Thursday, November 6, 2008

Arawak Oral Tradition from Guyana: Always Be Content

An expedition was arranged by a house-master for his relatives and friends, who were to come and join him on the coast and hunt sea-birds. Before starting, they all made quakes for collecting the birds' eggs, it being then the proper season, and eggs always good to eat.

After they had gathered sufficient eggs to fill their baskets, they proceeded with their bows and arrows to shoot birds, and were very successful. The old house-master's son-in-law, however, went off by himself in quite another direction, where there was plenty of dry timber and shot only woodpeckers, of which he brought back plenty. When they got home again, the wives made cassiri for them. The old man and his friends gave to the son-in-law of their big stock of various sea-birds, and the latter gave them woodpeckers in exchange.

In the course of conversation, they asked why he had shot only land-birds when he was supposed to have come out to shoot sea-birds. He replied that he did not mind whether they had come from land or sea, so long as they were birds, and that he was quite content to eat one or the other.

Source: An Inquiry into the Animism and Folk-Lore of the Guiana Indians, Walter E. Roth, from the Thirtieth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908-1909, pp. 103-386, Washington D.C., 1915.

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