TALES FROM MASAI LAND AND BEYOND: LEGENDS ARE TOLD BY THE FIRES BURNING IN THE NIGHT.

“The tales of old,” my grandfather would say one evening.  “Help in the shaping of our young to become the next heroes when our time of passing comes.”

We sat there by the burning fire, its flames flickering in the dark like the tongues of a thousand dragons thirsting to burn the whole world with the flames in their bellies. My siblings looked terrified but anxious for what the old man had for us that evening. The previous nights he spoke to us about giants and ogres and how they walked on our lands long before the legendary man descended on cow hide down from heaven, with the whole race of the Masai people and their cows. None of us could sleep in the gloom for we thought the wraiths of the dead monsters will rage into our house and steal us in our sleep. We would sit by the fire all night and fall asleep on each other till our minds could not take it anymore. Only to wake up in the morning and ash filled our faces and  clothes after they have drifted in the cold current then on us.

“Legends, from the times of old my sons, were told by the burning fires in the night. When the warriors would come in from battle or after a great feast in commemoration of a successful raid, ” our grandfather interjected disrupting my wandering thoughts.

He spoke with such great wonder that one would visualize the warriors singing and springing up and down holding firmly in their spears and war clubs after defeating the vicious Nandi who loved to poach them of their lands, cattle and women. In my mind I would see their skin, smeared with red ocre and bull fat as they danced alongside the beautiful women who shook their beaded necks so gloriously that I wished I had existed in those days. Days when the world was wild and free, days when a lion hunt was not legalized by the new government that ruled our country, days when the elders were seen as a pivotal force in society , whose decisions were final. Those days, I thought, were the best.

“I tell you, my young ones, be ready to hear about our last hero who ended up being our greatest traitor,” he said standing slowly from his stool, walking towards the low manyatta door and walking out.

No one knew of where he was going but the assumption was that he had gone out to take a piss. We just  sat there, warming ourselves as we waited for him to tell us this more hospitable story not filled by horrors like the rest he used to narrate to us. Surprisingly, these stories, were what brought us back to the village every holiday we closed school.

 

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