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Chadian literature is beginning to grow at this time. And why not? Chadians have much to give to the literary world, gleaned from daily experiences. The number of Chadian authors is still minimal, but we await the day when their works will attract the attention of the entire world.

Often a society's literature begins with its folk tales and legends. We will share one of them with you, to give you a taste to learn more. From there, we would like to introduce you to some books full of hunting stories, always told by villagers with such passion. The realities of life for women must not be forgotten, so we will listen to what women living in Chad have to say about their everyday lives.

Up to this point, we have only looked at transcriptions of oral stories. To finish, we would like to read to you a text taken from one of the first books where the author is Chadian. He will tell his story through his own pen.

If you know of other Chadian authors you would like to mention to us, please do not hesitate to write.


Folk tales and legends of Chad



The Orphan Nidjema (Arabic for "Star")

"... There once was a virtuous girl, who was a devoted to helping others and a good friend of everyone.  We called her Nidjema because she was especially beautiful.  Even though she was an orphan, her friends knew they could use and abuse her willingness to serve.  She would correct their mistakes.  When they forgot to do something, she got them out of trouble.  The apron of her skirt always hid for them the best part of her meagre dinner.  Thus, in her adopted family, Nidjema was not happy.  They reserved for her the most difficult of the chores: she went to draw water from the well, she went to gather firewood.  And it was always Nidjema who lit the fire, ground the millet, washed the calabash cups.  No one was ever happy with the work she did, so she was beaten.
     One morning, she was beaten so severely that she ran away into the wilderness to end her life.  She kept walking, not caring at all about the ferocious beasts or reptiles which might kill her if she came across their path...."
     Our hero met hideous monsters on her pathway, and asked them to kill her.  One after another, they refused.  At last, she met death himself, who told her this:
     "Adorable little star!  No one can escape their own destiny.  All must await their moment in time.  Your moment has not yet come to die.  So you must return to where you came from; go back to your own village.  Here on earth, happiness comes from our moral excellence!"

This story, along with many other interesting ones, are to be found in the book Au Tchad sous les étoiles by Joseph Brahim SEID. 1962: PRESENCE AFRICAINE, 25 bis, rue des Écoles, Paris 75005. ISBN 2-7087-0499-0. We highly recommend this extraordinary book!


Hunting Stories

  Matel and the alligator

    Matel had a serious problem in his village.  However, it was a relatively simple business. A simple act.  A widow had come to ask him for alligator meat that he had just killed with much difficulty.  As with all the other women of the village, Matel had freely served her. For him, this was a way of making an offering to God who had protected him and had given him the strength necessary to kill the animal.  
     The alligator in question had done much harm to the village. In only one planting season, it had smashed and sunk several dugout canoes, killed several children and a woman. It caused such great fear that someone said that it was a foreign animal. All the sacrifices offered had not improved the situation. The alligator prevented the women from drawing water from the river, and no one was able to go fishing there.  
     The great alligator hunters had tried to kill this animal, but to no avail. Matel saw their efforts end up in vain.  He had never tried anything of this kind before, but decided to find the famous reptile to destroy it. Thus, each day he travelled along the river, following the trail of the alligator to the time the sun was high in the sky.  He went every place where this beast had the habit to seek its food.
     With the strength of his patience, Matel managed to know the place where the animal rests in bad weather. One fine day, Matel left his home, which was a treasure house for all sorts of skins in piles, of horns and antlers.
      This very place was used by him as a bedroom and dining room. Matel carried out a solitary life here since the day that his wife, who had taken ill, had gone to be with her parents to get better. He arrived at the edge of the river around ten o'clock. In his hands were two shiny spears with short handles, each point in the shape of an arrow. At the end of each handle, Matel had attached a long wire of about 20 meters long. He carefully watched the place he suspected of being the home of the alligator. He squatted down on his knees, to prevent that his shade be reflected in the water, alerting the animal.
     After approximately two hours of waiting, Matel noticed air bubbles floating up on the surface of  the water. Matel grabbed a mound of dried clay and threw it into the water with his left hand. The right hand held the spear directed towards the place where the bubbles were. A long muzzle emerged gently from the water, decorated with two large sparkling eyes. Matel's grip tightened. The spear left his hand and was firmly planted between the shining eyes. Full of rage, the alligator whipped the surface of the water with its tail, then disappeared to the bottom of the water.
     Matel took the end of the wire and quickly attached it to a tree which was just at his side. The alligator rose to the surface. Matel wanted to send into it one last spear but the animal went down again to the bottom of  the river. The wire held him fast. Thrown into a panic, the animal struggled with all its force, stirring up a cloud of mud in the process on the surface of the water. Baby alligators ran away in the tall grasses which papered the edge of the river. Matel still sought to send the second spear into the alligator, but it kept moving about.
     Suddenly, another alligator left the water, passed behind Matel and hit him violently with the back of its rough tail. He was struck as with a true thunderbolt. Matel was projected by the blow to the ground. The animal got back into the water at once. Matel gathered all its strength to regain his forces.
     He took up his spear once again and awaited the animal which wanted to knock him out, his feet firmly planted on the ground. It was gone for good at the bottom of  the muddy river. The back of Matel's leg was bleeding. He returned nevertheless to find out about the first spear. The wire was hardly moving any more. The women who were on the other side of the river cried out a victory cry and called the men who were in the village to help Matel. They ran and pulled the alligator out of the river. It was a long and wide female alligator.
     The men transported it to the village, to Matel's home. The following day, he distributed the flesh of it to all who wanted some. This widow was the last to come to ask for a piece. She had received her share and had returned to her home. But her brothers-in-law became suspicious that he was up to some mischief. And so they laid a complaint against Matel to the authorities, which came and confiscated his herd of goats. A strong fine had moreover been inflicted upon him. In no time, the man in his tiny home was reduced to misery and poverty. Not being able to support the blow, he disappeared one day without leaving a trace. Some believed that he had killed himself.
     For five years, the village was divided by this matter. Matel had become the victim of his own generosity. Because of him, men and women of the village hurled sharp insults at one another. The village was divided into two camps. An elder hunter who supported his friend Matel was also insulted. Some said of him that he was lazy because he did not cultivate his fields much.

Taken from Récits de Chasse, I et II, written by the Bousso research team. 1993 N'Djaména : CEFOD.



Loin de moi-même (by Zakaria Fadoul Khidir)


I resemble...

a shepherd who, having lost his animals in the pasture, fears being yelled at by his parents as he returns home

a young merchant who, having made enormous losses, has no more desire to sell

a young officer who, having lost the battle, returns to his country with his head hung low

a small child who, feeling ill at ease at the home of another, 

wishes to return to the home of his parents

Let yourself be carried away as you read these short stories by Zakaria Fadoul Khidir. In these short stories, he writes about his childhood in his home village of Uru-ba, to help heal his homesickness while studying in France. 1989: L'Harmattan, 5-7, rue de l'École-Polytechnique, Paris 75005. ISBN 2-7384-0425-1


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