Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most famous landmark, with tourists flocking in from far and wide to marvel at its beauty. The mountain, much like other Natural Wonders of the World, is tied to much legend and lore.
Van Hunks and the Devil
Van Hunks, a legendary pirate, is often believed to be the creator of Table Mountain’s “tablecloth”.
The story goes that Van Hunks would sit beneath the same tree at the top of the mountain each day smoking a special kind of tobacco that only he could inhale without feeling ill. One day, he arrived to find a stranger sitting in his spot.
The stranger was a youth, and Van Hunk challenged him to a competition to see who could smoke the most of the special tobacco before falling ill. The youth accepted, and the two lit their pipes and smoked from dusk until dawn.
Meanwhile, a crowd of locals gathered at the bottom of Table Mountain, wondering about the curious tablecloth-like cloud that had formed along its flat surface.
On top of the mountain, Van Hunks and the youth continued to smoke their pipes. When the youth bent forward to cough, his hat fell off his head, revealing a pair of horns poking from his forehead.
Van Hunks was startled, realising that it was the devil who he had challenged and won against. Upset at being beaten, the devil created a clap of thunder that made both he and Van Hunks disappear.
Now, when Table Mountain’s tablecloth creeps over the top of the mountain, locals can often be heard saying that Van Hunks and the devil are going at it again.
A well-known folk tale is that of Table Mountain being the warden of the Southern corner of the earth.
It tells that the African god Tixo, God of the Sun, conceived a child with the Earth Goddess Djobela. Their son, Qamata, went on to create the world.
The Great Dragon of the Sea became so jealous of Qamata’s power that he tried to prevent Qamata from creating dry land.
Djobela, however, stepped in and came to the help of her son by giving life to four giants to protect the four corners of the earth.
The Great Dragon refused to accept defeat and battled each giant in turn – as each one died, they wished to remain guardians of the four corners even in death. Djobela granted their requests, and turned the giants into mountains.
The Guardian of the South was turned into the biggest mountain, and became Umlindi Wemingizimu, or Table Mountain.
Another story tells that Table Mountain is in fact Adamastor the Untamed Titan.
Adamastor was banished from the ocean after attempting to overthrow the sea goddess, Thetus.
He wandered the “Dark Continent” (Africa) causing trouble, until the gods took pity on him and turned him into Table Mountain to guard the Southern Seas.
Adamastor was known for transforming into a huge, monstrous human who would tower over sailors. He would also whip up incredible storms and rough seas, causing sailors to die in shipwrecks as they attempted to travel the around the Cape.
The Flying Dutchman
In 1641, Captain Hendrik van der Decken was sailing along the Cape in an attempt to make it back home to Holland when his ship was wrecked by a storm.
Before he died, van der Decken made the oath that he would sail until he met the ends of the Earth.
Legend has it that his ships still sails around the Cape, and numerous sailors have claimed to have seen the Flying Dutchman.
Many a sailor has also said that ships that go too close to the Dutchman’s will sink.