Warrior Herdsmen

ISBN-13: 978-0393000405
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication date: 03/17/1981
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 4.9 x 0.7 x 7.4 inches

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Warrior Herdsmen
The absorbing chronicle of an expedition to the tribesmen of northern Uganda.

The Dodoth―a tall, handsome people of the northern tip of Uganda―are a tribe in transition. They are proud, often cruel, warrior herdsmen whose oldest members live just as they did hundreds of years ago, but whose younger members sometimes learn to read and write and have brushed against the modern world. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas accompanied three anthropological expeditions to Africa and lived among the Dodoth. She displays a remarkable ability to communicate with the tribespeople and describe their lives and customs.
“The reader is instantly charmed by her warm humanity on the one hand, and the lyrical quality of her writing on the other.”
James Wellard – Nation

“Mrs. Thomas is an exceedingly useful sort of person, a kind of ‘half-professional’ who has developed a flair for talking anthropology to a general audience and thus bridging the gap between overspecialized ‘expert’ and the ordinary layman. . . . The book does not read like an anthropological account at all. It contains few ethnographic facts of the more conventional sort, it is more life the personal journal of an exciting adventure and it has a lightness of touch which makes it everybody’s reading. Yet the underlying anthropological understanding is there. . . . The Dodoth are real people of the twentieth century caught up in the trials and tribulations of emergent Africa.”
Edmund Leach – New York Review of Books

“Warrior Herdsmen is written with the same clarity of tone, the same selflessness and the same extraordinary sense of human dignity that marked Mrs. Thomas’s earlier book.”
Virgilia Peterson – New York Times Book Review
Chapter One

Morukore, though not on any map, is a neighborhood in southeast Dodoth, a high, green land that is today the northernmost county of Uganda. The neighborhood takes its name from a hill called Morukore, and the name comes from a word describing cattle who have markings like giraffes,. Giraffe Spotted Mountain, it could be called, because of the yellow stones that lie on its pale sides and make it, from a distance, as spotted as any ox or bull or cow. Its name is no wonder, for the Dodoth who named it are of the Nilo-Hamitic pastoralists, proud warrior herdsmen whose numbers include the Masai.

[expand title=”Show More”]The Dodoth have existed as a people for perhaps two centuries, from the time a band of colonists broke from the parent tribe that lives to the south, a tribe that today numbers 55,000 and is called Karamojong. The word Dodoth is said to come from the Karamojong word for “yolk,” perhaps in memory of the colonizing nucleus. The colonizing band increased to more than 20,000 people, who, in the last two centuries, have not chosen to change their customary ways for new ways. Most of the changes in Dodoth have been evolutionary and internal, for the people have resisted outside government; efforts of police and missionaries to pacify or convert the Dodoth have for the most part met with failure, and today these conservative pastoralists live with their herds as they have always lived. They are Ugandans now.





As a people they are rather formidable. Most men are enormous: they stand six feet tall or taller and have long arms and legs, yet are not lanky, as are some East Africans, but husky, heavy-boned, broad-shouldered, and strong. Most women are somewhat shorter, but are also heavy-boned and graceful, handsome rather than soft and pretty, for the strong jaw of the nation, the lean face, and the deep, wide eyes create a beauty that lasts into old age.

A group of Dodoth seems larger than life, for everyone speaks very loudly and ornaments glitter in the crowd. The men stud their ears with earrings, wear bracelets, belts, necklaces, and anklets, and increase their height with headdresses. Young men’s headdresses are long red baskets in the shape of sugarloafs; older men wear buns of their own felted hair plastered with stippled, painted sacred clay, with ostrich plumes or cock feathers standing above and bright chains asway below. [/expand]