Thank you for visiting my site with Bushmen Stories. Most of these stories were translated from Von Wielligh's work with a similar name and some ideas came from the Bleek collection. Most of these stories will be used in the chapter about the Bushmen in the book Camelthorn Giants.

[ Note to researchers and historians: these stories are of a fictional nature and any truth that could be found in it is purely coincidental. ]

The Bushmen believe that in the beginning there was only a shadowy darkness all over the world. The sun, moon and stars didn't even exist. Therefore it was night or what they call “Ga” all the time. The darkness they called “Gagen” and it was present all over. But Night (Ga) and Darkness (Gagen) existed as “ou volk” or beings from the ancient times. Nobody knows how old they are and where they came from. What we do know is that old Night and his wife Darkness live in a cave deep in the Ghost Mountains of the Kalahari Desert. They never had a son, only three daughters. They lived their quiet life deep in the stone cave while the whole world was covered in cold and darkness.


The three daughters were called Mountains, Plains and Waters. These daughters loved to dance and their parents enjoyed watching them. Often people from far away would come and visit them just to watch the girls dance. Their trickster god was called Kaggen and he existed in the form of a insect, the praying mantis. This insect has a round tummy with long stick-like limbs and it likes to hold its thick front limbs together like “hands” in prayer. One day the praying mantis was sitting on a bush watching the girls dance. He wanted to get a better look at them and changed himself into an antelope the size of a Gemsbok (Kalahari Oryx). He walked closer and watched the girls with curious eyes.


“Ga” saw the buck and crawled behind a bush with his bow and arrows. There he waited until the buck got very close. Kaggen in the form of a buck was watching the girls dance and pretended not to see “Ga”. Old “Ga” was very good with a bow and arrow and at that distance this buck's name was “braaivleis”, which means meat on the fire. The poisoned arrow hit him right in the neck and after a few steps of running away it staggered and then dropped dead in its tracks.

The whole family gathered around their next meal and proceeded to gut it and cut it into more manageable pieces. The father (Ga) took one of the hind quarters and the skin up on his shoulders and started to carry it home. The mother (Gagen) took up the other hind quarter and the intestines and followed her husband home. The oldest daughter (Mountains) took one of the front quarters and put that on her shoulders. The other daughter (Plains) took the other front quarter and the youngest (Waters) carried the head with the backbone still attached to it.

Next thing the head starts blinking its eyes and groaned painfully: “Why did you hurt me so badly?” Waters got a fright when the head started talking to her and shouted at the others that the head was talking to her! The others didn't pay any attention to the youngest daughters stories and carried on walking. Again she shouted at her family that the head was coming alive, look it is blinking its eyes and it is talking to me! Again they made it off as her imagination and just kept walking towards their home. The third time she shouted with a lot more urgency in her voice that the head was talking to her and blinking his eyes. When she threatened to throw it down and leave it just there the father stopped and turned around to see what the commotion was all about.


When they reached the youngest girl they all got a fright when each of the different parts turned towards each other. They quickly put the pieces down and stepped back carefully. Right in front of their eyes the four quarters wriggled towards the head and each one of the quarters attached itself to its correct place on the backbone. The family stood back even further when the intestines slithered back into the buck and attached itself to the animal. They watched in fear as the naked buck got to its knees and crawled back into its own skin. The buck took a final good look at them, shook itself back into shape and ran off into the distance. There it changed back into its insect form and became again the praying mantis, what the Bushmen call “Kaggen” and the Boers call a “Hottentotsgod”.

This was their first encounter with the “trickster” god “Kaggen” and they became very respectful of his powers and magic. “Kaggen” liked the looks of these girls and decided to come back when they were bigger.

Praying Mantis

When the first daughter grew up her mother “Gagen” caught some baby tortoises, took the meat and intestines out of the shells and made small holes at the front end of the shells. Once the skin dried in the shell she filled the shells with small pebbles to make a noise when you shake them. These little shells she strung together with a thin strip (or riempie) of baboon skin and made it into a necklace for “Kou” or Mountains, the oldest daughter. The mother hung the necklace around her daughter's neck as a blessing and to make a nice shaking noise when she dances. Always remember to wear this necklace and there will never be a shortage of food where you live.

Once “Kaun” the second daughter (called Plains in English) grew up, the mother took small calabashes (seed pods of a creeper) and emptied them out. Once they were dry she filled them with hard shelled seeds and strung them together with a piece of bark from the acacia tree. This served as a beautiful decoration and made a rhythmic shaking sound when Plains used to dance. The necklace came with a blessing that as long as she wore this there would always be plenty of food in the veld where she lived.

When “Khwa” the youngest daughter, also called Waters was old enough the mother took three pairs of springbok ears and cut the hairy skin off it. She stitched the inner cartilage of the ears into pods with the sinieue of a springbok and left it to dry. She then took some of the hard bony pieces that can be found in the eyes of a springbok and filled the ears with it. The mother strung the ears together with a string made from springbok skin and hung it around “Khwa's” neck. She received a similar blessing and the same caution never to remove the necklace or she will have a shortage of food for her family.

When “Kaggen” saw the three young women dance and heard the lovely rhythm from their necklaces, he changed three of his sons into three strong young men and brought them to the women. They watched with big curious eyes while the girls were dancing and started to clap their hands with the rhythm of the necklaces. With their dancing and their eyes they each got the attention of the young man she fancied. The strong young men fell in love with the beautiful young maidens and asked to marry them. It was a joyous occasion with lots of food and dancing. Old “Ga” and his wife were very proud of their three daughters and very happy with the three young men that joined their family.

Each couple made their own hut to stay in and they lived very happily because there was lots of water and plenty of food just as their mother promised them. The family lived in love and harmony every day of their lives. With plenty of water and lots of food they had enough time for dancing and celebration. They were truly living in a “Bushmen utopia” - as long as the daughters kept their necklaces around their necks!

Was this wonderful lazy life of abundance too good to last?

Mountains lived happily with her husband (the son of Kaggen) and her young daughter in this land of plenty. She never took the necklace off and she was blessed with an abundance of her favourite food which was tortoise meat. There were lots of tortoises in the veld around her hut and she could eat as much tortoise as she wanted to. She became so fond of the tortoise meat that eventually that was all that she did the whole day – to eat tortoise meat. She became very big but like a tortoise also started moving slower. It would take her all day just to catch a tortoise in the veld right outside her hut.

Eventually she stopped doing any thing, her husband had to go and collect the tortoises for her and cook and feed it to her. She didn't take care of her daughter any more and when her husband shouted at her he could just as well have been shouting at the little dead tortoises around her neck. All she wanted to do, is eat tortoise meat and nothing else. The husband had to take care of himself and their daughter and he would go and collect other food for the two of them because they didn't just want to eat tortoise meat all day.


One day while he was away hunting and “Mountains” and her daughter were at home alone, a big male baboon walked up to the child and asked where her mother was. He demanded the strip of skin that held the baby tortoise shells in a necklace around Mountain's neck. This baboon was also one of the “ou volk” and he wanted that “riempie” back because the strip of skin was cut from his brothers hide. The child didn't want to speak to him and he told her that he will be back the next day. If they don't give him the “riempie” that was cut from his brother's skin, then he will rip it from her neck with brute force.

The girl was very scared of the baboon and when her father got home that afternoon she begged him to stay home with her the next day. As expected the baboon returned the next day and repeated his demand for the “riempie” to be returned to him. The man grabbed his bow and arrows and threatened to shoot the baboon if he didn't leave them alone. The baboon walked away reluctantly but promised that he will be back the next day with the rest of the troop and then they will be really sorry. The man rushed to collect some food for the house and extra water for the next day. He strengthened the hut and got his bow and arrows ready for the next day's fight. They couldn't run away because his wife was to big and too slow by then.


Early the next day a troop of angry baboons headed straight for their hut and “Kaggen” watched the whole thing from a distance. He changed his son into the Storm Bird and his grand daughter into Echo. Storm Bird started flapping his wings to cause a strong wind that blew towards the baboons and with his feet he dug up stones and soil that blew into the wind. Some baboons got hit in their sides by branches breaking off the trees and others got hit against the head with stones. Dust and sand got into their eyes and mouths and they couldn't see where they were going. All the time Echo made a terrible noise in their ears and they got so scared that they all ran away in fear. While running away the old baboon shouted his threat to them that they would never leave them alone and even in her grave they will come and look for their brothers strip of skin.

Big male baboon

Every day “Kou” the oldest sister got bigger and lazier until eventually she could not even move any more. One day she fell into an eternal sleep and changed into the mountains that we know today. Her husband Storm Bird went to stay high up in the mountains to be near his wife and her daughter Echo went to stay in the deep valleys as close to her mother as possible. If you listen carefully to the mountains you can sometimes hear her stomach rumble and that is how we know she is not dead but just sleeping forever.

The baboons never gave up on their quest for their brother's skin. Even to this day most of them live in the mountains and every day they look all over for that strip if skin. Others even dig in the soil to see if it was not buried somewhere on the mountains where they live. They are true to their greatest grandfathers promise that they would not even leave her grave alone and as long as there is a baboon left on this world it will not leave a stone unturned in its search for that strip of baboon skin...

“Kaun” or Plains was the second daughter of “Ga” and “Gagen”. She went to live with her husband in a nice hut that they made from carpets that she weaved. The little calabashes that her mother put around her neck had a magical influence on the abundance of plants that grew near them. Tall grasses and reeds were growing everywhere and she was very good at weaving many of these fibres into beautiful carpets. These carpets made up the roof of their hut and kept the family dry and comfortable inside the hut.

Many edible plants, fruit, bulbs, berries and nuts could be found close to their hut and she didn't have to go very far to gather lots and lots to eat. Unfortunately she also started getting lazy like her older sister and eventually didn't want to walk anywhere for food or water. She was more of a vegetarian and eventually didn't eat any meat any more. Her husband (the son of Kaggen the mantis) went out to hunt for him and their daughter that still ate meat. On the way back from the hunt he would collect fruit and edible plants for the family. Eventually Plains got so lazy that she didn't even move out of the hut any more, her husband had to take care of her and the child.


One day while he was away on a hunt a tree came by looking for “Kaun”. This tree was also one of the “ou volk” and asked the child where her mother was. The child didn't trust the angry looking tree and told him that her parents went into the veld to gather food for them. The tree told her that he wants the strip of bark that hold the calabashes around Plains neck. That strip of bark was torn from his brothers trunk and it damaged his brother so badly he might die. The child must tell her parents that he and many of his friends, will be back the next day to demand that strip of bark and if they don't give it to him they will rip it from her neck with force. They need that strip of bark to fix the open wound on his brothers trunk otherwise he might die.

When the husband returned later that day the child told his parents about the threat made by the tree. She also begged her father to stay home the next day because she was afraid of that scary tree. The husband quickly went out to get enough water for them to drink and food to eat for the next few days. They would have enough water and food, in case the trees decided to surround them in their hut. They nervously waited for the arrival of the trees the following day.

The child first saw the cloud of dust kicked up by a small forest of trees that were heading their way. She called her father and the two of them watched the trees form a circle around their hut. “Where is “Kaun”, the angry tree asked? The husband told him that she was sleeping inside the hut. Again the tree demanded the string that was made from the bark of his brothers trunk. The trunk is starting to rot where that strip of bark was removed and they need that string around “Kaun's” neck to fix the bark. The husband explained that the string of calabashes was a gift from “Kaun's” mother and that they will never give it back to them.

This made the trees very angry. They shook their branches violently and it made such a loud rustle that Kaggen (the praying mantis), came to look what was going on. While he was watching from a dead camelthorn tree nearby, the angry tree repeated his threat. If you don't hand us that strip of bark we will swat you and the child aside and rip the string from her neck with force. The trees started thumping their roots on the ground so hard the Bushmen's hut started shaking badly. The child held onto her father as the two of them stood in front of the hut, looking up at the angry tree that was now towering over them. The situation looked helpless for the poor Bushmen. paragraph

The next moment the husband burst out in flames and picked his daughter up, high above his head. Kaggen changed his son into a huge fire and his grand daughter into a mirage that flickered above the fire. The raging fire burned the grass and the mirage moving above the fire, made the fire look even more threatening. The trees got such a fright that they stumbled a few steps back. They were scared but still very angry and threatened to get back at “Kaun” any way possible even in her grave they will not leave her alone. With the fire licking at their roots and the smoke blowing between their leaves the trees got so scared that they all ran away in a thundering cloud of dust that soon disappeared over the horizon.

Plains or “Kaun” got more and more lazy every day and spent most of her time sleeping. One morning she woke up with a pain in her neck – they discovered that the seeds in the calabashes (that made the shaking noise) started to grow. These pips and seeds have grown through the calabash shells and send their roots into her neck and upper body. There was nothing they could do for her, she fell asleep and the roots kept growing through her whole body and into the ground. The curse of the trees had come true – she fell into a never-ending sleep and the trees and grasses send their roots through her body and claimed most of her as their own. She kept sleeping until today where we know her as the Plains that trees and grass grow on every day.

Bushmen grass

“Kaun” or Plains is not dead but only sleeping. To this day trees, shrubs and grass grow on her and suck their nourishment out of her but kill her is impossible. As long as there is a world to live in, there will be Plains and as long as there are plains there will be trees, grass and all sort of plants getting their nourishment from her.

All the time the trees are still trying because every day millions of seeds fall on the plains and germinate in the soil. Just like the seeds in the calabashes around “Kaun's” neck that started to grow and sent their roots deep into her body, every day these seeds send their roots deep into the soil on the plains of mother earth.

Wind used to be a man, one of the “ou volk”, a Bushman from the old generation. In the olden days he used to live and walk around like a Bushman, he used to hunt and dance like any one of them. He was the husband of Mountain and his father “Kaggen” (the praying mantis) allowed him to change his human form if necessary. That is why he changed into a strong wind when the troop of baboons threatened him and his family. When his wife “Kou” fell into an eternal sleep and became the mountains that we know today, he changed into a bird-like shape that looked like a giant secretary bird. He flew high up into the mountains and went to live in a cave deep in the mountain tops.

There is a constant howling of wind in that cave and if someone would dare to get close to it a strong gust of wind will burst out of the cave and blow that person away. It has happened where people were picked up in a strong twister and carried away for miles before being dumped in another place. When Storm Bird gets cross like that, he would blow up dust and sand an flatten the Bushmen's huts and scatter there belongings far and wide. That is why it is important to stay away from his cave and not to anger him.


When Storm Bird is flying around looking for food, he just needs to flap his wings lightly and therefore a gentle breeze will be blowing that can be very pleasant. The Bushmen say that when Storm Bird sits on the ground and starts to scratch the soil with his claws he will flap his wings very hard and a strong wind will come up carrying dust and sand with it. That is why it is important not to anger him because if someone does, he could be kicking up dust and found flapping his wings hard for a few days until his anger subsides. Therefore it is much better to leave Storm Bird alone and not to give him a fright or to anger him. He will then sleep peacefully in that hole in the mountain until somebody bothers him. Sometimes on a hot day he can also be seen turning round and around in the same spot with his wings spread out to cool himself. This results in a whirlwind or twister that picks up the dust caused by his feet and carries it in a column high into the summer sky.

Storm Bird also sends his wind into the chests of man and beast and without this wind we will not be able to breathe. Once this wind leaves our bodies it can never return into our noses again and we die. Wind is the spirit or “umoya” that live inside of us and keeps all of us alive, even when we sleep. Out of respect it is better to not even mention Storm Birds name because if he is nearby and hear his name, he might think that you are talking badly of him.

One day there were two Bushmen children that were talking about Storm Bird and how they hate him because of the dust that blows into their eyes. He heard his name being mentioned and settled down nearby to listen to what they were saying about him. When they saw him they shouted at him and tried to chase him away. When he didn't leave one of them took his bow and arrow and tried to shoot him. He kept missing the target and his friend started throwing stones at Storm Bird. It is impossible to hit him but their attitude and actions made him very angry. He flew a short distance away and started scratching on the ground with his powerful claws. Then he flapped his wings with long powerful strokes and the wind started to get stronger and stronger.

First a thick red bank of dust started to form, so thick and high up in the sky that it turned the sun into the colour of warm blood. Then he aimed this cloud of dust straight at the two children to teach them a lesson. As the dust hit them full in the face, they have to lean into the wind just to stay on their feet. Disorientated and with sand in their eyes and noses they struggled to breathe. The whirlwind picked them up and turned them onto their heads, then spun them around with their arms and legs flapping around like useless strips of skin. When Storm Bird let up just a little they ran to the nearest trees to try and hide from him.

He was still furious at them and started to break the branches from the trees. When he couldn't see them any more, he uprooted every tree in his way to see where they were hiding. He cast the trees aside and blew them away like tumble weed.

The children got very scared and ran faster than a springbok to hide amongst the rocks of a nearby koppie. Wind followed them around the huge boulders and began to throw sand and stones into their faces. Again they had to make a run for it and this time they ran into a small cave that ran deep into a cliff at the top of the koppie. Storm Bird couldn't blow the sand and stones that high up into the koppie and they thought they would be safe there. Then the wind started to blow into the cave with such force that they were struggling to breathe. They had no-where else to go and when the wind started blowing their breath out of their noses, they thought their last day had come.

In the mean time their mothers started looking for them and when they saw the dust storm and their children that were nowhere to be found, they got very worried. They realized that Storm Bird could be angry at the children for something that they did. In an effort to calm him down they started burning some nice smelling weeds and threw finely ground boegoe into the air to please him. At the same time they started making nice soothing music and sang softly to make Wind calm down and get into a better mood. Storm Bird enjoyed the pleasant aroma and the music and song slowly calmed him down. The raging wind slowed to a breeze and noise subsided to a deadly silence.

Stormbird in flight.

Once he was in a friendly mood again and feeling tired from flapping his wings for many hours, he returned to the cave high up in the mountains. Feeling a lot better he decided to take a nap and only then the children could risk leaving their hiding place in the koppie. Everybody was very relieved and the mothers were overwhelmed to see their children alive again. These children learned an important lesson that day, one they and their families would never forget.

Their mothers explained to them that Storm Bird was a lot like a dog. If you called its name it would listen to you, if you spoke to it in a friendly tone of voice, it would wag its tail. However if you shout at it or use a harsh tone of voice it may growl. If you then throw it with stones or beat it with a stick, the dog might feel threatened and suddenly turn and bite you. They were told that Storm Bird was a lot like that.

From that day people learned to respect Storm Bird and not to shout his name or anger him!

Next time a story about Echo, the daughter of Storm Bird and Mountain...

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