THERE is at the present day a widespread and growing interest in the customs, institutions, and folklore of more or less 'primitive' peoples, even among persons who are still a little shy of the word 'anthropology.' This interest is of comparatively recent growth; but when one looks back over the nineteenth century it seems almost incredible that Moffat could write) in 1842, that "a description of the manners and customs of the Bechuanas would be neither very instructive nor very edifying." Twenty years earlier James Campbell, whom one suspects of a secret and shamefaced interest in the subject, apologizes for presenting to the notice of his readers the "absurd and ridiculous fictions" of the same tribe.
The apology is certainly not needed to-day-witness the collections of folk-tales pouring in from every quarter of what used to be called the Dark Continent, contributed by grave divines, respectable Government officials, and all sorts and conditions of observers. In fact, so much new matter has appeared since I first took the present work in hand that it has proved impossible to keep pace with it. But I have endeavoured to present to the notice of the reader fairly typical specimens of myth and legend from as many as possible of the various Bantu-speaking tribes, confident that the result will not be (if I may again quote Campbell) to "exhibit the puerile and degraded state of intellect" among the said tribes.
I have been obliged, however, to my great regret, to omit some very striking legends of the Baganda, less known than that of Kintu (familiar from several other works, and, moreover, told at length in my own African Mythology). But it would have been easy, given sufficient time, to expand this book to twice the covenanted length.
A word as to the pronunciation of African names. No attempt has been made to render them phonetically, beyond the rough-and-ready rule that vowels are to be pronounced as in German or Italian, consonants as in English, every syllable as ending in a vowel, and every vowel to be pronounced. Thus it has not been considered necessary to put an acute accent over the e in Shire (which, by the by, ought to be Chiri) and Pare. Where ng is followed by an apostrophe, as in 'Ryang'ombe' (but not in 'Kalungangombe'), it is sounded as in 'sing,' not as in 'finger.'
African experts may discover some inconsistency in the rendering of tribal names. One ought, I suppose, either to use the vernacular plural in every case, as in Basuto, Amandebele, Anyanja, or to discard the prefix and add an English plural, as in Zulus (too familiar a form to be dropped); but it did not seem possible to attain consistency throughout. At any rate, one has avoided the barbarism of 'Basutos,' though sanctioned by no less an authority than Sir Godfrey Lagden Moffat, as will have been noticed, was guilty of 'Bechuanas,' and I have not ventured to correct his text.