Thursday, March 21, 2013
Of flying horses and thwarted lions
Encouraged by my interest in his forefathers, the gardener tells me another tale. It is magic realism at its best. I’ve repeated it to one or two people and they don’t get it. To them it’s mad, bonkers and childish. It doesn’t feel like that when you listen to it. Something about the eyes of the teller, the excited expression, the relief that someone is listening without criticism. Anyway, it goes like this:
“My grandfather’s brother built a house which stretched from here to the junction (he is indicating about a half mile). This house was so big a stranger would never find his way out again. My grandfather’s brother had thirty wives. Every wife had many chickens. His brothers had wives but only six or eight each. There were thirty thousand chickens around the place. When strangers came to the gates, my grandfather’s brother had to greet them himself. Then he would find out their business and arrange for them to be taken into the house.
One day he had to travel to Burkina Faso. There were no roads and there was jungle everywhere. He went on horseback. His steed had been prepared like the dogs in the previous blog. Four lions stalked him, wanting to eat the horse. They came at him from all sides. My grandfather’s brother made his horse rise into the sky, just above the mouths of the biting beasts. Here they stayed until the lions became tired and left them alone. He continued his journey in peace.”
I believe he believed it. I believe that such stories have some intrinsic symbolism that I can’t fathom and that my friend, the gardener, has sad eyes because he has lost the understanding as well. He knows that these stories will end with his generation. Those that have come afterwards are full of Christian or Muslim mythology and symbolism, grafted on over the last decades.