Mwindo epic

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The Mwindo epic is an oral tale from the Congo told by the Nyanga people. The origins and creation of the Mwindo epic are mostly unknown since the story is only passed down orally. The first literary work of Mwindo was recorded by Daniel Biebuyck and published by the University of California Press in 1969.


The Mwindo Epic varies from typical oral myths in that it is not only spoken, but performed among gatherings of locals. The myth is performed mostly by a single bard wielding a calabash made into a rattle and donning various bells and other forms of noisemakers. To tell the story properly the bard acts out all the parts and does not refrain from being very animated in his dances and acting. It is not unusual for the bard to throw in some narrative not native to the story detailing his own life and his own personal experiences. The narrator is usually accompanied by four younger men who play on a percussion stick.

Audience participation is important. The audience will often sing along with the narrator and the percussionists during the songs, and repeat certain lines of the story while the narrator pauses between sections. The bard is often shown appreciation by the audience with applause, yells, and gifts.


As with any oral myth there are many different interpretations between the different storytellers. As the storyteller adds his own story to the tale, he will usually emphasize certain parts so that it will seem more relevant to the point he is trying to make. This emphasis may be picked up by future bards, but most always each bard tells the story from a personal perspective. According to Biebuyck, the differences in the story are welcomed and expected by the audience.


  • Thury, E. Devinney, M. (2005). Introduction to Mythology, New York:Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517968-4
  • Biebuyck, D. (1969). Mwindo Epic from the Banyanga. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-02049-9