Are They Worth It? Essay, Research Paper
“Children of the Forest”
By Ryan Willis
“Children of the Forest” is a narrative written by Kevin Duffy. This book is a written testament of an anthropologist?s everyday dealings with an African tribe by the name of the Mbuti Pygmies. My purpose in this paper is to inform the reader of Kevin Duffy?s findings while in the Ituri rainforest. Kevin Duffy is one of the first and only scientists to have ever been in close contact with the Mbuti. If an Mbuti tribesman does not want to be found, they simply won?t be. The forest in which the Mbuti reside in are simply to dense and dangerous for humans not familiar with the area to enter. Without them he would simply be wandering aimlessly in the forest. It was very important for Kevin Duffy to win the respect of the tribe when he arrived.
The Mbuti are one of the most fascinating of all the “uncivilized” peoples of the world. This tribe inhabits equatorial Africa near the city of Kisangani in Zaire in the Ituri rainforest. The Mbuti, being the smallest people on earth, live in the most inaccessible place on earth. An Mbuti tribe is almost impossible to find in such a dense forest. The tribe?s men and women are only about four and a half foot tall yet they navigate though rich and dense forestry daily in the search for meat and fruit.
The Mbuti greatly acknowledge their beloved forest as the supplier of all their worldly needs and possessions. The forest supplies them with food, clothing, shelter, and to them, affection. The Mbuti treat the forest as their parents and see themselves as it?s children. They often sing to it in times joy and pray to the forest in times of remorse. Duffy becomes a “fly-on-the-wall” among this particular Mbuti clan. Not by spying on them, but becoming a friend, a very good friend. The Mbuti trusted him like a brother and invited him into their lives to share everything from the birth Mazero?s new child to the death of Ndima, one of the tribes? elders. He was even allowed to film the Mbuti?s famous elephant hunt. To achieve this kind of trust among an “alien” culture is a phenomenal feat.
The elephant hunt was the first story that depicted the actual way that the Mbuti hunted and shared their shared their rewards from a hunt. The entire tribe set out in order to search for an elephant for a feast. All the males of the tribe, regardless of age left with spear in hand. Hunting elephants is a very serious threat to Mbuti life. An injured elephant can probably kill many Mbuti simply out of shear rage. Every hunter proceeded with the utmost caution. When an elephant was spotted, everyone stayed back as one of the lead hunters, Arumba, stepped up to take aim at the elephant. The first time, he was unsuccessful because the elephant galloped away right before he had a chance to strike, it took a few more hours to re-track the creature. When it was spotted again Arumba crept up with great stealth and ease and struck the elephant with the spear. Arumba?s spear entered deep into the side of it?s target. The elephant let out a screech of pain and galloped off again. The Mbuti hunters then followed the blood trail of the wounded elephant and waited for it to die. They followed this particular elephant for approximately two hours before it stopped running. Word was sent back to camp that an elephant was wounded and that they should be ready to move very soon. Later, the elephant was found again, swaying on it?s feet fighting to stay alive. One of the hunters through a stick and hit the elephant in the head, it simply let out a yell, but did not move. “This animal is dead,” said one of the hunters. They soon approached it and jabbed it lightly with the spear once more, it didn?t even budge. Then the elephant dropped to the ground, it was dead now. Arumba checked to see if the massive animal was really dead one more time by touching the elephant?s eyelid with his spear, it didn?t even blink. The hunt had finally come to an end. The elephant?s tail was cut off and taken back to the village as proof of the animal?s death and as a sign for the women of the village to come to the place of elephant?s body. By morning all three tribes were there, the elephants remains were divided and given to each family. Deciding which meat was to be given to what person was based on what role a hunter played in the hunt. The person the struck the blow that killed the elephant got the best cuts of it?s meat. The rest of the meat was distributed evenly among the families.
The Mbutis are not the heartless elephant killers like they appear to be. After killing the animal the hunters pray over it?s body and pray for themselves because they believe that what they did was wrong. Even though they killed out of hunger, the Mbuti believe that their god will not give them eternal life for taking another beings life by killing one of his creatures.
While the meat was still being smoked the Mbuti all got together and had what Kevin Duffy calls a “Meat Festival”. The “Meat festival” was simply what people today in America might call a family reunion or barbecue. Every person from every tribe had gotten involved. There was singing, dancing, and laughter everywhere. Arumba, the killer of the elephant, sang songs of how he defeated the beast, how it behaved, and described the mortal wound in which he had inflicted. (Duffy, 164) Of course he used the most grotesque words in order to make his own great accomplishment look even greater. This meat festival is so much like a barbecue or family reunion. Families getting together playing games, laughing, and joking around. The Mbutis are not much dissimilar from everyday Americans in that respect. Humans seem to always behave like humans no matter where they are in the world or what technologies they possess. The Mbuti are probably better than Americans in another aspect also. They all hunted together, but not only the hunters and their families got to eat. Families of all the surrounding tribes enjoyed a meal. In today?s society, people walk the streets hungry while other live lavishly, eating until they are stuffed. If Americans were more like the Mbuti, this country would be a much better place.
The Mbuti pygmies of the Ituri rainforest are a fascinating people. They need their forest for food, shelter, and protection from other peoples of the world. How the Mbuti managed to survive the conquests of the Spanish and the English is beyond our knowledge. Their dense, uncharted forest has kept them a secret to many people to this day. The Mbuti probably are the most unchanged people still living on earth. As long as the Mbuti?s forest isn?t destroyed by the world?s greed for money, they will more than likely remain there for decades to come.
Duffy, Kevin, “Children of the Forest”.
Waveland Press, Inc. 1996