Malagasy Tale: Ibonia Prescribes Laws and Bids Farewell

Flag of Madagascar
Flag of Madagascar

Here is part of a Malagasy tale which is several hundred years old: it is part of the Ibonia, an epic Malagasy poem told in various forms across Madagascar. The Ibonia is like  Homer‘s epic poem the Odyssey for the people of Madagascar. One could say that it is the story of creation. You can find more about it here.


Ibonia and Joy-Giving Girl stayed married about ten years. About three years before his death, he gave his will to his father and mother, his wife and children, and all the people in an around Long-Standing. He said, “This I declare to you: soon I am to return to the place of lying down.’ Close at hand is the day when Ibonia will be removed, and Inabo [another of his names] will go the way of all those whose doors face west [the dead]. That is a fate to take down one’s manhood. For to the earth we return and lie in state. Inabo is not to be buried to rot; he is to be planted to grow — to die by day and live by night.


     “I declare that Inabo’s return is coming. These then are the orders I leave you.
“The first and most important thing is marriage.
If you are a prince,
if you are a ruler,
if you are a governor,
if you are a spokesman,
do not untie the bonds of marriage.
The road of marriage is binding even unto death.
Do not divide it.”

(This admonition, they say
, strengthened people’s marriages.)
     “Second: listen. I shall change my name, for one’s name on earth does not got back to heaven. Before the lord of heaven all things are new. My grandfather is holy. These will be my names:
Pierced Earth,
Sound-of-his-Steps-Deafens-Even-the Distant. 

Now, listen, all of you.
When there is thunder,
when the skies weep,
and when the rain falls,
lament, O Beautiful-Rich,
for that will be your son,
whose footsteps deafen even the distant.”

(That, they say
, was the first time it was said, “It is a bad day for old women,” when it thunders.)
     And when the three years had passed — Ibonia had said, “I will die when three years have passed” — then he died.

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