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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 2: About the character of the heathen that live in this province, so various in name and language,   pp. 1-11

Page 4

eventually discovered, native interpreters, unlike Timothy who
interpreted for St. Paul, never express what they are translating
sufficiently exactly.   Furthermore, even the best interpreters
here' are not capable of explaining what the priests wish them to
say, because they time after time misunderstand terms (in Portuguese).
Being uneducated, they are ignorant concerning the figures of speech,
especially metaphors~which have to be so' much employed here'; and
hence they always say less than the minister of the Gospel intended.
For this reason, the first thing to be acquired (by a missionary) is
a knowledge of the language, so that he may fully achieve the aim of
his evangelical ministry.
Having made this point, let us deal now with the character of
.the heathen. Nothing tells us more about the benignity of a.
country than the character of its people. whether good or bad.    All
the people in this Province are black. Very young children are very
pretty, before they grow up their facial features are thoroughly
pleasing, but when their faces widen they become less handsome. The
faces of most of them are well-proportioned; their eyes are of
medium size, but tending to the large; their noses, although
generally flattened, nevertheless possess a reasonable shape, and
there is no lack of those to whom nature has given slender noses;
their mouth and beard are well shaped, and some (beards) are
astonishingly full. An example of this is the beard of a
gentleman who is the brother of the governor of Serra Leoa
/f.55r/ on the day of his baptism he            it, and solemnized
it, drawing the attention of all because it covered his whole chest.
Almost all of them file their teeth, only for the reason that they
think it improves their appearance, and they remove their front
ones in order to drink the antidote against poison. Their bodies
are strong and bear up well when they have to endure hard labour or
hunger. They suffer great hunger for they regularly lack the staple
foods. Some of them, as soon as they harvest their crops, use them
up at various wake-parties, though they ought to keep a supply for
the season (of hunger), together with other edibles. However they
meet their needs with mangrove-fruits, with guzanos - which are
worms that live in trees near the sea; they damage boats, doing the
same at sea as bagabaga (termites) do on land - and with other wild
fruits which the country produces; and they also make use of the
'eyet (the green shoots) of the youngest palm-trees, which they call
apone. During this season (of hunger), fishermen keep idleness away,


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