A tale is told of two lovers who lived in the eastern Malagasy highlands during the 16th or 17th century.
The woman belonged to local nobility while the man was a peasant son of the slave family serving the noble class.
Like the adage love is blind, the two looked beyond their social differences to build a strong relationship to the point of wanting to get married.
At the time class appurtenance and social differences were unquestionable in various parts of Madagascar and their parents, just like in the Shakespeare’s play, would have nothing of the union.
The tale has been passed down from generation to generation, becoming an integral part of the heritage not just in Fierenana Rural Commune where this is believed to have taken place, but the island as a whole.
“Tired with the rigorous ban imposed by the society, the two lovers decided to commit suicide,” recounted Mr Rakotoarisaona, the 72-year-old deputy mayor for the commune, located about 200km east of Antananarivo.
The lovers, unable to take any more of the societal pressure, isolated themselves and ventured into a rocky area with a small water course, formerly covered by dense forest.
Local residents later observed strangeness on the suicide place, now called Tsitandrara in Malagasy.
The couple is believed to have jumped into a well in order to end their misery.
According to the myth, upon their deaths, the two reincarnated as eels.
The belief of the suicidal lovers transforming into eels has held strong, leading to the local community constantly honouring the eels.
According to oral traditionalists, such rituals have been held close to the eels’ home for centuries.
As the myth spread, people came there to simply regard the curious creatures or pray to the ‘supernatural beings’.
Christian missionaries considered the popular enthusiasm towards the eels as paganism and once attempted to shake the local beliefs.
“I remember very well the story telling of my grandfather. One fervent evangelist dared to fish the eels. He managed to catch the male. Nobody has ever seen the religious man since,” Mr Théodore Eric Lolah Rajoelina, mayor of Fierenana, told the Africa Review.
Other “unbelievers of myth” have also over the years reportedly tried to remove the sacred eels.
But tragedy happened to them, local residents said.
Such anecdotes pushed the community further to scrupulously respect the sacredness of the eels’ site.
The popularity of the mythical suicide area is today getting wider, though just a very few people in the country know the story behind it.” —The riddle of Madagascar’s Romeo and Juliet (via thefemaletyrant)
An allowance for life had always been made for really vicious people, who for too long had said the kind of things to helpless people which really applied to their own twisted, perverted hearts.
Those who spat at what they thought was inferior were really the ‘low, filthy people’ of the earth, because decent people cannot behave that way.” —
Excerpt from Maru by Bessie Head.
This book has been an eye-opener in so many ways, highly recommend it.
“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
—Democracy Now interview with Octavia Butler (via blacklooks)
“Beware, all too often we say what we hear others say. We think what we are told that we think. We see what we are permitted to see. Worse, we see what we are told that we see. Repetition and pride are the keys to this. To hear and to see even an obvious lie again and again and again, maybe to say it almost by reflex, and then to defend it because we have said it, and at last to embrace it because we’ve defended it.” Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents