Ranoro, the Daughter of the Water

Many centuries ago, in the times of the Vazimba, there existed the Zazavavindrano, the daughters of water. One of them was Ranoro. This is her story.

One day, a young man from the Betsileo ran to the Mamba River in the central highlands of Madagascar. The man’s name was Andriambodilova. In the middle of the river, he spotted a beautiful young woman sitting on a rock. She wore long open hair that reached down into the water. Her eyes seemed to capture the whole landscape around her. Completely captivated by the beauty, Andriambodilova remained silent on the shore, his eyes fixed on the beauty, and did not dare to move. Finally, he took heart and began to sing to capture her attention. His voice was soft and melodic. The beauty listened to the song for a moment, but then she disappeared into the river. Disappointed, Andriambodilova rested on the bank. This spectacle was repeated several times during the next days.

Finally, Andriambodilova decided to outwit the beautiful young woman. One morning, protected by the reeds on the bank of the river, he crept up to the water. Then he swam silently to the rock where the woman sat every day. When she noticed him and tried to flee, Andriambodilova tried to hold her down and caught her long hair. “I am not fleeing, please let me go. You’re hurting me. What do you want from me?” said the young woman to him. “Tell me your name!” demanded Andriambodilova. “My name is Ranoro,” she said. “I am a daughter of the water. My father is Andriantsira, Lord of the Salt. I live at the bottom of the river with the sons and daughters of the water.” Andriambodilova confessed to Ranoro that he had fallen in love with her. “Will you be my wife?” he asked her. “Yes”, said Ranoro, “that’s what I want!” And she explained to him, “I’ve been diving away from you again and again to test you. If you hadn’t come again and given your love to another woman, you would not have proved yourself worthy of me. For divided love is like a dried-up river.”

Thus Andriambodilova married Ranoro, the daughter of the water. Ranoro made one condition: “You must never utter the word salt. For the Lord of salt is my father alone.” Andriambodilova agreed. They lived happily together for many years and had many children. King Andrianjaka gave Andriambodilova and Ranoro control of Ambohimanarina.

But the happiness did not last forever. One day in the morning, Andriambodilova asked Ranoro to tie the calf and keep it away from the cow’s udder. He wanted to milk the cow himself when he came back from the rice field. But Ranoro accidentally tied the calf the wrong way round. This allowed the calf to free itself and drink the cow’s udder. When Andriambodilova came home and discovered the calf jumping around freely, he became angry. But anger is a bad advisor. In his rage, he cried out: “You are not fit to live in the country! You’ll always be a daughter of salt!” He had barely uttered the word salt when Ranoro ran to a cave on the Mamba River and threw herself into the water. Andriambodilova ran after her, but it was too late. Ranoro never came back. She never returned to land.

According to the legend, Ranoro, the daughter of the water, appeared to her husband and their children in dreams. She is said to have appeared to other people in dreams as well, and her advice was always the same: “If you remember my good deeds, I will protect you. And if you come to the cave where I have left the land, I will help you.”

The village of Andranoro, translated “the place where Ranoro lived”, still exists today. It’s on the outskirts of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. It’s not just the place where Ranoro disappeared into the water that you can visit today. Also the grave of her husband, Andriambodilova, still exists on the hill of Anosisoa. The couple’s hut has become a place of pilgrimage. All three places are considered fady. Whoever visits the holy rock of Ranoro, the daughter of water still fulfills wishes according to the legend.

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