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not suffering in the least from the effort.

For swiftness in running, as well as power
of endurance, they are remarkable. For years
men were employed by the Natal government
to transport ponderous mail bags from the sea-
port to the colonial capital, a distance of fifty
miles. Leaving at sundown, they might be
seen the next morning on the steps of the
post office, bright and happy, and ready, after a
few hours' rest, to return with the same speed.
They travel with bare feet, and their soles,
being thickened b}^ constant use over rough
roads, possess emphatically a pecuniary adyani
tage over leather.


Zulu Characteristics. 189

In good health, the result of simple food and
moderate exercise, the natives are proof against
a multitude of ills incident to a state of civili-
zation. It is said that two girls were once taken
from a heap of dead bodies after a bloody
battle, one having twenty, the other nineteen
spear wounds, and both recovered. I once
had a boy in my employ, through whose body
a spear had been thrust, and though not as
strong as many, he performed a considerable
amount of labor. Several times I was called
to take out pieces of skull that had been
broken by knob-kerries in a quarrelsome beer
drink, and the wounded places healed after a
short time. Rarely did we see cases of deform-
ity, contracted chests, weak spines, or bent

In contrasting Zulus with American negroes
I perceive a marked difference. The former,
as a race, are taller and more muscular, with
loftier foreheads, higher cheekbones, and a
pleasanter expression of countenance. Their
lips are not so thick, nor are their noses so
flat. In color some of tliem Ijear a striking
resemblance, but among the Zulus, Arabic fea-
tures, not seen in other dark-skinned African
races, are occasionally distinguishable.

At their homes the men are neat and tidy, in
their way, bathing frequently, washing their
hands after every meal and before milking.
They invariably rinse their teeth after eating,
which accounts for their clean, ivory-like ap-
pearance. Having good appetites, they often

190 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

gorge themselves like pythons. Barrow, an
African traveler, tells us of an ox being eaten
by ten Zulus, ''all but the hind legs, in three

This is a mild statement. In several in-
stances when I knew an ox had been killed in the
morning, I have tried to get a piece of beef in
the afternoon, and have been horrified to learn
that a small party of natives had eaten all but
the head and hoofs. A pioneer missionary to
Zululand once wrote that five or six of his
servants began to eat a good-sized pig at even-
ing, and before they slept the largest part of it
was devoured.

The mode of cooking is simple. A long
piece of meat is fastened to a sharp-pointed
stick, placed upon the fire, and when sufficiently
roasted one takes his knife, cuts off a large
mouthful, and passes it on to his neighbor, and
he to another. This operation is repeated till
all are served. They eat some parts of an ox
raw, seizing them as soon as it is killed.

In their intercourse with one another the
Zulus have a well-defined code of politeness.
On meeting, their salutation is " Sa ku bonum
ngani (1 see you)." The question then follows,
'•''Uhlezi kaJde na (Are you well)?^ then the
snuffbox, the token of friendship as well as sine
qua non of comfort, is passed round. No Zulu is
allowed to go out of a hut back first. In igno-
rance of this, I once crept out of a cliief's
dwelling in that way. He immediately called
me back, saying, " Were you not a white man

Zulu Charactenstics. 191

who knows no better manners, I would fine you
for this breach of etiquette."

They have a curious custom called ukuhlon-
ipa (shame). In accordance with it, the wife
never calls her husband by his proper name,
but, if he has a son, always the father of that son.
A wife carefully avoids uttering any word occur-
ring in the names of the principal members of
her husband's family. For instance, if she has
a brother-in-law named Unkomo, she will not
use the w^ord inkomo^ meaning a cow, but some
other. Formerly a native would not use a word
similar to the name of a king, for fear of losing
his life. For example, impande means the root
of a tree. This is so much like Umpande, the
name of the late Zulu sovereign, that no one
ventured to use it. The newly married hus-
band is careful to avoid looking at his mother-
in-law, and should she be coming toward him
he always takes another path or conceals himself
in a cluster of bushes. No Zulu is permitted
to marry a blood relation. Like the Jews, a
man is expected to take the widow of a de-
ceased brother ; but to marry a cousin is to
them most reprehensible.

Confidence placed in Zulu servants is seldom
betrayed. Thieving is not one of their charac-
teristics. Small bodies of men are employed
yearly in transporting bags of gold and silver
from the magistrate's tent, where the hut tax
has been collected, twenty miles or more from a
European village, and I have never heard that
a shilling has been stolen. For the first thirty

192 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

years of my residence among them I never
considered it necessary to fasten a door or win-
dow, for fear of burglars or thieves. Missing
an axe, while building my house in 1850, I sus-
pected a native who was working with me, but
in taking up the floor of my dining room two
years after I found the missing article. The
absence of pilfering among the Zulus I attribute
to the rigid hiws of the country from which
they came, for in Zululand theft has from time
immemorial been punishable with death. When
Dingaan was on the throne. Rev. Aldin Grout
took into his country a load of household goods,
and wishing to leave them there while he re-
turned to Natal for another load, he said to the
headman of a kraal : " Please see, while I am
gone, that none of my things are stolen."
" Stolen ! " said the man. " Where did you
come from, that you make such a request ? We
have law here^ A Zulu was once asked by a
trader whether a parcel of beads could be
deposited with safety in a certain unprotected
place, and received this answer : " If a man
steals in Zululand, he eats no more corn."
Travelers who by mistake left articles in a
kraal generally found Zulus running after
them to deliver them up.

I regret to say that a change has taken place
in this respect. With the influx of foreigners
intemperance has increased, with its attendant
evils, and property is not so safe as formerly.
Thanks however to the stringent proliibitory
laws in Natal, the sad spectacle is not witnessed

Zulu Characteristics. 193

of natives l3^ing about in a state of intoxica-
tion, as is said to be the case in Cape Town and
Kimberly. But grave fears are entertained that
the young Natal Zulus, who go to the gold
fields in the Transvaal, will return to their
homes demoralized by rum-drinking habits.

A love of fun is a prominent Zulu character-
istic. They frequently crack jokes of a practi-
cal nature. Some raw natives from Zululand
were about to visit their relatives, who were
working for a sugar planter in the colony. The
latter, desiring a little fun, met the newcomers
a short distance from the planter's house, and
said to them, '• Our master is a great king. You
must approach him on your hands and knees,
just as you do Umpande, and salute him mth
high-sounding titles." They carried out the
program faithfully, to the great amusement of
the white man as well as to that of the joke

A Zulu lad, once seeing a woman with a
pumpkin on her head, came up suddenly and
inquired, apparently in great terror, " What 's
that on your head ?" Thinking it might be a
snake, she let the pumpkin fall, whereupon the
roguish boy picked it up and ran away.'

I once " April fooled " a good-natured wagon
driver as we were on a journey. A few hours
afterwards he asked me how we should cross a
river which we were approaching. " By the
bridge^ of course," I replied. " But," said he,
"have you not heard that the bridge was car-

^Wood's Uncivilized Races.

194 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

ried away in a late flood ? " " No," I replied
in an anxious tone. "Nor have I," said he,
his eyes twinkling with fun.

A more gregarious and social people it is
difficult to find. The young men dislike to eat
alone. Rather than do so they prefer to half
starve themselves. When out at service, and
the economical mistress has measured out just
enough Indian meal for their own mush, if a
friend steps in at the time of eating, a spoon is
immediately handed to him, and the mush dis-
appears frequently before they have made " a
good square meal."

A few natives raise tobacco in their kraals,
but the majority refuse to do so, saying, " We
would cultivate it if our neighbors did, but
they are too lazy. It is therefore of no use for
us to plant it, because they would coii';e and
finish it at once." This disinclines them to
make efforts for the supply of their own wants.
Industry and forethought are not Zulu traits,
at least not of the men. A Zulu may be often
heard saying to the Indian coolies, thin, hag-
gard, hard-working people, " Why do you toil
so ? You are worse than white men. Look at
me. See how easily T take life. I only work
till I have bought a wife, and then she works
for me ! "

Some have said, " Zulus have no gratitude."
It is a great mistake. Many instances might
be related in which a thankful spirit has been
manifested, and gifts bestowed for favors re-
ceived. Sympathy for neighbors in trouble,

Zulu Characteristics. 195

especially the sick or bereaved, is a marked
characteristic. Work, however important, is
at ouce suspended that they may help their
afflicted friends. Tears that roll down their
cheeks as they stand around the grave of a
beloved missionary belie the statement that
the '^natives have no feeling." Their affections
are tender, and it is pleasant to see how the
men fondle and nurse young children. It is
only the war passion that excites them beyond
all control. It has been remarked that "after
living a long time with Europeans they become
sour and morose." I have not seen that effect
produced. On the contrary, servants of long
standing have appeared to me remarkably

In debate, of which they are very fond, they
often show remarkable skill. In arguing a case
they will split hairs equal to a Philadelphia
lawyer. It is interesting to listen to their
arguments, which roll out with amazing volu-
bility and ease. They generally assemble under
a large tree, forming a semicircle, the chief or
judge sitting in front. While one is speaking,
others observe silence, awaiting their turn with
patience. They commence slowly and deliber-
ately, but as they warm with the subject they
rise from the ground, snap their fingers, raise
the voice to the highest pitch, and become fear-
fully excited. All join in the discussion, and
from the babel of voices a stranger would think
that a fight was inevitable. After the case has
been settled, the decision is generally accepted

196 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

by both parties as final, the loser, not vindic-
tive, quietly going to his home ; and if he meet
his rival the next day, stopping to snuff and
chat with him as if nothing unpleasant had

An amusing example is thus related, in
Wood's Uncivilized Races, of a cross-examina-
tion at a Zulu trial : —

" Some natives had been detected in eating
an ox, and the owner brought them before a
council, demanding punishment. Their defense
was that they had not killed the animal, but
found it dying from a wound inflicted by
another ox, and so had considered it fair spoil.
When the defense had been completed an old
Zulu began to examine the various speakers,
and as usual commenced with a question appar-
ently wide of the subject.

" ' Does an ox tail grow up, down, or side-
ways ? '

" ' Downward.'

" ' Do its horns grow up, down, or sideways? '

" ' Up.'

" ' If an ox gores another, does he not lower
his head and gore upward ? '


" ' Could he not gore downward ? '


" The wily interrogator then forced the un-
willing witness to examine the wound, which
he asserted to have been made by the horn of
another ox, and to admit that the slain beast
had been stabbed, not gored."

Zulu Characteristics. 197

That low cunning and deceit are often prac-
ticed among them as among other uncivilized
races, we have painful evidence; but, as one
truthfully observes, "The wonder is not that
these evils and perversions exist, but that, ih
the absence for ages of all revealed truth and
all proper religious instruction, there should
still remain so much of mental integrit}^, so
much ability to discern truth and justice, and
withal so much regard for these principles in
their daily intercourse with one another."

Before the advent of Europeans with the
arts of civilization considerable ingenuity was
displayed in manufacturing spears, hoes, or
picks from iron mined out of their own soil.
Their forges and anvils were of the crudest
description, but they managed to do their work
creditably. They also made rings from an
amalgam of copper and iron. Their dishes for
cooking, carrying water or beer, baskets, and
beer-strainers, milkpails, wooden pillows, spoons,
etc., show considerable skill. In making skins
soft and pliable they are quite equal to furriers
in civilized lands. In the medical art some of
them are skilled in healing certain diseases by
the use of roots and herbs which abound in the

They have an ingenious process for making a
fire. A dry reed is taken about six inches long,
a notch cut near the middle, in which is rotated
between the palms of the hands a small hard
stick. One is reminded of a carpenter's drill.
Soon the hot ashes appear, from which a flame
is secured.

198 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

Zulu lads acquire the industrial arts with
facility. In blacksmithing, shoemaking, wagon-
making, and printing, they can compete with
-white men if properly trained. I had a native
printer who composed with rapidity, and printed
a newspaper in the Zulu language. He was
also a bookbinder. In learning to read, the
children are quite as apt as the whites. In
vocal music, some of them are quite proficient.
In mental and physical ability they do not seem
to be inferior to the Anglo-Saxon race. As
civilizing agencies have enlightened other tribes,
the same agencies, if faithfully applied, will raise
the Zulus, also, to a like state of advancement.



THE natives look forward to a marriage
occasion with joy, for it is a time to
revel in dancing and feasting. If in high Life,
the greater the glee, the greater the quantity of
beef to be consumed, the larger the potations of
beer. A king's wedding generally lasts six or
seven days. Being present at the marriage of
Cetywayo, the late Zulu chief, when he took to
himself his fifteenth wife, the excitement T
witnessed was almost beyond bounds. Specta-
tors, quite a thousand in number, sat on the
ground (for there were no seats), looking at
the five hundred or more men and women en-
gaged in their tumultuous dance, and appeared
to be thoroughly fascinated. After fifteen min-
utes I should have left, had I not made an
engagement to meet his sable majesty at the
close of the ceremony. On this occasion the
bride, for some reason or other, was seated by
lierself, but the fourteen wives were together,
directly in front of a brother missionary and
myself. The«.pbesity of these African queens
attracted our attention. We estimated that
each would weigh at least two hundred pounds.
Such an amount of avoirdupois in human flesh,
possessed by one man, I never before witnessed.


200 Forty Yeai^s Among the Zulus.

I was told that they did little or no work, ate
an enormous quantity of beef, and drank as
much beer as they could. As the hot sun
began to beat down on my head, I lifted up my
umbrella for shade, when one of the king's
wives requested the use of it for a short time.
I complied, but when I politely called for it,
she refused to give it up. Now was my time
to give an African queen a lecture on polite-
ness, which was not without effect, for the
umbrella was soon returned.

Cetywayo, the leader in the dance, was
dressed like the majority of the men, with skins
of wild animals about his loins, and the only
way I could distinguish him from others was
by a long feather stuck to the gutta-percha-like
ring on his head. That feather is used only by
royalty on marriage occasions. The dance, if
such it can be called, was one of the noisiest
demonstrations conceivable, consisting simply
in stamping the ground forcibly, swinging the
hands up and down, chanting a variety of tunes,
shouting and screaming, howling and yelling,
the perspiration dropping like rain from the
half-nude bodies.

When at the greatest pitch of excitement,
I remarked to my companion, " If these Zulus
ever come into collision with British authority,
and display the same enthusiasm in war as they
do on this festive occasion, they will prove no
despicable foe." In the " Zulu war," some years
after, they fought like tigers.

Now that Zulu girls under English protec-

Zulu Weddinys and Funerals. 201

tion are not obliged to marry, nolens volens^ they
enjoy a privilege Avliich some in more civilized
countries might regard as advantageous, that of
" popping the question," or selecting husbands
from among the old or young men, according to
their fancy. Every year with them is " leap
year." They sometimes choose those who are
not inclined to reciprocate their affection, but,
nothing daunted, they persevere until they
succeed. In Wood's Uncivilized Races we
read of a Zulu girl who fell ardently in love
with a young chief as he was displaying his
agility in a dance. " He did not know her, and
was rather surprised when she presented herself
at his kraal and avowed the state of her affec-
tions. He, however, did not return them, and
as the girl refused to leave, he was obliged to
send for her brother, who removed her by force.
She soon made her way back again, and this
time was severely beaten for her pertinacity.
The stripes had no effect on her, and in less
than a week she again presented herself. Find-
ing that his sister was so determined, the
brother suggested that the too fascinating chief
had better marry the girl and so end the dis-
pute, and the result was that at last she gained
her point, the needful cows were paid and the
marriage took place."

Zulu courtship often goes on for some time
without the knowledge of the parents. The
girls are not in a hurry to be married, knowing
well that the happiest period of their life is
that of their youth. Many of them, however,

202 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

are mere flirts. When fifteen or sixteen years
old, their fathers, hankering for cattle, begin to
chide, saying, " Is it not time you were mar-
ried? This flirtation must come to an end."
Finding that her father and brothers are seek-
ing some one to recommend to her as a husband,
she suddenly disappears, having hied away to
her lover's kraal. In case the parents have no
objection to the family, and they are sure that
within a reasonable time the required cattle for
payment will be forthcoming, they do not inter-
fere, knowing that initiatory steps for the mar-
riage will follow. In a day or two there appear
at the home of the future bride a party of men
driving two or three cows. They have come to
negotiate for the proposed union. The usual
friendly custom of taking snuff is gone through
with, the bargain is ratified, the cows left as
first instalment, and the visitors go home ap-
parently satisfied. What follows I give in the
language of one who is more intimately ac-
quainted with native customs than myself: —
" Both parties have new songs and dances to
learn, and it is a matter of emulation which
shall excel. Tlie bride has by her a stock of
mats, spoons, dishes, etc., which she has col-
lected, with which to begin housekeeping. Her
father's gift is a blanket, and cattle according
to his rank. But no girl ever goes to her hus-
band without an ox, which is ever looked upon
afterward as the ox of the amaJdozi (ancestral
spirits), the loss of which by death would be
considered a token of desertion by the protect-

Zulu Weddings and Funerals. 203

iiig spirits of her father's house, and the slaugh-
ter of which, in the event of any cahimity
(such as disease or barrenness), is an accepta-
ble sacrifice.

" When the eventful day has arrived, the
bride and party (the higher the rank the more
the followers) set out for the bridegroom's
kraal, which, however, they will not enter until
night, singing and dancing as they go. Early
in the morning they go to the nearest stream,
wash and dress, and about noon come up and
begin the dance, the bridegroom's party looking
on. When both sides have finished, which may
or may not be on the first day, a cow is slaugh-
tered by the bridegroom and given to the bride's

" At night the girl wanders about the kraal,
followed by her own sex, relatives of the bride-
groom. She is 'crying for her father's house,'
where she was well treated. Now she has come
to a strange household where she may be ill
used, and where she has only the certaint}' of
hard work. She is supposed to be trying to
run away, and the girls to be preventing her.
Next day the bridegroom, his brother, sisters,
and friends take their seat in the cattle fold,
and the second and last part of the ceremony,
called ukuhlamhisa^ takes place. (Ukuhlambisa
means to give wherewithal to wash the hands.
Perhaps it is a symbol that on that day she has
washed away all her old life.) The bride comes
in with her party of girls, carrying in her hand
a spear, which, by the way, she has carried all

204 Forty Years Artiong the Zulus.

the time. One girl bears a dish of water and
a calabash, and another some beads. Then com-
ing up, singing and dancing, the bride throws
the water over her husband. She also sprinkles
her brother and sister in law, striking the latter
as a symbol that from that time she assumes
authority over the girls in her husband's house-
hold. After this is done she breaks the staff
of the spear, and makes a run for the gate of
the kraal, as a last effort to get away. If she
is not stopped by a young man appointed for
the purpose, it is a great disgrace, and the hus-
band has to pay a cow to get her back. The
marriage rites are then finished. No widow,
remarried, breaks the staff of the spear.

" For some time after marriage the wife will
not drink any sour milk. She Avas purchased
with milk-giving cattle, and cannot eat her own
purchase price. But after a while she takes the
broken spear to her old home and returns with
a goat, or sheep, or cow, which is slaughtered,
the defiling principle going out of the luilk into
the dead animal. Henceforth she may drink
the milk. In Zulu language she has ' cleansed
her spoon.' "

Marriage customs vary somewhat, but the
above is a fair description of the average.
Traveling once on horseback through a thickly
populated part of Natal, I came unexpectedly
on a procession of natives, in front of whom a
large ox was being driven, and was told that it
was the winding up of a wedding ceremony.
Having dismounted and turned my horse out

Zulu Weddings and Funerals. 205

to graze, I watched the proceedings. When
the procession reached the gate of the bride-
groom's kraal, the bride was closely veiled by
her female attendants, nor was the veil removed
till she had taken her place in the ring for the
final dance. A hundred or more natives en-
gaged in it with all the energy of which they
were capable, their bodies covered with perspi-
ration, but I could not see the bridegroom any-
where. On inquiring as to his whereabouts, I
received the reply, "Wait a few minutes and
you will see." It turned out that he was seated
near myself among the spectators, and appar-
ently as unconcerned as any of them. After a
little, the bride left the ring, dancing and sing-
ing like the rest, but evidently in search of
somebody or something. Suddenly she ap-
peared and placed her hand heavily on her
lover's head. This the Zulus call ukuketa, or
choosing a husband. It was a signal that she
liad selected him in this public manner as her
partner for life. The favored individual imme-
diately jumped up, and went into his own hut

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