The Masai, Their Language and Folk-Lore. By A. C. HoLLis, with Introduction by Sir Charles Eliot. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1905, 8vo. Pp. xxxii. + 364. Price 14s. net.
The author of this book is to be congratulated on the invention of a new method of dealing (anthropologically) with savage races. In the place of collecting material and giving it to the world in the ordinary way — as a compilation from notes on the customs, made at various times and places — he lets the natives describe themselves and their ideas in their own language, and gives a translation — sometimes interUnear, sometimes parallel to the Masai text. The plan is an excellent one, especially in the case of a people whose language is so little known as the Masai. At the same time it naturally demands far more space than the ordinary system, and can hardly be applied where there is much material.
The Masai occupy what is known as the Rift Valley ; they have as neighbours the Hamitic Gallas and Somali j various Bantu stocks; and the extremely confused Nilotic tribes. The Masai proper are nomadic, but a section of the tribe subsists by agri- culture ; the latter was formerly more important, but the last century saw the annihilation of large numbers of the settled population, as a result of a conflict with their nomadic brethren. Sir C. Eliot and others hold that the Masai are a cross between Hamitic and Nilotic stocks ; the physical evidence seems to favour this hypothesis, and the language indicates a close connection with the Latuka, to whom Baker ascribes on physical grounds a Galla origin. In any case it is certain that the Masai came from the north, and have been exposed to Abyssinian, and, it may be, Egyptian influence.
Mr. HoUis opens with an account of Masai grammar (pp. 1-102); then follow stories (103-237), proverbs and sayings (238-252), and riddles (253-259); the fourth part opens with an account of the tribal divisions of the Masai (260-263); then follow myths and traditions (264-281) and finally customs (282-356). Of the Marchen about one-third are concerned with animals and one is explicative of the custom of free love prevalent among the Masai. But the main interest naturally lies in the myths and customs.