Maasai Oral Histories
The Maasai Oral Histories Project aims to record and archive Maasai oral histories, myths, rituals, stories, laws, and beliefs, which are traditionally passed on by senior elders.
A Short Story
A Maasai Elder
01/16/2005, Maasailand

-January 15th was a travel day.-

Section l
Morans that went on a raid

Once upon a time there were seven morans who went on a raid. First, they went into the forest and carried dried meat to eat in case they couldn't find any food. They lived in a cave and divided into two groups for raiding a nearby community.

Some of the morans stayed in the cave and others went to attack the community. The ones stayed behind made a lot of noise that could be heard by people in the community, so they were careful and watched their cattle all night. When the raiding moran arrived, the people in the community were ready to fight back.

When the raiders went back to their cave, they counted themselves to see if everyone came back safely. But everyone that counted others always forgot to count himself, so they believed that one of them had died on the raid as they only counted six moran.

When they returned home the family elders asked if they were all present and told them to count themselves as he sat there. The elders asked "how many moran were you?" They answered that they were seven but now they were only six. Every member that stood up to count still forgot himself. The elder counted them all and told them they were still seven, that panic made them foolish and they forgot how to do simple sums.

Lesson: A moran should remain courageous and not panic when on their duty.

Section ll
Observations of an American Elder


It is really tough beginning school. There is so much that is new - so much to be learned. All of us first learned to speak at home. For most Americans that language was English. In some homes though, Spanish is the home language, and in even fewer cases, it is some other language. Children from these homes must learn English first before they can attend to other subjects. But, these children are a great minority in our population and anyway, they hear English all the time when away from home. In contrast, all Maasai learn Maa at home and hear it throughout their village, but never in their schools where the government has eliminated the budget for Maa from their curriculum. As Maa is not a written language, it cannot be learned from books, but only by hearing it in the home and village.

Maasai children, if they go to school, must learn to read and understand English and Swahili, both completely alien languages, before further other studies can be pursued because they are considered the languages of commerce. As they age and continue learning, how important will Maa be to the Maasai? Many American children have a tremendous head start when they enter school because they already know the language they'll need to be successful in school and in life.

Charles Brush
An American Elder