This story comes from the Mossi people. Before the colonization of Africa, the Mossi lived in the Mogho kingdom, which today would be in Upper Volta. The story was first written down by Frederic Guirma, who learned it from his Mossi ancestors.

     

The Naba Zid-Wendé

      In the beginning there was no earth, no day or night, and not even time itself. All that existed was the Kingdom of Everlasting Truth, which was ruled by the Naba Zid-Wendé. The Naba Zid-Wendé made the earth, and then they made the day and the night. To make the day a time to be busy, they made the sun, and to make the night a time of rest, they made the moon. In doing so, they made time itself.

      At first the earth was covered with fire, but the Naba Zid-Wendé blew on the earth to cool the fire. They ordered the fire to live inside the earth, so that the surface would be safe for the humans they were going to make. Only very resentfully did the fire go into the earth.

      First the Naba Zid-Wendé made a chameleon, to see if the earth's outer crust would hold it up. When the crust held it up, the Naba Zid-Wendé made snakes to crawl on the earth, to see if it was cool enough to live on. When the snakes did not complain about their bellies, the Naba Zid-Wendé made the large animals, the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the buffalo. The crust was strong enough to hold up even them, and so the crust was solid and cool.

      Finally the Naba Zid-Wendé were ready to create humans. They made them very black, because black is a strong color, and to make them different from the sun, which is red, and from the moon, which is white. The Naba Zid-Wendé used their breath to blow a soul into the humans that they had made.

      The smile of the Naba Zid-Wendé at their human creations became the sky, and they hung the sky so low that humans could reach it and eat it for their food. They made stars out beyond the sky, and they made many other wonderful things for their humans. The humans nonetheless became arrogant and suspicious, and the humans began to claim that the Naba Zid-Wendé had hidden something valuable from them under the mountains. The humans dug under the mountains, but they only found a leper living there, and they let the leper go free from his subterranean prison.

      This leper, however, was really the fire, and he soon burst into flames. Still angry at the Naba Zid-Wendé and jealous of the humans, the fire was evil, and it burned the sky. The sky withdrew in pain, and withdrew all the way beyond the stars, back to the Kingdom of Everlasting Truth.

      No longer could the humans get their food from the sky their arrogance had ended that. The Naba Zid-Wendé nonetheless made clouds and rivers and streams to keep the earth wet, and they made plants for humans to have food and trees that produce fruit for them. They made flowers to make the earth beautiful, and made the scents of the flowers to provide the smell of life.

      The humans, however, multiplied and became more and more arrogant. To wash away the arrogance, the Naba Zid-Wendé made a big blue lake in which the humans should bathe. The humans were too busy to come to the lake, however, and that gave the evil fire time to throw hatred and envy in the lake. Only when the Naba Zid-Wendé sent the sun to dry up the lake did the humans finally go there to bathe. The first group that went in bathed in the waters of hatred and division, and they came out white from head to toe. The second group that went in come out yellow from head to toe. The same happened to third group that went in, except that they came out copper-red. By the time the last group went in, only a little water was left from the sun's efforts to dry up the lake, and the last group could only wash their hands and feet. They came out with soles and palms of white, yellow, or red, but the rest of their bodies were still black.

      The Naba Zid-Wendé came to earth later to see what they had created, and they were shaping one last animal out of a lump of clay as they came. The plants and animals celebrated the coming of the Naba Zid-Wendé, but the human races were too busy dividing up the land and enslaving each other to notice. The Naba Zid-Wendé were so sad to see what the humans were doing that they forgot their last creation, until it cried out to be given a head, legs, and a tail. The Naba Zid-Wendé sadly finished their lump of clay, which is why the turtle has the shape it has.

 

 

 

Frederic Guirma, 1971, Tales of Mogho: New York, Macmillan, 113 p.  

 

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