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Unumbotte and the Origin of Languages


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(Bassari/Togo)

Unumbotte was the creator.

Unumbotte made a human being, naming him man. He made an antelope and a snake, giving them their names. At this time, there was one tree, a palm. The ground of the earth was still rough. Unumbotte ordered that the earth be made smooth. He gave the three seeds of all kinds, and told them to plant them. He returned and saw that the man, antelope, and snake had not yet smoothed the earth. They had planted the seeds, one of which had sprouted and grown: it was a tree, and it was tall and bore red fruit. Unumbotte returned every seven days, each time plucking one of the red fruits. Then the snake said that they should eat those fruits as well, rather than go hungry. The antelope responded that they knew nothing about the fruit. But man and his wife ate the fruit. When Unumbotte came down from the sky, he asked who ate the fruit, and the humans said that they ate it. Unumbotte asked them who told them that they could eat the fruit, and they said that the snake told them that, and they heeded the snake because they were hungry. Unumbotte asked the antelope if he was hungry too, and the antelope said that when he got hungry he ate grass. Since that time, the antelope has lived in the wild, eating grass. Unumbotte gave sorghum to man, along with yams and millet. The people gathered in groups that ate from the same bowl, never the bowls of the other groups. This is the way differences in language arose. Since then, the people have ruled the land. But Unumbotte gave the snake a medicine with which to bite people.

Subjects: Religion.


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