Much of our work since coming to Madagascar in 2009 (Tessa) and 2011 (Nathan), has been in crafting and telling the stories of the Bible in the Malagasy dialects local to our area. The one tribe with whom we’ve worked most closely and the longest is the Mahafaly.
It has been an education just grappling with Scripture verse by verse with our Mahafaly friends, and watching them take in and then re-verbalize the stories in their own vernacular. Suddenly, the stories come alive for them. And while we think all of us should be doing the work to ingest, digest, and then retell the story of the Bible in our own local culture and parlance, we also wanted to give you all the chance to hear how your brothers and sisters here in Madagascar retell those stories. These are familiar stories. But we hope you see how the Mahafaly have made them their own. These are translated from Mahafaly into English, I’ve adjusted them only slightly for our ear.
These are not the stories of the white man or Americans or Westerners. This is the story crafted by God himself, about the origins of humanity, and the end of evil. And as such, all of our stories are wrapped up in this one.
Hello, it’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.
The first story I must tell you is . . . Creation!
Back when all was very still and quiet, there was nothing there yet—nothing at all moving around, no people like us. But the Prince of Creation was there. He spoke. He made the world we see around us today, just by speaking it.
He said, “There is light!” and there was light, and also dark. He called the light, Day, and to the dark he gave the name, Night.
He said, “There is water!” and there was water. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good.
Then, the Prince of Creation said, “The water is gathered together and the dry land appears! There are trees and growing grass!” And the trees and grass began to grow as the new, dry land appeared, as the waters pulled away. This land was called, Earth, and the gathered waters were called the Sea. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good.
The Prince of Creation said, “There are stars, a moon, and the sun!” And they all appeared. Prince of Creation saw that this too was good.
He said, “There are animals in the water, jellyfish and whales, all different kinds! There are flying birds like hawks and bats and animals on the ground like chameleons and sheep, all different kinds! And these appeared. And the Prince of Creation saw all that he was doing was good.
Then, the Prince of Creation said, “I am going to make a human.” So he did. The Prince of Creation made a human, but he created him in a different kind of way. He did not use just his word. He took some dirt, and then molded it. When he was done, he blew into it. It came alive, and started moving! This was the first man.
The Prince of Creation called the man, Adam. That’s the name he gave him, which means, Earth. Then the Prince of Creation took the man and put him in this one, green rice field that was there beside many rivers. Now, in this beautiful field, there were many trees there. Also, in the middle of this field there were two special trees. One tree was a tree that gave life. The other tree was a tree of knowledge—both of the good and the bad.
“Ah, yes,” said the Prince of Creation, “Eat the fruit from all of these trees here. But the one tree there in the middle of the field, the one that gives knowledge of the good and the bad, don’t eat the fruit from that one. If you do eat it, you will die.”
But now, the Prince of Creation saw that Adam was alone. “Ah,” Prince of Creation said, “This is not good, for the human to be alone. I will find him a fitting partner who can add to him. So the Prince of Creation brought by all the animals to Adam. He brought the dolphin and the lemur, the zebu and the parrot. But none of them seemed to fit as his partner. So, with that, the Prince of Creation put Adam to sleep. Then, he took a bone from Adam’s side. And with that, the Prince of Creation made another human. It was the first woman. He brought her to Adam. When Adam saw her, and that she was a human like him, he said, “Ah, yes! Her bones are from my bones. She is flesh from my flesh.” So he called her, Eva. That is the name he gave her, which means Life.
Now at this time, Adam and Eva (Earth and Life) were still naked together, but knew nothing of shame. The Prince of Creation saw that this was good. Everything the Prince of Creation had made there was so good!
The Prince of Creation blessed the humans, saying, “Multiply and cover this earth! Everything that moves here on earth belongs to you all. They are under your care as Masters and you must take care of them.”
Then, the Prince of Creation saw that everything he had done was good. He had finished his work there. Six days it took for Prince of Creation to finish all of that. Then, he rested. And he also blessed this day when he stopped and rested with his creation.
And that is the story of how the world we see around us was created. It’s from the holy writings—the Bible.