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Dog: Ally or Traitor?

Mythology, Cosmology, and Society among the Beng of Ivory Coast

By Alma Gottlieb (Professor Department of Anthropology , University of Illinois)

The Beng of Ivory Coast

The author has shown the place of dog in a human culture with her research on the Beng of Ivory Coast. The dog represents the both good and evil for the tribe according to the myths associated with this animal, the interaction patterns of human and dog have been discussed in the light of the mythology/ society relationship.

The Tribe
The Beng is a minority group in Ivory Coast (a western African country, since 1985 government named Cte d'Ivoire) Traditional religion is worship of earth, forest spirits and ancestors. They are settled horticulturist, they also hunt and gather

Beng Dogs
Like Europeans and Asians, they name their dogs But names of dogs are phrases or proverbs Kote Ma Nyre( in Dyula):" Problems don't seek people, people seek problems. Yrel3( in Dyula):" Know yourself/stand by yourself"-that is, one should not get into disputes. K6fla (in Dyula): "Two things"-that is, if someone is sick, it's as if he or she is on two roads: maybe they'll live, maybe they'll die, but no one knows. QuelleA nnee?( in French): "Which year?"-that is, which year shall I be rich?

Debate over Naming the Dog

Style of naming the animal tells the broad understanding of the conception of animal to humans. They try to humanize them through names, in native language, and use words of other languages like French to describe the negativities of human beings.

General Attitude towards Dogs

Emic and Etic perspective on Dog Dog shares a contradictory position in Beng people, at one hand, Dog is treated without affection, and at another hand it is treated like human beings. The ambiguity over the role of dog prevails Not petted dogs, adult dogs are not fed by Beng people. If a dog is a sick, he is properly treated with herbs and with medicines if available. Traditional herbs for puppies are also used, these are believed to enhance the hunting qualities of the dog, these herbs are also given to human for the same purpose.

The origin of Death and The dispersal of All the Animals

The Origin of Death There was Death. So every one had a meeting to tell Sky that they wanted reincarnation for themselves, but that the grass that is used for thatch ,once having been burnt, would never grow back. They sent Dog and Cat as the messengers t o tell this to Sky. When they set off, Dog found some bones and ate them on the path. So Cat went on ahead of him. But Cat hadn't understood the message well and told the Sky the opposite of what he should have: that when burnt, the grass for thatch would grow back quickly, but that humans would not be revivified. And that's how it is that humans die today. The Myth is Identified as The Message that failed this is the common myth in Africa, explaining the cause of death, and variety of animals have been used for this, like among khoi khoi of southern Africa, Insect was responsible for correct message but hare did, and among Asante of Ghana Goat and sheep play this role Dogs Greed and intelligence, both going hand in hand like humans

2nd myth
The Dispersal of All the Animals It used to be that all the animals of all the different species worked together building yam mounds . One day, Dog found someone's egg, and he yelped. He was asked, "What did you see?" He responded, "Nothing." Dog took the Egg to the village and put it inside a round gate [a common means of protecting important items, including certain ritual objects]. In time, the Egg hatched and a Man and Woman popped out. The couple grew up. The Man got a gun to go hunting. He caught some game and went to eat the meat; Dog ate the bones. Hyenas aid, "That gate'll ruin the village! Let's destroy it tomorrow to the other animals. Hyena repeated to the animals," Let's destroy the gate tomorrow."H e was angry because the Man, with his gun, had killed some of the animals, and they'd begun to diminish as a population. All this he said while he was eating. But Dog snitched and told Man about the plan. The Man said, "Okay, let them destroy the gate." The Man put some cartridges in his gun to load it. The animals came to break up the gate-Elephant, Lion, and so on, all the animals except for Dog. The Man shot the gun into the group and all the animals fled in different directions. Hyena said, "I knew about it: I knew the Man and Dog's gate would ruin us, I told you so!" And that's why all the animals are now spread out all overt he place and the different species no longer live together.

Points to be explained
The positive aspect of the dog in this myth. Dog caused life as well as caused the death. It can be responsible for death as well as cause to safe humanity The Alter Ego (hidden hope and frustration) The intimate relationship of Man and dog The eating of Dog Forests spirits are afraid of dogs, it helps in hunting in forest

A dog as field surveillance A dog as a baby caretaker A Dog is a witch ultimately, can be good as well as bad. In contrast to human witch that is either good or bad, dog is seen capable of both the traits Dog has clairvoyant powers, that other domesticated evil animals(sheep goat) have not, knows about the death gale (Corpse), issue, who kills it, how to avoid it if you are young, and the other myth about apologizing the dog, and curse of the owner, burial of dog in clothes similar to human burial. Time to sacrifice the dog, alternative of human feutus. The cooked food The role of the dog as Double in english literature.

Relationship of mythology to Society

For Malinowski, the myth is a simple charter of the society, this opinion is not valid today Michael Jackson in his article(1982) stresses that although myths are explained in relation the society that produced them, but somehow myth has its autonomous state Alma Gottlieb goes one step further by saying that this autonomous state can also contribute to society Human live in accordance with the principles of mythic universe, as Drummond says myth "is primarily a part of an ongoing process that continuously creates culture by formulating images of human identity Anthropomorphize

Bulleh Shah