King of the snakes. The San people of the Kalahari Desert believe that in ancient times King Mamba owned all the cattle in the country. One of their myths involves the snake being tricked into giving his cows to man by a wandering culture hero named Heise.

For a while, Heise and King Mamba were friends and would talk about many things to each other. One day, Heise suggested that he would like to earn a few of the cows for himself. King Mamba needed a pen to keep his cattle from wandering off. Heise built the pen, and when he was finished, he asked Mamba to give him a few cows in return. Ignoring the request, Mamba complained about feeling so stiff from the cold that he couldn’t think until he was warm again. So Heise collected firewood and made a bonfire to warm his friend. Once Mamba was comfortable, Heise again asked him to honor his agreement. Once again, Mamba changed the subject. Heise was angry, realizing that King Mamba had no intention of keeping his end of the bargain. So he appealed to the snake’s vanity by declaring that whoever could jump over the bonfire would be considered the bravest of the brave. He leaped through the fire and landed safely on the other side. King Mamba certainly was as brave as Heise, but his long body was not as agile as the hunter’s. The great snake landed in the flames and burned until there was nothing left but cinders. Heise was left with all of King Mamba’s cows, neatly herded into the brand-new cow pen he had built.

Taken from African Mythology A to Z – Library Binding – May 1, 2010- Second Edition – Written by Patricia Ann Lynch (Author), Jeremy Roberts Dr (Editor) – Copyright © 2004, 2010 by Patricia Ann Lynch