Excerpt: ‘The Mole and the Sun’ from ‘Congo Tales’

The World
Five people are painted with a light green paint and post together. Another man is on his knees with bananas.

Congo Tales: Told by the People of Mbomo” is a photo book that shares the myths and stories of the Mbomo people and then uses rich photographs to tell those stories. The book tells 24 different myths in both English and French. 

“Congo Tales” was edited by Stefanie Plattner and Eva Vonk. The Congolese mythologies were adapted for “Congo Tales” by French Congolese artist Steve Regis “Kovo” N’Sondé and author Wilfried N’Sondé. 

Related: ‘Congo Tales’ book dramatizes myths from Mbombo people

Below is an excerpt of one story in the book, “The Mole and the Sun.” 

Once upon a time, Mole and Ya Sun were good friends. The animal lived as much underground as on the surface. They spent hours chatting: “What’s the news? What are people talking about?” Mole told Sun stories of the world beyond, and Sun told Mole what went on during his absences underground.

A boy wearing white body paint and a wooden headdress has an arm around another boy as they pose for a portrait
“The Last Hug”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales”

One day, Mole’s mother fell ill. None of the traditional herbal infusions and remedies could cure her. Mole wondered if the sickness was natural or the result of a curse. He was reluctant to consult a soothsayer who was suspected by many animals of being a charlatan or, even worse, of having evil intent; he only allowed visits at night.

In less than four days, Mole’s mother’s health deteriorated.

A boy painted white and wearing a headdress of wooden sticks stands over a person lying in bedding on the floor
“The Mole and the Sun”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales” 

On the fourth day, Mole decided to take the risk and ask the opinion of the controversial soothsayer. The latter said in a solemn voice, “The only way to save your mother is if your friend Ya Sun agrees to orbit the Earth backwards. He must complete his journey in the opposite direction and agree to rise in the West and set in the East. Your mother’s survival depends on him.”

After leaving the house, Mole went weeping to his old friend, Ya Sun. The desperate animal arrived before the first cockcrow.

With sobs in his throat, he called to him for many minutes as the first signs of dawn were appearing: “Ya Sun! Yaya! Mama Mole is not getting better. In reality, her condition is getting worse. Please, Yaya, make your journey across the celestial vault in the opposite direction, otherwise she will die.”

A small boy faces a man in a tall robe
“The Impossible Task”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales”

“Mole, my friend, that is something that has never been seen since the world became the world. If I could I would, but I too have my limits. Going in the opposite direction is something I cannot do. There are mysteries in our vast universe, but nature has its own laws.”

Overwhelmed by his inability to help Mole, Ya Sun fulfilled his daily duty. One by one he marked every hour of the day. Soon it was dusk and then darkness. That night, when his mother died in the shadows, Mole swore never to cross Sun’s path again.

A boy is centered in the frame, inside a small mound, like mole
“The Mole”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales”
A boy poses for a photograph with his fingers touching and his ankles crossed
“The Lonely Mole”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales”
A boy whose body is painted white wears a crown of wooden sticks that looks like a sunburst behind his head poses for a photo
“No West”Pieter Henket/”Congo Tales”
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