placing them into the fanciful context of conflict and resolution, with emotion-evocative motifs of the past, give them a meaning and a completeness that they do not actually have, so in epic is history given a form and a meaning that it does not possess unless history is seen as myth. The imaginative environment of epic revises history, takes historical experiences and places them into the context of the culture, giving them thereby cultural meaning. The epic hero, linking heaven and earth, god and human, fancy and reality, gives historical disjunction a cultural continuity.

(Nyanga/DRCongo) Mwindo, who is to become a mythical king, is the miraculously born son of Chief Shemwindo and his preferred wife. Rejected by his father, who did not want any of his wives to bear sons, the newly born Mwindo successfully escapes his father's attempts to kill him. He is locked in a drum by his father's councillors, and travels in a river in search of his father's sister, who is married to a water serpent. He is liberated from the drum by his paternal aunt, Iyangura, then returns with her to his village in search of his father. Mwindo can walk and talk from birth. He has the gift of premonition and is born with a magical scepter. On the journey home, he performs extraordinary deeds until he reaches his village from which his father has escaped. He destroys the village and sets out, in subterranean travels, in quest of his father. In the realm of subterranean beings and divinities he successfully performs many tasks, until his father is turned over to him. He carries his father home, revivifying on his way the many enemies whom he had overcome. A great council is convened in which all parties express opinions. The kingdom is divided into two parts, one ruled by the hero, one by his father. But the troubles are not finished. Followers of Mwindo, on a hunting party, are swallowed by a dragon, Kirimu. Mwindo defeats the dragon and liberates his followers. But the destruction of the dragon disturbs Lightning, a friend and ally of both Mwindo and the dragon. Lightning takes Mwindo into the celestial realms of Moon, Sun, Star, and others, where for one year the hero undergoes his final purification. He is returned to earth with warnings and prescriptions. Mwindo now rules as a glorious chief, prescribing for his people a set of rules for harmonious interrelationships. He moves to completeness, to the state of heroism, represented by a movement from what his father represents to what his aunt represents. The symbolism of his aunt is reinforced by Mwindo's journeying in the celestial realm, after which he returns home with a command that all beings are sacred in the eyes of the gods and no human may make decisions as to his fate.

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Subjects: Religion.


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