How Time Began
This is an interesting myth illustrating the Bandi’s conception of Life and its social problems when the world was very young.
Ngala made the world and the moon and the sun. The sun shone all the time, so that there was no night, for Ngala considered that constant light would benefit men and beasts. For every man there was a woman, and all mankind was black. There were no white or brown or yellow people, there was only a single race of noble and pure-black men.
In those days men and animals were friends and wandered freely in the forests eating fruit and nuts and green things; caves and houses were not needed, for when a man or a beast was tired he lay down where he was to sleep. Men possessed no spears and animals had no claws, for no flesh was ever eaten.
Little children left their parents whenever they pleased and wandered for months and years in foreign places; and this was a sources of worry and grief to men and animals, for they loved their children well. Sometimes children wandered away and were never seen again; mothers and fathers wept in sorrow and invoked Ngala’s aid.
Ngala then withdrew the sun, and all the men and animals were alarmed. They could not understand what darkness was. Families grouped together in defense against unknown terrors, and children roaming far afield called pitifully for their parents.
After a time Ngala caused the sun to shine again, and everyone was happy; children returning home began to wander about again, so Ngala divided Time into nights and days to encourage the little ones to go back home and not stray too far from their parents.
In common protection against the night men and animals united in a single family clan and lived together under a giant cotton tree; they all lived there because there was no other shelter. They took good care of the tree for it was the only home they had: and all the animals and Man loved one another.
One day the son of Man discovered a piece of fire discarded by Lightning Bug, and he played with it. Being a normal child with mischief in his heart he waited until no one was watching, then carried fire to the foot of the cotton tree— and when animals and men saw and smelled the smoke the giant tree was already well alight.
A great cry of despair arose among the animals, and they stood about in fear, helplessly watching fire consume their home in a roaring, smoking blaze. After many hours the trees groaned, and cracked, and came crashing down to earth amid a shower of bright red sparks.
Men and animals fled in all direction.
“It is finished!” cried the animals. “We have been betrayed by Man. We had agreed to live in peace beneath the cotton tree: but it is not good to stay any longer with wicked man. There is war between us!”
Most of the animals fled far into the forests and made their homes in caves and thickets; men built houses, and a few brave or foolish animals decided to live with them — such as dogs, and goats and cows. They built houses of mud and thatch, and their group multiplied.
On the other side of a mountain, there was a certain pond which Ngala had used as a bowl for his colors then he painted animals. The remains of the colors had settled to the bottom of the pond, and the water looked clear and sweet.
A group of naughty children who had strayed far from their homes found the pond and joyfully ran to bathe: but their swimming and splashing stirred up Ngala’s colors, and the children were astonished to see their skins change color from lustrous black to white, and brown and yellow. In great alarm they rushed from the pond and washed themselves in a stream, but the colors were fixed and would not be washed off.
When the children went back home their people thought they were bewitched, and made them leave the group. The children traveled far away and made their homes in distant lands: and such was the beginning of the colored races of the world.