Snake Eyes – a Striking Characteristic

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Credit: Land Rover

“Now when !Kaggen made everything, he made a big fire, so the animals could see each other in the night.” Vetfaan doesn’t tell !Ka that he is confused. In some of !Ka’s stories, the Sun is supreme. In others, Mantis is revered as a god. Mostly, !Kaggen features as the most divine of beings. !Ka once said that the true name of the Creator may never be spoken – or even thought of. Some of the names mankind is allowed to use, tend to be baffling, as they seem to be the same being; but with different appearances.  He’ll have to ask him about it sometime.

“Some of the animals weren’t afraid of the flames, and sat quite near too the fire. They liked the fire and the light, because they had nothing to hide. Others, like the snake, disliked the fire, and stayed far away.  When the flames died down a little, !Kaggen said: If you like the light, you’ll have to get wood to put on the fire. So the ones near the fire went out in the darkness, got logs, and fed the flames. These brave ones were rewarded, and !Kaggen gave them their own flames – and you can still see that in the eyes of some animals at night. They are the ones with the burning embers in the darkness, which stop glowing when the sun is up. These animals were very proud of their gift, and walked around all night to show how bright their embers were.

“The fearful and lazy snake got very angry. Why did those animals get night-eyes, and I got nothing? they asked. I demand to get our own ember-eyes. So he tried to steal the fire, which made !Kaggen very angry. The snake saw he wasn’t going to get past !Kaggen alone, so he went out and gathered the lizards, the scorpions and the spiders to help him. While snake was keeping !Kaggen busy, the small animals crept up to the big rock on which the fire burnt. Carefully, quietly, they dug and dug under the rock, meaning to lift it up and carry it away. But !Kaggen, he wasn’t to be fooled. When he saw what was happening, he took the rock himself, and flung it in the air. The embers scattered far and wide in the sky, where they still are. Now the snake and the small animals can never get ember-eyes.

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“And !Kaggen, hai, he was very angry. You like to dig under rocks, you miserable creatures? Well, that’s where you’ll live for the rest of your time. If man wants to kill you, he can lift any rock, and he’ll find you. That is your curse. Snake can try it, too, but he won’t find protection there. I will have man hunt you wherever you are. And as an added punishment, I shall remove your legs. You will, from now on, have to make do without them.”

Vetfaan claps his hands together in appreciation.  “So that’s where the stars came from? And why some creatures hide under rocks? And why a snake sails around on it’s belly?”

“Just like that.” !Ka flashes a smile of appreciation: Vetfaan is a good student. “But there is more.”

“!Kaggen knew Man can make his own fire whenever he wanted to, that’s why he didn’t give men night-eyes. He said: you can make your own light at night. But I will give you something else: I’ll give you lights in your eyes during the daytime.

“Now, some men are like the scorpions and the spiders. They want to steal other people’s light. I saw such men in Upington, when we visited my wife in hospital. Some were dressed in fancy clothes and rode around in new cars. Others were always looking to take what wasn’t theirs.  But all these men and women have dead eyes – there is no light of laughter in their eyes. They don’t sparkle when they talk to you.

“That’s why I’m telling you about ember-eyes, Mister Vetfaan. I see the way your people live: they don’t look for the eyes anymore. You shake hands with everybody and talk long stories – but you should look at the eyes. Some people have snake eyes. Others are like spiders: they have eyes that look everywhere. And some, like a scorpion, will make you look away so they can sting you. And the lizard! He is so fast you can almost not catch him. Tell me, Mister Vetfaan, when last did you really look at a lizard’s eyes?” Vetfaan shakes his head. “You see! They don’t give you a chance to do so…”

“And these are the people who demand what they don’t deserve? The lazy ones? The cowardly people? The belly-crawlers with no feet to stand on?”

“Hai, Mister Vetfaan, I am a good teacher… “ His smile is shy, but the sparkle in his eyes is unmistakable…

6 thoughts on “Snake Eyes – a Striking Characteristic

  1. scrapydo

    Such a small instrument but what a “big” sound it makes. They can go one the whole night. These San fables are very interesting, thanks for using them in your stories.

    Reply
  2. Amos van der Merwe Post author

    W H Bleek, in his book ‘Specimens of Bushman Folklore’ did a lot of research into their fables. Most interesting reading – and if one applied some imagination to their use of metaphor., they understood so much about God, the universe, and the interaction with nature.

    Reply

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