Before we start today’s tale which hails from the San Bushman of the Kalahari, in the Cape region of South Africa, it is important to bring some extra pronunciation marks to your attention. These are necessary because of the nature of the Hottentot/Bushman language which contains many tongue clicks.  These are as follows:


| indicates the dental click.
! cerebral click.
|| lateral click.
# palatal click.
@ labial click.
X an aspirated guttural, like German ch.
Y a strong croaking sonud in the throat.
U a gentle croaking sound in the throat.
~ the nasal pronunciation of a syllable.
= under vowels, indicates a, rough, deep pronunciation of them.
= indicates that the syllable under which it stands has a musical intonation.
` indicates an arrest of breath (as in tt’uara)

o placed under a letter, indicates a very short pronunciation of it.
– under a vowel, indicates a more or less open pronunciation of it.
ng indicates a ringing pronunciation of the n, as in “song” in English.
r placed over n indicates that the pronunciation is between that of the two consonants. There is also occasionally a consonantal sound met with in Bushman between r, n, and l.

THE GIRL OF THE EARLY RACE, WHO MADE STARS 1 – A Folk Tale from the San Bushmen of the Kalahari


My mother was the one who told me that the girl arose; she put her hands into the wood ashes; she threw up the wood ashes into the sky. She said to the wood ashes: “The wood ashes which are here, they must altogether become the Milky Way. They must white lie along in the sky, that the stars may stand outside of the Milky Way, while the Milky Way is the Milky Way, while it used to be wood ashes.” They (the ashes) altogether become the Milky Way. The Milky Way must go round with the stars; while the Milky Way feels that, the Milky Way lies going round; while the stars sail along; therefore, the Milky Way, lying, goes along with the stars. The Milky Way, when the Milky Way stands upon the earth, the Milky Way turns across in front, while the Milky Way means to wait(?), While the Milky Way feels that the Stars are turning back; while the Stars feel that the Sun is the one who has turned back; he is upon his path; the Stars turn back; while they go to fetch the daybreak; that they may lie nicely, while the Milky Way lies nicely. The Stars shall also stand nicely around.


They shall sail along upon their footprints, which they, always sailing along, are following. While they feel that, they are the Stars which descend.


The Milky Way lying comes to its place, to which the girl threw up the wood ashes, that it may descend nicely; it had lying gone along, while it felt that it lay upon the sky. It had lying gone round, while it felt that the Stars also turned round. They turning round passed over the sky. The sky lies (still); the Stars are those which go along; while they feel that they sail. They had been setting; they had, again, been coming out; they had, sailing along, been following their footprints. They become white, when the Sun comes out. The Sun sets, they stand around above; while they feel that they did turning follow the Sun.


The darkness comes out; they (the Stars) wax red, while they had at first been white. They feel that they stand brightly around; that they may sail along; while they feel that it is night. Then, the people go by night; while they feel that the ground is made light. While they feel that the Stars shine a little. Darkness is upon the ground. The Milky Way gently glows; while it feels that it is wood ashes. Therefore, it gently glows. While it feels that the girl was the one who said that the Milky Way should give a little light for the people, that they might return home by night, in the middle of the night. For, the earth would not have been a little light, had not the Milky Way been there. It and the Stars.


The girl thought that she would throw up (into the air) roots of the !huing, in order that the !huing roots should become Stars; therefore, the Stars are red; while they feel that (they) are !huing roots. 2


She first gently threw up wood ashes into the sky, that she might presently throw up !huing roots; while she felt that she was angry with her mother, because her mother had not given her many !huing roots, that she might eat abundantly; for, she was in the hut. She did not herself go out to seek food; that she might get(?) !huing for herself; that she might be bringing it (home) for herself; that she might eat; for, she was hungry; while she lay ill in the hut. Her mothers were those who went out. They were those who sought for food. They were ‘bringing home !huing, that they might eat. She lay in her little hut 3, which her mother had made for her. Her stick stood there; because she did not yet dig out food. And, she was still in the hut. Her mother was the one who was bringing her food. That she might be eating, lying in the little hut; while her mother thought that she (the girl) did not eat the young men’s game (ie. game killed by them). For, she ate the game of her father, who was an old man. While she thought that the hands of the young men would become cool. Then, the arrow would become cool. The arrow head which is at the top, it would be cold; while the arrow head felt that the bow was cold; while the bow felt that his (the young man’s) hands were cold. While the girl thought of her saliva, which, eating, she had put into the springbok meat; this saliva would go into the bow, the inside of the bow would become cool; she, in this manner, thought. Therefore, she feared the young men’s game. Her father was the one from whom she alone ate (game). While she felt that she had worked (i.e. treated) her father’s hands: she had worked, taking away her saliva (from them).



 1  This girl is said to have been one of the people of the early race (!Xwe-|na-ssho-!ke) and the ‘first’ girl; and to have acted ill. She was finally shot by her husband. These !Xwe-|na-ssho-!ke are said to have been stupid, and not to have understood things well.

2  She threw up a scented root (eaten by some Bushmen) called !huing, which became stars; the red (or old) !huing making red stars, the white or young !huing making white stars. This root is, ||kabbo says, eaten by baboons and also by the porcupine. The same girl also made locusts, by throwing up into the sky the peel of the !kuissi [an edible root] which she was eating.

3||kabbo here explained that, when a girl has ‘grown’, she is put into a tiny hut, made by her mother, with a very small arpeture for the door; which her mother closes upon her. When she goes out, she looks upon the ground; and when she returns to the hut, she sits and looks down. She does not go far, or walk about at this time. When presently she becomes a, a, ‘big girl’, she is allowed to look about, and to look afar again; being, on the first occasion, allowed to look afar over her mother’s hand. She leaves the small hut, when allowed to look about and around again; and she then walks about like the other women. During the time she is in retreat, she must not look at the springbok, lest they should become wild.]


ISBN-13: 978-1-907256-13-4