Kaffir Folk-Lore [Xhosa] | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Kaffir has acquired a negative connotation but is unfortunately the title of this book. The Kaffir referenced in the book in modern times is best known as Xhosa.

Story of Long Snake, The

ONCE upon a time a certain girl left her father's place, and went to the village of Long Snake. Having arrived at the village of Long Snake she remained there, but the owner of the place was absent. The only person present was the mother of the owner of the place.

               Then in the evening the mother of Long Snake gave that girl some millet, and told her to grind it. After it was ground she made bread. When it was ready the mother of Long Snake said: "Carry this bread into the house of Long Snake."

               A short time after that girl went into the house, the owner of the place arrived. Then she gave him bread and fermented milk, and he ate. When they had finished the food they went to sleep. Then early in the morning Long Snake went away, because in the daytime he lived in the open country.

               The girl went to the house of the parents of Long Snake. The mother of Long Snake clothed her with a very beautiful robe. After she was dressed she called for an axe, and went to cut firewood. Having arrived in the open fields she did not cut the firewood, but she threw away the axe and ran to her father's place.

               When she arrived at her father's place, her sister asked for where she had got that beautiful robe. She told her, and her sister said: "I am going to that village too."

               The girl said: "Just listen, and I will tell you the custom of that village."

               But her sister said in reply: "I do not want you to tell me anything, because you yourself were not warned before you went."

               Then she set off at once, and went on till she arrived in the evening at the village of Long Snake. When she sat down the mother of Long Snake gave her millet, telling her to grind it and make bread. When it was ready she took it into the house of Long Snake. Then in the evening the owner of the place arrived, and the girl gave him bread and fermented milk. When they had finished eating they went to sleep, and early in the morning Long Snake went away.

               Then the girl went to the house of Long Snake's parents. His mother clothed that girl also in the same manner as she had dressed the elder one. Then she borrowed an axe and went to cut fuel. In doing so she made an excuse to run away.

               On this day, however, the man went after his wives, and arrived at his father-in-law's place as the sun was setting.

               They went out of the house that the bridegroom might sleep in it. While he was eating, the people of the village piled up bundles of grass, and the bridegroom was burned in the house. In this manner he died.


In this story the girls are represented as taking fermented milk to the man. This is not in accordance with ordinary Kaffir usage, which prohibits females from serving out milk. But Long Snake, though a man, has been bewitched and obliged to assume the appearance of a serpent, retaining however the faculties of a human being.

               Kaffir women grind, or rather bruise, millet by putting it on a flat stone, before which the worker kneels, and crushing it with a small round stone hold in the hands. When several are working near each other of an evening, they usually lighten their labours by a rude chant. The bruised substance is mixed with water, and formed into small loaves of very insipid bread.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Long Snake, The
Tale Author/Editor: Theal, Georg McCall
Book Title: Kaffir Folk-Lore [Xhosa]
Book Author/Editor: Theal, Georg McCall
Publisher: S. Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1886
Country of Origin: South Africa (Xhosa)
Classification: unclassified

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