Unto Dust

unto dustIn this story by Herman Bosman, a farmer and die together while fighting each other in a war. When the Boer’s friends come to his body, they find that the bones of the two are all mixed up. The men must try to sort them so their friend doesn’t have to lie forever among a black man’s bones. A yellow ‘kafir’ dog judges the result.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Pre-Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. We are told that Stoffel Oosthuizen traveled with some men to recover Hans Welman’s remains. Here the word means the dead body of a person or animal.

General Comments on the Story

The word “Unto” in the title is an old-fashioned English word meaning to or until. The title itself probably comes from a line in the Christian Bible that is commonly used in funeral services:

For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

or in modern English:

We come from dust, and we will return to dust.

One of the things we thought a lot about in simplifying this story was whether to change the word “kafir”, which appears many times in Charles Bosman’s stories, to something less . In the end we decided to leave the word in as the story would not have the same power without it. We should also point out that while in modern times the word kafir is considered a strong by native South Africans, this may not have been the case at the time of the story’s setting. According to some sources, to refer to a particular type of black South African as a ‘kafir’ in the early 1900s was no different to referring to someone from England as being “English”.

A major of Unto Dust is whether death is the great equalizer that many people claim it to be. In the original story we see the line:

“There were people who talked in a way of death as the great leveller.”

This is very likely a reference to a well-known English poem, Death the Leveller by James Shirley. We have included a link to this above for anyone who is interested.

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(n: Boer pl Boers) A white South African who is associated with Boer culture and whose first language is Afrikaans. The Boers were originally farmers from a number of European countries who settled the Transvaal region of South Africa in the 17th century. In the mid-1800s, gold and diamonds were found in the Transvaal and the Boers found themselves under attack from Britain. This lead to a series of conflicts which came to be known as the Boer Wars. Britain won these, and South Africa became part of the British Empire.

(n: Xhosa, noncount) A Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa which migrated south from the Great Lakes region. They farmed animals rather than hunted for a living, pushing out the traditional hunter-gatherers of the area. They are the second largest of the Bantu people (after the Zulus), the most notable Xhosa leader in modern times being Nelson Mandela.

warrior(n: warrior pl warriors) A soldier or skilled fighting man, especially in primitive societies. The Indian chief called his warriors together. (นักรบในสงคราม) 6000

(v: recover, recovers, recovered, recovering) 1. To become healthy after an illness or injury; to return to normal health. 2. To get back something stolen or lost. 2000

admire(v: admire, admires, admired, admiring) 1. To look at something or someone impressive or attractive with pleasure. I've just been admiring your new car. 2. To greatly respect or think very highly of someone. I admire John's courage.
(n: admiration, noncount) A feeling of great respect and approval. 3000

angel(n: angel pl angels) 1. A messenger or attendant of God. 2. A person (such as a child) who is very good, kind, beautiful, etc. Your son is such an angel! Be an angel and get me a cup of tea, would you?
(adj: angelic) Like an angel. 4000

bloom(v: bloom, blooms, bloomed, blooming) 1. To produce flowers. 2. To change, grow, or develop fully. 2000

bone(n: bone pl bones) The hard substance forming the skeleton of man, animals etc. 2000

bury(v: bury, buries, buried, burying) To place in the earth and cover with soil. 3000

(n: bushman pl bushmen) 1. In Australia, someone who lives or works in the bush. 2. In South Africa, a member of a primitive hunting and gathering people who have no fixed home but move about in the bush according to the seasons.
(n: the bush, noncount) In Australia and South Africa, the wild land far from cities and towns that still has the native trees and plants on it.

cart(n: cart pl carts) A vehicle with two wheels that is pulled by an animal such as a horse or donkey. The farmer packed the vegetables into his cart to take them to market. 3000

cemetery(n: cemetery pl cemeteries) A piece of ground where the bodies of dead people are buried; a graveyard. 5000

coffin(n: coffin pl coffins) A box for a dead body to be kept, buried or cremated in. 5000

especially(adv: especially) 1. To a great extent, very much; more than usually. He wasn't an especially clever person. 2. Used to single out one person, thing, or situation over all others; particularly. The soup was especially delicious. 1000

except(prep, conj: except, excepting) 1. Leaving out or not including someone or something. The stores will be open daily except Sundays. 2. Used to introduce a statement about the only person or thing not included in a previous statement. Employees were not allowed to leave except in an emergency. 1000

(n: grave pl graves) A piece of ground, or the hole dug in it, in which a dead person is buried.
(adj: grave, graver, gravest) To look serious and formal in what you are doing. 4000

grave grave look.jpg

headstone(n: headstone pl headstones) A stone that marks the place where a dead person is buried and that usually has the person's name and birth and death dates on it; also called gravestone, tombstone. 11000

(n: kafir pl kafirs) A very offensive racial insult, used in South Africa to refer to a black person. In colonial times it was intended to be a neutral term for a member of one of the black South African inland tribes which farmed animals rather than hunted for a living.

loyal(adj: loyal) Having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something; faithful and true to a friend, partner, employer, country etc.
(n: loyalty pl loyalties) The quality of being loyal. 4000

naked(adj: naked) 1. Not wearing any clothes; not covered by clothing; bare. A naked body; naked shoulders. 2. Without the usual covering. A naked light/sword 3. [of emotions, attitudes, etc.] Expressed strongly and not hidden. naked ambition, the naked truth 3000

prove(v: prove, proves, proved, proving) To show something to be true or correct by using evidence, logic, etc. 2000

spear(n: spear pl spears) A weapon that has a long straight handle and a sharp point. (หอก) 5000

vote(v: vote, votes, voted, voting) To make an official choice for or against someone or something by casting a ballot, raising your hand, speaking your choice aloud, etc. The people will vote today to choose the new governor. (ลงคะแนน) 1000

(n: remains, plural) 1. The parts of something that are left when the other parts are gone or used. These photos show the remains of a star that exploded thousands of years ago. 2. The dead body of a person or animal. Her remains will be returned to her family for burial. 2000

(adj: racist) A person or group of people who believe that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
(n: racism, noncount) 1. The belief that some races of people are better than others. 2. Poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race, usually involving the idea that one’s race is superior and has the right to control others. 3000

(adj: offensive) very unpleasant; causing someone to feel hurt, angry, or upset; very rude or insulting. 3000

insult(n: insult pl insults) An action or comment that is rude or disrespectful. 3000
(v: insult, insults, insulted, insulting) To do or say something to or about someone in a way that is rude or not respectful. 3000

(n: theme pl themes) In literature, a central idea that is communicated in a story. Note that a theme may be an idea that the writer wishes to convey, or another idea that a reader or group of readers interpret into the story. Most themes are implied through the plot rather than stated directly. (หัวข้อ) 4000

(adj: high-flown) Using fancy words that are meant to sound important and impress the reader or listener.

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