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Fables of the Falls

Map of Zimbabwe
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Kavitha strikes a pose in front of the mighty Victoria Falls.
Fables have been told by cultures around the world for thousands and thousands of years. Through fables we can learn about how a culture views the world around them, their beliefs on creation and death, and their values. They are usually passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Unfortunately as the world becomes more and more modernized, many old fables are lost as elders die. It is important to write these legends down, so the wisdom and superstitions of the past are not lost. Do you remember reading or hearing fables as you were growing up? These are just some of the many fables that have been told by some of the different tribes that have lived around Victoria Falls through the ages.

The Poor, Ugly Hippo

A San legend relates how the first hippo was created. The hippo was the last creature created. It was made up of all the 'leftovers' of those creatures before him.

The hippo was embarassed because he was so fat and ugly. He begged the Creator's permission to live in the water, but was rejected. "With such a huge mouth and teeth he would devour all the fish," thought the Creator. The hippo begged again. "I promise to eat nothing from the water. I will emerge at night to graze on grass and plants," he said. But once again permission was denied.

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Watch out for the hungry, hungry hippo!
After some consideration, the hippo was finally granted permission to live in the water, under one condition. He had to emerge daily to scatter his dung, so that all of the creatures could examine it to make sure there were no fish bones in the dung.

That is why the hippo lives in water but eats from the land. (Tour guides along the Zambezi River, who have lost a number of canoes to random hippo attacks, believe this misfortune explains why the hippos must be so angry!)

The Warthog and the Elephant

The Creator gave beautiful, enormous tusks to the warthog, and tiny, curled tusks to the elephant. This caused the elephant to become very jealous of the warthog. The warthog's best friend, the pangolin (a scaly anteater), warned him the elephant was planning a trick.

The elephant tricked him by telling him he had wonderful tusks and asked to swap them for just one day. The warthog gladly gave him his tusks... the elephant walked off laughing knowing that he would never return the wonderful, enormous tusks.

The warthog rushed off and told he pangolin his lament. Warthog was incredulous. "How will I dig my shelter in a burrow?" The pangolin told him, "Dear warthog, you can share my burrows. There is more than enough for both of us, and don't worry--the elephant will be haunted forever for those tusks. He shall never have a real home where he can hide, but you, my friend, shall be safe in our burrows."

Since that day, generations of warthogs and pangolins have lived safe from predators, while the elephant is still being hunted--especially for their beautiful ivory tusks.

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Does the baobab tree really stand on its head?
The Upside Down Tree

The Bushman tells us the 'Great Spirit' gave all species of animals a tree, except the hyena.

"Stop stealing and be good and I will give you a tree," said the Great Spirit. But the hyena was angry and refused to change his ways. The Spirit gave him a baobab plant, the last one. The hyena was so cross he took the seedling and planted it upside down--with its roots sprawling in the open sky. Hence the baobab is still called the upside down tree.

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World Trekkers meet Wonder of the World--Victoria Falls!
An Eye over Victoria Falls

Legend has it that Victoria Falls are guarded by "the Chipique," a long snake-like creature with a gray head and thick body. Local fishermen say he appears at night to oversee his domain. (Monica and I were sure to visit the falls by day!)

The Mighty Crocodile

The Shona tribe believes that the skin, bone, and skull of crocodiles must be returned to the water after its death to make sure that the rains will come that year. Most Africans fear crocodiles because they are dangerous and believe that they have evil magical powers.

The Strongest Insect

The dung beetle can be seen during the rainy season rolling large balls of dung. The butterfly and the beetle were always seen together, but the butterfly continually stole the crowd's attention. The beetle was sad and decided he would have to do something drastic to get attention. By becoming the strongest insect in the whole of Africa, he would achieve this.

To this present day you can see "the strongest insect" pushing large balls of dung. With a very good sense of smell they are quick to detect fresh herbivore dung. (I don't know about whether they're the strongest insect in Africa, but they're definitely the strongest smelling!)


Monica - Cecil Rhodes: Lowdown Thief or Hero for the Nation?
Team - The Mark of the Pioneer Column
Kevin - The Creature Within
Monica - Tall Tales from the Train

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