The first travel book published in Swedish about Asia was Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s travelogue, which appeared in 1667. After a period where I would transcribe a few scanned pages each night from the first edition, I put the whole thing on-line in 2005. It had never been re-issued unaltered and in full before. In 2016 the Ruin publishing house published my transcription on paper in a handsome little volume. Now I have been invited to submit an annotated translation to the Hakluyt Society’s peer-reviewed e-text repository, the Hakluyt Society Journal. I’m making good headway with the work. Here’s chapter 6, divided into paragraphs for legibility.
Anno 1656 I lay there for three weeks on a Dutch ship in a bay named Taffwelbayet [Table Bay, South Africa]. Among other things in the sea, we saw a whale and a swordfish fighting, where the swordfish got the upper hand, and had cut up the whale’s belly, whereupon it came drifting ashore dead. Then a great number of the inhabitants (who are called Hottentots [Khoikhoi: non-Bantu nomadic pastoralists.]) came and ate the whole whale in a quarter of an hour. This fish [The whale: NMK calls it hwalfisk / hwal / fisk.] was 35 fathoms long [Whale 62 m, swordfish 5.3-5.9 m by 0.9 m. The confirmed length record for Xiphias gladius is in fact 4.55 m.], the swordfish might be about nine or ten ells, not very thick, perhaps 1½ ell. It is triangular, has four fins more than other fish, on the snout is its sword, about a good ell long and a hand’s width wide, set with large sharp spikes on either side, like wolf’s teeth, with which it goes below the whale and cuts up its belly.
These inhabitants are very fast runners, so that one of them can chase down a deer over a long distance. Furthermore some can throw stones and hit a fly, and they are not frightened by a rapier. But with a pistol, even if not loaded, you can scare a thousand. It is said that these Hottentots would be cannibals, but there is no truth to that, because we buried many dead there which they let lie peacefully and untouched. Also, when a woman is to keep herself to one man, then she must allow to be cut off the outer joint on the little finger of her left hand. In the night more than several hundred men and women gather to dance around a bonfire and clap their hands, because there are dangerous beasts, like lions and tigers, here in great numbers. There are also many ostriches, which the inhabitants know to catch in very ingenious ways.
The Elephant Master or rhinoceros is the hereditary foe of the elephant and is also found in this place. The beast is about 1½ ell tall and three ells long [90 cm tall, 180 cm long.], shaped like an elephant, carrying a horn in front on its snout, which it sharpens against stones when entering battle with the elephant, and has a trunk like an elephant which goes beneath the horn. And though those who have never seen it, particularly painters depict it with shields on the back and across the belly, they are quite wrong, because its skin is not only thick and smooth in itself, but lies in folds one upon the next, fold on fold, from the head and down to the beast’s bottom, so that not even the strongest man can chop through its skin with any axe, no matter how sharp. Everything on this beast is useful for healing, its dung as well as other things: on Jawa I have seen its blood sold for one riksdaler per lod [A lod is 13.3 grammes.]. It is ashen in colour but a little blacker than that.
This great promontory is visible eight or nine miles [86 or 96 km.] across the sea and consists of two high mountains: one is called Tafwelberget and is completely level like a table; the other is Lion Mountain [Today, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.] because it looks much like a lion with head, back and bottom, legs and claws, lying on its belly, wearing a crown on its head.
In this mountain or bay where we lay with the ships you could often see all kinds of sea animals, like sea horses, sea cows, which where in every respect like other horses and cows except that they had no hair and their feet were like those of seals or geese. The horse had a mane like a normal horse but the rear was like a fish. The cow went onto land to feed, and was killed by our people. There were also sea dogs, sea cats etc. Summing up, there is no beast on land that has no equivalent in the sea. Fish is also extremely abundant here, particularly when the whale drives it into the bay at flood and eats it. Occasionally it goes too far up and the water falls from it, so it gets stuck there and falls victim to the inhabitants. It looks a lot like there might be good ore in these mountains, but for the absence of wood they can do nothing.