Dear Friends and Story Lovers,

I recently had the privilege of telling stories with San storytellers at the 2013 The Kalahari Desert Festival.  Naro speaker, Bega Xhaase (below), who travelled from his home in Ghanzi in Botswana to be with us, told this story about the hot Kalahari sun and the African black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas). Jackal and Sun has been told in the Kalahari Desert for as long as people can remember.

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Jackal and Sun

Once upon a time, long ago, when people were animals and animals were people, Jackal lived with his old father. One day, he said to his son: “Hey my son, you should look for a wife who will cook for us when you are away, because you can see how old I am now.”

Jackal went into his kraal and took his goats out to graze. Far out in the bush, he saw something shining on a rock and thought to himself, what is shining so beautifully over there on that rock?

He remembered what his father told him and went closer and closer to see the beautiful shine on the rock. He asked: “Are you a human being or what are you?”

“No, it is me, the sun.”

Jackal said: “I am sorry, I did not know it was you. Why are you alone?”

The sun replied: “I was left alone because my parents did not want to carry me. I am hot.”

The Jackal said: “No, you are beautiful, I will carry you. No problem. I will take you home for my father to see you.”

The sun said: “OK, it is fine, carry me, but do not complain.”

Jackal put her on his back and started the journey back home.

The sun started burning Jackal on his back. “Will you please come down from my back so that I can rest?”

“I told you,” said the sun, “No complaints. Carry on.”

Jackal did not manage to carry her for much longer. Suddenly Jackal saw a round log across the path. He crawled through under the log so that the sun would slip off his back. The fur skin on his back and the sun were left behind.

The Jackal went home without skin on his back. His father treated his back with an animal’s oil. After some time, the Jackal’s back recovered and the fur grew again, but it was never the same colour.

That is why you see Jackal with that black stripe across his back.

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The images above depicts the ‘jackal man’ !ui, a Khomani trance dancer from the Kalahari desert, performing a dance at the Kalahari Desert Festival. Caogwa Klass Tohalou (below), is a dancer in the Naro Giraffe Dance Group. (Photos by Satsiri Winberg)

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This is what folklorist Megan Biesele has to say about the tradition of oral storytelling performances:

“Because the storytelling way of making social sense is by its nature continually creative and re-creative; it actually has its being only in its new performances. That is why variants in oral life are as uncountable as grains of sand. People who only encounter folk tales in print should realise that any collection of living folktales is an accident … they fail to represent the single most important truth about a folktale tradition, which is its on-going, creative life in the minds of its narrators and listeners.” (Megan Biesele 1993; 65-66)

This is why gatherings such as the recent Kalahari Desert Festival 2013 is so important to the continued life of the desert communities’ oral traditions. I hope to see you there in 2014 …

Thank you for your audience.

Marlene