Basic Information

Type/Species: Great Serpent
Origin: Shangaan Traditional Tale, Southern Africa

About Masangi

Masingi, the great healer, lived down in a deep hole that lay in the center of a beautiful, clean dwelling. It is said that he could bring anyone back to health. [1]

Once, in the household of Maxava, the head of house Maringana fell seriously ill; he became so ill that he could not even eat porridge. Nothing his family did for him helped him. [1] Luckily, Maringana had been blessed with five brave, strong sons, so the family had many hands for help. [2]

Maringana's wife, the mother of the five sons, asked her children to go to Masingi, the great healer, and ask him to restore their father to health. The five children all heard their mother's request, and so the eldest brother, Ntsalanyana, set out to Masingi's home. [2]

Now, everyone who visited Masingi had to sing to him, for he lived very deep down and could hear very little. So the eldest approached the outside of Masingi's dwelling and sang to Masingi to come and heal his father. Masingi heard the young man's beautiful song, so he gathered all his herbs and charms. He came up from his very deep home, exiting his beautiful dwelling toward Ntsalanyana. [2]

Ntsalanyana saw Masingi, the great healing snake, and before he could sing his next note, turned and ran home for fear of the creature. [2] When he reached home, all his people asked Ntsalanyana what had caused him to run home with such haste and without Masingi the healer. [3] He tried to explain his fear, tried to explain what he saw. But they would not listen, for they were too busy accusing him of wanting his father to die. [3] Since no one would listen to him, he told them to send another.

Matirhumi, the second oldest of the brothers, agreed to find Masingi, the great healer. He, too, ran home at the very sight of the terrifying snake, and the people scolded him too for running. [4] The third son, Muhunguti, then set out to bring back Masingi; yet, he also fled home. The fourth son, Malamulele, did likewise. [4] It seemed that no one could bring back Masingi.

The fifth son, Xikhibana, volunteered to go to Masingi to bring him back to heal his father. To his father, he was the favorite son, though he was the youngest. His brothers warned him that if they failed, he would not succeed either. But he resolved to try. [4]

Xikhibana, unlike his four brothers before him, stood afar off from the dwelling. From there, he sang to Masingi, who gathered up his herbs and charms and came up through his hole and out from his dwelling. [5] Slowly, Masingi slithered towards Xikhibana, then he stopped at his feet. Xikhibana showed no fear and continued to sing Masingi's song, and Masingi curled around Xikhibana's shoulders. With the serpent wrapped around him, Xikhibana walked home, still singing the song. [5]

All his people saw him coming, and they knew why the other brothers had fled. All the villagers fled away from Xikhibana and Masingi as they approached! So when he finally came to Maringana, his father, the three were alone in his hut. [5]

Masingi unwrapped himself from Xikhibana and took up his herbs and charms. The great healing snake looked at Maringana, and he provided medicine, licking his skin with his serpent's tongue. [5] As the great healer worked, those who fled before, crept back towards the hut. The asked Xikhibana, from afar, what snake he had brought back with him to his father. [5] Xikhibana yelled back that the snake was Masingi the healer, and there was nothing to fear.

Maringana regained his health, and his family held a feast with meats and beer. Masingi stayed for only a few days, and he said his goodbyes. The people gave him herds and flocks in thanks, and a great many of them accompanied him back this his dwelling, singing with Xikhibana, who carried Masingi on his shoulders again. [5] As Xikhibana parted from the great serpent, Masingi gave him herbs to use should his father fall ill again, and he reminded the boy that, should he need more, he could come back to Masingi, the great healing snake. [6] And, to this day, Maringana remains proud of the bravery of his youngest son.


  1. Courlander 420
  2. Courlander 421
  3. Courlander 422
  4. Courlander 423
  5. Courlander 424
  6. Courlander 425

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.