Untitled
the published footnotes:

"Ibonia ny sy firazanany," collected 1872-76. Dahle, Specimens of Malagasy Folk-lore, pp. 108-54. Dahle-Sims, Anganon'ny Ntaolo, pp. 5-34. R. Becker, Conte d'Ibonia, MŽmoires de l'AcadŽmie Malgache, fasc. 30, Tananarive, 1939. Some section titles were added by previous editors; I have added others.

     1. Motifs A210, Sky-god, A211, God of heaven, from Thompson's Motif-Index.

     2. These princes may be understood to personify royal families disputing supremacy. Proper names in all Malagasy narrative are significant and are therefore translated. The eldest son, Prince of the Center, is exalted at the expense of the others by the anxiety over his wife's barrenness and his son's miraculous birth and marriage. Motif Z71.2.1, Formula: north, south, east, west.

     3. Antagonism and rivalry between the four brothers and the Prince of the Center, hardly explicit in Ibonia, are more so, Ottino points out, in Dahle's tale Rabeninimiehaka namoaka ny zanany hanambady (313-22), in which a proud father assigns suitor tests to prevent his daughter from marrying. "When on one occasion, they say, the four Andriambahoaka [Princes of the People] came together, having come from the four corners of the earth, they talked of nothing but Rabeninimiehaka and his family, and all four vilified them" (Dahle, Specimens, 317; Ottino, L'EtrangŽre, 408).

     4. The droll figure of Ibonia's purely putative father, a cosmic sovereign born from a talisman, marshals in himself the power of the four elements (Ottino, L'EtrangŽre, 393.

     5. "The structure of the center and the cardinal points is first presented at the level of marriage but will come to be considered on the political level. . . . Not aiming at territorial unification, the political theory in Ibonia is limited to piling up so much prestige on behalf of the Sovereign of the Center that he will establish incontestable preeminence" (Ottino, "Les Andriambahoaka," 85). The phrase izao tontolo izao (this present totality), which in the Tantara means the center of the island, is the Merina translation for the European conception of the universe (Molet, La conception, 1:27-28).

     6. Buckshot fired into the air symbolize Skyfather's numerous progeny scattered over the four corners of the world. In contrast, firing the cannon into the earth honors Prince of the Center while signifying the barrenness of Beautiful-Rich. The apportionment of the bulls, oxen, rams, and sheep conveys the same symbolism (Becker).

     7. Names of bulls.

     8. In the cosmogony of this first section, according to Becker, Heaven-Watcher is an indistinct demigod (motif A500) midway between sky and earth. He begets humanity, represented by the princes of the second generation.

     9. "The very idea of a ÎPrince of the Center of the Earth' involves a symbolism of space that is itself inseparable from a political intention: to found a dynasty outside of the common order, the necessary prerequisite for sovereignty on earth" (Ottino, "Mythology of the Highlands," 965). South and west are unfavorable, north and east favorable. The five brothers first present themselves to their grandfather in circular order (East, North, West, South), but in the second enumeration they are cited in crossed order (East, West, North, South, Center), as they do in another of Dahle's Merina tales (Specimens, 313-22; Molet, La conception, 1:53). Like the old Merina ritual of the royal bath, the disposition of the princes reveals the symbolic importance of the center (Bloch, Ritual, 208-9). Ibonia must establish his preeminence over the four cardinal points. Epic declares cosmology in Madagascar, ancient Rome, seventeenth-century England, and Za•re, where the spatial plan of the Mwindo epic reflects the division of the universe (Biebuyck and Mateene, The Mwindo Epic, 20-21).

     10. "And the rest" could indicate a direction to the performer to repeat verbatim the list given earlier, as a mpikabary must repeat accurately the ancestry of a bride-to-be (Rasamuel).

     11. Crying is the manifestation that the child is alive, but the phrase alos implies that there will be no child to weep for Skyfather himself when he dies (Becker).

     12. Since barrenness is the strongest argument for polygamy, to remain faithful to a barren wife demonstrates the prince's loyalty to his class and foreshadows Ibonia's monogamy.

     13. The arming of the princess's escort suggests that they are setting forth to battle for her as much as to guard her (Becker).

     14. These are arrangements in sikidy (divination). The diviner says he is the channel, not the creator, of the divination signs (Decary, Divination, 1970), as an orator disclaims the formal style of his speech (Bauman, Verbal Art, 21-22). Motifs D1712, Soothsayer (diviner)k, D1810.0.2, Magic knowledge of magician.

     15. The diviner's predictions correspond to point 4, "Signs warning of his ascendance," in J.G. von Hahn's "Aryan expulsion and return formula" (Dundes, Study of Folklore, 142), as well as motifs M311, Prophecy: future greatness of unborn child, and (fancifully) M343, Parricide prophecy.

     16. Motif F790, Extraordinary sky and weather phenomena.

     17. Motif D482, Stretching objects.

     18. The prominence of woman in her roles of daughter, sister, and wife throughout the Malayo-Polynesian world, reinforced by the Indo-Muslim heritage, produces female heroes like Rasoabemanana. Figuratively nisikin-dahy (she girded her loins like a man) means she exerted effort, but the association of the root sikina (loincloth) with circumcision signifies her transformation into a female warrior (Ottino, L'EtrangŽre, 390 n, 551-52). Motif K1837, Disguise of woman in man's clothes.

     19. Motif D931, Magic rock, D1539.1, Magic elevator. The rock against which Ibonia's mother has to struggle is "a sort of genie of fecundity; its hostility was in part a reason for her sterility," writes Becker.

     20. Her victory over the stone and the locust establish her supremacy over the mineral and animal realms. The text, though obscure (Becker), clearly shows the mother-to-be carrying the seed when she enters the male rock.

     21. Ottino derives this episode from the Indonesian motif of a goddess who emerges from a rock, or who lives in a rock and is impregnated by wind, especially since during her ten-year pregnancy Beautiful-Rich will put nothing but wind to her mouth ("Les andriambahoaka," 82). Motifs A715.2, Sun and moon born from a goddess impregnated by the wind, and D1347, Magic object produces fecundity. Point 4 in Raglan's hero biography, "the circumstances of his conception are unusual."

     22. Motif D1610.2, Speaking tree, introduces the vegetable realm. "She will not have a promised child who would reproduce a known kind of humanity; hence the meaning of allegorical names like Doesn't-Wither-When-Transplanted. She also refuses promises of a fertiliy that would have to be shared among several children. Only the certainty, finally granted her, of bringing into the world a unique and extraordinary being can satisfy her. That is the result of the opposition between the names Hundred-in-the-Womb and Single-Trunk." (Becker).

     23. Obscure. She evidently requires a second charm, which will give force to the first one or concentrate those fertilizing powers that possession of the locust has brought her. Both human and magic forces must be mobilized against her sterility (Becker).

     24. Motif C710, Taboos connected with otherworld journeys. Motifs F51.1.1, Spiderweb sky-rope, and F101.7, Escape from lower world by spider's thread, connect Ibonia to Indian tales. "Burdened with such precious, terrible powers, Rasoabermanana can not just end her journey. By unpremeditated contact with the world of the living, she would risk losing what she has obtained with so much trouble, nor could the elements of this world withstand such frightful contact. That is why Rasoabemanana returns by the only safe road, the spiderweb, difficult though it be" (Becker).

     25. Invocations used when the villagers are away at war. Motif D2161.3.11, Barrenness magically cured.

     26. Ibonia will transgress the normal limitations of his element.

     27. I find neither Iliolava (Long-Standing) nor Mananivo (Many Palms) on maps of Ibonia (Sakalava District) or Imerina. If they are not fictional places, further research will have to confirm their location.

     28. The next episode exemplifies the interpolations Becker found marring the tale. Its Arab fetishism is so much more pronounced, he writes, than in the "primitive sections of the tale" that the passage must be classified as an interpolation of "secondary origin . . . not capable of informing us about primitive Malagasy mentality" (Conte d'Ibonia, 31).

     29. The first moon of the year was especially favorable for a Merina monarch, being the appointed time for the "royal bath" ceremony that initiated the year (Molet, Le bain; Bloch, Ritual, 190-91). Motif N127.4, Friday as auspicious day.

     30. The line of explanation Becker thought to be an interpolation, but narrators throughout history have inserted such explanatory material into their stories.

     31. Motif D2161.3.11, Barrenness magically cured, T584.0.1, Childbirth assisted by magic.

     32. Motif C152.3, Eating taboos for pregnant woman.

     33. Motif A511.1.2, Culture hero speaks before birth. If language is the one skill that above all betokens a baby's dependence on and allegiance to the adult world, Ibonia here denies that world the power to impose that skill on him. A real life birth in Imerina is expected to be silent. Neither the mother giving birth nor any other woman should cry out or speak (Molet, Conception).

     34. Motif T61.5.1, Betrothal of hero to princess while both are still in cradle.

     35. These are names for Ibonia's adversary, Stone Man, who, already defeated by the mother, seeks revenge on the son. If supternatural forces can prevent Ibonia's marriage to the one woman of his choice, they will prevent the Prince of the Center from having posterity.

     36. Though at first Ibonia's quest for a distant wife seems to symbolize exogamy, Ottino interprets it as the opposite. He can marry only someone so close to him as to be nearly identical, symbolizing endogamy. "I/ampela/soa/mananoro is quite naturally destined for Ibonia/masi/bonia/manoro" (Ottino, "Les Andriambahoaka," 84). In the Ramayana, he adds, the hero's quest for Sita can be read as a quest for his other half.

     37. In this panegyric speech, Lady Beautiful-Rich blazons forth the enviable qualities of Ibonia's cousins (motif T596, Naming of children).

     38. Ifosalahibehatoka, male fosa with big mane. The fosa, a fierce feline (Cryptoprocta ferox), is unique to Madagascar.

     39. He succeeds in everything he undertakes, with no need of the customs or tools of ordinary folk.

     40. The dugout canoe is used all over Madagascar.

     41. Motif R11.1, Princess abducted by monster.

     42. More powerful than these plants and animals, which are bound by their destiny, Ibonia is free to be born where and when he chooses.

     43. The boast is a hainteny, structured like many proverbs and poems. "Ibonia knows that he is a supremely good being; by virtue of his very goodness, he is separated from humanity by a sort of religious taboo (fady in Malagasy)" (Becker).

     44. The first comparison to a crocodile affirms Ibonia's freedom; the second reveals his frightful power.

     45. This could be interpreted as referring to Radama I, whose treaties brought British military instructors and missionaries to Madagascar (DelivrŽ, L'histoires des rois d'Imerina, 14).

     46. Ottino (L'Etrangre, 464-65) sees a plan by Ibonia to subjugate those from beyond the sea, noting that references to maritime voyages seldom occur in Malagasy folklore.

     47. Andriamanitra, Sky Lord, is the usual word for God. Division of heaven and earth between the Creator and a rebellious culture hero is a frequent theme of myths outside Imerina. See Dandouau, Contes populaires, 123-32, 149-53 (Sakalava); Renel, Contes de Madagascar, 3:69-74 (Sakalava); Renel, Contes de Madagascar, 1:215-23, 268-74 (Tanala); Dubois, Monographie, 1335-36 (Betsileo); FaublŽe, RŽcits bara, 412-27, 449-53, 496-500 (Bara). Ibonia bases his division of jurisdictions, says Ottino, on conceptions combining influences from Indonesia, southern Africa, Islam, and India (L'Etrangre, 519-20). In these lines, he claims the status of universal sovereign ("Mythology of the Highlands," 969).

     48. Motifs A511.1.2.2, Culture hero in mother's womb indicates direction to be taken by her, and T581. Place and conditions of childbirth. In a Sakalava legend published by Dandouau, the giant Darafify acts similarly, rejecting a number of places where he might settle.

     49. The fusion of narrative and panegyric that narrates the hero's search for a birthplace rests on the idea, according to Becker, that a person inherits the characteristics of the place where he first sees day. Ancient cosmological ideas may be present in this obscure chapter: he wonders if it may be the key to the enigma of the epic.

     50. Cloak, garment.

     51. The pattern in which three riddles counterbalance one is practiced in hainteny and kabary.

     52. Explanatory details of this kind appear to be interpolated into Malagasy tales in imitation of the style of myths (1.1.01, 1.1.02, 1.1.04 in Malagasy Tale Index).

     53. The thousand men, as if awaiting command, are the rafters (rozaroza, which also means penis). The three posts, like the rafters, symbolize authority.

     54. Another riddle testing, like the others, the limits of reason and understanding (KšngŠs Maranda, "Theory and Practice"). Logically in the preceding line perhaps east should be north.

     55. Motif P10.1, Special place where births of royalty occur.

     56. Ibonia makes a long-lasting alliance with the East, representing life, growth, and power, and associating himself with the sun (Becker).

     57. Motifs T584.1, Birth through the mother's side, A511.1.1, Culture hero snatched from mother's side. Ibonia's birth is also his circumcision (Ottino, L'Etrangre, 555).

     58. Becker interprets the diviner's offer of various names to Ibonia as a temptation to taint his career by accepting a rank lower than the members of his own family. When he finally accepts a human name, he will have allied himself with humanity while retaining his supernatural powers (53 n.3).

     59. Ibonia again refuses the names of his cousins, which were offered by his mother.

     60. This androgynous name points to the necessity for Ibonia to establish himself as a completely separate being from his cousins. Hence his rejection of their names, qualities, and attributes. (Ottino, L'Etrangre, 390).

     61. "He of the clear and captivating glance" is Fox's fine translation (Hainteny, 213) of the hero's name, which Ottino derives from Arabic 'ibun, the son, in the sense of the successor or heir. Variant spellings of the hero's name support variant translations. Backer gives Prince-Hero-Prince-Guide in Sakalave and Prince-Holy-Hammer in Vakinankaratra. Prince-who-Torments or Prince-who-Makes-Miserable, Prince-who-Shows-the-Way, and Prince-of-Radiant-(or Charming-) Countenance are all simultaneous meanings. Water in circumcision is called ranomasi-ranomanoro.

     62. Motif F960.1, Extraordinary nature phenomena at birth of holy person.

     63. Motif K2221, Treacherous rival lover.

     64. Motif K1963, Sham magician. Like the spokesman in a Merina marriage debate, Stone Man claims an opponent's qualities by repeating his words verbatim, also echoing Ibonia's speech about himself and talking back to his father. Eloquence equals power.

     65. Motif W117, Boastfulness.

     66. The ambiguity of his name is especially prominent in these lines.

     67. Indicating sexual maturity, but also echoing prominent in these lines.

     68. Like a hog's tail.

     69. When a husband takes a new wife, he is to pay compensation to the first or risk insulting her gravely. The theme of marriage is never far from the tale.

     70. The narrator's transition classifies the foregoing scene as a verbal duel, a favorite form of Merina performance documented by Paulhan and Ferrand.

     71. Motif H41.5, Unknown prince shows his kingly qualities in dealing with his playmates.

     72. Motif F611.3.2, Hero's precocious strength, F614.11, Strong man jumps across rivers.

     73. Malagasy board game. Its historical associations with royal military activity are well established (Chavuicourt; Ottino, L'Etrangre, 500-501; Callet, Tantaran'ny Andriana, 1:276-78).

     74. Motif A163.1.1, Gods play chess. As a male with a destiny to fulfill, Ibonia should shun what Bloch calls the "natural, feminine, domestic, Vazimba world" (Ritual, 204) and move towards the purification symbolized by his night underwater.

     75. The hero's skill, established here, will transpire through his disguise when he plays against Stone Man.

     76. The universal sovereign, says Ottino, is conceived as hermaphroditic, a concept derived from Indian mythology to symbolize endogamy among the andriambahoaka. Analogously, incestuous unions initiate myths of the origin of a people.

     77. Edible arums such as saonjo (Colocasia antiquorum) are cultivated for both their roots (similar to turnips) and their leaves, used as vegetables (Ruud, Taboos, 68).

     78. The tenrec is the Malagasy hedgehog.

     79. A reference to victory in fanorana.

     80. The diviner's estimation of the hero's readiness to fight is posed against the infantilization by his aunt in the previous scene.

     81. The recurrence of the word tokana ("only") emphasizes the point that endogamy will guarantee the unity of the andriambahoaka.

     82. Motif H1210, Quest assigned.

     83. Motif H1500, Tests of endurance; H1543, Contest in remaining under water (see appendix).

     84. Motif A1101.1.2, Speaking trees.

     85. Motif D1384.3, Charm gives safety on journey, D1541.0.1, Charms control storms. "Before undertaking the superhuman actions which his birth leads us to expect, Ibonia must show that he yields in nothing to his rival and must pass a test of physical strength and moral resistance. It is not enough for him to possess marvelous weapons with symbolic names and unparalleled hardness. Reduced to his mere strengths, Ibonia would be a man among other men. He must draw nearer the forces to which he owes life. He must attain certainty of their benevolence toward him. By an unparalleled test, he will affirm his communion with the sun-god. After emerging victorious from the test, as a god of light he will follow his course and go forth to his wife's rescue. From the point of view of its philosophical and religious insights, this third part, though briefer, remains of great interest and yields nothing to the first two" (Becker, Conte d'Ibonia, 91 n. 1).

     86. Transgressions are tolerated from the hero that would be unacceptable from an ordinary person. "These restricted and limited misdeeds merely herald the excellence of the reign of a civilizing sovereign" (Ottino, "Mythology of the Highlands," 968). Ibonia's antisocial behavior and shows of strength recall the stories told about Radama II, who reigned from 1861 to 1863. He was said to pull the wings off chickens and to set fire to his playmates (1.7.71 in Malagasy Tale Index).

     87. Beautiful-Rich often reminds her husband that he does have the power of life or death over his child. To kill his son--if he can--would expose Great-King-Maker to no retribution from god or man, and he could then be certain that the son would not be transformed into a spirit hostile to his murdering parents. This attempt corresponds to Raglan's point 6, "At birth, an attempt is made, often by his father, to kill him." Motif P233, Father and son.

     88. Tsangambato, cenotaphs, have often been erected in the highlands to shelter the wandering souls of the dead (Decary, Moeurs et coutumes, 269-70).

     89. Motif P231, Mother and son.

     90. A frequent unit for measuring time. If the crocodile wins, the visible blood will be Ibonia's, but if Ibonia wins, the current will carry the crocodile's body away and its blood will appear downstream.

     91. Motif F628.1.4.1, Hero kills crocodile.

     92. Possibly the earlier dialogue is to be repeated verbatim by the performer.

     93. Motif H1165, Bullfight as task.

     94. As one would if trampling a rice field, or working it with a spade, just before planting.

     95. Mythical owner of wild cattle, wife of the giant Rapeto.

     96. Motif H1501.2, Single combat to prove valor.

     97. Motif D1840, Magic invulnerability.

     98. Motif F911.6, All-swallowing monster.

     99. Motif F913, Victims rescued from swallower's belly.

     100. Without his mate, he is condemned not to participate in the renewal of the fertility of the crops, herds, and people. Thus the harmony of microcosm and macrocosm, which he symbolizes, is broken (Ottino, L'Etrangre, 560).

     101. "Although Ibonia is his father's murderer (one does not know exactly how), his affection for his mother never falters and is an index of the profound identity of nature that quite obviously exists between a mother and a son when they face the same trials" (Ottino, "Mythology of the Highlands," 964).

     102. The young woman is repugnant and unsuitable because her infirmity prevents her from washing. Ibonia is still more cruel in his next message, says Becker, but his parents continue to seek a different wife for him. "If Ibonia's refusals are examined in terms of the degrees of relationship, it turns out that the only dynastic (thus, endogamous) marriage he does not reject is the marriage with his matrilateral parallel cousin"--a form or union that today is banned in Madagascar (Ottino, "Mythology of the Highlands," 969).

     103. Regarding Ibonia as a prototype of royal marriage, to accept this alliance would be to recognize the superiority of his maternal uncle, whose place he will take. "In this broken chain of uterine successions, uterine nephews are continually superior to their uterine uncles. While non-reigning princes watch their status diminish and their rank become lower and even disappear through the generations, the status of rank of sovereigns, on the contrary, only heightens, continually tending towards the status of divine king" (Ottino, L'Etrangre, 503-4).

     104. Motif E7891, Life token.

     105. Motifs B551.3, Crocodile carries man across river; B551.1, Fish carries man across water. The substitution of one carrier for another that will share the task evokes the Merina "norm of collective responsibility for action" (Keenan and Ochs, Becoming a Competent Speaker, 139-44).

     106. MotifJ1791.7, Man does not recognize his own reflection in the water.

     107. Shrimp is given (or symbolized by cash, vola amidy patsa [money to buy shrimp]) to women who have just given birth, to increase their flow of milk (Decary, La faune malgache, 168-69).

     108. A realistic bit of dialogue, says Becker: the speaker conveys no reproach of Stone Man or of himself for damaging information.

     109. Motif N825.2, Old man helper.

     110. Motif K1941, Disguised flayer. Embarrassed by the recurrence of this fictional motif throughout Malagasy narrative (tales 1.6.21, 1.6.24, 1.6.57, and 4.432 in Malagasy Tale Index are examples), but not knowing its popularity in southern Africa and the New World, Becker finds this a realistic survival of anti-elderly attitudes (Conte d'Ibonia, 117 n.4). Ottino (L'Etrangre 478) replies that Ibonia's passage from one world to another over a river requires inverting normal behavior.

     111. Motif D1317, Magic object warns of danger.

     112. Motif H192, Recognition by supernatural manifestation.

     113. The fanorana game, a ready-made symbol, forecasts Ibonia's victory.

     114. Motif H32, Recognition by extraordinary prowess.

     115. Perhaps meaning, "While I live, I give the orders; when I am dead, you will do as you please" (Becker, Conte d'Ibonia). Motif N127.3, Thursday as lucky day.

     116. A game in which a star made of wood is thrown back and forth (Decary, Moeurs et coutumes, 170).

     117. Ottino sees a connection between Ibonia and light, fire, and water, recalling "the miraculous birth of Ibonia and his bath in a blazing fire that similarly failed to consume the grasshopper talisman out of which he had emerger" ("Mythology of the Highlands," 973).

     118. The hostile forces of the mother's quest are reborn in Stone Man, who abducts Ibonia's only eligible wife like an aggrieved vassal rebelling against his sovereign.

     119. Motif H31, Recognition by unique ability.

     120. Motifs D610, Repeated transformation, D152.6, Transformation: man to kite; D142, Transformation: man to cat, D281.1, Transformation: man to wind.

     121. Motif D866, Magic object destroyed.

     122. Plucked string instrument (Decary, Moeurs et coutumes, 169, 184-85).

     123. The speech of self-praise is in the customary kabary form, stringing together comparisons whose burden, according to Becker, is "Vegetables and animals are ruled by laws, but I have no other master than myself" (129 n.4).

     124. Stone Man attacks the woman rather than the man because she represents part of him and promises endogamy (Ottino, "Les Andriambahoaka," 84-85). Motif D1841.5, Invulnerability from weapons.

     125. The successful victory of the hero over his adversary corresponds to Raglan's point 11, "Victory over a king," and to the worldwide combat myth.

     126. Motif L225, Reward refused by hero.

     127. The separation of the worlds is marked by Ibonia's passage over the river on the backs of sea-creatures (motifs B551.3, B551.1) and his return to dry-footed (D1551.6, Magic stick causes waters to divide).

     128. Motif T100, Wedding.

     129. Ibonia's story, Becker says, underlines vividly the great danger in monogamy--remaining without posterity. The sterility of the mother and the rape of the wife have come close to extinguishing the dynasty. Monogamy is the luxury of a few privileged families who are watched over by pweros above and who can command supernatural forces on earth. The contradictions leads Becker to see in the edicts a moral added too late to be well motivated. The motivation, however, may have been topical. Here, as the bard begins to move his audience out of the fictional world of his tale back to the waking life of the court, the parallels between Ibonia and historical Merina sovereigns become clear. The edicts of Andrianampoinimerina about marriage, well known to a royal audience, are a climactic episoe of the Tantaran'ny Andriana (Callet, Tantaran'ny Andriana, 3:144:-52; DelivrŽ, Histoire des rois d'imerina, 31-33). The immediacy of the concern about marriage across caste lines, at the time Dahle transcribed Ibonia, is clear from the laws regulating matrimonial alliances that were promulgated by Ranavalona II in 1881. Ottino traces this concern back to India (L'Etrangre, 556-78).

     130. Sakalava kings and commoners, and other Malagasy as well, change their names at death as well as at other times (Kent, Early Kingdoms, 162; van Gennep, La formation des lŽgendes, 104-19).

     131. Motif A1130, Origin of thunder.

     132. Motif M341.1, Prophecy: death within a certain time.