Another African tale about the origin of death concerns the magician Heiseb, who features frequently in stories told by the Haikom Bushmen (San Tribe) of the Etosha area in Namibia.

One day, Heiseb and his wife and small son were out hunting for food. As there had been a drought, the land was very barren and they were hungry.

Suddenly they came upon a tree laden with red, ripe berries which were falling to the ground. When the boy ran to pick them up, his father, to check him in his greed, said: 'No, these berries are for grown-up people only, not for greedy children.'

The son then cried out that he was dying of hunger and fell to the ground, where he lay pretending to be dead.

His father declared that nothing remained for the dead but burial, and buried him.

But the son, who was not really dead, secretly arose from his grave.

One day, when his mother went there, she saw the empty grave and realized that her son was no longer there. She sat down to wait for him and when he came, joyfully took him home with her.

But on their arrival, Heiseb said: 'I thought my son was dead so I buried him. Now it seems he still lives.

Nevertheless the dead shall remain dead.' And he killed his son.
Since that time, say the Bushmen, human beings have died, and in the grave there is only death.


Heiseb the magician had a friendship with Ikaamaegab, a strange person with eyes in his toes.

Ikaamaegab, ashamed of this peculiarity, had not told Heiseb about it, and thought the wizard regarded him as a normal man.

When Heiseb asked for his company on a trip to search for wild potatoes, Ikaamaegab happily went along.

It was a strange expedition, as the afflicted one had to keep raising his feet in the air to look where he was going.

Needless to say, he did not find many wild potatoes! If Heiseb noticed, he did not say anything, but continued to put fine fat roots into his bag.

Soon evening came and the hunters made a camp and lit a fire. 'Let us put the potatoes round the fire to cook,' said Heiseb, nestling his big fat ones into the hot ashes.

Ikaamaegab's mouth watered as he looked with envy at the steaming, savoury roots (his eyes, you must remember, were very near them).

'I must warm my feet,' he said, pushing them closer. He chattered on to distract Heiseb's attention, while furtively removing the largest potatoes with his toes. But Heiseb was difficult to deceive. 'Indeed, it is cold,' he broke in. 'Let me warm your feet, my friend.' And, suiting action to word he threw hot coals and ashes over Ikaamaegab's feet.

With a cry of pain, the freak jump up and fled through the bush, seeking water that would cool his burning eyes.

Reaching water at last, he stumbled in, but unknown to him he had plunged into a deep river, and was drowned.
The wicked Heiseb, just laughed, sat and finished the rest of the potatoes.