African Folk Tales about the Origin of the Milky Way, The Sun and The Moon

Road Travel Africa loves a good African folktale.  Here, for your reading pleasure, we share three short ones, about the origin of the Milky Way, The Sun and The Moon.  A strong-willed girl became so angry when her mother would not give her any of a delicious roasted root that she grabbed the roasting roots from the fire and threw the roots and ashes into the sky, where the red and white roots now glow as red and white stars, and the ashes are the Milky Way.  And there the road is to this day.  Some people call it the Milky Way; some call it the Stars’ Road, but no matter what you call it, it is the path made by a young girl many, many years ago, who threw the bright sparks of her fire high up into the sky to make a road in the darkness.


The Sun was once a man who made it day when he raised his arms, for a powerful light shone from his armpits.  But as he grew old and slept too long, the people grew cold.  Children crept up on him, and threw him into the sky, where he became round and has stayed warm and bright ever since. Some believed that after sunset the sun traveled back to the east over the top of the sky, and that the stars are small holes which let the light through. Others said that the sun is eaten each night by a crocodile, and that it emerges from the crocodile each morning.  According to a Naron bushman, the Sun turned into a rhinoceros at sunset, which was killed and eaten by the people in the west.  They then throw the shoulder blade towards the east, where it turns into an animal again and starts to rise.


The Moon, it is said, sent once an Insect to Men, saying, “Go thou to Men, and tell them, ‘As I die, and dying live, so ye shall also die, and dying live.'” The Insect started with the message, but whilst on his way was overtaken by the Hare, who asked: “On what errand art thou bound? “The Insect answered: “I am sent by the Moon to Men, to tell them that as she dies, and dying lives, they also shall die, and dying live.” The Hare said, “As thou art an awkward runner, let me go” (to take the message).  With these words he ran off, and when he reached Men, he said, “I am sent by the Moon to tell you, ‘As I die, and dying perish, in the same manner ye shall also die and come wholly to an end.”‘ Then the Hare returned to the Moon, and told her what he had said to Men.  The Moon reproached him angrily, saying, “Darest thou tell the people a thing which I have not said? With these words she took up a piece of wood, and struck him on the nose. Since that day the Hare’s nose is slit.  So we shall dying live 😉