The Legend of the Bell

Translation and Notes by Stan Pope, May 4, 1995

"In the early years, Man learned that a stick or staff helped the miles to pass more swiftly beneath his feet. He was, however, occasionally slowed on his journeys. The herds of elephants, failing to hear his approach, would not make room for Man to pass. This caused, at best, Man to detour great distances around the herd. At worst, when both Man and elephant failed to perceive each others presence, one would be trampled by the other. Since the elephants were so much larger, it was usually the elephants who were the tramplers. But since the elephants were gentle by nature, they were greatly troubled.

"In particular, their leader, the wise Olagua (Oh-la'-gwa), felt great sorrow. Olagua called his Council of Elders together to study the problem. The Elders agreed the problem was, indeed, grievous. They came to understand that the problem was that Man had learned to move quietly so that he would be safe from predators.

"As the Elders thought and discoursed upon the problem, one of their young came into their gathering, The Bell which all young elephants wore was a signal to the rest of the herd to move apart to allow the young elephant safe passage into or through the herd.

"The Elders were struck with great insight. Here was a sound that no predator would dare to attack. The elders gathered dry bamboo, chips of obsidian, and lengths of strong, young vine to fashion Bells for their friend, Man."

Notes: The legend was told to me by the present Shaman of the Ogalwa (Oh-gal'-wa) tribe. I have translated this legend for you from its original Ogalwee (Oh-gal'-wee), the language of the Ogalwa tribe. The Ogalwa tribe is very ancient, having lived in the forest near the bend in the Great River through all of the "tellings" (i.e. passage of legends from one generation to the next). When he received this legend from his predecessor, it was the 73rd telling. Thus, it appears that the legend dates from around the time of Mowgli.

The Ogalwa do not have a written language. To my knowledge, this is the first time that the legend has actually been written down. However, the Shaman did show me various ancient cave-wall pictographs which appear to substantiate much of the legend. Credence is also lent by the existence of similar legends in most tribes nearby the Ogalwa.

As time has passed, that primitive Bell has been improved, but its purpose remains. For truthfully, I remember no one, suitably protected by a proper bell, who has been trampled by an elephant.

Latest update: 8/27/97
Copyright 1997 © by Stan Pope. All rights reserved.