Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/325

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317
CURIOUS LEGEND.

equally unsuccessful. "Once I heard a man of influence," says the reverend gentleman, "telling his story on the subject. I, of course, could not say that I believed the wondrous tale, but very mildly hinted that he might be misinformed, on which he swore, by his ancestors and his king, that he had visited the spot, and paid a tax to see the wonder; and that, consequently, his testimony was indubitable."

The Namaquas have the following singular superstition with regard to the hare, which no adult is allowed to eat. The legend involves the sublime Christian doctrine of immortality.

Once upon a time the moon called the hare, and commanded him to convey to man the following message: "As I die and am born again,[1] so you shall die and be again alive." The hare hastened to obey; but instead of saying, "As I die and am born again," he said, "As I die and am not born again." On his return, the moon inquired what words he had conveyed to mankind; and on being informed, the luminary exclaimed, "What! have you said to man, 'As I die and am not born again, so you shall die and not be again alive!' " And with this he hurled a stick at the hare with such force as to split open his lips, which is the cause of the peculiar formation of this animal's mouth. The hare quickly betook himself to flight, and is said to be flying to the present day. The old Namaquas used to say, "We are still enraged with the hare, because he has brought such a bad message, and we will not eat him."

On the occasion of a youth coming of age, or, rather, when becoming a "man," there is great rejoicing. From that day forward he is forbidden to eat the hare, or even to come in contact with the fire where this animal has been prepared. Should he transgress this command, he is not unfrequently banished from his werft, though, on paying a fine, he may

  1. When speaking of the moon, the Namaquas do not say, like ourselves, that it rises and sets, but that "it dies and is born again."