Looking for a Rain God – Bessie Head

Bessie Head is one of Africa’s best-known women writers. She was born in South Africa in 1937. as a young child she had a very hard life, living with foster parents before attending mission school at the age of 13 and subsequently training as a teacher. She became a teacher in Botswana. She later turned from the teaching to journalism.

Bessie Head’s three outstanding novels are all set in Botswana. She also wrote memorable short stories and various other literary works. Bessie Head died in 1986 at the early age of 49.

First line:

It is lonely at the lands where the people go to plough.

Last line:

They could have killed something to make the rain fall.

Most chilling lines:

The was, he said, a certain rain god who accepted only the sacrifice of the bodies of children. Then the rain would fall, then the crops would grow, he said.

After it was all over and the bodies of the two little girls had been spread across the land, the rain did not fall.

Layman’s plot: African village is facing its worst drought ever. On the brink of insanity from the impending starvation, Old Man recalls an ancient ritual to make rain. Family sacrifices their only two girls, but rain does not come. Soon, the villagers become suspicious of the disappearance of the girls.

Verdict: A sad story told in an almost impersonal manner, which can be somewhat reminiscent of the African style of prose. Think Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. naufal
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 13:21:39

    honestly it was a lovely but sad story. in Malaysia students are actually to learn this short story.

    nylusmilk: i know. i’m malaysian and i used to be a student studying this story.


  2. zainal
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 08:42:16

    This is a sad story. Reading it make us think that as human, sometimes under certain circumstances, we may easily loose our mind and could no longer use our thinking power to think properly and making decision just to escape any form of difficulty. We forget that everthing that happened to us is to “test” our ability to think and find ways to overcome any obstical not just finding the easy way out which later we regret for the action taken, sometimes too late to revert as decision has been made.

    nylusmilk: well said!


  3. Liz
    Sep 08, 2009 @ 23:18:13

    For me, this story is about desperation and the extent to which we humans are willing to go to in order to survive. In such times, rationality is something that we may lose to the more urgent and immediate physical need of hunger (and thirst!)
    It’s certainly a tragic story, with the two innocent girls not knowing what they have done to deserve such an end to their only-just-beginning lives. To think that the very people they trusted betrayed them is horrible!
    This story also draws awareness to the barbaric customs and rituals of the olden days, back when such things were acceptable, and in fact, expected. It is horrifying indeed. It is baffling that the adults – the supposed more rational ones – would resort to such baseless rituals.
    However, I think it is easier to judge when you are not contained in that very situation. Should I, myself, be in that very situation, for real, who knows what I might be capable of~~

    nylusmilk: that’s a really good observation you offered. 🙂 reminds us that it is easier to judge than to empathise.


  4. mich
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 22:49:22

    This short story serves as an eye-opener to me.Living in another part of the world, i totally have no idea about the occurance in South Africa…How sad.Through the story, i relieved how the African people survived in the extreme environment. i get to know their rituals and of course the meaning behind. In my opinion as an outsider, i have my disagreement to the ritual carried out.But i really appreciate this great story^^


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  13. Clement mphasa
    Nov 15, 2013 @ 14:03:14

    To my own undrstndng,this story is showing its satirical in such a way that it is morden culture against old ones.it is not allowed to take off someone’s in morden life coz every1 has got light to life.but on digging culture,no sin was commited by kicking someone’s bucket coz it was believed z@ sacrifysing pple would made the uncestral spirit to bring pple’s need.i think lord brought drought to punish them due to their superstitious beliefs so that they should return to the creater


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