The Word - The origin of the Earth

a Wapangwa story (Tanzania)


The sky was large, white, and very clear. It was empty; there were no stars and no moon; only a tree stood in the air and there was wind. This tree fed on the atmosphere and ants lived on it. Wind, tree ants, and atmosphere were controlled by the power of the Word. But the Word was not something that could be seen. It was a force that enabled one thing to create another.

One day the wind was annoyed about the tree, as it stood in its way. It blew with all its force until it carried away a branch carrying white ants. This branch was carried through the air for a while, then it left the air current, and fell down. Now the ants were left with little food, because they fed on the leaves of the tree. They decided to eat all the leaves at once and so, leaving a large leaf to excrete on, they ate all the other leaves. Their excrement became a large heap.

When they found themselves without food, they began to eat their own excrement. They chewed it until it was twice as big as before; and they continued to rechew and digest their excrement until it became an enormous mountain, that grew and grew and finally approached the tree of origin. Soon the mountain rested on the tree and the ants had leaves enough to eat. But they had become so used to the new form of life that they could not abandon it now. They continued to chew their excrement until they had created an enormous object---the Earth.


From The Origin of Life and Death , Edited by Ulli Beier, (London: Heinemann) 1966.

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