Monday 5 April 2010

Monster tales from South Africa

I came across this early tale of Chipique.

"When the early travellers reached the Victoria Falls, and for

long afterwards, there were no natives living within sixty miles

of the place. They feared an evil spirit, they said, which haunted

the Falls. Cataract Island, on the lip of the falls, was once known

as Devil's Island, and Coillard the missionary said of it: "The

natives believe it is haunted by a malevolent and cruel divinity,

and they make it offerings to conciliate its favour, a bead necklace,

a bracelet or some other object, which they fling into the abyss,

bursting into lugubrious incantations, quite in harmony with their

dread and horror."

Many white men believe in a Victoria Falls "monster" that

lives at the foot of the falls. Captain Reynard, the curator I

have mentioned, told me that three men whose word he could not

doubt had seen this creature.

Livingstone mentioned a serpent in these waters, and it is part

of the Barotse folklore. Natives assured Livingstone that it was

large enough to hold a canoe and prevent the paddlers from moving

in any direction. According to fairly recent accounts it is thirty

feet long with a small slate-grey head and thick black body which

it exhibits in fold after fold.

Mr. V. Pare, for many years in charge of boats on the Zambesi,

climbed down to the bottom of the Victoria Falls gorge in 1925,

when the water was at the lowest ebb in living memory. That

was the first time he set eyes on the monster. It was a serpent-like

creature, and when it saw Pare it reared up and then vanished into

a deep cavern. Pare reported seeing it again, years afterwards,

at the foot of the Devil's Cataract.

Natives call the monster Chipique and say that it came up from

the ocean a thousand miles away. Native fishermen are so afraid

of it that they will not venture out at night. "Chipique rules the

river in the dark hours," point out the fishermen.

Mr. J. W. Soper, who has trapped and shot a great many

crocodiles round about the Falls, has heard native reports of very

large specimens. But it is unlikely that Mr. Pare would have failed

to identify a crocodile. It may be a large python, of course, like

the legendary "great snake" of the Orange River."

From page 114 .The book is called "There's a Secret Hid away" by Lawrence Green and it is about tales of Southern Africa. Printed by Howard Timmins, Cape Town

Lawrence Green died in 1973. This copy of the book was reprinted in 1981. The original was printed in 1956. I got this on loan from the British library but you can still get second hand copies of the books from dealers

List of his books

No comments: