Monday, 16 June 2014

South Africa - Demane and Demazana

Warning - obviously we like our folklore, red in tooth and claw, even though what we tend to be used to culturally, are the sanitised versions of these stories. This is a story which shares some themes with another popular (just as scary) European folktale...

Once upon a time a brother and sister, who were twins and orphans, were obliged on account of ill usage, to run away from their relatives. The boy's name was Demane, the girl's Demazana.

They went to live in a cave that had two holes to let in air and light, the entrance to which was protected by a very strong door, with a fastening inside. Demane went out hunting by day, and told his sister that she was not to roast any meat while he was absent, lest the cannibals should discover their retreat by the smell. The girl would have been quite safe if she had done as her brother commanded. But she was wayward, and one day she took some buffalo meat and put it on a fire to roast.

A cannibal smelt the flesh cooking, and went to the cave, but found the door fastened. So he tried to imitate Demane's voice, and asked to be admitted, singing this song:-

"Demazana, Demazana,
Child of my mother,
Open this cave to me.
The swallows can enter it.
It has two apertures."

Demazana said: "No. You are not my brother; your voice is not like his."
The cannibal went away, but after a little time came back again, and spoke in another tone of voice: "Do let me in, my sister."
The girl answered: "Go away, you cannibal; your voice is hoarse, you are not my brother."
So he went away and consulted with another cannibal. He said: "What must I do to obtain what I desire?"
He was afraid to tell what his desire was, lest the other cannibal should want a share of the girl.
His friend said: "You must burn your throat with a hot iron."
He did so, and then no longer spoke hoarse. Again he presented himself before the door of the cave, and sang,--

"Demazana, Demazana,
child of my mother,
Open this cave to me.
The swallows can enter it.
It has two apertures."

The girl was deceived. She believed him to be her brother come back from hunting, so she opened the door. The cannibal went in and seized her.

As she was being carried away, she dropped some ashes here and there along the path. Soon after this, Demane, who had taken nothing that day but a swarm of bees, returned and found his sister gone. He guessed what had happened, and followed the path by means of the ashes until he came to Zim's dwelling. The cannibal's family were out gathering firewood, but he was at home, and had just put Demazana in a big bag, where he intended to keep her till the fire was made.

Demane said: "Give me water to drink, father."
Zim replied: "I will, if you will promise not to touch my bag."
Demane promised. Then Zim went to get some water; and while he was away, Demane took his sister out of the bag, and put the bees in it, after which they both concealed themselves.
When Zim came with the water, his wife and son and daughter came also with firewood.
He said to his daughter: "There is something nice in the bag; go bring, it."
She went, but the bees stung her hand, and she called out: "It is biting."
He sent his son, and afterwards his wife, but the result was the same. Then he became angry, and drove them outside, and having put a block of wood in the doorway, he opened the bag himself. The bees swarmed out and stung his head, particularly his eyes, so that he could not see.

There was a little hole in the thatch, and through this he forced his way. He jumped about, howling with pain. Then he ran and fell headlong into a pond, where his head stuck fast in the mud, and he became a block of wood like the stump of a tree. The bees made their home in the stump, but no one could get their honey, because, when any one tried, his hand stuck fast.

Demane and Demazana then took all Zim's possessions, which were very great, and they became wealthy people.

This is from Xhosa Folklore collected by George McCall Theal. The full collection can be read via Sacred texts.

Magic Torch are sharing Commonwealth folktales as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations. In addition to publishing a book and comic, which retell some commonwealth tales, we are also sharing traditional tales on our blog. We are presenting the stories exactly as collected, without editing or rewriting. Some of the tales have been recorded recently, others, many years ago in traditional forms, using dialects and local mannerisms - the "voice" of the people telling the tales. We have opted not to change this.

The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, it is also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

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