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A Voyage to Lilliput
Baba Indaba Children’s Stories
Abela Publishing, London
A Voyage to Lilliput
Typographical arrangement of this edition
©Abela Publishing 2016
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Baba Indaba Children’s Stories
Baba Indaba, pronounced Baaba Indaaba, lived in Africa a long-long time ago. Indeed, this story was first told by Baba Indaba to the British settlers over 250 years ago in a place on the South East Coast of Africa called Zululand, which is now in a country now called South Africa.
In turn the British settlers wrote these stories down and they were brought back to England on sailing ships. From England they were in turn spread to all corners of the old British Empire, and then to the world.
In olden times the Zulu’s did not have computers, or iPhones, or paper, or even pens and pencils. So, someone was assigned to be the Wenxoxi Indaba (Wensosi Indaaba) – the Storyteller. It was his, or her, job to memorise all the tribe’s history, stories and folklore, which had been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. So, from the time he was a young boy, Baba Indaba had been apprenticed to the tribe’s Wenxoxi Indaba to learn the stories. Every day the Wenxoxi Indaba would narrate the stories and Baba Indaba would have to recite the story back to the Wenxoxi Indaba, word for word. In this manner he learned the stories of the Zulu nation.
In time the Wenxoxi Indaba grew old and when he could no longer see or hear, Baba Indaba became the next in a long line of Wenxoxi Indabas. So fond were the children of him that they continued to call him Baba Indaba – the Father of Stories.
When the British arrived in South Africa, he made it his job to also learn their stories. He did this by going to work at the docks at the Point in Port Natal at a place the Zulu people call Ethekwene (Eh-tek-weh-nee). Here he spoke to many sailors and ships captains. Captains of ships that sailed to the far reaches of the British Empire – Canada, Australia, India, Mauritius, the Caribbean and beyond.
He became so well known that ship’s crew would bring him a story every time they visited Port Natal. If they couldn’t, they would arrange to have someone bring it to him. This way his library of stories grew and grew until he was known far and wide as the keeper of stories – a true Wenxoxi Indaba of the world.
Baba Indaba believes the tale he is about to tell in this little book, and all the others he has learned, are the common property of Umntwana (Children) of every nation in the world - and so they are and have been ever since men and women began telling stories, thousands and thousands of years ago.
Where in the World – Look it Up!
This next story was told to him by a man who hailed from the small town of Bristol. Can you find Bristol on a map? What country is it in?
A Voyage to Lilliput
A story, a story
Let it come, let it go
A story, a story
From long, long ago!
Umntwana Izwa! Children Listen!
This is a story about a man who, a time long, long ago, went on a long voyage across the seas…….
My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons. He sent me to Emmanuel College in Cambridge at fourteen years old, where I resided three years, and applied myself close to my studies; but the charge of maintaining me, although I had a very scanty allowance, being too great for a narrow fortune, I was bound apprentice to Mr. James Bates, an eminent surgeon in London, with whom I continued four years; and my father now and then sending me small sums of money, I laid them out in learning navigation, and other parts of the mathematics useful to those who intend to travel, as I always believed it would be, some time or other, my fortune to do. When I left Mr. Bates, I went down to my father, where, by the assistance of him, and my uncle John and some other relations, I got forty pounds, and a promise of thirty pounds a year, to maintain me at Leyden. There I studied physic two years and seven months, knowing it would be useful in long voyages.
Soon after my return from Leyden, I was recommended by my good master, Mr. Bates, to be surgeon to the "Swallow," Captain Abraham Pannell, commander; with whom I continued three years and a half, making a voyage or two into the Levant, and some other parts. When I came back I resolved to settle in London; to which Mr. Bates, my master, encouraged me, and by him I was recommended to several patients. I took part of a small house in the Old Jewry; and, being advised to alter my condition, I married Mrs. Mary Burton, second daughter to Mr. Edmund Burton, hosier in Newgate Street, with whom I received four hundred pounds for a portion.
But my good master, Bates, dying in two years after, and I having few friends, my business began to fail; for my conscience would not suffer me to imitate the bad practice of too many among my brethren. Having, therefore, consulted with my wife, and some of my acquaintance, I determined to go again to sea. I was surgeon successively in two ships, and made several voyages, for six years, to the East and West Indies, by which I got some addition to my fortune. My hours of leisure I spent in reading the best authors, ancient and modern, being always provided with a good number of books; and, when I was ashore, in observing the manners and dispositions of the people, as well as learning their language, wherein I had a great facility, by the strength of my memory.
The last of these voyages not proving very fortunate, I grew weary of the sea, and intended to stay at home with my wife and family. I removed from the Old Jewry to Fetter Lane, and from thence to Wapping, hoping to get business among the sailors; but it would not turn to account. After three years' expectation that things would mend, I accepted an advantageous offer from Captain William Prichard, master of the "Antelope," who was making a voyage to the South Sea. We set sail from Bristol, May 4, 1699; and our voyage at first was very prosperous.
It would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader with the particulars of our adventures in those seas. Let it suffice to inform him, that, in our passage from thence to the East Indies, we were driven by a violent storm, to the northwest of Van Diemen's Land.
By an observation, we found ourselves in the latitude of 30 degrees and 2 minutes south. Twelve of our crew were dead by immoderate labor and ill food; the rest were in a very weak condition.
On the fifth of November, which was the beginning of summer in those parts, the weather being very hazy, the seamen spied a rock within half a cable's length of the ship; but the wind was so strong, that we were driven directly upon it, and immediately split. Six of the crew, of whom I was one, having let down the boat into the sea, made a shift to get clear of the ship and the rock. We rowed, by my computation, about three leagues, till we were able to work no longer, being already spent with labor, while we were in the ship. We, therefore, trusted ourselves to the mercy of the waves; and, in about half an hour, the boat was overset by a sudden flurry from the north. What became of my companions in the boat, as well as those who escaped on the rock, or were left in the vessel, I cannot tell, but conclude they were all lost.
For my own part, I swam as fortune directed me, and was pushed forward by wind and tide. I often let my legs drop, and could feel no bottom; but, when I was almost gone, and able to struggle no longer, I found myself within my depth; and, by this time, the storm was much abated.
The declivity was so small that I walked near a mile before I got to the shore, which I conjectured was about eight o'clock in the evening. I then advanced forward near half a mile, but could not discover any sign of houses or inhabitants; at least, I was in so weak a condition, that I did not observe them. I was extremely tired, and with that, and the heat of the weather, and about half a pint of brandy that I drank as I left the ship, I found myself much inclined to sleep. I lay down on the grass, which was very short and soft, where I slept sounder than ever I remembered to have done in my life, and, as I reckoned, about nine hours; for, when I awaked, it was just daylight. I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my arm-pits to my thighs. I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended my eyes.
I heard a confused noise about me; but, in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky. In a little time, I felt something alive moving on my left leg, which, advancing gently forward over my breast, came almost up to my chin; when, bending my eyes downward, as much as I could, I perceived it to be a human creature, not six inches high, with a bow and arrow in his hands, and a quiver at his back. In the meantime I felt at least forty more of the same kind (as I conjectured) following the first.
I was in the utmost astonishment, and roared so loud that they all ran back in a fright; and some of them, as I was afterwards told, were hurt with the falls they got by leaping from my sides upon the ground. However, they soon returned, and one of them, who ventured so far as to get a full sight of my face, lifting up his hands and eyes by way of admiration, cried out in a shrill, but distinct voice—Hekinah degul!