Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators
Unit One: Introducing Tolkien and His Worlds
A South African Folktale
Once upon a time there appeared in our country a huge, shapeless thing called Khodumodumo. It swallowed every living creature that came in its way. At last it came through a narrow pass in the mountains and entered a valley where there were several villages. The monster went to one settlement after another and devoured the people, the cattle, the goats, the dogs, and the chickens.
In the last village there was a woman who had just happened to sit down on the ash-heap. When she saw the monster coming, she smeared herself all over with ashes and ran into the calves' kraal, where she crouched on the ground.
Khodumodumo, having eaten all the people and all the animals, took a look around the calves' kraal, but since the woman was smeared with ashes and keeping very still, it mistook her for a stone. Then the shapeless thing turned and went away, but when it reached the narrow pass at the entrance to the valley it could not get through, because it had swollen to such a great size. So the monster was forced to stay where it was.
Meanwhile the woman in the kraal, who had been expecting a baby shortly, gave birth to a boy. She laid him on the ground and left him for a minute or two while she looked for something to make a bed for him. When she came back she found a grown man sitting there, with two or three spears in his hand and a string of ditaola divining bones around his neck.
She said, "Hello, man! Where is my child?"
"It is I, Mother!" he answered. "I am Ditaolane." Then he asked what had become of the people, and the cattle, and the dogs, and she told him. And he asked, "Where is this shapeless thing, Mother?"
"Come out and see, my child."
So they both went out and climbed to the top of the wall surrounding the kraal, and she pointed to the mountain pass, saying, "That thing you see filling the pass, as big as a mountain itself, that is Khodumodumo."
Ditaolane got down from the wall, fetched many spears, sharpened them on a stone, and set off to the far side of the valley, where Khodumodumo lay. It saw the man and opened its mouth to swallow him. But Ditaolane dodged the monster, who was too big and clumsy to turn and seize him, and running to its other side drove a spear into it. Then he stabbed it with a second spear and it sank down and died.
Ditaolane took his knife and had begun to cut the monster open when he heard a man's voice cry out, "Do not cut me!" So he inserted his knife in a different place, and another man cried out because the knife had slashed his leg. Then Ditaolane began cutting in a third place, and a cow lowed, and someone called out, "Don't stab the cow!" Then he heard a goat bleat, a dog bark, and a hen cackle, but he managed to avoid them all as he went on cutting, and so in time he released all the inhabitants of the valley.
There was great rejoicing as the people collected their belongings, and all returned to their villages praising their deliverer and saying, "This young man must be our chief." They brought him gifts of cattle, so that, between one village and another, he soon had a large herd, and he had his choice of wives among their daughters. So he built himself a fine kraal and married and settled down, and all went well for a time.
(adapted from Myths and Legends of the Bantu by Alice Werner; original text in the public domain)
Unit One Content
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