Introduction: Traditional Images of the Misfit

  • Geoffrey Pearson


What follows is an account by Evans-Pritchard of the birth of a deformed child among the Nuer:

one morning my Nuer servant Nhial came in some excitement to tell me that a woman of his village, where we were staying, had given birth to a hippopotamus and a male child, both dead. It was too late to see what had happened, but I was told that the hippopotamus had been placed in a nearby stream and the child, being a twin and therefore in Nuer eyes a sort of bird, had been placed in a tree. … The reason given for this particular twin-birth was that the woman’s husband had killed several hippopotamuses and they had revenged themselves on him by stamping their likeness on one of the twins … the totemic mentality of the Nuer inclined them at once to perceive the form of a hippopotamus in what we would have regarded merely as a monstrosity.1


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Copyright information

© Geoffrey Pearson 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Pearson
    • 1
  1. 1.University CollegeCardiffUK

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