Yu.E. Berezkin, E.N. Duvakin

Thematic classification and distribution of folklore and mythological motifs by area

Analytical catalogue

Ethnicities and habitats

B2G. A chameleon walks on soft ground. 12.


chameleon walked on the ground before it had hardened.

Anyi, baule, sorco, guro, ashanti, bini, yoruba, mamprusi.

West Africa. Anyi [chameleon and toad are arguing which one is older; chameleon: when I appeared, the earth was semi-liquid, so I still step cautiously and slowly; toad: when I appeared, there were only three mound, you had to jump from one to another; and when these mounds disappeared into the swamp, the land took the form you remember]: Basset 1903, No. 82:198-199 (retelling in Dähnhardt 1910:222); baule [smelly Ant, Frog, Chameleon argue which of them came to earth first; Chameleon: the ground was not dry yet, I had to move my legs carefully, I still do it; Frog: Not yet there was dirt, she jumped over cracks; Ant: there was no earth yet; mother died, could not bury her, had to carry it, hence the smell]: Himmelheber 1951b: 41-42 (translated into Himmelheber 1960:109-110); guro [the chameleon was the first animal; when it started walking on the ground it was not yet firm, so it has been swaying ever since. Informant Yuan Bi Irie Hubert, Gouraud, was born in 1976 in the village of Gohunfla (east of Goitafl sous-prefecture), recorded in Abidjan; in brief in Benoist 1977: the chameleon is an antediluvian beast, so even now moves with caution]: Kuznetsova O.V., 2009 field materials, personal report 14.04.2016; sorco [in ancient times, Niger belonged to the giant Sallo cancer, which lay on Safei Island between Timbuktu and Jenne; two Sorcos, Kassum from Jenne and Mai from Timbuktu, argued about which of these cities is ancient and which of them owns Niger; decided to organize a river race; M. magically did so, for K.'s boat to run into a sharp stone; K. made a hole in the back of the boat (through it the water flowing through the hole back) and magically made M. swim into the river sleeve, and the wave covered sand and blocked his return; M. cast a spell, the water lifted his boat above the sand and returned him to the river; when Sallo saw this, he promised to swallow M. and K. and blocked their way near the island Safei; M. and K. dragged the boats ashore and went to their cities to warn people of Sallo's anger and find a way to defeat it; Sallo swallowed 120 boats sailing on the river; the oldest of all sorco, Mama Djennepu, said that it is possible to defeat Sallo by finding out who is the oldest living person in Niger; Mama Djennepu started asking different animals; pelican: I laid eggs when Jenna was too old recently founded; Mama Djennepu: the pelican is old but not enough; the jackal: the corpse of the first person buried in Jenna dug up; Mama Djennupu: the jackal is old but not enough; tommofirri (a small bird, serves for making magic potions {rhino bird?} : When I was young, there was no land, and when my mother died, I could not find a place to bury and buried her in my head; after me, the chameleon is the oldest, because it crawled on the ground when it was still wet; Mama Djennepu: we now know who is the oldest and we can oppose Sallo; Mama Djennepu, M. and K. went to Safei Island, made sacrifices, threw magic remedies into the water, cast spells and asked Sallo if he was alive; he replied "No"; so Niger came into sorco ownership]: Frobenius 1924:155-157; Ashanti [Onakoupon lived in heaven with his family; the land was a swamp; children O. went down the web to play there; O. decided to make playgrounds for the children; told an assistant named Abosum to go down to the ground, gave land, shells and three birds; A. threw a handful of land into the swamp with with shells; the birds began to look for grain, rake the ground, it covered part of the swamps; the shells fell to the shores of the sea and rivers; O. sent Chameleon, who returned, said that the earth was dry; O.'s children went down and settled the land; his seven sons became patron spirits of the days of the week]: Anpetkova-Sharova 2010:36-37; bini (edo) [Aluloxi (chameleon) and Owuwu (rhino bird?) began to argue which of them was the chief; Aluloxi said that when he was born, the earth was soft, brand new; Owuwu said that when he was born, there was no earth or sky, so when his father died, he buried him in his head; everyone believed Owuwu and said he was a chief]: Thomas 1920:222 (cf. Baumann 1936:188); Yoruba [first water and swamp below the sky; the creator of Ol-orun gave the Great God Orisha Nla a snail shell filled with earth; he poured the earth into the swamp, the Dove and the five-toed. The chicken began to scatter it, land appeared; O. sent Chameleon to check; he said that the earth was large enough but still wet; the second time he said that it was dry; the creation lasted four days; since then there have been four working days in the weeks, the fifth is devoted to honoring O.; the first people were created in heaven, sent to earth]: Parrinder 1967:20; mamprusi [a long time ago, when the earth was not yet in time to harden, all living things that lived on its surface moved with caution; they were afraid to damage the ground, fall through and fly upside down from nowhere; only the chameleon did not think about it and ran out of the house so fast that everyone was breathless and everyone said to him with the song: "Gumachua, be careful, /Don't sell the land! /Oh Gumachua, our dear brother,/Don't sell the land!" ; the flattered chameleon took a slow step; now that the earth has long hardened and all humans and animals have forgotten their previous caution, the chameleon continues to walk the slowest because it cannot change your usual gait]: Anpetkova-Sharova 1966, No. 26:45-46.