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Additional resources for African Mythology A to Z,Second Edition
Typically, one animal bore the message that humans would die but be reborn, and the other carried the message that death would be permanent. The most frequently paired messenger animals were the chameleon and the lizard. Other animals used as messengers were the dog, duck, frog, hare, mole, and toad. In some tales the goat, hyena, and rabbit were associated with the origin of death in various ways. Animals are also ritual guardians of sacred places. They are often seen as signs of communication from the spirit world, and their appearance in a place may mark it as sacred.
Although Aruan was born first, he made no sound. His half-brother Esigie cried out when he was born, so he became the heir. However, King Ozolua favored Aruan over Esigie. When Aruan was grown, Ozolua gave him the royal necklace and a magical sword. He instructed Aruan to choose a place and plant the sword in the ground. That place would become the new capital of the kingdom, and Ozolua was to be buried there. Esigie tricked Aruan into planting the sword in an undesirable location. One of Aruan’s slaves dug a great pit there and filled it with his tears, creating a magical lake that he said would be Aruan’s home.
In turn, each animal told why it was the oldest. The guinea fowl said that when he was born, there was a great grass fire. Since there was no one in the world but him, he had put out the fire. The fire had burned his legs, and they were still red. The parrot claimed that when he was born, there were no tools or weapons. He had made the first iron tool with his beak, which is why parrots’ beaks are bent. The elephant claimed that when he was created, the Supreme God gave him such a large nose that there was very little material left.