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contents Contents




1. The myth of Kintu


2. The myth of Lianja


3. The heroic girl


4. When time is up


5. Mpaayo’s daughter


6. Chappie and the birds


7. Two little old women


8. The glutton


9. The chimpanzee and Lombóto


10. The woman who destroyed magic


11. Two handicapped men


12. Three wives


13. Mrs Ísotá


14. Why the Básogá cook on three stones 57 15. The stupid fellow


16. Another stupid bloke


17. Before marriage existed


18. Faithful in good and bad days


19. The crocodile


20. The egoistic woman


21. The twins


22. The years count


23. The sweeping goat


24. Why women do not bury the dead


25. The cat and man


26. The lion and man

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27. The bat


28. Animals dig their well


29. The lion, the rat and man


30. Give me your baby


31. Mr Generous


32. A man and his daughter


33. A man and his daughter (no 2)


34. The potter


35. The wise orphan


36. Wiser-than-the-elders


37. Two with the same name


38. The fisherman


39. The fisherman (no 2)


40. Big Hunter and Great Fisherman


41. The street vendor


42. Two brothers


43. The orphan and the dog.


44. The origin of death


45. Theft


46. Mr Poor and Mr Rich


47. The firstborn


48. The hunter and his wife


49. Her beloved son


50. The thief


51.The monkey and the elephant


52. A woman and her son


53. The elephant


54. How the leopard became wise


55. A cute leopard

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56. The cock and the wildcat


57. The cock and the wildcat (no 2)


58. Why the tortoise has cracks in its shell 169 59. The tortoise and the ngilรก monkey


60. The tortoise and the sparrow hawk


61. The tortoise and the girl


62. The tortoise, the hippo and the elephant 178 63. The tortoise and the red bird


64.. The tortoise, the hippo and the elephant (no 2) 65. The tortoise and the hare


66. The tortoise and the leopard


67. The tortoise and the leopard, (no 2)


68. The tortoise and his wife


69. Mrs Tortoise and Mrs Guinea Fowl


70. The leopard and the dog


71. The visitor and the hyenas


72.The three friends


73. The right to be


74. The lizard and the frog


75. The lion, the enemy of all animals


76. The frog and the snake


77. Why bulbuls wake up early


78. Famine drove a man away from his family 211 79. Why babies cry


80. The python of Kalungu


81. Why the moon is in space


82. The otter, the leopard and the pig


83. The hare and the leopard


84. The hare and his wife

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85. The hare and his wife (no 2)


86. The hare and the lion


87. The hare and the fox


88. The hare and the elephant


89. The hare and the elephant (no 2)


90. The mouse and the rat


91. The barren woman and three pumpkins 237 92. The spider with a thin waist


93. The seven small pots


94. The dog Mulebera


95. The man and his dog Mudera


96. The big party


97. Ndiwulira


98. Terrorising monkeys


99. Traps


100.The girl and the chimpanzees


101.The hen and the kite


102. The wasp and the black ant


103. The palm larva


104. The one, who warns you,


105. The beloved and unloved wife


106. The heron with its long neck


107. The hornbill and the black ant


108. Gourd ladles


109. Murder


110. I never retrace my footsteps


111. The squirrel and his wife.


112. Mister Bosala


113. The rat and the leopard

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114. The monkeys choose a chief


115. The monkey’s heart








For many modern Africans, myths and fables are something from the past, from village life that does not exist anymore, from the times they were children. ‘These are stories for amusing children.’ This is the impression I often received, when researching on the hidden treasures of African traditional stories and fables. This is the impression I still have. For modern Africans, traditional stories do not seem important; they do not seem to contain anything of value. This being said, it has also been my experience that, when I used a local fable in a Eucharistic celebration in Congo as well as in Uganda, a hush took hold of the congregation. It was as if even babies and children held their breath. Adults pricked their ears. It felt like a holy silence descending on all of us. I felt that the ancestors were present again. The whole congregation felt their presence. There was not a single cough to be heard. Now valuable words and insights were going to be proclaimed, words touching real life, touching our personal lives. The African story indeed conveys whispers of a distant past, but clearly audible and understandable in the present. Intuitively the African audience feels at those moments that those words of a distant past convey the ever present spirituality of the ancestors. Those ancestors are still present in one way or other and want to be heard; they want to be honoured, they want to be remembered. They are part of the audience, in their offspring and in a mystical presence conveyed by their proverbs, their myths and fables. They are present, when their offspring remembers them in the shrines, in the food they set apart for them, in the drinks they pour out as libations and in the blood of goats, sheep, cows or dogs they sacrifice on the village graves. The ancestors are not dead, they are alive, they are present among us. I present here myths and fables from the Móngo in Congo and the Básogá in Uganda. Both are Bantu peoples, with a culture that is basically identical, though the cultural expressions like language, symbols, rituals and stories are diverse. In its myths and fables, Africa also has its redemption stories, when saviours stand up in times of famine, when monsters threaten to devour whole villages, when wild animals devour people one after the other. In Africa too, people tell stories how to solve local problems and how one person does the other in the eye. African stories narrate about extraordinarily courageous people, people who volunteer to liberate their village or clan. African forebears too are miracle workers; they die and resurrect, walk across rivers or fly through the air. In their myths, Africans seek answers to basic questions: where do we come from? How did life start? Why do we need to die? Why so much suffering? Formerly, according to the African stories, people were intimately and magically connected with animals, insects, trees and rocks. They were in harmony with nature in a way we can only dream about. I want to share with you their dreams, their heroes, their courage and their hopes for a better future.


Those same stories give modern Africans the courage not to give up, even when their lives are pathetic, because of diseases, civil wars, corruption, extreme poverty, bitter rows, power struggles with loss of life, brutal killings, robberies in clear daylight and rape. The traditional stories empower people to continue their daily lives, even though the present sometimes gives little hope for a better future, when they do not yet see a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The African stories remain, therefore, important, even more so, because the media tell us that the end of Africa’s misery is not yet in sight. It remains important to continue to tell those stories and to never say die.

African stories are and remain important for the whole of humanity. Fables do not just narrate about animals. They narrate about human interactions, about our stupid mistakes, about our wrong priorities, about our anger, jealousy, deceit, robberies, and addictions or about roguish tricks. Don’t you see? Fables, sometimes, wrap up for us a bitter pill in the form of an animal story, as if it has nothing to do with us, as if it only concerns animals. However, the story is all about you and me, about our dirty tricks and wild behaviour. The slow tortoise, the vulnerable dwarf antelope and the crafty hare outsmart all the other animals. Those stories tell us, ‘If the lion’s skin cannot, the fox’s shall.’ Many stories target rulers, because for them the possession of power seems sometimes to be more important than exercising power in the service of the community. The stories are also very positive as they narrate our good qualities, our love, our hospitality and friendship, extraordinary courage and dedication to the family or clan. The stories are about life and death. A number of them narrate how death entered our world. Stories have great advantages. A story not only fascinates us but also binds us together. Africans are traditionally blessed people, because they do not cling to dogmas or doctrines. They do have many stories and proverbs to bring people together, to teach 7

and educate children, to amuse old and young. When a child grows up, his parents or grandparents teach him how to narrate the fables himself just as he has heard and seen his father or grandfather doing. In the name of his ancestors, the African father blesses at dawn his children every day. Is it not a great privilege to feel oneself blest every morning? Stories, fables and myths keep fascinating people. In their stories, you will discover the African sense of humour. It is good to know that in Africa, people do not read stories from a piece of paper. Stories are part of the oral tradition and, therefore, are narrated by heart. Most stories contain small songs with a refrain, which is repeated by the audience... Fables, myths and other stories are presented during the long and dark evenings around the bonfires. Those are the hours when the spirits come to life, when the animals are no longer dumb, but when animals and insects share with us their wisdom. Many local languages are threatened by the ever-increasing urbanisation and the local and international globalisation. It is an urgent task to safeguard these most interesting and precious stories for the future of Africa and for the whole of humanity.

Africa is called the dark continent. At night, it is dark. During daytime also, it is dark, since its rich culture stays hidden. Different publications with African stories have seen 8

the light. What they usually lack is an explanation of the meaning of each story. Thanks to my many years both in Congo as well as in Uganda and thanks to my own interest and time given to me to study the African cultural heritage, I feel myself in a privileged position to throw some light on these stories from the inside. In my explanations, I refer to my publications like ‘Proverbes Mongo de Basankusu’. When I write PK2203, I refer to that publication, proverb no. 2203. When I refer to the Ugandan proverbs, I refer to those in ‘Ensambo dh’Abasoga’. This publication has been taken care of by the Jinja ‘Cultural Research Centre.’ The letters CRC refer to their proverbs. The other books to which I refer in the text, are mentioned in the bibliography. In my publication of ‘Spiritual Dialogue with the Bantu’ I touched upon the myths of the Basoga and the Mongo. Here, I treat them more extensively and with elaborate explanations. They merit our full attention. Other fables and stories found in that publication, I do not include them here again. My sincere thanks to those who recently sent me a variety of pictures of the African landscape, its inhabitants and animals, especially Fons Eppink mhm, Jolanda Woestenburg, Jeroen de By and Ronald Dekker. The photographs and paintings show us the variety and beauty of the African continent. Great thanks also to the proof-reader of the whole document: Hans Boerakker mhm.

Piet Korse mhm, Vrijland, March, 2017.


1. The myth of Kintú (Uganda)

Chapter 1

Kintú reaches Buganda and sees that there is no food. He roams around with his cow. Cowpats are his food and the urine of his cow is his drink. One day, he sees people coming down from heaven. Námbi, the daughter of Igúlú, is one of them. (Igúlú means above or heaven). She has come with her brothers. Námbi addresses her brothers and says, ‘My dear brothers, this lonely man, where has he come from?’ One of her brothers says, ‘Let us approach him and ask him.’ The brother asks Kintú, ‘My dear friend, how are you?’ Kintú replies, I am fine, thank you.’ The brother continues to ask him, ‘Sir, where did you come from?’ Kintú answers him, ‘I do not know where I came from.’ The brother asks him, ‘What is your name?’ Kintú replies, ‘My name is Kintú.’ Námbi asks him, ‘But what do you eat?’ Kintú replies, I have nothing to eat but cowpats.’ The brother asks him, ‘Really, are you eating cowpats?’ Námbi asks Kintú, ‘Sir, when you are thirsty, what do you drink?’ Kintú replies, ‘I drink my cow’s urine!’

Námbi tells her brothers, ‘My dear brothers, this man is courageous. I would like to marry him.’ One of the brothers asks her, ‘How do you know that this is a real human being?’ Námbi replies, ‘Do you not see his house over there? Can an animal build a 10

human habitation?’ ‘My friend Kintú, when we have reached home, I shall ask my dad whether I can come back here and stay with you so that I end your loneliness’. The brothers and Námbi return to their father and tell him how they met Kintú. One of the brothers says, ‘Dad, we went down to earth and met a man called Kintú. That fellow does not eat human food but eats only cowpats and drinks nothing but the urine of his cow. Our sister Námbi wants to marry that man.’ Igúlú answers, ‘If Kintú wants to marry my daughter, go and steal his cow. When we see that after some time he is still alive, then he obtains the right to marry my daughter.’ Igúlú’s sons go down to earth and steal KIntú’s cow while he himself is fast asleep. In the morning, Kintú wakes up and looks for his cow, but he cannot find the animal. Kintú is seriously worried and exclaims, ’Where is my dear animal? The animal is not at the feeding place.’ The whole day, Kintú walks round and round looking for his cow. All his efforts are in vain. Darkness sets in and the man becomes hungry. He says, ‘I have a great problem. My cow seems to have vanished forever. Did she fall into a pit and then died? What am I going to eat? Will I starve to death? Let me cut down a tree, take off the bark and eat it. That is what he does. Kintú eats tree bark. Chapter 2 In the meantime, Námbi’s brothers reach heaven with Kintú’s cow. Námbi notices it and says, ‘My goodness, dear brothers, what have you done? Now that you stole Kintú’s cow, what is that man supposed to eat? Hunger and thirst will cost him his life. However, you must know that I fell in love with him. I will go down to fetch him. Námbi descends and goes to Kintú’s home. She comes straight to the point. She tells Kintú that her brothers stole his cow. She asks him, ‘What are you eating now?’ Kintú replies, ‘Yes, since my cow disappeared, what can I eat? Now I eat tree bark.’ Námbi answers and says, ‘Can a human being eat tree bark?’ Kintú replies, ‘But, my dear woman, what can I do? I have nothing else to eat.’ Námbi said, ‘My dear friend, I find that it is very sad indeed that my own brothers stole your cow. Therefore I would like to propose that we go and fetch it.’ Both of them are on the way to father Igúlú. They meet Námbi’s brothers. The brothers go to their father and tell him, ‘Námbi went back to earth to Kintú. She went to fetch him. They are here now.’ 11

The father replies, ‘If Kintú has arrived, then we should build him a house where he can stay.’ The house is built and Kintú installs himself. Igúlú hatches a plot to find out whether Kintú is able to face difficulties. He instructs his sons and tells them, ‘All my subjects should prepare food with a lot of meat. They should brew plenty of beer. All that food and drink they have to take to Kintú, together with my greetings’. Food, meat and beer are taken to Kintú’s home. The messenger informs him, ‘Igúlú sends you his greetings. He has sent you food, meat and beer. He orders you to eat it all. If there is something left over, you will be killed.’ Kintú replies, ‘I thank him wholeheartedly for what he has given me. Tell him that I am very grateful.’ The messenger and the servants go their way. Kintú stays alone in the house. He says to himself, ‘My goodness me! How can I finish all this food all by myself? Moreover, I have to drink all that beer! What can I do to manage all this?’ Kintú says this to himself during the meal. In the end, he is fully satisfied. He looks behind him and sees a deep hole in his house. He wonders who has dug it. Very quickly, takes the food, meat and beer and pours it all into the hole; then he sees how the hole covers itself. He goes and stands in the doorway of the house. Kintú exclaims, ‘Friends, come for your baskets!’ The messenger and the servants see the empty baskets. They notice that the beer gourds are empty also. The messenger asks himself, ‘Where did this man, Kintú, leave all that food? He asks the servants to enter the house and look around to find out where Kintú left the food. The servants look everywhere, where Kintú might have hidden the food, the meat and the beer. However, they cannot find anything at all. One of the servants asks Kintú, ‘Friend, where did you hide the food?’ Kintú replies, ‘I have finished everything.’ The messenger then says, ‘You are a miracle worker to be able to eat all that food and to drink all that beer.’ The messenger returns to Igúlú. He informs him and says, ‘Sir, this man Kintú did not come by himself. He finished all the food and the meat and drank all the beer.’ Igúlú replies, ‘Probably, this man deceived you’ The messenger replies, ‘Sir, he did not tell a lie. We searched the whole house. He finished all the food you sent him.’ Chapter 3 Igúlú tries to test Kintú a second time. Igúlú tells the messenger, ‘You take this steel axe to Kintú and tell him that I warm myself with stones. Therefore, I want him to split me ‘firewood’ from the rock.’ The messenger carries the axe and the message to Kintú. Kintú goes over to the rock. He says to himself, ‘I really have bad luck. How shall I cut this rock with an axe? The rock will not even get dented.’ Kintú speaks those words while looking at the rock. While he stares at the rock, the rock splits by itself into pieces. Within no time, Kintú collects the pieces of rock and takes them to Igúlú. At Igúlú’s palace, Kintú says, ‘Sir, how are you?’ Igúlú replies, ‘I am fine. How is yourself?’ Kintú answers, ‘Sir, I am all right. Sir, I brought you the stones you had asked me to split.’ 12

Igúlú takes the elders aside and deliberates with them. He says, ‘The ones, who informed me that this man was not alone, did not lie to me. How did he manage to split the rock?’ He goes back to Kintú and says, ‘ Kintú, I want you to perform still another task. Kintú answers, ‘It’s fine with me, Sir. I’ll comply with your request.’ Igúlú says, ‘I want you to fetch water for me. However, I do not drink water from a well or spring. I only drink dew.’ Kintú receives a jar and goes to a spot where grass grows abundantly. Kintú wonders how he can fill a whole jar with dew. He puts down the jar and within no time the pot is filled with dew. Kintú puts the jar on his head and carries it to his future father-in-law. He says, ‘Sir, I have brought you the jar with water from the dew, as you had sent me to do.’ Igúlú replies, ‘Kintú, I give in to you. Return tomorrow and I shall give you your cow.’

The next morning, Igúlú orders his herdsmen to collect the cows from all his kraals. Then Igúlú calls Kintú and says, ‘Kintú, you look for your cow among all this cattle. When you find it, take it.’ Kintú moves among all the herds of cows. He asks himself how he will find his cow. Then he hears a beetle approaching him. The beetle says to him, ‘You just follow me. When I land in between the horns of a cow, know that that is 13

your cow!’ Kintú approaches a certain kraal and checks; he does not see any beetle moving. Kintú says to himself, ‘My cow is not among the cows of this kraal.’ He asks the herdsmen, ‘As my cow is not here, can you show me another kraal?’ The herdsmen bring in thousands and thousands of cattle. All of a sudden, Kintú sees the beetle land in between the horns of one of the cows. Kintú says, ‘Indeed, this cow is mine!’ Then the beetle lands on another cow. Kintú says, ‘This one must be mine too; it must be the calf of the old cow.’ Then the beetle lands on a calf. Kintú says, ‘Even that calf is mine. That beetle sees even what is hidden. Let the herdsmen call Námbi.’ Námbi arrives. Igúlú says, ‘Kintú, here is your wife. She brought you here. I give her to you so that you go down with her and she becomes your wife. Be off and hurry up, before her brother Wálumbé (Death) comes, because, if he sees you, he will follow you. To be safe, whatever you might have forgotten, please, do not come back for it.’ Chapter 4 Kintú and Námbi collect all their belongings, cows, goats, sheep, chickens and a banana tree and go down to earth. However, on the way Námbi remembers that she has forgotten something. She says, ‘My dear friend Kintú, I have left the millet for the chickens at the kitchen’s doorway. I want to go back and fetch it.’ Kintú replies, ‘Won’t you meet Wálumbé (Death) over there? Will he not insist to come along with you?’ Námbi answers, ‘I shall be quick and be gone before he sees me.’ Námbi goes back to Igúlú. She goes to her father and says, ‘Dad, I forgot the millet for my hens; that’s why I have come back.’

Igúlú says, ‘Did I not tell you that, whatever you forgot, not to return, because, when Death sees you, he will not allow you to leave this place without him.’ Igúlú is still speaking, when Death arrives. Death says, ‘My sister Námbi, were you leaving me 14

behind? It is good you stopped on the way and came back.’ Igúlú then says, ‘Námbi, now you go and take along your brother Death.’ Both of them descend and reach the place where Námbi had left Kintú. Kintú asks, ‘Námbi, why did you bring Death along? Your father had forbidden us to take him along. Now, what shall we do with him? There is no other way out than to take him along.’ Once back on earth, Námbi starts planting and cultivating all kinds of plants and vegetables. She plants the banana tree, which produces many shoots. Námbi herself bears three children. During all that time, Death lodges in Kintú’s and Námbi’s house. After Námbi had given birth to those children, Death asks Kintú a very painful question. He says, ‘Of those three children, give me one so that she can cook for me.’ Kintú replies, ‘I just cannot give you a child. If Igúlú would now ask me for a child, must I tell him that I gave one of them to you, mister Death?’ Námbi continues to give birth. Then Death comes begging again and asks Kintú. He says, ‘This time I ask you a child to work for me.’ Kintú replies, ‘No, I told you before that I cannot give you even one child.’ Death says, ‘If you openly refuse to give me children, I shall kill them.’ After some time, Kintú’s children become sick and die. Kintú raises the question with Death and says, ‘You, Death, why are you killing my children?’ Death answers and says, ‘I kindly requested you to give me a child to work for me, but you refused even to consider the question. That is why I kill them.’ Kintú says, ‘I go back to Igúlú and I shall complain to him that you kill my children.’ Death replies ‘By all means, go there and accuse me.’ Kintú arrives at Igúlú’s and says, ‘Sir, I have come to complain about Death. He is finishing off my children. He asked me to give him a child to work for him. Of course, I refused. Then he warned me that he would kill my children. That is what he is doing. That is why I have come to complain about him.’ Igúlú replies, ‘But, Kintú, I told you to quickly disappear before Death would present himself. In addition, I added not to return in case you would have forgotten something. Your wife stopped you on the way, because she had forgotten the millet for her chickens. When she came back here, she met her brother Death and then took him along. If your wife had followed up my sound advice, your children would not be dying.’ Kintú replies, ‘Sir, give us some sound advice and help us.’ Igúlú answers, ‘Let his brother Káyííkúúzi (the Digger) who lives here in the palace, accompany you. Perhaps he can catch his brother and bring him back here. In this way, he may stop killing your children. But I do not think that Death wants to return here.’ Kintú and the Digger go down to earth.

Chapter 5 Námbi welcomes back her brother, the Digger, and says, ‘Is it really you, my brother?’ He answers, ‘Yes, it is really me.’ Námbi continues to question him, ‘Is everything all right?’ ‘Yes’, he replies, ‘Yes, everything is fine.’ Námbi asks, ‘When you left, was everybody all right?’ ‘Yes’, the Digger answers, ‘They all are fine and greet you.’ Námbi tells him openly, ‘I am very happy that you arrived, because Death is killing off all my 15

children.’ The Digger says, ‘Just hand him over to me.’ Death presents himself before his brother, the Digger, who tells him, ‘Death, I have come to fetch you. Your dad Igúlú calls you.’ Death replies and asks, ‘Shall we go together with our sister Námbi?’ The Digger replies, ‘No, I have come to fetch only you. Námbi has to stay with her husband and with her children.’ Death answers, ‘If Námbi does not come along, I shall not accompany you.’ The Digger nearly explodes and says, ‘How dare you, Death, give me such an answer! Do you not know that I am your elder brother? I shall get you by the short hairs.’ The Digger gets hold of his brother Death, but he slips out of his hands and disappears into the ground. The Digger digs him up again, pulls him out and holds him down to the ground. However, Death disappears again into the ground. The Digger digs him up again. However, Death disappears for the third time into the ground. The whole plan collapses. Mister Digger comes along with another strategy and informs Kintú. He says, ‘I have really drained Death’s forces. If I pursue him another couple of days, I shall hold him down. Ask all people to gather and store enough firewood and water. For two days, I do not want to see anybody outside. Even children are not to quit the homes and herd the goats. Even those, who meet Mister Death, are not allowed to raise the alarm.’ Kintú replies, ‘I got your message. It will all be well.’ Mister Digger disappears into the ground. He sees his brother Death and pursues him. Death surfaces in Itánda. That is where he comes out of the ground. Children raise the alarm. That is why Death disappears again into the ground. Mister Digger too hears the alarm and asks, ‘My dear friends, did you see my brother Death? ‘A child answers, ‘We saw him, Sir. Over there he disappeared again into the ground.’ Digger replies, ‘You have committed a serious mistake. I informed Kintú that nobody should raise the alarm in case one would see him. In addition, nobody should herd the goats these days. How did you come here on this hill? I am very angry indeed.’ Digger goes back to Kintú and says, ‘Mister Kintú, for heaven’s sake, what did your people do? They spoilt the job for which I came. Did you not tell them what I asked for? Kintú then asks, ‘What happened?’ The Digger replies, ‘The children, who were herding their goats, menaced Death, when I wanted to catch him.’ Kintú then asks, ‘What did their menace consist of?’ The Digger answers, ‘When they saw him, they 16

raised the alarm. He immediately disappeared into the ground. I just can no longer follow him. I am too exhausted by all that running around.’ Kintú opens his mouth and says, ‘I cannot say anything. I am guilty. Leave Mr Death alone and go back to your dad Igúlú. Let Death do to my kids, as he likes. He will kill one every time I produce one. However, he will not kill all of them.’ The Digger goes back to Igúlú to inform him of what happened on earth. He says, ‘Dad, Death was too quick for me. Kintú’s people did not follow up my instructions. Let us hope that Death will not kill all the children they will have.’ Igúlú answers, ‘It is all right. Let people do, as they want. You are welcome back.’ P.S. The Banyoro are full cousins of the Baganda. They live to the North-East of the Banganda. They have a slightly different account of the Kintú myth. Kintu was immortal. At regular intervals, he used to pay visits to God and report about the work, which he had been doing on earth. To meet God he would climb a hill called Magongo. This hill was situated between Buganda and Bunyoro. Magongo was guarded carefully until the beginning of the reign of King Mwanga. His visits were conditioned by the Godhead. Kintu was not allowed to return to Magongo, unless he was called to do so. He received two commandments: He was not allowed to commit evil and he should not steal. Moreover, he received a bag, which he had always to carry with him and which was not to be touched by anybody. One day, when he was on his way to Magongo, he lost his bag and did not immediately notice the loss. Later that day, he did notice the loss. In his hurry to find his bag, he retraced his steps and did not think about the commandment. He arrived on the hill Magongo. He met God, who was terribly angry. He said, ‘Why did you come back here, though I had forbidden you to come back unless invited?’ As a punishment God forbade him to return home. Moreover, he gave him a companion, the Spirit of death. This spirit had always to accompany Kintu and never to come back again. People regarded Kintu’s absence as a sign of God’s anger. But in order to care for Kintu, just in case he was still alive, they built a big shrine in the forest of Magongo. Every nine days, they deposited food in Kintu’s house. They continued to guard the hill and to bring food, until the reign of King Mwanga. In those days, civil wars put an end to many old customs. To reconcile God’s wrath because of Kintu’s disobedience, a Kintu prescription was promulgated that prohibited any people from working on the first and on the seventh day after the new moon. And another prescription proclaimed was that any culprit, no matter which misdemeanour he had committed or which punishment he had received, once he had managed to escape and reach Magongo, he was absolved from any prosecution. In fact, this hill was regarded as a sanctuary and in all aspects as a holy place. (Fr. N. Stam, Mill Hill Annalen, March 1904). 17

Explanations 1. The Kintu myth is found among the Baganda and the Southern Básogá in Uganda and in another form among the Banyoro. 2. This myth explains the origin of death. Námbi, the wife of the first man, forgot the millet for her chickens. Against the express will of her father she went back to fetch the millet. Death noticed her and insisted to accompany her. The woman, who traditionally looks after the chickens, invited death to follow her, just because she was too worried about her chickens. Death would never disappear again. We have to live with it. We know people will die, even children will die. The woman is the giver of life and also the one who brought death into this world. The children she brings forth will die one day. 3. Igúlú’s sons give an example of cattle rustling, a custom in East-Africa, because among the Maasai, the Karamojong and the Turkana, the family has to present about one hundred cows to the family of the bride. In order to obtain such a great number of cows, the groom and his friends rustle a number of cows from a neighbouring tribe. It is the right of the strongest and the cleverest. Cattle rustling is not a modern invention. In this myth, we find the rustling model produced by the sons of the Big Boss. 4. Kintú is the ancestor of the Baganda and a part of the Básogá north of Lake Victoria. The descendants of Kintú in Búsogá are buried with the head in the direction of Lake Victoria, which is located to the south of their territory. The descendants of Múkamá, the second ancestor of the Básogá, are buried with the head in the direction of Mount Elgon. 5. At his arrival on earth, Kintú had only one cow. For the rest there was nothing to eat for him. He ate cowpats and drank the urine of his cow. There was a great symbiosis between man and the cow. Man cared for the cow and the cow fed man. They were interdependent. Until this very day, many Baganda and Básogá keep one or two cows that give them milk. Part of the milk is for their own consumption; the rest they sell. Often the cows are in a stable the whole year round. The owner cuts elephant grass in the bush to feed his cows. He gives them also by-products of breweries. This way of keeping cattle is called zero grazing. 6. After his cow was stolen, Kintú kept himself alive by eating tree bark. He had to find a way. He had no other choice. One needs to keep oneself alive somehow. 7. Kintú becomes vulnerable, when he tells strangers that his cow is his only salvation. He tells them that he eats cowpats to alleviate his hunger and that he drinks the urine of his cow to quench his thirst. The consequence of his revelation is that people steal his cow. One should not reveal one’s secrets, because the enemy will make use of that knowledge to rob or kill you. Your friend of today may be your enemy tomorrow. The proverb says, “I wish I had known” comes later (CRC1822). The Mongo in Congo say, ‘‘Regret comes later’’ (PK2156). 8. A future son-in-law is tried beforehand so that he can prove his metal. In order to obtain a wife, a man needs to show courage, wisdom and a willingness to work hard. 18

The father-in-law needs to give his approval for the marriage. He will do so on condition that he is convinced that his daughter is in capable and good hands. The future son-inlaw has to prove himself. This is not an easy task. The proverb says, “What you long for, is paid dearly” (CRC1558). Another proverb says, “The one, who did not see your mother when she was young, says that the bride price paid for her was a waste” (CRC482). One has to respect one’s mother, because your father had to work hard for her dowry. Still another proverb says, “What you long for, lies in between the thorns.” 9. Kintú becomes a hero, overcoming all the difficulties with the help of his ancestors. Did the messenger not say, ‘This man did not come by himself?’ He was accompanied and assisted by many spirits! 10. Igúlú, the father of Námbi, has his residence somewhere on high. His name signifies ‘heaven’ or ’above.’ The word for earth is énsi (Lúsogá) and nsé (Lingála and Lomóngo). 11. Námbi, the daughter of Igúlú, is an enterprising woman, who falls in love with Kintú. However, in accordance with tradition, she does not express her love directly to Kintú. She informs her brothers and her father. 12. Igúlú warns his daughter once she is married not to return. When a girl quits her parental home, her husband’s house becomes her new home. She has to make a switch and leave her parental home not only physically but also mentally. The dowry has to ensure that she does not easily return to her parents’ home. Her dowry is used as the bride price for one of her brothers and cannot be recovered. Her father warns her. The proverb says, “Who warns you, is your friend” (CRC306). A good advice should not be discarded lightly. It should be appreciated. If you go against the advice of your friends and relatives, you will fare badly later. 13. Even today when a Músogá marries, he kills three goats, one for Múkamá, and one for Kintú (the two ancestors). The third goat is for Wálumbé, for Death, to beseech him to be content with the goat and to spare the future children.


14. It is customary that one of her brothers accompanies the bride to her new home. He stays there a couple of weeks to see whether his sister is being respected, just as Wálumbé (Death) accompanied his sister Námbi. 15. Igúlú’s sons and daughters are mentioned. Nothing is said about Igúlú’s wife or wives. Evidently, the author of the myth lives in a patriarchal society. 16. In order to catch Death, the Digger dug holes in the ground. Even today, people try to live and survive by ‘digging’ i.e. by labouring the fields. People try hard to produce many sorts of agricultural products. They do so, even though they know that, like the Digger, they eventually will lose the battle with death. 17. Insects and birds show people the way or help them out of problems. In East-Africa, one finds many small and big birds, because, in comparison with Congo, children do not hunt them. No wonder that, in Uganda, many fables contain stories about birds. 18. The famous hill in Bunyoro is called Magongo. The hill in Buganda, where the Ugandan martyrs died, is called Namugongo. The Mongo in Congo call a hill ngongo.


2. The Myth of Lianja (of the Mongo in Congo)

Bokelé (egg), a boy, is born miraculously. It happens that the wives of Waí (peace) are all pregnant, but the pregnancy of one of them never ends. Therefore, an old woman takes an egg out of the womb of this wife, and a handsome boy, Bokelé, is hatched. Because the world is in darkness, Bokelé, with the assistance of a hawk, a tortoise and wasps, steals the sun from those who control it and brings it back to his community. From that same land of the sun, he brings Bolúmbú, his wife. Lonkundó, their son, dies twice and is restored to life. His father teaches him how to make traps. However, he snares Ilankaka, a shining beautiful woman. He marries her, and her unborn child, Itondé, leaves her womb at night fully grown to get food. It manages to catch a bird. Itondé is renamed Ilele. He meets Mbómbé, wrestles with her. He is the first of her suitors to defeat her. He marries her. An ogre kills him and Mbómbé resurrects him. He is later killed in another fight. Mbómbé is pregnant. During her pregnancy, she desires to eat ‘bafolé’ fruits. Ilele has to steal these fruits. The owner of the tree defends his property unsuccessfully. The signs in nature are frightening: the water in the medicinal horn turns into blood. Cords of string lie twisting on the ground like wounded snakes. Monkeys shout on top of their voice behind the home. Elephants stroll into the compound.

Women undo their hair, throw themselves onto the ground and weep all day long. Mbómbé’s woes begin. She pants as a sheep hunted down by a ferocious dog. Then she gives birth to animals, caterpillars, birds, other numerous insects and all kinds of people. However, her woes are not over yet. She hears a voice from within saying that slaves block the exit. ‘Mother, show me another way!’ She says, ‘I have no other way. 21

Just come via that way!’ The voice answers, ‘No, I shall not come that way. I am coming with my sister. Rub some red ochre on your shinbone.’ Mbómbé complies with the request. The tibia swells and becomes like a gnarl on a tree. Mbómbé is scared to death. Everybody flees in panic. Then the shinbone bursts open and an adult man comes out and stands up straight, amazingly handsome. He jumps into the air and stands on the ridge of the roof, holding a spear and a shield, ready to defend his people and to revenge the killing of his father. Then appears from the same shinbone a gorgeous woman, dazzling like the sun and she, Nsóngó, follows her twin brother onto the crest of the roof. Lianja sets out to avenge the death of his father and kills Indombe, a python, which transforms itself into a spirit. The twins go to a river, separating themselves from the animals. Indombe had cursed plants so that they would not grow anymore. Lianja lifts the curse. He settles people in different communities. He then climbs a tree and, with his sister on his hips and his mother on his shoulders, he vanishes into the sky.

Observations on these two myths: 1. Lianja is the great ancestor of the Móngo and the Nkundó. The ancestors are great people. We owe our existence to them. A number of miraculous events accompany their birth. African ancestors are not born the normal way. Some are born out of the head of the mother, some out of her chest or her shinbone like Lianja and his twin sister Nsóngó. Their importance can be seen right from the very start of their existence. We 22

see the same trend of thought in the Bible: at the creation of Adam (Gen. 2,7) and Eve (Gen. 2, 21-23), at the birth of Isaac (Gen. 18, 9-15), at the birth of Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25, 22-26), Moses (Ex. 2, 1-4), Samuel (1 Sam. 1, 1-20), Samson (Judges 13, 124), John the Baptist (Luke 1,7-25) and Jesus (Luke 1, 26-38; 2, 1-20). 2. Mbómbe desired ‘safous’ (bafolé) during her pregnancy. Some pregnant women insist to eat specific food items. The husband is obliged to obtain them. Sometimes, for this purpose, he has to wage a battle or perform miracles. 3. Nature is upset by the birth and the death of a great ancestor or miracle worker. 4. Human life does not come about easily. In fact, our whole life is a struggle. For the time being, we can ward off death for our offspring and ourselves. Before his disappearance, the ancestor Lianja lifted the curse pronounced over the plants. Thanks to him we have trees, shrubs and vegetables. 5. Before Lianja was born, his mother gave birth to animals, insects and peoples. She is really the mother of all living beings. There is a basic unity among all living creatures. We all are by nature connected to insects, animals and other peoples. 6. Death is a given. We cannot rid ourselves of it neither for ourselves or for our children. 7. The wonderful Bible stories do not surprise the descendants of Lianja. In the epic Lianja story, people die, resurrect or cross rivers without any material help. Nature reacts on human conception, birth and death. Lianja flies into the skies carrying his twin sister and his mother. One easily sees a parallel between Lianja and Jesus, who also disappeared into the sky. 8. When the epic Lianja story is sung in a village, all neighbouring villages come to join and sing along. It is a great happening. The most attractive side of the story must be the wonderful victories, which the ancestors obtained. These victories give their descendants courage to face their actual difficult life. Lianja came, saw and overcame. He overcame, why shall we not overcome? 9. Every adult woman has ovaries. The traditional African shared this biological knowledge. The myth tells us, ‘The old woman found a way out; she took an egg out of the womb of the pregnant woman. The egg got hatched and a handsome boy showed himself.’


3. The heroic girl.

Once upon a time, there was a family consisting of a man, his wife and three children. All three children were girls. One day, a relative of the parents died. They, the parents, therefore, were to attend the wake in the house of the deceased. The girls stayed at home to keep the house. The girls spent the evening and part of the night chatting. In order not to become bored, they dreamt aloud about what kind of husband each of them would like to marry. The eldest girl said, ‘When I marry, I marry the cook of the king. Whenever my husband prepares delicious food for the king, we take our share of the meal first; therefore, even before serving the king.’ The second girl said, ‘When I marry, I marry the server of the king. When your husband has finished preparing the king’s food, we take our share, before we present it to the king. The youngest girl said, ‘I want to marry the king himself. When your husbands have finished their work, they bring in the delicious food and we shall eat at our ease. We shall bring forth beautiful children with golden hair, magnificent skin and sparkling eyes. All people will call me ‘the mother of the nation.’ At that time, the king and his soldiers used to tour the villages at night to maintain order and ensure peace in the kingdom. The three girls were very busy talking about their dreams and their future, when the king and his soldiers arrived at their home. They stopped, stood quiet as a mouse near the open window and listened attentively to the conversation. After having listened, the king told his men, ´Note this house well, because you have to return here tomorrow.’

The three sisters.


The following day, the king ordered his men to fetch the girls. The girls were terrified, when they heard the king’s message. They were shaking and at a loss. What would their parents feel and do, when they see the house empty? However, they gathered all their courage and went to see the king who was waiting for them. After the usual greetings, the king asked them to narrate what they had been discussing the previous night. At first, the girls felt extremely embarrassed, but then each one of them repeated faithfully what she had said the previous evening. After listening, the king told the girls, ‘Let it be as each of you has wished.’ Then the king called his cook and gave him the eldest girl. He then called his server and gave him the second girl. He himself took the youngest girl. At first, each of the girls was very happy in her marriage. Afterwards, the elder girls began to envy their younger sister. They said, ‘must we serve her as if we are her slaves?’ Unfortunately, by the time they became envious, the queen was expecting a baby. At the birth, the elder sisters were called to assist the pregnant queen. The latter gave birth to a very handsome baby boy. He had golden hair, bright eyes and a beautiful skin. This increased her sisters’ envy. The two elder sisters plotted to leave the child on the riverbank and say that she had given birth to a dog. They took the baby and left it on the riverbank. Fortunately that day, the cleaner of the palace came to fetch water at the river. He saw the baby, picked it up and took it to his wife. His wife was barren and was very happy indeed to receive the baby. She looked after it as if it were her own child. The queen conceived a second time. Again, her sisters were called to assist their youngest sister at the birth. She gave birth to a baby boy who resembled the first baby. This time again her sisters decided to leave the baby on the riverbank and tell their sister that she had given birth to a wildcat. That is what they did. They took the baby and left it where they had left the first baby. As before, the cleaner of the palace picked up the child and carried it to his wife. She accepted the new baby graciously and thankfully. This time the king warned his wife that, if ever she gave birth to animals again, he would divorce her. When the queen conceived for the third time, her sisters were called again to assist at the birth. This time, she gave birth to a very beautiful girl, who was still more beautiful than the others were. 25

She also was thrown away. The queen’s sisters informed their youngest sister that she had given birth to a piece of wood. The cleaner, who had picked up the first two babies, adopted this baby too.

When the king heard about the birth of a piece of wood, he gave orders to undress the queen, to remove the rings from her fingers and to imprison her. At that time, the cleaner of the royal palace requested permission to retire. The king was well aware of all the past services, which this good servant had rendered him. He decided to build a decent home for him as a parting gift. He built the house near his palace. The cleaner moved over to that house with his wife and their three children. The children grew up and became strong and victorious in wrestling, singing, hunting and in many other disciplines. Unfortunately after some time, the parents died. The children remained by themselves. However, they did not complain. One day, the two boys went hunting. They left their sister at home. An old woman called in at the house. She asked the girl for drinking water and a place to rest. The girl took good care of the woman, something she appreciated. The woman thanked the girl and informed her about a secret. She said, ’on that mountain there, there are valuable things hidden. It takes a long journey to arrive there. You will travel for about thirty days. When you reach the place, you encounter an old man. You should ask this old man how to reach the valuable objects. He will direct you. The valuable things are three in number. Number one is a tree, which sings all the songs of the world. The second one is bubbling water having all the colours of the world. The third one is a bird which knows all the secrets of the world.’ After hearing all this, the girl asked the woman for the way to reach the mountain. The old woman only added, ‘Those three things are hard to obtain. But when you possess them, you will have the most beautiful house in the whole world.’ Having said that, the old woman continued her journey.


When her brothers returned, she told them about the visit of the old woman. The brothers became excited. The elder brother proposed to go first to find the three objects. He prepared himself. He packed enough food to last for thirty days. He handed his sister a knife and said, ‘Look at this knife every day. The day the knife becomes bloody, it means that I have died.’ The girl complied with the request. On the twenty-eighth day, the traveller found an old man whose beard had grown over his mouth. The man was very hungry. The boy shaved him and gave him some food. When the old man was satisfied, the boy asked the man how he could obtain the valuables on the mountain. The old man told him, ‘My son, why don’t you abandon this quest? Why do you not return home?’ However, the boy was determined. The old man.

Then the old man said, ‘Tie your donkey to a tree and climb the mountain. You will pass between black rocks on both sides of the path. When you hear some noise, please, do not look back. If you look back, you will turn into a rock.’ The boy tied his donkey to a tree and started climbing the mountain. When he reached halfway, a terrible voice shouted, ‘Who is that man? Kill him! Kick him!’ and many other threats. Then the boy became terrified and looked back. He turned into a rock. When his sister looked at the knife, she saw that there was blood on it. She informed her brother and they mourned deeply and performed the last funeral rites for him. Then the second boy decided to go and look for the valuable things, rather than losing both, the valuable objects and his brother. He prepared himself thoroughly and he too packed enough food for thirty days. Before his departure, he handed his sister a necklace with thirty beads. She was to pull off one bead a day. The day the bead would refuse to come off, it would be a sure sign that he had died. This young man too travelled for twenty-eight days, when he found the old man. The man was very hungry and had a very long beard. The boy shaved him and gave him food. The old man ate and was satisfied. Then the boy asked him how to obtain the things on the mountain. When the old man heard his request, he pleaded with the boy to change his mind, because only recently another boy, who resembled him, had died on his way to the mountain. However, this second boy too was determined. Therefore, the old man gave him some instructions. However, 27

like his brother, this young man too became terrified by the terrible voice; he glanced back over his shoulder and turned into a rock. When the sister learnt of his death, she was devastated, she cried a lot, sat on the ground and fasted. Did the ancestors not say, ‘when the eye weeps, the nose runs?’ (PK1633). After some time, she stood up, washed herself and decided to undertake the same journey, which her brothers had made. If she were to die, she would die. It would be God’s will. If not, she would bring the valuable things into her home. She did not tell anybody. She prepared her journey. After that, she left. When she found the old man, this time his beard had almost overgrown his mouth. However, she took good care of him. Then she asked him how to obtain the valuable things on the mountain. This time too the man pleaded with the girl not to go. He informed her of the two young men who resembled her, who had been so kind to him, but who had died on the way. However, the girl was very steadfast in her resolve to obtain the valuable things. She kindly asked the old man to give her some directions. He instructed her as he had done with her brothers. The girl tied her donkey to a tree, put cotton wool in her ears and started climbing the mountain path. Then an awful noise broke loose, but the girl did not look behind her. The noise increased but the girl was firm in her resolve until she reached the mountain. When she arrived, she heard nice songs coming out of a tree. She broke off a branch from that miracle tree. She found bubbling water showing all the colours of the world. She drew some water with the bottle, which she had brought with her. Then she went up to a very special bird. It greeted her and asked her why she had come. The girl told the bird that she had come to fetch it.


She lifted it up. However, as she was doing so, she asked the bird, ‘what happened to the people who arrived before me?’ At first, the bird refused to tell her. She slapped the bird. Then it told her, ‘they turned into rocks. You’d better pour water on those rocks; some of them will become donkeys and others will become people.’ When the girl poured the water, the rocks turned into donkeys and real people. Her brothers were among them. They were extremely happy and thanked her for raising them up. Some people mounted the donkeys and returned home. The girl too went home with her two brothers. When they reached the village, they dug a hole in their compound, softened a banana leaf above the fire and put it into the hole. Then they poured the special water on top of it. There and then, the water started bubbling. They planted the branch, which they had brought along from the mountain. The branch grew into a tree, which started singing. Then they built a cage for the bird in their house. All the birds of the world came to protect that beautiful and special bird. Their home became very popular. The boys restarted their daily lives and hunted as they did before. They trapped plenty of game. They were very successful in whatever they undertook. One day, the king came to know about them. He wanted to see and admire them. He made the request to receive an invitation. They gladly sent him an invitation. When he arrived, he was amazed to see the things, which he did not possess in his palace, because even at his arrival, the bird welcomed and greeted him. The king was baffled. Then the bird started abusing the king. It said, ´though you are a leader, you are utterly stupid. How can you believe that a human being gives birth to a dog, a wildcat and a piece of wood?’ Then the bird introduced to the king all his children starting from the eldest one. On hearing the news, the king cried his eyes out and apologised to his children and to the queen. The queen was brought out of prison. All people addressed her again as the mother of the nation. People transferred the valuable things from the mountain to the palace. The king ordered the royal drums to sound as he welcomed his children into his palace. People gathered in great numbers and prepared plenty of food. People rejoiced together with the royal household and partook in the royal festivities. They danced and danced until the first cock crowed and the dawn announced a new day. Explanations.


1. The story above contains two different stories, the story of the three sisters and the story of the two brothers and their sister. I get the impression that someone joined them together. 2. We need to be on the watch out for people who may harm us. Be vigilant. The ancestors said, ‘What you take for a vine is a snake (PK 2713). 3. In this story, I recognise two helping figures that are found both in Congolese as well as in Ugandan stories. We talk about an old woman and a filthy old man. Both figures have the same task, namely showing young people the way through life. The two figures do not offer their services spontaneously and they do not do so for nothing. No, both of them are in dire need. The old woman is hungry and tired. She is looking for food and for a place to rest. The old man is usually starving and has an untidy beard. The fact that he appears so dirty means that he does not have a wife, because it is the wife’s task to look well after her husband’s physical appearance. Both elderly persons are in need. However, after being cared for, they are ready to share their wisdom to the younger generation. Among the Básogá in Uganda the mythological old man does not have a special name. The Móngo and the Bongandó in Congo give this man the name Ingólóngóló. This old man lives and moves in the forest. He is quite ready, after the stray hunter takes care of him, to show him the way home. The word ingólóngóló means the little old man. On recognises in it the Lingala word mokúlú and in Lusoga the word ikíkulú, both meaning an elderly person. 4. It is the privilege of the elderly to share their wisdom. ‘If the old man is at home, no goat will enter the house’ (PK1124). The patriarch by his mere presence and wisdom prevents small problems becoming big. ‘The ears never extend beyond the head’ (PK328). A child should be aware of the fact that he will never surpass the wisdom of his parents. It should be ready to listen to their precious advice. 5. The two elderly persons mentioned above are needy but at the same time, they help people in need. They offer their wisdom, worldly wisdom, the road to abundance, the way to the future or the way home for the one lost in the forest. 6. The old man is a very special figure by being the antithesis of the youth who go out of their way to obtain riches. The old man does not become excited about wealth. He knows where he can find the valuable things. He knows the conditions to lay hands on those objects. However, he does not care about running after those things. He is above all that. He quietly stays at home. He is content with what he possesses and how he lives. In his contentment, he is ready to share his wisdom. 7. Whilst parents have the task to show children the way in life, the younger generation has a chance to acquire wisdom and knowledge from their parents. If they do not appreciate this chance, it is their responsibility and their choice. In the story, the old 30

man shows the way to the riches on the mountain, but he warns that the road is risky and very dangerous. However, if the youngsters want to go their own way, he will not stop them. ‘Everybody is different’ (PK798). Everybody is free to go his own way. 8. It is understood that the younger generation needs to support the elderly. The elderly become like ‘the young bird in the nest; it survives by the food that is reached out to it’ (PK1318). Both elderly persons remind us that it is our duty to care for our parents and grandparents, in case they are no longer capable of looking after themselves. 9. The story reminds me of the biblical Isaac who, in his old age, blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau, only after they have served him a copious meal. (Genesis 27) 10. One of the main persons in the first part of the long story is the youngest sister. Whilst her elder sisters are focusing on eating lots of food, the youngest one goes for the king. She aims to obtain the best and highest. Moreover, she is heading straight for her goal. 11. Because of her drive, she runs into jealousy. Her elder sisters try to destroy her, because they cannot stomach that their little sister is better off than they are. They are jealous. 12. Jealousy plays an important role in Bantu society.  A proverb says, ‘Envy does not pass by anybody, not even your relative. (PK1482). In fact, your relatives are, in most cases, the ones, who harbour jealousy. They will hurt you. ‘Death lives under the same roof’ (PK1587). It is a Bantu belief that nobody dies a natural death. ‘Someone in the family or neighbourhood causes the death’ (PK2551).  We harbour jealousy, because someone else is better off, receives more recognition, has more authority, possesses a more beautiful or handsome spouse, has a better salary, has more success in hunting or fishing or has more children. A jealous person says, ‘It is better that the spear hits my brother than the soil’ (CRC1572). He wishes his brother dead in order to inherit his wife. 13. We often find jealousy between co-wives of the same husband. Therefore, they are called rivals. Between these women, jealousy and envy are very common phenomena. 

A proverb says, ‘one does not fight without fetishes’ (PK319). This means to say, one does not enter a polygamous marriage without proper precautionary measures, without fetishes for one’s own protection. The Baganda say, ‘That may well be the case’ (Walser 2481). When a woman hears some malicious gossip about her rival, she does not come to her defence. She will say, ‘That may well be the case.’ The Básogá say, being in a hurry like the woman who wants to bury her rival.’ (CRC1475). She is happy when her rival dies. The deceased should be buried straightaway, just in case she comes back to life. 31

14. In a harem, the husband should be impartial. ‘Bokungú-tree spread your branches; love, spread out over all the hearts’ (PK537). ‘A good knife cuts on both sides’ (PK1940). The husband needs to be impartial in sharing the products of the hunt, the fishing, his revenues and his nights. In a polygamous marriage, the husband is obliged to share his nights equally with his wives in order to avoid jealousy. Each night he passes with a different wife. Alternatively, he stays with every wife two consecutive days. 15. There is a general advice to compete rather than indulge in jealousy (PK1483). Jealousy destroys social contacts. Do not let jealousy claim you. 16. In the narrative above, the two brothers cannot refrain themselves from looking behind. They know they should not do so, but they do it. They do not have the courage to continue their journey and not to be intimidated. Their sister protects herself by putting cotton wool in her ears. She is wise; she is proactive in that she prepares herself well. She does not let herself be distracted. In that way, she saves her brothers, lots of other people and donkeys. She gets hold of the precious objects and takes them home. By her courageous action, the daughter liberates her mother from the dungeon. She becomes queen again. The daughter is, in that way, the great redeemer, when she assisted the old lady and the old man: thanks to her helping hand, thanks to her courage, her wariness, her insights, her preparations and her persistence. 17. In many fairy-tales, fables and other traditional stories as in real life, people are sometimes faced with awesome and fearful moments or times. The three young girls became terrified, when the king’s soldiers came to fetch them. And that at a time, when their parents were absent. Liberation became even more appreciated. The bigger the anxiety is, the bigger the relief becomes. 18. Authority does not automatically render us wise. In the story, the king believes that his wife gave birth to a dog, a wildcat and a piece of wood. There was no inkling of a bell telling him that he had been done in the eye. People in authority can be utterly stupid. 19. In the story, nobody warns the king that people were pulling his leg. Authority creates distance. Both the king as his subordinates keep a certain distance. The subjects let the king simmer in his stupidity. A bird, mind you, has to present itself to give the king the necessary insight, because when the king showed up, the bird scolded him as a fool.

20. At the end of the story, there is no question of taking revenge on the two jealous sisters, who acted in such a way that their youngest sibling landed up in prison. In the end, there is a great feast. Everybody is happy. The revellers do not want to spoil their feast with feelings of revenge. It is a big spiritual liberation. 32

Painting of Ton v. Hout mhm

21. The humble cleaner and his wife are heroes who show pity, take in and educate the three children. For their ordinary work, they receive a decent house. However, both of them are like Moses who saw the Promised Land but who never entered it (Numbers 20, 12). The couple saw their adopted children grow up. However, they never saw how they succeeded in life. 22. Like Moses (Exodus 2, 1-3) the three babies were found and saved on or near a riverbank. 23. The king becomes annoyed and angry. He bans his wife to a prison where she stays for years on end. The authorities never try to examine what happened. At deceptions or when angry, authorities tend to take decisions suddenly. In that way, people are punished, banned, locked up or killed. We see and hear it happen every day. The Bible also is full of such stories. 24. In fairy-tales, mysterious things happen. Life itself is full of secrets, even though we do not always want to admit it. The old man whose mouth is covered by his beard, keeps silent in the presence of the secrets of the mountain. The hairs of his overgrown moustache cover as it were his mouth and the secrets. In the presence of a secret, we had sometimes better shut up. The goodness and helpfulness of the passers-by lift as it were the veil of the secrets. The visitors clean the mouth of the old man and open up the road to the secrets on the mountain.


25. The three youngsters are not allowed to look back on the mountain. The two boys do so all the same and change into rocks just like Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19, 26). In Luke (9, 62) we read, ‘No one who puts his hand to a plough and looks at the things that are behind, is suitable for the kingdom of God.’ In Congo as well as in Uganda, when someone has finished performing a ritual, looking back means that one calls back the bad spirit, that one has left behind. When you ritually cleanse yourself in a river or brooklet and you leave the water, you may never look back. If you do, the bad spirit from which you liberated yourself, will join you again. 26. The big lesson for life is that, if you have taken a great decision, e.g. if you have taken a choice for your life, you had better, for your own good, not come back on that decision. Continue on the road of your choice, even though things may turn out difficult. Therefore, the ancestors said, ‘A bachelor never tires of making his own bed’ (CRC1578). ‘An elephant never tires of carrying his trunk’ (PK2168). 27. Each person in the story faces many hiccups and humps. Deceptions especially injustices cause pain and stress.  The queen disappears for many years behind bars through the stupidity of the king.  The elder sisters are full of jealousy.  The two brothers die while climbing the mountain  The soldiers deport the three girls.  The two elder sisters deceive the king.


 

The two elder sisters have to resign to the fact that their younger sister has become their queen and they her servants. Indeed life is no bed of roses. We all have many hiccups and humps to take like the Básogá say, ‘Life is a struggle like dancing with a hunchback’ (CRC1481). Alternatively, ‘Life is like the struggle of a bald man with a faggot of thorny branches on his head’ (CRC1484).

28. The queen and her daughter are the big saviours in the story. Imagine such a story in a patriarchal society. Mother figures as saviours of her children are not that rare. However, a simple daughter who saves her whole clan, after her brothers failed, is quite a feat. In the gospels, mother Mary stands out quite significantly. She is a real heroin who stands with her son until the very last moment. She continues to believe in him! 29. Mountains are mysterious and holy places, 

 

 

On the mountain, there are three precious objects. Three persons climb the mountain, two brothers and their sister to find those objects. They reach the mountain after 30 days. Three seems to be a special number. Redemption comes from the mountain. The wicked monster does not dare to approach the mountain. Abraham has to sacrifice his son on a mountain, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’ (Genesis 22, 2). Moses also had to climb the mountain Sinai to meet God (Exodus19, 8). On the mountain, Moses receives the two stone tablets (Ex. 31,18), the instructions to live a life without too much trouble. When Jesus wants to pray, he climbs a hill or mountain (Mark 6, 46).On the mountain, Jesus calls and appoints his apostles (Mark 3, 13). On a high mountain, Jesus has the wonderful meeting with Moses and Elijah. There the apostles hear a divine voice. (Mark 9, 2-9 and Matth.17, 1-9). Many monasteries, churches and places of pilgrimage are situated on top of a hill or mountain like Lourdes, Monserrat, Jerusalem, Rome, Sinai and even Vrijland. Many people found and find such high places ideal meeting places with God.


4. When time is up Once upon a time, there was a man who rose early to enter the forest and make charcoal for the market. However, before he left the house, his wife stopped him and said, ‘My dear husband, last night I had a bad dream. I dreamt that a lion went for you. Therefore, you had better stay home and not enter the forest.’ However, the man answered, ‘Is it that this stupid dream of yours prevented you from sleeping well, and that woke you up early to tell me this stupid story? Give me quickly my axe and machete. I am off.’ The saying goes, ‘When your time is up, there is nothing that can be done about it.’ The spouse did her best. However, in the end, she handed him his axe and machete. The forest happened to be very far from home. The man had to walk a long time to reach the forest. That forest bordered a lake, was very big indeed and was home to many animals.

When the man reached the forest, he headed straight for the lakeside. He wanted to fell several trees. He started cutting down a musítá tree. That tree provides very good charcoal. Near that tree, a lion was asleep, but our man was in a hurry and did not notice the lion. When the tree was on the point of falling down, the lion woke up and saw the man at work. Just at that moment, the man looked into the lion’s direction and spotted it. The man hurriedly climbed the tree, which he had been cutting down and which was on the verge of falling. The lion waited for the man at the foot of the tree. However, in that same tree, a bit higher up, there was a venomous snake, which went for our man. Because the tree was on the verge of falling down and had to endure the weight of the climbing man, it turned and came crashing down. As bad luck would have it, the tree fell into the lake. However, in the lake a crocodile happened to be swimming. 36

When it heard the cracking and groaning of the falling tree near her eggs, she shot through the water in the direction of the man. It opened its mighty jaws to devour him. The animal got hold of the man, dragged him along and killed him.

The waiting crocodile

Explanations 1. ‘When your time is up, there is nothing that can be done about it.’ His wife tried to prevent her husband from entering the forest. However, her husband was not interested in her story. He went all the same. First, he escapes the lion, and then he dodges the snake. Finally, he succumbs to the crocodile. There is no way of escaping death. “Death is sometimes like a thunderbolt or the sound of a plane. It says, “Come, let us go.” (PK1581). Death comes all of a sudden. When your time is up, you cannot escape death. You start on your big journey into the unknown. 2. Please, listen to the one who warns you.  

‘The one, who warns you, is your friend’ (CRC 306). ‘The one, who warns you, is better than the one who slanders you’ (CRC 307).


5. Mpaayo’s daughter.

Once upon a time, there was a man called Mpaayo. Mister Mpaayo was an old man, who was well respected in his village and in his whole clan. God had given him only one daughter. That child was beautiful and well behaved. As the years passed by, she grew more and more beautiful and she learnt many new things. She learnt also that girls needed to decorate themselves with tattoos on their arms, their belly and on their calves. One day, she and her girlfriends went into the forest to put on tattoos on themselves and on their friends. Once in the forest, they started to tattoo themselves. Mpaayo´s daughter saw very soon that the other girls managed to put on far more beautiful tattoos than she had put on. She felt disappointed and started to cry. When her friends saw that there was no end to her weeping, they decided to go back home. They left her in the forest.

African village painted by Fr. A. Burm mhm

Whilst she was crying her eyes out, a huge snake approached her. The snake’s skin was ornamented with beautiful tattoos. The snake asked her, ‘Girl, what are you crying about?’ She answered, ‘I would like to have the same beautiful tattoos as you have got.’ The snake replied, ‘If I adorn you with the same tattoos as I have got myself, you are not allowed to tell anybody. If you do tell people, I’ll come and devour you.’ The girl agreed with the proposal. The snake adorned her body with fascinating tattoos. After that, the girl returned to the village. 38

Once back home, everybody admired her magnificent tattoos and asked her who had given her such a beauty. As people asked her the same question repeatedly, she continued to reply in the same way. However, after some days, her own father, Mr Mpaayo, asked her where her tattoos originated. Then the girl proposed that her father would call together all clan heads, the inhabitants of the village and all her friends. At that occasion, she promised to reveal who had given her the tattoos. Her father organised a big gathering of all clan people, friends and inhabitants of the village. During that meeting, the girl rose to her feet and said, ‘In the forest I met a big snake. In addition, that snake adorned my skin with those beautiful tattoos. However, he laid down a strict condition, namely that I was not to tell anyone who had adorned me. If I would tell the story, the snake would come and devour me. That’s why I have asked you to come here and protect me against that snake.’

When people had listened to her story, they gathered lots of firewood to lay a huge bonfire all around her. Everybody stayed there to protect the girl. When the day came to an end and darkness set in, people prepared themselves to pass the night there and then. Everyone held a stick or a spear to kill the snake if need be. It did not take long before everybody fell asleep. No one heard anything anymore. The fire went out completely. Then the snake came out of the forest, singing. It sang,

   

I shall, I shall devour Mpaayo’s daughter with the round tattoos. I shall, I shall devour Mpaayo’s daughter with the round tattoos. I shall, I shall devour Mpaayo’s daughter with the round tattoos. I shall, I shall devour Mpaayo’s daughter with the round tattoos.

The girl woke up with a start. She became terrified and called her father and her mother, but they did not hear anything. She shouted for help. She called for help from the people of the village, the clan elders and her friends. However, nobody heard her. A very deep sleep had overcome them. The snake approached her, got hold of her and ate her. It put her head on top of the water jar in the kitchen of her home. 39

Explanations 1. The snake in the story is like the one in the book of Genesis (3, 1-7); it brings panic and death. It is not the snake’s fault, because it had warned the girl and set its conditions. If one makes an agreement, one should stick to it. An agreement does not burn with the house (CRC1133). Even when your house burns down and your promissory note has turned into ashes, you are still in debt. 2. A proverb says,’ Beware of a pile of leaves, it may well hide a dangerous obstacle’ (PK21). Hunters and fishermen sometimes hurt themselves by walking into a sharp piece of wood. To prevent that other persons get hurt in the same way, they depose a heap of leaves on the sharp object. That is a warning to the passer-by. Forewarned is forearmed. One should consider warnings. Mpaayo’s daughter thought lightly of the snake’s condition. She paid for it with her life. 3. We accuse the girl whose ardent desire for beauty made her agree to the wishes of the shrewd snake. That craving for beauty cooked her goose. 4. Moreover, the girl could not keep her secret. That killed her. The girl prepared her own death by two defects, vanity and indiscretion. 5. The girl was destined to die. Her village mates could haul as much firewood as they liked, make a blazing bonfire, but when they fell asleep and the fire went out, the snake saw its chance and killed the girl. In this case, the proverb says, ‘Death cannot be evaded’ (PK1584). 6. Moreover, death comes all of a sudden. You never know whether your days are over.  

‘The grave doesn’t announce itself. All of a sudden the stretcher is there’ (PK 2138). ‘The one who buys a spade, buys the spade which will bury him’ (CRC 1734).

7. It is a sad story that her friends left the girl in the forest. It is an unwritten rule that, when you enter the forest together, you come out together. ‘A bad goat leaves the shepherds in the salty swamp’ (CRC 1587). And the other way round is true also, bad shepherds leave the goat in the swamp. We say, ‘Out together, home together.’ After having left their friend in the forest, the girls must have felt guilty. That is why they and their relatives participated in the wake. However, it was to no avail.


6. Chappie and the birds.

Once upon a time, there was a man called Chappie. Chappie was a farmer and a hunter at the same time. Chappie pained his brains to find a means to catch birds. He made a snare and hoped to catch plenty of them. In the trap, he put all kinds of tasty grains to attract the birds. Once inside the trap, the birds would not be able to escape.

The next day he went to see whether the birds had made a landfall. Indeed, there were very many birds inside his trap. However, each bird tried to escape by flying into the direction it wanted. Each one was hindered by the weight of all the other birds. In the end, they understood. All agreed to fly into the same direction. That is what they did. However, when they were high in the sky, they put up a fierce fight; each bird flew again into the direction it wanted. Some birds preferred to fly to the swamps, some chose the forests, and others again liked the open fields. Because they did no longer agree, they all fell down to earth in the trap. At that time, Chappie arrived where he had put his trap, only to find it had gone. He looked around to find it. When he was still searching, he found the birds struggling on the ground. He lifted the trap with all the birds inside and went home to eat all of them. 41

Explanations Unity makes us strong. Many proverbs underline this thought: 1. ‘One man by himself will not cut up an elephant’ (PK2462). ‘A single dog cannot hunt squirrels’ (CRC1069). 2. When we lack unity, we easily fall prey to all kinds of evil-minded people. 3. ‘A war can only be won by a great number of shins (PK1259). When people combine their strength, they can accomplish great things. 4. The one, who moves in a group, will not die (PK2743). 5. The canoe with a wooden scooper will not sink (PK2898). When the canoe has a hole, the owner will empty his canoe in time. It is a question of working together. 6. One termite does not build an anthill (CRC855). 7. Two fools are better than one genius (CRC60 +CRC807). 8. It was a row that separated the two buttocks (CRC1935). 9. If you travel alone, the vulture will announce your death (CRC701). People will know your death by the flock of vultures that has come to feast on your body.


7. Two little old women A long time ago, two little old women were very much alike. They lived together in the same house. However, because of old age, they quarrelled almost every day. One day, these little old women finished their supper. Both desired to retire and go to bed. When it came to closing the door, one of them told the other, “You close the door.” The other one replied, “Why do you not close that bally door? Can you not do it yourself? No, I refuse. Do as you like.” The other one answered, “I do not care whether that door is closed or not.”

In the end, they both went to sleep without closing the door. In that village, many hyenas used to come and eat goats and other domestic animals. However, this time, they found these two little old women, when they had not closed their door. The hyenas entered their home and grabbed one of them. She cried for help, but her companion just laughed at her, saying, “No problem when they eat you. You refused to close the door. So good luck. Hyenas, do not take her through my pumpkin garden And take her far away into the bush. Eat her over there.” The hyenas took and ate the first little old woman. However, they were not satisfied, because the woman was tiny and skinny. They decided to go back for the remaining one. When they arrived, this stupid little old woman had not closed her door yet. They entered the house, grabbed her also, dragged her into the bush, ate her and had their fill. That is when I left the place, when the hyenas ate both little old women.



1. People, who live or work together, need to share responsibilities.  “Many rats and not one that closed the door.” (CRC1103). Did you ever see a door in front of a mouse hole? No, because not one of the mice is responsible for closing the hole. They all run in and out; however, not one of them thinks of making a door or closing it.  “One who looks at the child’s nose, cleans it” (CRC382). When a child has hanging mucus, do not call its mother; wipe it off yourself. 2. If you shift the responsibility for your life to others and leave it to them, you will soon encounter misery. A Ugandan proverb says, “A cow belonging to two people will sleep in its hide.” (CRC1249). If a cow, belonging to two people falls sick and dies in the evening, neither of them is ready to cut up the animal there and then. First, they need to deliberate, because they need to prevent or solve certain problems. Neither of them dares to take the responsibility. The cow will pass the night in its hide. 3. Even when you grow old and life becomes heavy, you had better try to take on the responsibilities of your life and of those of your household. ‘What God has given you, you should not resent. A bachelor does not tire of making his bed.’ (CRC1578). 4. In old age, old people quarrel sometimes about anything at all. We need to put up with a quarrelsome partner or friend. 5. ‘That is where or when I left the place’ is usually the end of a Ugandan fable.


8. The glutton. The glutton was an important chief and a great hunter. He managed to kill many animals. However, he was also a great eater, a real fatso. He was only happy, when he had had his fill. He advised his wives always to prepare lots of food. Only after having had a meal, was he satisfied. However, as soon he had relieved himself, he had that hungry kind of feeling and flew into rage with his wives. At that same instant, they had to prepare food again and to serve him. One day, he killed a wild boar in the forest. His wives prepared a great meal. He did not wait until the evening. No, he ate the food straightaway. After the meal, he was still hungry. He called his wives together and said, “I am a great hunter and a great eater. When I have relieved myself, I become hungry again. What shall I do? Is the cassava the cause of my problem? His first wife stood up and said, “You are completely crazy! It is the hollow God himself created. That hole will never be filled up. Even when you eat a lot, the hole remains empty. Why would you try to fill it up?” The husband answered, “Good, each of you should prepare two baskets of food and serve me.” The women left, prepared the food and served him. The chief ate all the food until nothing was left. It did not last long before he was hungry again, because he went to relieve himself and his belly became completely empty. He flew into a rage, called his first wife, and said, ‘I want you to prepare me lots of food like bananas, palm oil and lots of meat, a whole pot, full up to the rim. Serve me it all, so that I feel satisfied.’

They called for more bananas

His wife was hardly gone, when he took a quantity of liquid resin, which he glued to his anus. When his wife came around with fresh food, he started to swallow it all until he was fully satisfied. He could not relieve himself, because his anus was closed off by the resin. He could not even fart a bit. That same night, the big chief died. People built a 45

shelter with palm leaves and placed him there on a bier. Everybody showed up to mourn the big man. However, when the chief put the resin on his anus, his youngest kid observed what he was doing. The boy informed the mourners, “Instead of weeping your eyes out, have a close look at his anus.” Everybody was upset by the boy’s words. The boy ran for his dear life. When he was at a safe distance, he called his dad’s eldest brother, ‘Uncle, instead of becoming upset by what I said and killing me, please, have a look at dad’s anus, because I saw with my own eyes that he put resin on it.” The uncle took action, lifted the body and turned it over. At once, he saw the resin that kept nature at bay. He took a razor and cut into the resin. The resin and the excrements came out together. It became a huge pile. The chief opened his eyes and came back to life. All those present blamed the patriarch as if he were a small child. Explanations 1. Gluttony may land you into big problems. Be moderate and control yourself at table when eating and drinking. 2. Listen well to even a child. It can save your life. It may happen as when the safari ants attacked a brooding chicken. One of the eggs told the chicken, “Mum, please go, we’ll manage.” However, the chicken did not want to abandon its eggs. Consequently, the ants devoured it. As the chicken should have listened to the egg, we too should listen to our children. They may save our life. The proverb tells us, “The egg teaches the chicken” (PK471). 3. When you have health problems, do not look for a solution on your own. Talk things over with other people to avoid worse things to happen  “Do not hide an illness from your wife; do not hide hunger from your in-laws.” (PK2203). If you have a problem, let it be known.  “The one with an anus does not walk around with a blown-up stomach” (CRC216). If you have a bad feeling, spit it out. Be frank; get it off your chest.  “The excrements in your belly do not smell” (PK2289). If you do not talk, I will not know your problem. If you have a problem, please, tell me.  “If you faint on the road, you will survive.” (CRC387). People will find you and take care of you. When you make known your problems, people will assist you. 4. Another proverb says, “Each person survives thanks to someone else” (PK792). We depend on one another. We should always be ready to help a person in need. In that case, others will assist us also. This is the experience of Mr Lombóto in the next story.


9. The chimpanzee and Lombóto

A man, Lombóto by name, goes into the forest to cut palm nuts. He knows the way and knows where he may find some ripe juicy nuts. Then he spots some red nuts lying at the foot of a palm tree. He knows that in top of that palm tree he can find a bunch of ripe fruits. With him, he has his climbing vine and his machete. With the help of that vine, he climbs into the palm tree. When reaches the crown of the tree, he hoists himself on top of the broadening branches. He takes off the climbing vine and ties it to one of the branches. He starts cutting the bunch with the ripe nuts. Then fate catches up with him. The climbing vine drops off the branch and falls on the ground below. Lombóto gets a fright, because, without his vine, how will he be able to set foot on the ground again? He calls for help. He shouts, ‘Help! Help! Help me, Lombóto. I am stuck, help me!’ He listens carefully. No answer, nothing at all. There is complete silence. Nobody hears poor Lombóto. Not a single soul to be seen. But! A chimpanzee hears his call and approaches. He looks at the situation and settles himself on a branch of a nearby palm tree. That branch bends in such a way as to touch the palm tree in which Lombóto is stuck. Lombóto grasps the branch and ties it onto a branch of his own tree. In this way, he can pass into the lower palm tree and reach the ground. The chimpanzee looks on, until Lombóto goes home with his climbing vine and his machete. A few days later, Lombóto hears the talking drum telling the hunters that people have spotted chimpanzees near the village. All men are expected to present themselves for the communal hunt. Lombóto gets hold of his spear and a hunter’s net. In the meantime, he asks himself whether the hunt concerns the chimpanzee that saved his life. Together with the other hunters, Lombóto suspends the nets in the bushes and in between the trees. Other hunters are spread out in the forest at a great distance. They make a lot of 47

noise to drive the chimpanzees towards the nets. The hunters behind the nets soon hear the noise of fleeing game. Lombóto calls out, “Chimpanzee, chimpanzee! It is me, Lombóto. Come this way. Come this way!” The chimpanzee recognises his voice and says to himself, “Isn’t that the man I saved in the top of the palm tree? He runs in Lombóto’s direction. When Lombóto spots the fleeing chimpanzee, he lifts his net. The chimp runs underneath the net into the land of freedom! Lombóto informs his companions, ‘The chimpanzee managed to escape. Let us go home.’ Everybody returns home. Ever since, we use the saying, “Let us help each other like the chimpanzee and Lombóto” (PK792). Explanations 1. ‘One good turn deserves another’ (CRC1398). And ‘virtue is its own reward.’ We know that we should not retaliate evil with evil, and certainly not good with evil. 2. Once in a while, everybody gets into problems and needs the help of others. That is why we should always be ready to help others. They in their turn will assist us. Otherwise, we are like the man who never greeted his neighbours, never invited them for a drink or a meal, but the day a leopard attacked him, he cried for help (PK1809). He ran the risk that his neighbours would give him the cold shoulder, thinking, ‘you had better sort things out yourself.’ Assistance should be reciprocal. Otherwise, we are like the child who cries for his mother when darkness falls (PK40). This child has been playing outside the whole afternoon without bothering itself about its mother. However, when darkness sets in and the child becomes afraid, only then, it calls for its mother.


10. The woman who destroyed magic.

A man and his wife made a field in the forest and planted cassava. Not long afterwards, the woman died. Her husband continued to work in the garden. He did his best to do away with the bad weeds. Very soon, he noticed that someone was stealing his cassava. The man said to himself, ‘My wife died only recently and then someone has the guts to steal my cassava. It is just too bad for words.’ He became emotional about the case. The next day he returned to his field early. At his arrival, he saw an old woman descending from the sky into his field with the help of a very long vine. The man asked her, ‘So, you are the one who steals my cassava?’ The old woman replied, ‘When did your wife die?’ The man said, ‘Two days ago!’ The old woman replied, ‘Take this calabash and put it tomorrow on her grave. She will rise again.’ The man answered, ‘Really?’ The woman said, ‘Yes, just do it.’ They separated and the day ended. The following morning the man went to the grave of his wife, put the calabash on top of it. His wife rose from the grave.

Her parents were completely baffled and felt awed at the same time. However, the husband raised many more dead in the same way. One day, his wife’s younger sister died. Her husband had to attend a court session. But her elder sister said, ’I shall call my husband so that he raises my little sister.’ She called her husband, but he said, ‘Your sister has to stay in the grave for two days. Only on the third day, I shall raise her from the dead.’ His wife became very angry indeed and said, ‘I do not want her to stay in the grave that long.’ Her husband replied, ‘I did not understand it that way. After how many days did I raise you from the dead? Was it not on the third day?’ 49

His wife became more and more angry and frustrated. She grabbed the miracle calabash and threw it into the river. Therefore, her sister could not be resuscitated and died for ever. In this way, the woman destroyed the magic of life once and for all. Explanations 1. In the present story, It is a woman who is said to be responsible that death has come to stay definitively among us. A woman gives life by giving birth to her children and by nourishing them for so many years. However, it is a woman also who destroyed life by throwing away the life-giving calabash. Is this way of looking at life one of the results of the patriarchal system prevalent among the Bantu? 2. Death can be overcome only on the third day. This thought runs parallel to that of the gospel in the case of Lazarus and in Jesus’ case. See John, 11, 6, 11, 7; Luke 24, 46. 3. Impatience is the cause of many accidents. Among the Mongo, one hears the saying ‘ikôké’ (take it easy) (PK1347) the whole day long in their ‘nsáko’ (special greetings). Many proverbs admonish people to act slowly: (PK 803, 1276, 1344, 1348, 1350, and 1573) ‘Be patient and things will work out fine’. ‘If you are too much in a hurry, you will spoil things.’ ‘One has to act with prudence and patience to overcome a difficult situation’ (PK718). ‘The one who plods, gets far’ (CRC96). ‘Something cold can be handled by the fingers (CRC1017)’. Let things cool down and you will handle them easily. Patience, please! 4. ‘The world does not develop in one day as if it were a mushroom’ (CRC1206). Rome was not built in one day. One needs time and patience to achieve one’s goals. 5. Even when you are very angry, do not do or say queer things, which you will regret later.


11. Two handicapped men

Two handicapped men lived under the same roof. One of them was blind and the other one was completely deaf. However, the deaf man could see very well and the blind man heard perfectly well. One night, when the two of them were sleeping fast, the blind man woke up and heard the threatening sound of the war drum. He left his bed and woke his deaf friend. With signs, he informed him that a war had broken out. ‘Get onto your feet. Take my hand. Let us hide in the forest.’

The deaf man took the hand of his blind friend. Together they fled into the forest. After some time, they stood still to hear where the battle was raging. Then they knew into which direction they had to flee. They fled far away from the battle scene. In the end, they arrived in a place where they did not hear any battle noises. They stayed hidden there for some time. In that forest, the deaf man caught one day a fleeing woman. He was aware of her presence, because his blind friend had heard her cough. He took her as his wife. When the battle had ended, they went back home. When they had arrived home, the blind man said, ‘My dear friend, give me that woman as my spouse, because thanks to my excellent ears, we fled the battle. Moreover, I was the one to notice her presence when she began to cough.’ However, the deaf man replied, ‘She is not your wife, but she is mine. We could hide in the forest, because I saw the way and took you by your hand. In 51

that way, both of us could hide in the forest. In addition, I caught her myself. That’s why she is mine.’ What do you think? Who should be the real husband of the woman? Explanation: 1. When we look well at the two handicapped men, then we should admit that the man with the good ears has a right to the woman. The reason is that, if he would not have heard the war drum, both men would have been killed in their home. Moreover, he heard the fleeing woman cough in the forest.

In that way, the man with the eyesight could trace and overpower her. For these reasons, the blind man with his good hearing has the right to take the woman. She is his spouse. 2. Here we can apply the rule that the first person, who acts to save both of them, is the real saviour. That is here the man, who heard the war drum and the upcoming violence. The proverb, which indicts the delict on the one, who started the quarrel, is applied positively (PK411). The good result is awarded to the one who initiated the salvation and liberation.


12. Three wives

A man had three wives. The first wife conceived the idea of digging a pit latrine. She entered her banana plantation behind the house and dug a deep pit. The second wife contributed to the latrine by building a small hut above the pit. This took place at the beginning of the dry season, when women enter the forest to bail out pools and brooklets to catch the remaining fish. The third wife, therefore, went fishing. She caught plenty of fish. However, before she prepared the fish, her catch was already decomposing. All the same, she prepared her husband a plate of fish. During the night, the husband suffered belly cramps and diarrhoea. He ran up and down to the pit latrine. During one of his visits to that toilet, he found a fugitive. A slave had run away from his master and was hiding there. Although the husband was suffering from diarrhoea, he managed to get hold of the man. He showed him to the village people. In former times, when a man married, he had to supply copper rings as well as a slave to his in-laws. As soon as his in-laws heard that their son-in-law had caught a slave, the fathers of the three wives presented themselves with their request.

On their way to claim the slave.

The father of the first wife said, ‘My sister quit her marriage. I have to give back the dowry. Please, give me the slave so that I can use him to finish my debt with the inlaws.’ The father of the second wife came running in and said ‘My dear son-in-law, I am looking for a man, because my in-laws press me for the dowry of my wife. I heard you caught a slave. Could you, please, help me with this man? In that case, I can solve my problems.’ The father of the third wife came knocking on the door as well and said ‘My


dear son-in-law, my father died last night and I need a slave to bury him together with my father.’ The son-in-law, the husband of the three wives, took the slave and gave him to the father of the wife who had dug the pit latrine. However, the wife who had built the hut on top of the pit latrine stood up and said, ‘It should not be like that. The slave is mine, because I built the hut in which the slave hid himself. Therefore, the slave should go to my dad.’ The woman, who had caught the rotten fish, stood up as well and said ‘That slave does not belong to you at all. He is mine. If our husband had not eaten my fish, he would not have had diarrhoea and would not have visited the toilet. Therefore, the slave belongs to me and to my family.’ The woman who had dug the pit, stood up again and said, ‘You, people, you are greatly mistaken. If I had not dug the pit latrine, there would not have been a hut and our husband with his diarrhoea would never have paid a visit to that spot. The slave is mine alone and nobody else’s. My father has the right to own him.’ The three women started a row and came to blows. In order to calm the situation, judges called them together to solve their dispute. The question of the three women is ‘who of the three of us has the right to the slave?’ Explanations 1. There is here a question of three women: the one who dug the pit, the one who built the hut and the third one who went fishing. The three judges studied the question and their common solution is the following: ‘The one who dug the pit, has a right to the slave.’ The main reason is that this woman incited the others to work for their husband. If the husband had ordered the wife to dig a pit latrine, the question would have been quite different. However, this woman dug the pit out of her own initiative. When her rival saw the pit, she built the hut on top of it. The woman of the rotten fish caused the diarrhoea, which forced the husband to pay a visit to the toilet. However, the very first cause is the woman who dug the pit. That is why she is the rightful owner of the slave. 2. In the story, there is a reference to the old tradition of having slaves. It seems to have been customary that, at the burial of an important chief, a slave would be taken, his arms and legs broken and buried together with his master. A proverb (PK287) refers to this custom, saying, ‘One does not kill a slave without giving him fish heads.’ The proverb means to say ‘every human being should be treated well’ or ‘nobody can work without a reward.’ 3. In the villages, you often find a banana plantation behind the home. It is there that people dig a pit latrine. It is in those plantations also that women have their babies.


13. Mrs Ísotá

Máama Ísotá has been married for about six years. She never became pregnant. People are convinced that she is infertile. Her husband’s relatives advise him to divorce her, because ‘this leads to nothing.’ Máama Ísotá pays a visit to her grandmother and asks her for advice. Grandma advises her to go together with her husband to Méerú at Gyáboná and pray there. She has to take along 16 coffee beans, 8 for herself and 8 for her husband. They follow up her good advice. When they arrive at the white rock, they contact the healer who is responsible for the rock and its rituals. The couple kneels down in front of the big white rock. Each of them throws four coffee beans to the right and four to the left inviting the spirits of all corners of the world to assist them. After throwing the coffee beans they stand up without leaning on the ground. Each of them takes a tuft of grass, spits on it and deposes it on the rock. They then go home without turning around or looking back. Otherwise, they lose the blessing.

The healer

Within one month, Ísotá is pregnant. When she is sure she has become pregnant, she informs the healer at Gyáboná. He advises her to contact the medical facility of the prenatal care in her vicinity. Eight months later, she gives birth to a healthy baby. After the birth, she and her husband, with the baby in their arms, go and see the healer at the shrine. They bring along a goat and some beer. The healer accompanies them to the white rock. There he puts on his ceremonial garb of bark cloth. He lays one hand on the 55

back of the goat, addresses Méerú, and thanks her for the gift of the child. The men kill the goat there and then. The healer roasts the liver for Méerú. The others roast the meat and all eat from it. They drink together the beer, which the happy father has brought with him.

Explanation 1. Each spirit is accompanied by other spirits. That is why people throw coffee beans to both the right and to the left, invoking the spirits residing right, left and centre. They invoke these spirits and thank them for their presence. 2. Both in Congo and in Uganda, one is not allowed to look back at the end of a ritual, because by looking back, one invites the bad spirits and the bad luck, which one left on the rock or in the river, to take possession of one’s body again. 3. At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, Lot and his relatives were not allowed to look back to see what happened to those two cities. Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19, 26). In Luke 9, 62 Jesus says, ‘No one who puts his hand to a plough and looks at the things that are behind, is suitable for the Kingdom of God.’ 4. Even in present day Africa, there are many healers and diviners. In the countryside, there are no hospitals or no medicine. The traditional healer is a place of refuge for the sick, for those who have lost a relative and want to know why that person died. Most healers have a good knowledge of the power of plants, tree bark, roots and herbs growing in the forest or in the bush. Even the people living next to a hospital or a health clinic frequent the local healers, diviners and seers.


14. Why the Básogá cook on three stones

Long ago, the Básogá did not cook on stones. They used to dig a trench, where they would place the cooking pot and cook. However, one day, in the village of Kalíró, there was a man whose name was Wáziikó (Hearth), who had a daughter called Ndígamáza (I will finish them off). Ndígamáza was a very beautiful girl. She had a gap in her teeth, rosy lips, sparkling eyes and shapely legs. Time came when Ndígamáza was looking at boys. It did not take long before she told her aunt Nákásuuwá and her sisters Naibooli and Nákangú (the quick one) about her desire to get married. They were kind persons and they started looking for the young man she could marry. Her aunt Nákásuuwá (one who heats up) was the first to bring her a young man called Mátyáma. When the two met, they fell in love. All that was left to be done by Mátyáma was to bring a dowry. Then the two lovebirds would set up a home. In the meantime, Nákangú arrived with a young man Mugúmírá (courageous fellow) whom Ndígamáza accepted also. Again after these two had left, Naibooli arrived with Bukusuba, whom Ndígamáza received well and whom she did not want to let go. After all three had left, the young girl Ndígamáza did not know what to do. She had accepted the offer of all three of them. However, she could not marry all of them. One day, Ndígamáza went to collect firewood in the forest. When she had split the firewood, she tied up the bundle to carry it home. She did not notice the snake inside the bundle. When she tightened the bundle, she crushed the snake, which bit her. By the time she arrived home, the venom had reached her heart. She died. Meanwhile, Mátyáma had a pair of binoculars. He wanted to know how his girl Ndígamáza was getting on. He had obtained the cloth and the dowry. He was waiting for the marriage day. However, when he looked through the binoculars, he saw that his friend Ndígamáza had died and that many people had come to mourn her. Brokenhearted, he went to tell his friend Mugúmírá. As soon as he told Mugúmírá, he answered: ‘I have a small stick, with which I can bring a person back to life, at least if people have not buried that person yet. So now, let us go to our friend Bukusuba. He has a car and he can take us quickly over there. In that way, we arrive before the burial. When they met Bukusuba, they informed him. He got up quickly like a man with a purpose. When they reached the compound of Wáziikó, each one looked at his friend, wondering if the other two were her lovers also. They did not know that of one another, before she died. Mugúmírá started talking first. He said, ‘My friends, the girl who has died, is the one whom I wanted to marry.’ He pulled out his magic stick and beat on Ndígamáza’ s body. Immediately she came back to life. The girl saw her three lovers Mugúmírá, Mátyáma, and Bukusuba, sitting next to her bed. The people present informed her of all that had happened. 57

Ndígamáza called together her father Wáziikó and all the people who had come for the burial. As they all stood around her, she said, ‘I have been in love with these three men, but they did not know about the other two suitors. However, because what they have done for me, I have decided to marry all three of them.’ After she had spoken, the people present saw the three suitors turning into cooking stones. Ndígamáza herself turned into a cooking pot. That is why since then until now the cooking pot sits on three stones. If one of them is missing, one cannot cook. That is why the Básogá use three stones to make a fireplace.

Explanations 

Women play a very important role in bringing people together for reconciliation e.g., when they cook food, even those who were quarrelling, come and share the same meal. A woman brings people together, at birth and at death. Extraordinary things happen.

Before entering a marriage, one should not be blinded by an infatuation. One should observe the situation meticulously. Only in this way, one avoids surprises like the three young men who did not realise that they had serious rivals. 58

Before making choices in your life, it is good to listen to advice. An old woman’s slogan was, ‘I fell into the pit with my eyes fully open’ (PK114). She blamed herself for her bad marriage against which people had warned her. Someone in Basânkusu said, ‘He refused to put salt into his food.’ Someone blamed himself for not listening to good advice. If you refuse to follow up the good advice and then things go amiss, you can only blame yourself.

The girl could not make up her mind which young man would be her future husband. We have to be honest with ourselves and make up our mind in time; otherwise, we create problems for ourselves. The girl finished off her suitors and herself.

Before you make a life choice, let both your heart and your mind speak. A blind infatuation can be misleading. ‘One does not eat beauty’ (PK278). There are several reasons to marry a certain man or woman. She may look gorgeous, but she needs to have a decent character, she needs to cook well and to be sociable. An African woman needs to be able to bear children.

Each of the young men had a certain charism. Each one contributed to the resurrection of the girl. We all have certain charisms to contribute to the wellbeing of the community.

The story praises the mutual willingness to help which shows that we should direct our giftedness to the wellbeing of the community. Then we can bring about wonderful changes.

It is amazing in a patriarchal society to see that the cooking pot (the woman) is put higher than the three stones (the young men)!

A young girl attracts suitors; - ‘Where bulls gather, there is a cow’ (CRC129). - ‘With high trees near the house, one receives pigeons as visitors’ (CRC368). - ‘A young girl is like a shop. Even those who do not want to buy, ask for the price’ (CRC2217).

For the stones and the cooking pot, it is a heated affair. When we want to attain something in life or bring things about for the community, we may have a hard time. That is part of human life. There is no life without struggles and no struggles without pain.


15. The stupid fellow.

A certain man had only one wife. One day, he took his own dirty linen and that of his wife and went to the river to wash them. When he arrived at the harbour, he saw a beautiful woman floating on her back in the river. Never in his life had he seen such a gorgeous woman. He greeted her and she greeted him. When the man had finished washing his clothes, he told her, ‘Woman, ‘I love you!’ The woman asked him, ‘Do you have a wife at home?’ The man answered her question in the affirmative. The woman answered, ‘Then it is not possible to love me.’ The man said, ‘Why would that not be possible?’ The woman said, ‘If you want to have me, you must kill your wife first.’

The man was happy. He went back home. His wife greeted him but he insulted her. The man went back to the harbour and still found the gorgeous woman floating on the water. Surely, he had not dreamt. He went back home. His wife had finished preparing the meal. She had also roasted a few palm nuts. However, he refused the palm nuts. Instead, he killed her. After he had killed her, he went to the harbour to fetch the beautiful woman whom he loved so dearly. He stepped into the dugout and rowed in the direction of the woman. The woman said to him, ‘Come and hoist me into the dugout.’ The man answered: ‘The dugout is so near. Why should I pull you into my boat?’ He moved the dugout near to her and started pulling her out of the water. Only then, he noticed that she was without legs. 60

Look, what kind of stupid fellow that man was, who killed his wife for a woman without legs! Explanations 1. Be content with what you possess, even though the grass at the other side of the hill is always greener. ‘You desire what you do not possess’ (CRC1562). Another proverb says, ‘A satisfied cow does not snap the rope’ (CRC1235). The cow that has eaten well, does not pull on his rope. It is happy enough with its situation. Be like the cow: be happy with what you have. 2. Appearances are deceptive. Do not easily be deceived. The Móngo say ‘The joy in the eye is deceptive.’ (PK843). A lovely face does not always mean a good heart. The Básogá say: ‘What the eyes do not see, the heart will not desire’ (CRC428). When making important choices, do not follow only your senses but also your mind. 3. Do not let a temporary infatuation destroy your whole life. Keep your head cool! There is a saying: ‘Repentance comes too late.’ Alternatively, ‘a hundred pounds of sorrow pays not one ounce of debt’. 4. Appreciate at all times the good things your spouse performs for you and what he or she means for you.


16. Another stupid bloke

Once upon a time, there was a married man. He often entered the forest to cut wood for charcoal purposes. One day, he went into the forest to cut trees and wood. In the forest, he met a very pretty girl. He had hardly met her, when he started courting her. The girl found him very pleasing. She told the man that she had a problem, namely that she had only one breast. When the man heard this, he assured her that he could find her an additional breast. He did not waste his time and went back home. He called his wife. When she turned up, he grabbed her and cut off one of her breasts. He immediately went back into the forest to the girl whom he had promised a second breast. However, in the meantime the girl had disappeared. She had been an apparition. The man ran back home to give the breast back to his wife. In the meantime, she had died suffering excruciating pains. The man felt as sorry as could be. He became mentally completely confused. Explanations 1. Do not lose your head over the presence of a gorgeous woman or a handsome young man. Do not spoil your relation or marriage by a sudden infatuation. Infatuations come and go. 2. Be happy with what you possess. ‘Do not throw away the caterpillars when they announce the presence of an antelope’ (PK348). Maybe you will not catch the antelope. In that case, you will not have caterpillars either. Another proverb says, ‘If you cannot obtain a wife who has not given birth yet, put up house with one who just had a baby’ (PK2703). In life, not all our dreams come true. However, be happy with your actual situation. 3. ‘When you have bought new clothes, put the old ones in a bag. One day, it may rain.’(PK2488). Cast not out the foul water until you bring in the clean. The Congolese go one step further by saying that, even when you have new clothes, do not throw the old ones away. 4. ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ ‘Better a bare foot than none.’ Do not destroy your own life and that of your partner and your family by dreaming about castles in the air. 5. Do not let yourself be distracted needlessly. Get on with your job. 6. This Congolese story runs parallel to the previous Ugandan story.


17. Before marriage existed

In the beginning of the world, man and woman lived apart. When they went hunting or fishing together, each slept in his/her own bed. One day, a man and a woman went into the forest to look for food. Whilst they were there, a great thunderstorm threatened in the distance. The man said to the woman, ‘I am off; I retire in my shelter to prevent the fire going out.’ The woman said, ‘Yes, you go, I will come later.’ When the man arrived at his shelter, he dug a trench for the water to flow away. He heightened the spot where he had his fire. Indeed, the thunderstorm burst out. The woman came running and saw immediately that the fire in her shelter had extinguished, because the wood and the fireplace were inundated. When she looked into the direction of the man’s shelter, she saw the light of flames. The woman arranged another fireplace and asked the man, ‘Can I come and get some fire to light up my place?’ The man replied, ‘Yes, by all means, go ahead.’ The woman picked up fire and lit her own fire. However, her fire went out again, three times running. The cold became intensive. She could not stick it any longer and went to the man’s shelter to warm up. She stayed there the whole evening. Then she retired to her own shelter for the night. Because of the cold, she was not able to fall asleep. She went back to the man and said, ‘In my own shelter, it is too cold. I prefer to lie here next to your fire on a mat. Is that all right for you?’ The man answered, ‘Yes, go ahead.’ The woman lay down. During the night, she woke up and told the man, ‘Look, I cannot sleep here where I am. Permit me to sleep on your bed at the foot.’ The man agreed. The woman moved onto his bed at the foot. She slept for a while. Then she asked the man, ‘Can I


come and lie down next to you at the head?’ The man replied, ’If you want to do so, go ahead.’ When they were there together, they became one. In time, they had a daughter. When the man became aware of what had happened, he became scared and told himself, ‘We have a strict law that men and women should not stay in one house together. This woman did me in the eye and we have a child. How can I explain this in my home village?’ The man decided to kill the woman. However, the woman understood the man’s intentions, stood in front of him and said, ‘If you want to kill me, wait until we are back in the village. Explain the rule to all the women and tell them what I did. After that you may kill me.’ The man agreed to the proposal. Together they returned to the village. Once back in the village, the man and the woman called a big meeting of all the men and women. The man told his friends: ‘We have a strict rule that forbids us men to share the same house with women. This woman has tricked me, when we were in the forest together. We slept together and had a child. I wanted to kill her, but she begged me to let her live so that she can open her heart to you. That is why I have come today. Let her explain what she wants to say. After that I shall kill her, because she deceived me.’ The woman stood up and said to her friends ‘You, women, listen well. I die today, because I gave my love to a man. You will live. However, in case you love a man, hide your love in your heart. Do not show your love. I die today, because I showed my love and initiated the romance.’ Her lover sharpened his knife and killed the woman. Explanations: 1. The proverb says, ‘What a risk for a woman to fetch fire in a bachelor’s hut’ (CRC1441). Do not put yourself in a risky situation. 2. It is the man who should initiate the living together or a marriage. He has to propose first. Otherwise, one can easily blame the girl to have seduced the man. The boy asks the father for the hand of his daughter. It is not the girl to ask for the hand of the boy. 3. Traditional marriage is a serious business. It concerns the whole community and one cannot organise it on one’s own. The village elders, the fathers and mothers, uncles and aunties have to be consulted. They give and receive part of the dowry. That is why they will not allow a marriage to be arranged without them. 4. The death sentence in the story shows that the traditional rules concerning marriage are serious business. A marriage is not just an affair between two persons but between two families that want to ensure their interest. This is important, because the dowry for the daughter is used to provide a wife for one of her brothers. The continuation and survival of the family and the whole clan are at stake.


18. Faithful in good and bad days

A man and his spouse loved each other. They had been married for years. They had four children: two boys and two girls. They had a wonderfully good relationship with their children. They educated them carefully to be and behave like adult people. One day, the man became seriously ill. His wife cared for him for many years. However, he did not take a turn for the better. She consulted a few local healers. They came to see him and went away again. Their medication did not have the expected results. In the end, the local healers gave up all hope. The woman said, ‘I am going to consult the famous healer in my own village. However, she had quite different intentions. She left their marital home and hit the road. On the way, she was not in a hurry and stayed everywhere for a while. In the end, she reached her natal village. She had been there for five months, when she met a lover in the sixth month. In those days, she received the bad news that her husband had died because of his illnesses. She took some food for the road and some small livestock for her in-laws. She returned with the help of a dugout. When she wanted to moor in her husband’s harbour, a monster appeared out of the water. This was not a normal beast. In fact, her husband had transformed himself into an aquatic monster. He was angry that she had abandoned him on his sickbed. He wanted to take revenge on his wife. He shook the bow of her dugout. The woman lost her balance, fell into the water and disappeared into the waves for good. The two of them were reunited. Explanations 1. This could have been a real life story. It is a great challenge to look after your spouse in case of a long and terminal illness and care for him/her until death. It is not easy at all to face such a situation notwithstanding the marriage vows. 2. ‘A sick friend is better than a dead friend’ (CRC1598). Even a sick person can keep you company and be entertaining. 3. Because of his sickness, the partner is abandoned and has good reasons to feel disillusioned and angry. Faithfulness is betrayed and vows are broken. 4. By pronouncing the marriage vows one takes a debt upon oneself. A proverb says, ‘An agreement cannot be said to have got burnt in the house’ (CRC1133). Even if a house burns down completely, the agreements stand. A commitment remains until it is fulfilled. 5. An honest man’s word is (as good as) his bond. Reliability is tested, when we take on a debt. This thought is found both in Congo as well as in Uganda:


     

‘The nobility of a person is seen in his promises’ (PK530). A real nobleman keeps his promises. ‘The tongue which borrows, comes humbly’ (CRC1407). When asking for a loan, one needs to eat humble pie. ‘What has been agreed to, one should not fail to fulfil’ (CRC209). ‘A small gift is better than a big pledge’ (CRC242). ‘Borrowing and lending kill friendship’ (CRC919). Often people consider a loan to be a gift. ‘People laugh, when receiving a loan; when you ask for the repayment, they become angry’ (PK2336).

6. In many African regions, people are convinced that someone after his death can transform himself into a crocodile, a monkey, an elephant or a leopard. Such animals are ancestors who assist hunters and fishermen in their jobs.

A crocodile

7. The ancestors provide new life in the family. Normally, they do not prevent the conception of new children. However, they may become angry, when they are not honoured. In this case, their anger will cool down, when their offspring offer them a dog, a couple of chickens, a cow, a goat, and a couple of bananas or a dish of special food. 8. Forefathers and ancestors need to be respected at all times. They passed life on to us. In the depths of our being, we are dependent on them. We need to respect their mystical presence. If we do not respect them, we may encounter serious problems like famine, diseases, accidents or infertility. Ancestors can take revenge just like the deceased sick man took revenge on his habitually absent wife. 66

19. The crocodile. People used to live along a big and powerful river. People built their houses between the river and the forest. They lived well, but they had a big problem. In that muddy river there lived a huge crocodile. Its skin was as thick as a wall. Its mouth had a big row of huge teeth, as long and sharp as daggers. Each time it moved in the grass along the river, it stirred up a big cloud of scared tiny birds. The crocodile must have lived there long before people settled there. It was as clever as a fox, powerful as the gods and its hungry roar even scared away a herd of elephants.

One day, the crocodile moved into the village. Its claws scratched the rocks; its belly left a deep trace in the sand. It stopped before the house of the chief and opened its wide mouth. Its upper jaw reached the top of the doorway. The crocodile spoke to the chief and said, ‘The birds and the fish in the river do not satisfy my appetite. I want to eat every other day one man, every other day one woman. On the first day of the new moon, I want a young girl. If you refuse to give me those people, I will annihilate the whole village.’ After the crocodile has finished speaking, it closed the rows of its teeth with a bang and retired to the river. The path shook under its mighty legs. People bowed their heads. Is it possible to ignore the command of the crocodile? A multitude of war crocodiles encircled the village and held it in their power. The whole population trembled in fear and surrendered itself. People had no choice. They carried a man, bound with ropes around his hands and feet, to the riverbank. People left him there in the high grass. The following day, it was the turn of a woman. In this way, many weeks passed. Every day, they sacrificed and fed someone to the crocodile. One day, the village chief gathered the elders of the village in the shade of a huge tree. He addressed the elders and said, ‘The crocodile finishes us off every day. If we continue like this, we will not survive. Tonight, when darkness falls, we all gather in secret with our women and children at the edge of the forest and flee to a more hospitable land.’ And so it happened. When night fell, everybody left his home and disappeared into the forest. 67

The next morning, the crocodile lay waiting on the riverbank for its victim. It became impatient and looked in the direction of the village. And it saw nothing happening. It became suspicious, crawled onto the bank and in the reeds. It called the water spirit. The water spirit appeared on the waves as a big golden fish and said, ‘Crocodile, the people have left, they are gone.’ A roaring thunder rolled in the throat of the monster. Its angry paws beat the soil like people beating a drum. It walked over to the village and then followed the tracks that people left, far into the forest. After walking for a couple of weeks, it arrived in the new village, which people had built and which carried the name ‘Crocodile-free.’ The crocodile went down the main street. It stopped in front of the chief’s house. With a hoarse voice, it exclaimed, ‘I am terribly hungry... From now on, you give me two men a day; the following day you give me two women. I also want your daughter; I want her now.’ When the chief’s daughter appeared in the doorway of the house, the crocodile grabbed her and took her along. Her father moaned and cried with his head in his hands.

The crocodile did not devour the beautiful and sad girl. It took her as his wife to the riverbank. One year later, she gave birth to a boy whom she called Rock. Seven years passed. The boy had grown up and had become an adult. His face was like a rocky mountain. He was as strong and as clever as his ancestors were. He strongly disliked his dad, that big crocodile, because he bled his people to death. One day, he decided to kill his dad. He made three big basins by cutting them out of the rock. He filled the basins with palm wine and put them down on the river bank, where they abandoned each day two people. The crocodile appeared out of the high grass. It 68

smelled the odour of the palm wine. Its nostrils trembled. It went for the basins and tasted the new brew. It found it delicious and drank and drank great quantities of the brew. Soon the crocodile became dizzy. Everything became misty all around it and then it crashed to the ground. At first, it still sang, then it fell asleep and snored like a sawmill. Its son, the Rock, approached, he stooped over his father and touched its body with the point of his foot. In his hands, he held a lightning stone. He put this stone between the closed eyes of his monstrous father. He then exclaimed, ‘Lightning, hit him.’ A lightning bolt came out of the stone and pierced the harness of the crocodile. The infamous crocodile did not snore anymore, it did not breathe any longer, did not move anymore. It was dead, hit by lightning. All the village people, who had survived the onslaught, came out of their homes and danced around the carcass of the crocodile. They danced and sang about their acquired liberation. They danced also for the crocodile’s spirit, their ancestor, that it may know peace, because the ancestors, they too, need to enjoy peace. Explanations: 1. Africa has a long tradition of devastating crocodiles. Even today, perennial dictators, popularly known as dinosaurs, are common on the continent. Though they hold elections, these are manipulated in such a way that the dictators stay in office. 2. Also today, many people flee their own country of birth, fearing for their lives. 3. Even today, many Africans are convinced that certain people have the power to direct lightning to strike their enemies. 4. After his death, an important person can transform itself into a crocodile. This crocodile protects the village and its waters. Sacrifices are made to propitiate the ancestor, who, when angry, can create havoc in the village or refuse to bless the fishing grounds. ‘When a sacrifice is made, the spirit stops disturbing people’ (CRC1049). 5. Often alcohol leads to the downfall of erstwhile wise people.


20. The egoistic woman. Once upon a time, there was an old woman, who lived on this world just by herself. This was after the death of her husband. She had a small house next to a swamp. However, her fields were lying further on the slope of a hill. Therefore, she needed to walk quite a distance to work in her gardens. Her gardens produced so many bananas that some of them would ripen and rot in her plantation. Her gardens produced also beans, rice, sesame seeds and other cereals. The beans would ripen, dry up, fall onto the soil and germinate again, since she could not harvest and collect it all. However, she was terribly stingy and never shared anything. One day, she woke up early and went to her gardens before dawn. On the way, she stepped into a thorny branch, which stuck in her foot. She moaned and groaned with pain. However, she managed to extract the thorns out of her foot. However, before continuing her trip to her garden, she neatly put the thorny branch back on the road, hoping that someone else would suffer the same pain. When she arrived in her garden, she saw straightaway that someone had stolen some of her bananas. It did not dawn on her that there were plenty of bananas anyway. She became livid and left her garden to complain about the situation at the chief’s office. That day, the man was very much occupied. She waited there the whole day. By the time she left the chief’s office, it was getting dark. As she walked back home, she forgot about the thorny branch, which she had put back onto the road. Since it had become dark, she did not see the branch. Once again, she stepped on it. The thorns pierced her foot a second time. This time she could not remove them. She decided to raise an alarm and ask for help. However, there was nobody to sympathise with her. After quite a while, some people came to see what had happened. When she begged them to pull out the thorns, they refused to assist her. Instead, they accused her of being selfish and jealous. In the end, she limped home. Some days later, she became sick and died. That is where I left the place, when the old woman had died in great pain because of her stinginess. Explanations: 1. When we curse someone, the curse may turn against ourselves. 2. ‘The one who digs a pit for someone, may fall into it himself’ (PK2727). 3. ‘When you see the stick used to beat your co-wife, be wise and throw it away’ (CRC202). What happened to your friend may happen to you also. We have the responsibility to remove what can endanger life. 70

4. ‘An obtrusive smile made by the dog, when a cow dies’ (CRCRC225). The dog can hardly hide his joy, when a cow of his boss dies. He will have at least some bones to feast upon. We too do not always mourn, when someone else has a serious accident.

5. It is good to share our wellbeing with those who are worse off.    

Otherwise, we are like the dog, which does not share his bone (PK1976). Otherwise, we are like the wild pig, which does not dig up a cassava root for its friend (PK2237). ‘What you do not finish, give to a friend; we give our feet to the jiggers’ (CRC1557). ‘Bad teeth keep food aside for the sharp ones’ (CRC1611). This proverb applies to a stingy person who does not share his resources and ends up being robbed.

6. Prevent accidents, if that is in your power to do so. A proverb says ‘Where a heap of leaves has been left, there is a sharp root’ (PK21). Hunters and fishermen hurt themselves sometimes at a sharp object in a brooklet. To prevent such an accident, people put a heap of leaves on top of the sharp root. The heap of leaves forms a warning for the next passer-by. 7. A miser has few friends. The stingy woman could not convince anybody to remove the thorns from her foot. She had to blame herself for her premature death.


8. The one who goes home never minds the darkness (CRC173). The woman thought, it is never too late to go home. However, she forgot her own earlier bad intentions. 9. You should not be too stingy to give away or finish your money or your possessions. 

The one who says, “We are all going to die”, keeps putting his chickens on the roost (CRC1602) (instead of eating them). When someone is convinced to be standing with one foot in the grave, why does he not finish his chickens one by one? ‘A stingy old person, when carrying food, does not stop at her grandchild’s place.(CRC203). She is afraid that her grandchild comes begging.

Why not eat your chickens one by one?


21. The twins. A man had many wives. This man was very rich. One day, he told his wives that, should they bear a girl, they should leave the baby in the banana plantation. They should not bring the kid into the house. One day, one of the wives brought forth twins in the banana plantation behind the house. The twin consisted of a girl called Kawúúdha and a boy called Wáiswá. Because she was afraid of her husband, she left Kawúúdha in the plantation. She brought Wáiswá in the house. Kawúúdha started crying and never stopped. Happily enough, an old woman heard the baby crying. She decided to find out what the crying was all about. When she approached the spot, she found the baby. It was a very beautiful baby. The old woman picked up the child and took it home. She looked well after the child that gradually grew up and became a beautiful and well-behaved girl. Her twin brother also grew up and became a handsome young man. Whenever he went to graze the goats and the cattle, he always met Kawúúdha. He admired her and in the end desired to marry her. Whenever he grazed his cattle, he would sing the following song: The little girl at the old woman’s place is the one for whom they will pay my dowry. The little girl at the old woman’s place is the one for whom they will pay my dowry. Kawúúdha replied: Wáiswá, you are wrong. We two were twins. Mum left me in the banana plantation. Wáiswá listened carefully to Kawúúdha’s song, went back home and told his father about Kawúúdha’s response. The following day, Wáiswá went grazing the cattle together with his father. Wáiswá sang his song again: The little girl at the old woman’s place is the one for whom they will pay dowry. The little girl at the old woman’s place is the one for whom they will pay dowry. Kawúúdha replied: Wáiswá, you are wrong. We two were twins. Mum left me in the banana plantation. 73

The father was very much surprised. He went to the old woman to claim his child. At first, the old woman refused to listen to his pleas. They even quarrelled. However, later she accepted and gave the girl back to her father. That is where I left them to come and inform you. Explanations 

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The father must have admitted that he was wrong to have asked to leave the girls in the banana plantation. Parents should not discriminate, but welcome each child wholeheartedly. Husband and wife should not fear each other. When facing a problem, they should deliberate together. Each person survives thanks to someone else. (PK792). All children grow up to be useful to society.  Women take care of the expansion of the clan. Men protect the community in case of war.  Others amuse us with songs and dances.  Others again catch game and fish.  Others climb palm trees to cut palm nuts.  One is victorious in war thanks to the many shins (PK1259). To finish a job expeditiously, one needs the help of many people. Everybody is welcome.  Termites cut the fallen tree with a rhythmic buzz (PK2306). By working together we can create great things.

The conclusion is that not only young men but everybody including girls/women are necessary for the continuation and survival of the clan and nation.  

Local rules determine which relative one can marry. In the story, the father accepts back his daughter, though the neighbour’s wife had educated her. They did not even talk about compensation. Not in the text anyway. Has the rich man the law on his side? A proverb says, ‘A rich person never coughs’ (PK527). He does not need to attract attention to his plight. His wishes are being precluded.


22. The years count

Once upon a time, there was a young woman, who had many rats in the house. At night, when she was asleep, they would lift her off the bed. They themselves would stay and play on top of the bed. As if that was not enough, they gnawed at her clothes, the mattress and her shoes. They also ate her peanuts, maize, peas and beans. When the woman realised that the rats were causing her great losses, she tried out a rattrap. She caught some of them, whilst others escaped. Then she tried rat poison, but the problem persisted. Then she decided to consult her friend about the problem. At her friend’s, she told the rat story. Her friend said: ‘Yes, I had a similar problem, but then I looked for a cat. Now, she has young ones. If you want one, you may take and keep one. When it grows up, it will finish off the rats. The young woman followed her advice. When the small cat grew up, it started hunting the rats and killed them. It ate all those in the house and even the ones outside in the bush. She got rid of all of them. The young woman was very grateful and went to thank her friend for the cat. After a long time, the cat became old and weak. Once again, the rats became numerous in the house and everywhere around the house. The woman herself was no longer young herself. She became annoyed with cat, which no longer killed the rats. She started beating the animal. One day, the woman grabbed a stick to beat the cat, because the rats had eaten her clothes. The cat replied, ‘Mistress, why do you want to beat me? You brought me here, when I was still young. I did a marvellous job by ridding you of the rats, but now I have grown old. Let me ask you a question. Do you still do what you used to do when you were young? Do I not see you begging children to carry heavy objects for you?’ The cat still went on and said, ‘Please, leave me in peace. It is not my wish to be old. ‘Whatever old age takes, is never recovered (CRC1895). Explanations 1. With age we become frail. Age is a heavy burden. Our strength diminishes gradually.  

The oldest cow enters the shed last (CRC1224). Old people cannot keep the pace of young ones. The uopaca tree inclines towards the river (PK780). Another storm and the tree will drop into the river. The tree stands for old people. A flu or another ailment turns up and the old man dies. We should be considerate for the elderly. Their strength has been spent.

2. The old woman was once a beautiful lady. 75

The proverb says, ‘One who did not see your mother as a young woman, says that the bride price paid for her was a waste’ (CRC482). One is tempted to say: ‘For such a weak and old woman one does not pay a bride price.’ In this case, one forgets that her appearance was once quite different. Formerly, she worked hard and bore children whom she raised as good citizens. Now that she has grown old, we should not forget her past. There is no dry banana leaf, which was not young. (CRC1644). When that leaf has become old, we should not despise it. We still use it as toilet paper. Respect the old for all the work they did. In Congo, they have the same kind of proverb: ‘The old lolongóté-leaf used to be young’ (PK1000).

3. It is a shame to forget the good someone did.  

‘The one, who fails to remember the past, will not take care of an old person’ (CRC5010). If an old woman puts on weight, her son milks a cow (CRC2229). The elderly person is taken good care of.

4. ‘When you wrestle down a senior, do not strangle him’ (CRC744). ‘One who wrestles with a weak person, should not bite him as well (CRC533). Respect an elderly person i.e. have patience with the feeble and tired senior. Allow him/her to rest a while. Do not push the senior beyond the limit. Respect her/his grey hairs. 5. In one’s prime, one helps out all kinds of people. However, when one’s vigour fades, one merits respect and care. 6. When we wrestle with problems, we should not be ashamed to open up to others and seek assistance. There is not a single person who knows it all:    

Nobody possesses all wisdom (CRC419). Wisdom is like fire. When it goes out, you can fetch more from a friend (CRC417). The one with an anus does not experience a blown-up belly. (CRC216). By all means express your worries; tell others your feelings. Get things off your chest. ‘Shit in the intestines does not smell’ (PK2289). Someone cannot smell your problems, if you do not talk. Tell your friends and they will give you good advice.


23. The sweeping goat

Once upon a time, there was a great famine. A certain man did not have any food for a number of days. He sat down and meditated for quite a while. Then he received a marvellous idea. He would teach his goat a trick, namely to sweep compounds. In return, people would gratefully give him some food. He even invented the following song: My billy goat, my billy goat, Sweep the compound, You go and sweep, Go and sweep the compound. When the goat would hear this song, he had to dance and whilst dancing he would use his beard to sweep the compound. Together they practised the song and the dance. And indeed, they had success. Whenever they performed the act, people would come running to admire the sweeping goat. After the goat had performed the trick, people gave his boss plenty of food. However, the man did not hand on any food to the goat. The man sang his song wherever he went and the goat danced and swept the compound.


Even when the man received too much food, he did not give any to the goat. One day, he arrived in a village where people had gathered around a beer pot. He told them: ‘My dear friends, give me some beer to drink and I shall ask my goat to dance and sweep the whole compound.’ However, the people did not believe him. They said, ‘Did anybody ever see goat dancing? ‘The man swore a vow and said: ‘I swear it. If the goat does not dance, you can cut off my head.’ People agreed and gave him some beer. When he had finished drinking his beer, he sang: My billy goat, my billy goat, Sweep the compound, You go and sweep, Go and sweep the compound. However, this time the goat refused to move. The man repeated his song again and again. However, the goat did not move a step. Someone in the public said: ‘Did I not tell you? This man is possessed. He has to be inaugurated so that the spirits possess him completely.’ However, most people preferred to stick to the oath he had sworn and wanted to decapitate him. There were already too many of those braggarts around. They told the man to lie flat on the ground. The men of the village looked for a sharp machete. However, before they had time to decapitate the braggart, the goat started dancing and sweeping the compound with its beard. The public let the man off the hook and followed the spectacle of the dancing and sweeping goat. The goat had pity on his boss and saved his life. People let the man and the goat depart and try their luck in the next village. Explanations 1. When we have no regular income and go hungry, we have to find ways and means to save one’s bacon. In Congo, they call this way of acting article fifteen. When you do not have a regular income, one has to look around and find a way of putting some food on the table. 2. The story informs us that bragging can be dangerous. 3. When people work together, they should share the profit together. ‘Give to the one who smoked the meat’ (PK2528). After the hunt, someone helped you to smoke the meat. You cannot let him go back home without having tasted the meat. 4. A boss must respect his workers and should not retain their salary. If they are not remunerated, they have a good reason to protest and, if need be, to lay down their tools.  

‘The one who refused to work is remunerated, whilst the one who did the job does not receive anything at all.' (PK35). This is the world upside down. ‘A babysitter does not eat even half a sprat’ (CRC2341). 78

5. ‘The one, who suffers in nursing a sick person, will not become the heir (CRC88). Sometimes the person, who has done a great job, is not rewarded, as he/she should have been. 6. The goat had more pity on his boss than the boss on the goat. We should have pity on people and on animals. ‘The one who milks the cow, does not deny the calf some milk (CRC224). 7. When you are a vulnerable person, you should be reluctant to make an oath. It can cost your life. 8. We should show gratitude towards the one who assisted us. 

 

The Mongo of Basankusu express their deception of ingratitude by saying: ‘Not even a bar of soap’ (PK2633)! You worked hard for somebody in the sweat of your brow. However, the employer did not give you even a bar of soap. In Uganda they say, ’The salary of a donkey is a kick’ (CRC1173). ‘A dog never forgets the one who tamed it.’ (CRC1075). Appreciate the one who helped you.


24. Women do not bury the dead

Once upon a time, there was a man by the name of Múkamá. His wife was called Náudó. Múkamá and his wife lived together for a long time without having children. After a long time, Náudó became pregnant. When she was due to deliver, she gave birth to three boys. The first child was called Person, the second one Placenta and the third one was called Shadow. When the mother was still in the labour ward, each child made a resolution. Person asked his younger brothers, ‘My dear brothers, who of you will go and look after the land of our late grandfather? Placenta turned to their mother and said, ‘I see that I shall not be able to manage things on earth; take me back to our ancestors so that I go and look after the land of our grandfather. Their mother replied, ‘My son, you are naked. How shall I take you back?’ Placenta answered, ‘Go and cut a banana fibre and bury me there and plant a banana tree where you put me. That is where Person and Shadow will find me.’ The mother complied, buried Placenta herself and accomplished that task. Shadow was the second one to speak and said, ‘I am not going to live together with Placenta, because he is very aggressive. I shall stick to my elder brother Person. We shall move together, until it is time to go back to our ancestors.’ Finally, Person spoke, ‘First, I shall do some work on earth until our uncle Death comes to escort us to where our ancestors reside.’ When they finished making their resolutions, they began implementing them. When their time was up, their uncle Death came to fetch Person and Shadow. Shadow told his uncle, ‘Maybe Person is delaying us. However, I have finished dressing myself.’ In the meantime, Person was ready also. His father Múkamá helped him to dress, because Person had lost all his strength. After helping Person to dress, Múkamá called his wife, ‘Dear, come and let us escort our children. However, his wife replied, ‘No, call your fellowmen, because when I sent off Placenta, nobody helped me.’ The father gathered his friends and they escorted the children. Even today, after a burial, people say to one another, ‘Thank you for escorting him.’ Women do not carry the dead, because they did already their task when they buried Placenta. Explanations 1. To bury the dead is a men’s job. Women do so after the birth of a child, when they bury the placenta. The placenta forms the link with the ancestors and necessitates therefore a real burial. The village, where your placenta and your umbilical cord have been buried, is your village. 2. On the spot, where the placenta or umbilical cord has been buried, people plant a banana shoot. A banana shoot grows quickly. The parents hope that their child will grow


as quickly as a banana shoot. Only the grandparents may eat later the bananas from that plant, because grandparents form the link with the ancestors.

Some women bury the placenta and the umbilical cord at the foot of a big and mighty tree, hoping that the child will become great and strong also. In Congo, only the grandparents may eat the caterpillars that drop from that big tree. If an ordinary citizen eats those caterpillars, he will start shaking and have the Parkinson disease.

3. Certain occupations are restricted to women, others to men. There is a traditional division of labour. ‘Women stay at home, men build houses.’ (CRC14). 4. Life runs smoothly, when each category or group performs its allotted task.


25. The cat and man

Long ago, the cat was a small bush animal. It did not live in a human habitation. It used to move with large animals like the lion and the leopard. These animals went hunting and whenever they got something, the cat would eat from their leftovers. One day, the cat went hunting with the leopard. They met a very hungry lion. The lion looked at the cat and saw that the cat was too small to satisfy him. Therefore, he attacked the leopard, threw him down, killed him and began to eat. The cat saw what happened and became worried and scared at the same time. After a while, the cat approached the lion and asked him in a gentle voice, ‘My friend, I hope you will excuse me. I thought that the leopard, which you killed, was the strongest animal. However, you killed and ate it. I beg you to allow me to move around with you and eat from your leftovers.’ The lion was kind enough and agreed to the cat’s request. From then on, they moved around together.

The next day, when the lion was walking with the cat, they met an elephant. The latter refused to give them way. That is why the lion became annoyed. They started a serious fight. It ended when the elephant threw a stick that hit and killed the lion. The cat reflected a while and then said, ‘I thought that nobody was stronger than the lion, but now I respect you, my friend, the elephant, and I shall accompany you.’ On their way, the elephant and the cat met a man. As soon as the man saw them, he hid himself, took a lance, speared the elephant in the chest and killed him on the spot. When the man noticed that the elephant was dead, he took his knife and cut a big piece of meat from the elephant’s carcass, which he tied in a couple of leaves and carried away. However, before he could go, the cat told him: ‘My friend, please, do not 82

leave me here alone, allow me to accompany you.’ The man agreed to the proposal and off they went together. However, when they reached the man’s home, his wife welcomed them enthusiastically. She took the spear and the packet of meat. She carried the meat to the kitchen. The cat saw this in amazement and said in his heart, ‘Now I have seen, there is nobody stronger than the wife of a man, because she managed to take away the spear and the packet of meat. Even up to today, the cat does not go away from the man’s wife, because she keeps the meat. The cat continually lives in man’s house where his wife lives.

The cat is the woman’s friend.

Explanations 1. We should not put our trust in someone blindly. We need to examine the situation carefully. You may trust someone, when you know that the person concerned will be a real friend. If you invite the wrong friends, you will regret it later:   

‘Do not put a leopard into the basket on your back’ (PK273). ‘Do not let a snake enter your boat (PK2801)’. ‘I regret to have taken a crocodile on board’ (PK2326).


2. The cat was bent on self-preservation and was attracted to man. In that way, it became a pet. Often we conclude friendships, because we need help. That is why we say, ‘A good neighbour, a good morrow.’ 3. The cat is attracted to the woman and becomes a pet. ‘The cat knows whose beard she licks.’ Like the cat, we need food and company. These are our first necessities of life. 4. If we have found a good friend, he becomes a friend for life. Friendship is like ‘the stone which is not blown away by the wind’ (PK1031). 5. The story portrays the division of roles between men and women in an African family. The woman is the queen of the kitchen. The husband is there out of bounds. When he enters the kitchen, he gives the impression that he does not trust his wife as if she retains food for her parents or satisfies her own appetite before serving her husband. He should not show his mistrust. 6. In the story, the woman is portrayed as the strongest creature. Isn’t this remarkable in a patriarchal society?


26. The lion and man

Once upon a time, God created many things and animals, weak and strong. However, he created one creature stronger and more aggressive than any other. He put it on earth to lead others. We are talking about the angry lion. I tell you, my friend, the way the lion strolled about, showed clearly that he was the strongest creature on earth. Nobody was stronger and more aggressive among all the creatures God created. The lion walked as if his strength was urging him on. Pride went to his head. He decided to talk to God. On arrival, the lion greeted God with his usual roar, meaning to say ‘Lord God, my friend, is there by chance any news?’ After this greeting, the lion asked God ‘Sir, of all things you created and put on earth, is there anyone stronger and cleverer than I am?’ God replied, ‘Whoa, my friend, there is man of course.’ Again, the lion asked God a question ‘By the way, what does man look like? ‘God replied, ‘I created man with his own character. He is nearly like me.’ God emphasised this point and told the lion, ‘I tell you, my friend, if you meet man, never despise him. However, if you do, you yourself will know. What he will do to you is what dust does to millet.’

When the lion left God, he started walking around, looking for the man God had talked about. He wanted to see what man looked like and whether he was really bigger than he, the lion, was. The lion walked some distance and met a goat. He asked him ‘My friend, are you a man?’ The goat replied, ‘My friend, I am not a man. Man does not joke. He is my boss. He makes me stay on a rope and he twists my ears. My friend, I tell


you, man is not good in any way. My friend, if you are clever, just disappear, because, if he finds you, do not call me, when he shoots you.’ The lion left the goat. He walked a certain distance telling himself, ‘When shall I see man they talk so highly of?’ Then the lion met a sheep. The lion greeting it saying, ‘What is the news, my friend?’ The sheep answered, ‘We are fine, my friend.’ The lion asked the sheep, ‘Are you a man?’ The sheep replied, ‘Man does not play or joke. If you are clever, disappear before he finds you here. Do you hear me?’ The lion continued his stroll looking for man. He walked for a long time. Then he met the cow whom he asked whether he was man. The cow replied, ‘No, I am not man. Man is no joker. He is my boss. After I have produced calves, he waits for them to grow up. Then he eats them. Man also milks me. When I refuse, he canes me. Therefore, man is not good. If you have ears to listen, just disappear. If he finds you here. you will regret it,’ When the lion left the cow, he asked himself all the way, ‘When shall I meet that man whom they all praise so much?’ The lion walked for a long time and then he met a man collecting firewood. The lion greeted the man, saying, ‘My friend, is there any news? My friend, are you a man?’ The man answered, ‘I am not the one.’ The man asked the lion, ‘Why are you so anxious to see a man?’ Before the lion could answer, the man asked him, ‘Come a bit closer and help me to load this firewood on my head.’ When the lion had approached, the man took a rope and using all his strength he tied him up. the man picked up two canes and started beating the lion. The lion began to cry, ‘Dear me, dear me, I wish I had known; I would not have asked who you were.’ The man continued caning the lion whilst telling him, ‘I am the man, whom you have been looking for.’ The lion continued lamenting: ‘Mother, mother, I shall never despise you; surely you are my master.’ The lion stopped crying. He had become unconscious. When the man saw the lion lying unconscious with its legs up in the air, he untied him. He knelt down and prayed, ‘God almighty, I have come so that you would listen to my prayers. Please, heal this angry lion. When the lion quits this spot, he will tell other creatures to fear man.' Explanations 1. Bantu usually direct their prayers to the ancestors. If you address yourself to God, you wish for the moon. 2. The animals regard the man as a cruel being. Man acts like a big boss and a real danger. Man is a despot. 3. The story indicates us not to be too curious. ‘The honey bird usually fishes with drugs, where its sister goes’ (PK1493). It is not good to go fishing where women go naked and one sees one’s sister naked. 4. ‘The one who warns you, is your friend’ (CRC306). When people warn us about a certain danger, we should take their advice seriously. 86

5. There are plenty of good people around. Only a single one may deceive us. 6. When someone wants to hurt our relatives, neighbours or friends, we should warn them.  

‘Where the murderer comes from is where another person comes from to warn you’ (CRC151). When we know of evil plots, we should warn others. ‘The one who coughs, is better than the one who scratches himself’ (CRC262). It is good to give a clear signal, when things threaten to go amiss.

7. We should not think like the lion to be the strongest and cleverest being. ‘The gourd is strong as long as it has not hit the trunk of a fallen tree (PK1064). Something can happen and we are nowhere.


27. The bat

Once upon a time, the sun beat mercilessly on the earth. It did not last long before a big famine struck. Water disappeared from the waterholes and even big rivers and lakes dried up. People were facing problems, animals went thirsty and even birds could not find drinking water. People came together to discuss what they would do to turn the situation around. They decided to dig a deep pit together in order to find water. When they had been digging for a while, someone remarked that the bat had not turned up for work. He said, ‘We do not see the bat at work. Yet it sleeps in our houses, gives birth to a young one and feeds him by breastfeeding like we do.’ They decided together to send someone to the bat and present the question to him. The man left for the bat, he greeted him politely and asked him why he did not participate in digging the pit.’ The bat replied, ‘My answer is very simple. I do not drink together with people, because I am an animal. Do you not see what I look like?’ The one who interviewed the bat, went back with his message. When the job was finished, the owners put a guard next to the pit to protect the waterhole. The animals did not want to stay idle. They too gathered and decided to dig a waterhole. When they were at it, someone was grumbling, ‘Where is the bat? Why does he not help with the digging?’ The animals sent the monkey to call the bat. However, the bat was quite adamant and refused to go. ‘What do you want from me? You are sick in your head. I am not an animal at all. I am a bird! Do you not see that I have wings?’ The monkey went back to the diggers with the answer. The animals continued to dig until they had found water. Around the waterhole, they put up a fence and directed the lion to watch the pit. The birds also experienced the drought. Wherever they flew to drink, they were greeted by a cloud of stones. They too gathered and decided to dig their own waterhole. The day they started to dig, a small bird remarked, ‘But where is the bat?’ Why does he not help digging the pit?’ They sent the pigeon to ask the bat why he did not turn up..


This time again, the bat refused and said, ‘I have not been a real bird from the very beginning, though I do have wings. We, bats, do not lay eggs. Moreover, we smell badly.’ The pigeon flew back with the negative response. The birds continued to dig and finished their waterhole. In order to protect their pit against strangers and profiteers, they appointed the goose as their guard. After some time, the bat became seriously ill. He sent his wife to a healer to obtain some medication. The woman arrived at the healer's and explained the condition of her husband. The healer gave her some medication, which he had to take with some water. She went back and gave her husband the medicine. Her husband asked her to look for water. However, wherever she went to look for water, she was chased away. The only thing she could do was to fly back to her husband. They decided to abandon the region and to put up house somewhere else. Until this very day, bats fly only at night looking for water and food. Explanations 1. The aforementioned story concerns lazy people, who always find a reason to explain or defend their behaviour. In the meantime, they want to profit from others in the community. ‘The tortoise has eaten well, whilst the flying squirrel cuts down the forest’ (PK2860). 2. We should all realise that we profit in many ways from other people.  

‘If the monkeys do not pass, the wild pigs will not eat palm nuts’ (PK2217). The monkeys drop the nuts and the swine are happy enough to eat them. ‘Stay near the osprey and you will eat monkeys’ hands’ (PK2851). The bird in question eats besides fish also small monkeys. However, it does not eat the hands, which it drops. If you stay near the bird, you will find the small hands. You can make soup out of them. The proverb means to say: Stay near a rich person, because you will profit from him.

3. If one is part of a community, one needs to participate in its activities and to protect that community. Otherwise, one risks remaining an outsider. ‘They sent me away from the fishpond. I am too lazy to fish’ (PK222). 4. When someone assists you, you cannot throw in the towel.  

‘When people help you to lift your heavy basket, apply all your strength’ (PK159). ‘The one who gives you a goat, does not give a rope’ (CRC294). You will have to look for the rope yourself.

5. If the situation becomes critical and the community faces a real danger, people should come together and take action to prevent disaster. Unwilling persons should be strongly invited to contribute to the wellbeing of the community. If they refuse to collaborate, then it is their own fault, if later they are not allowed to profit from the services. 89

6. The bats in the story are clearly lazy. Laziness can cause different problems:  

When you are lazy, you should not take many children. ‘You, who do not have a field, should not have many children; otherwise you will lack cassava’ (PK2929). ‘If the father has not felled a forest, the son will not be able to cut down a bomámbó tree’ (PK1539). These ‘parasol’ trees appear, when the forest has been cut. ‘A lazy mother sends her child a parcel of hot peppers’ (PK2478). A child that is at a faraway school, expects now and again a parcel from home with some meat, fish or cassava to still its hunger. It will be sorely disappointed to receive only hot peppers. These are nice, if we can use them as an additive.


28. Animals dig their well

Another version of the previous one. Once upon a time, for days on end, the sun was burning hot. There was not a cloud in sight. Eventually, all the wells dried up. People lacked even drinking water. One day, the animals of the same forest put their heads together and decided to dig a very deep well, so that they would reach water and quench their thirst. The leopard volunteered to start the well. The other animals watched him at work; they encouraged him to continue for quite a while, knowing well the power in his paws and claws. The bushbuck: ‘Leopard, you are strong indeed. I do not hesitate to entrust the job to you.’ The leopard: ‘My goodness, this is a tough job, because the soil is as hard as rock.’ The wild dog : ‘Leopard, you are great. Thanks very much; you are doing a great job. Just let me dig for a moment as well.’ The hyena: ‘But I think, we must be getting close to water, because the well is very deep indeed.’ The leopard: ‘ But you, hare, you are just sitting there, pulling up your nose all the time. What have you been doing? Come, my dear, and get down to work!’ The hare: ‘Who? Me? Come off it! Right from the start I wanted to tell you that you are wasting your time for nothing. The fox: ‘ Wasting our time? You, little hare, you are really a bad animal. Do you not notice that thirst is killing us all? The hare: I will not dig and sweat for nothing. Maybe I’ll first have to drink of this well and then realise what you are doing. The Giraffe: ‘You, hare, you are too stubborn for your size.’ The leopard: ‘You first want to drink? To drink from this water that made us suffer like this?’ The wild dog: ‘Friends, we have arrived at water! Look how a spring is bubbling!’ The squirrel: ‘Stop digging. Thanks be to God!’ The buffalo: ‘Look! See how the water comes up. What nice water!’ The hyena: What an abundance! Let us taste and drink it.


The leopard: ‘That is right. But the hare will not line up for the water, because the whole time he has been laughing at us.’ The bush cat: ‘That serves him right. He will not drink. The fox: ‘Thank you very much, my friends. Now we shall no longer suffer from thirst. “When the teeth stand together, they can bite the meat”. Let us now look for food. The leopard: My dear friends, we need to protect this water of ours and guard it. The family hare, as far as I can see, should not taste this water.

The bushbuck: I second the leopard’s motion, because the hare is a bully. I propose that we each take turns to guard our well for one day. In that way we shall get that awful hare. The bush cat: ‘Who is going to guard the well first?’ The buffalo: ‘I’ll start off. Tomorrow, it will be the wild dog’s turn. Not long afterwards, it was the squirrel’s turn to guard the well. While he was on his post, the hare turned up. He had with him a small packet of groundnuts. The hare: Aye, squirrel, are you guarding the well today? The squirrel: ‘For heaven’s sake, what made you come here? You are not going to have a drop of water.’ The hare: ‘Who told you that I want your water? The peanuts I have here with me, will they not suffice me?’ The squirrel: ‘What did you say? Peanuts? I do like peanuts, you know!’


The hare: ‘Now I know you. You want some? I shall give you only a few.’ The squirrel: ‘You are very kind, hare, thanks very very much.’ The hare: ‘Just now you were chasing me away!’ The squirrel: ‘My dear, please, forgive me. I did not mean it. But dear, could you, please, give me some more of your peanuts? They are so delicious.’ The hare: Yes, no problem. I’ll give you some more peanuts. I have got plenty of them. But before giving them to you, I would like to tie your arms. Only then, will I start feeding you the groundnuts, until you have enough of them. What about it?’ The squirrel: ‘Is it really necessary to tie my hands? The hare: ‘Maybe you do not want the groundnuts? Then the only option I have is to go. The squirrel: ‘No, sir, of course not, do not go away! Look, here are my arms, tie them up! Don’t put the string too tight. That is enough. Now feed me the peanuts.. The hare: ‘Do not complain. These will do.’ The squirrel: ‘But you have given me only a few. Now, please, untie me.’ The hare: ‘What? To untie? I told you that I would tie you up. I never mentioned untying. Have you forgotten already? Moreover, I have become very thirsty. Let me go and drink from your water.’ The squirrel: ‘Hare, you are not allowed to drink our water. You refused to dig the well. The hare: ‘Can you stop me from drinking? This water is so delicious. Let me drink some more, until my thirst is completely quenched. That is it.. Well, see you later, squirrel!’ The squirrel: ‘But wait a minute, hare, you haven’t untied me yet. Do not leave me in these strings.’ The hare: ‘Those that do not understand things, that is what happens to them. See you. The squirrel was left behind tied up and very angry indeed. He became very thirsty, but could not approach the water. Only much later a monkey came to drink water and freed the squirrel. Explanations 1. We need to support the society to which we belong before profiting from it. ‘When people help you to lift your heavy basket, apply all your strength’ (PK159) 2. In every society, we find lazy people. They will dodge their obligations (CRC25). 3. In every society, we find so-called wise guys who think they get away with things. 93

29. The lion, the rat and man

Once upon a time, there was a great hunter. Whenever he took his spear and his hunting net, the village people started cleaning their pots and pans. The hunter caught lots of deer, buffalos, antelopes and swine.

One day, he entered the forest again with his spear and nets. Once he reached his chosen area, he hung up his nets and started chasing the game towards the nets. At the same time, he sounded his bugle to invite his friends to assist him. All of a sudden, he heard heavy footsteps. Quickly he hid himself. Then he heard a roar, which shook the ground and the trees. When the roar had subsided, he went to the area where he had put his nets. In one of the nets, he found a lion. The net had caught the lion round the neck. The net was practically strangling it. Its eyes were staring at him as if they were popping out of their sockets. When the lion saw the man approaching, he pleaded: ‘My friend, please, have pity on me. To begin with, I have very young children and my wife is sick. I am their breadwinner. This net caught me as I was scouring for food. Please, help me and free me.’ The man heard what the lion told him and he released the animal. As soon as the lion was liberated, it said, ‘Okay, now I am going to devour you, because you are the one putting up these nets and traps. They intend to kill us.’ The hunter was flabbergasted. Much as he tried to plead with the lion, there was no way of stopping the lion’s intentions. The lion had decided to kill and devour him. 94

Whilst the two of them were having this hot discussion, a rat came round. The rat got a fright at their sight and asked both of them, ‘What happened to you that your eyes have turned red?’ They tried to explain the discussion to the rat. In the meantime, the rat wanted to save the hunter. Therefore, it pretended not to understand what they were saying. It replied, ‘I do not understand exactly what you are talking about. I propose that you, man, put up the net as it was before it caught the lion. I want then the lion to pass through the net, so that I can see how the net caught it. Only then, I can see who of you is right’.

Both of them agreed to the proposal. The man put up his net; the lion ran into it and became entangled a second time. It could not escape. The rat said to the man, ‘The lion is a stupid fellow. You can do to it, as you like. But I shall accompany you, because I fear that the other lions will kill me.’ Until today, rats live and stay in man’s house. In addition, when a lion sees a rat, it runs away, fearing the rat may betray it again.

Explanations 1. Often, cleverness overcomes force. The rat did not have the force of saving the hunter; that is why it used its ingenuity. The rat shows us that we had better use our brains to solve problems and overcome obstacles rather than employing physical force.    

An invalid does not desire war (PK1257). A billy goat does not attack one stronger than itself (PK2396). If you do not stand on firm feet, do not provoke a wrestler (PK377). ‘A wise man acts in the darkness, a fool lights a fire’ (PK1726). The hunter and the fisherman come home from the forest after sundown; in full daylight, they feel forced to share their catch with neighbours, relatives and friends. 95

2. Watch out for bad advisors. They may do you unawares in the eye. 3. Some animals prefer to stay close to people to profit from warmth, food, security and accommodation. 4. The lion did not have pity on the man who set it free. Sometimes we are like the lion, ungrateful and untrustworthy. Even when others help us and save our lives, we do not spare them.


30. Give me your baby One day, a husband and his wife had a baby. However, when the mother went to work in the fields, she had no one to rock her baby. There, even during her hard work, she felt obliged to hold her baby. In that way, she made little progress. In addition, when her husband saw that her garden was much as it looked before, he started a row and beat her up. His wife tried to explain her predicament namely that she had no one to hold her baby. However, her husband did not want to listen and scolded her for being a lazy pig. Whenever she went to her garden, she was crying. One day, the woman went to her field. When she arrived there, her baby started screaming. Her baby did not stop crying. A fox was underway, when the baby screamed and the mother cried. The fox stopped and asked the woman why she was crying. The woman replied ‘I cry, because I do not have anybody to hold my baby. When my husband comes and sees how little I have done, he beats me.’ The fox answered, ‘I shall take care of your baby. You only need to bring me some food whenever you come to work here.’ The mother felt relieved and agreed to the fox’s proposal. The following day, she went to her garden again and took some food along for the fox. At her arrival, she found the fox waiting for her.

When the mother started working, the fox sang the following song to comfort the baby: ‘Woman, I rock your baby, woman, I rock your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. ‘Woman, I rock your baby, woman, I rock your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. Yes, I babysit your baby. Yes, I babysit your baby, 97

but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. Yes, I babysit your baby. Yes, I babysit your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. This time her husband happened to pass where his wife was working. He found she had laboured a great part of the garden. He was surprised and even told his wife, “You always say that the baby cries a lot and does not allow you to work. Who is rocking our baby today?’ His wife replied ‘There was a kind person helping me.’ Every day,the fox came to assist her. The people passing by her garden saw the situation and wondered what was happening. One day, they told the husband that a fox was rocking their baby. They said, ‘The fox pretends to be singing, but one day, it will eat the baby.’ The husband asked his wife about the rumour, but she denied vehemently that a fox was rocking their baby.

The following day, the wife got up early to go and work as usual. However, the husband followed her without her knowledge, with a spear in his hand. When he reached the field where his wife was working, he hid himself. After a short while, the fox came where the baby slept. It picked up the baby and began to sing: ‘Woman, I rock your baby, woman, I rock your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. ‘Woman, I rock your baby, woman, I rock your baby, 98

but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. Yes, I babysit your baby. Yes, I babysit your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. Yes, I babysit your baby. Yes, I babysit your baby, but what will kill your baby, comes from your side. While the fox was singing, the husband rushed from his hiding place and threw the spear at the fox. However, unfortunately, the fox dodged the spear that caught the child and killed the baby instantly. This is where I left them, when the man had killed his own baby. Explanations: 1. Marital rows cause many problems. Children become the victims. 2. Husband and wife should trust each other. 3. A marital problem should not signify the end of their relationship:  

‘It does not rain because of a few thunderclaps; a marriage does not break up because of a quarrel’ (PK1964). In every marriage, there are wrangles. It is good to talk things over quietly. We should not be in a hurry and take radical decisions all at once. ‘When you are in a hurry, you step over a viper without seeing it’ (PK803). When you step over a viper, it may bite you. In addition, you may miss the chance to kill the animal for a delicious meal.

4. Spying on each other is the prelude to a disaster. We should act like the monitor lizard. It feigns to be deaf, because it avoids quarrels (PK1886). In a relationship to invite quarrels is the last thing to do. 5. A husband should have consideration for the numerous tasks his wife is taking upon herself: making fields in the forest, clearing the place, planting and sowing as well as weeding. On top of that, she takes care of the children. In the story, the husband has no consideration for his wife. He does not propose any solution either. Husband and wife need to solve domestic problems together. Joint consultations prevent many difficulties. 6. Rumours may be true. 7. This Ugandan story runs parallel to the following Congolese story, where the antelope replaces the fox.


31. Mr Generous

A man, the father of twins, had a son whom he called Generous. When Generous became an adult, his dad obtained him a wife. He called her Amazing Grace. One day Generous asked Amazing Grace the following question, ‘When will you bear me a son?’ She replied, ‘I do not know’. The husband answered, ‘If you do not get children, there will be big problems between the two of us. First, I am going to visit our patriarch, Hewho-fulfils-his-promises. He should instruct me on how one gets children.’ The next day, he went to see the patriarch and asked him, ‘Father Patriarch, can you tell me how one obtains children?’ He replied, ‘Together with your wife you will bring forth a child. But you should live in peace so as not to lose children.’ Towards evening, the husband came home and noticed that his wife had not prepared a meal. He asked her, ‘Say, why did you not prepare a meal?’ His wife replied, ‘Because I did not have any food.’ The man became furious and started beating her up. While he was at it, a neighbour heard the noise, knocked at their door and asked the husband, ’Why are you beating up your wife? What did she do to earn a beating?’ He replied, ‘because she did not prepare a meal.’ The neighbour answered, ‘Leave her alone. She will prepare food tomorrow. Where were you today?’ He replied, ‘I visited He-who-fulfils-his-promises. I asked him how one obtains children. He told me to live in peace with my wife.’ The neighbour replied, “He has shown you the way. So live in peace with your spouse. Why give her a beating? You spoil your own happiness.’ It did not take long for Amazing Grace to become pregnant. She gave birth to a girl. They gave her the name Cry-baby. We never saw such a comparison between someone’s name and one’s behaviour. She stopped crying only, when her mother held her on her knees and breastfed her. Whenever you heard her cry in the distance, you became convinced that the baby had had an accident. It was in the beginning of the dry season. The water level of the river descended as it usually does in the dry season. Women trekked into the forest and caught so much fish that the racks cracked under the weight. Amazing Grace felt envy to join the women of the village, but it seemed impossible because of Cry-baby. One night she was wideawake in bed, addressed her deceased mother, and said, ‘My dear mother, how can I find someone to look after my baby so that I too can empty a pond and catch fish? Will it ever be possible that my baby stops crying with a lullaby? For heavens’ sake, what should I do?’ After she had prayed this way, she fell asleep. She dreamed that the Patriarch told her, ‘Tomorrow morning go to the edge of the swamp. There is a pond with a lot of fish. Spread a big leaf and lay down your child on top of it. You will see a small antelope coming to play with your baby. The child will stop crying and you will catch plenty of fish.’ When Amazing Grace woke up, she told her husband about the dream. He replied, ‘It is only a dream. Did you ever see an animal rock a baby?’


The following morning, Amazing Grace remembered her dream. Her husband, Generous, went to see his friends. She profited from the occasion to fetch her small basket and her baby. She went down to the swamp to catch fish. When she descended the hill, she spotted the pond, which contained lots of fish. She wondered about her dream. She gathered some big forest leaves, spread them out on the ground and put her baby on top. She descended into the pond, made a kind of dam and started emptying the pond to catch the remaining fish. It did not take long for the child to wake up. At the moment she wanted to climb out of the pond to take the child into her arms, an antelope approached.

The animal walked slowly over to the spread-out leaves, when the child began to laugh. The mother looked how the antelope played with her baby. She felt that the animal would not harm the child. Therefore, she continued emptying the pond. She caught lots and lots of fish. She was thinking about giving the antelope some fish, when the animal ran away. The mother was amazed and said, ´Why did the animal disappear? I wanted to thank the animal and give it some fish.’ Amazing Grace cleaned the fish and prepared a very special packet for her husband. Reaching home she noticed that her husband was absent, She first prepared the special fish for her husband and then for the rest. Not long afterwards, Generous came home. He looked angry. Entering the house he interrogated his wife, asking her, ´Why did you stay away fishing for such a long time? She replied, ‘First taste your fish. Then I will tell you my story.’ Her husband began to eat. However, even during his meal he asked her, ‘Why did the fishing take such a long time?’ She replied, ‘Did I not tell you my dream last night?’ Generous shouted on top of his voice, ‘Do you think I am an animal?’ She replied, ‘No, you are not!’ Her husband did not want to listen any further and duffed his wife up terribly. She cried her eyes out. The same neighbour heard the commotion and interfered. He asked what the matter was. They both related how the row had originated. The neighbour sent Generous to his father for some solid advice. Generous visited his father. He explained meticulously what had happened between him and his wife, including the dreams. The father gave him the following advice: ‘Early tomorrow morning, you say goodbye to your wife. You tell her that you are going to see 101

an old friend.’ Then you take your arrows and hide yourself on the hill approaching the swamps, near the pond where your wife goes fishing. When a man shows up, kill him. When an antelope appears, kill the animal.’ Generous returned home and told his wife that his dad had given him some sound advice. The following morning, he said bye to his wife, saying he was going to see an old friend. He hid on the slope towards the swamps. His wife did not know anything of the plot. She took the small basket as well as her baby, which she carried in a sling, and set off. She walked in the direction of the swamp and descended the slope. Near the pond, she looked for great forest leaves, spread them out on the soil and put her child on top of them. In the meantime, her husband watched her, but she did not see her husband. She descended into the pond, made a dam and started emptying the pond. She had hardly started when the antelope arrived. Her husband too saw the antelope appearing. He pinched himself in the leg to see whether he was dreaming or not. He said to himself, ‘That woman spoils the meat willingly.’ He put an arrow on his bow, knelt down and heard a voice saying: ‘You commit evil against yourself.’ He raised himself from the ground, but when he did not see anybody around, he went through his knees again. Again, he heard a voice, saying, ‘You are asking for trouble.’ He stood up again and did not see anybody. He thought, ‘Maybe those words come from my wife who tries to empty the pond.’ He knelt down again, whilst his wife continued fishing in the pond. Then he saw something else: an antelope turned round the baby and the baby laughed. Generous shot the arrow, the antelope jumped aside and disappeared. However, the arrow hit the child in the chest and stood upright. At that moment, Amazing Grace threw the content of her basket upwards over the dam and looked over the ridge of the pond. She saw the arrow straight up in her kid. The woman raised alarm. Then her husband came out of his hiding and shouted: ‘Woman, woman, stop shouting! I shot the arrow at the antelope. The animal dodged the arrow. That is why the arrow hit the baby. I shall pay the indemnity, but do not accuse me. It is too bad for me.’ However, the woman could not hide the cause of her child’s death. She ran back to the village crying and mourning aloud. Her dad was mad. From his in-laws Generous received the bride price, which he had paid for his wife. He stayed a bachelor for the rest of his life. Explanations 1. In the dry season groups of women go into the forest to build dams and empty the stagnant waters of rivers and brooklets. In this way, they capture lots of fish in the stagnant mud pools. Only a sudden thunderstorm may spoil their work. During those fishing expeditions, women earn their nicknames. For the women this is a testing and at the same time an exhilarating job. Now and again, a man specially designated brings food from the village in the form of bananas or cassava. During this kind of work the women wear no or very few clothes. That is why men are not invited to come and see. The men stay at home to look after the children or grandchildren.


2. Generally speaking, people are convinced that it is the ancestors who bring children for their posterity. The deceased parents and grandparents can open or close the womb of their daughters or granddaughters. If a couple does not manage to live in peace together, the grandparents will refuse to give the couple children. How can a child prosper, when the parents are constantly fighting? A peaceful home is essential for the development and the growth of the child. To beat up your wife makes the problem even greater. 3. The voices which the father heard, were those of worried ancestors who tried to avert disaster. 4. Spouses should be open and frank with each other. Only in that way, they can make known their feelings, their worries, their wishes and their preferences and forestall misunderstandings.     

‘Do not hide meat from the fire' (PK326). If you do not prepare the food, it will rot. If you have a problem, make it known so that your spouse may help you. ‘Do not let the grass grow on your mouth’ (PK688). ‘Do not hide your sickness from your wife; do not hide your hunger from your inlaws’ (PK2203). Make no disguise of your feelings. ‘What you hide from your people at home, the diviner reveals’ (CRC1545). Unburden your mind, please! ‘To hide things is being a slave, to tell things is being a person of distinction’ (CRC2123). It is not a shame to reveal a problem. On the contrary.

5. The parents of married people have a right to speak when they advise their children. But they should not plot or make secret arrangements with their offspring. That is undermining the relationship of their son or daughter. 6. Weapons can be deadly. The hunter should always handle his weapons very carefully. He should never endanger someone’s life. When he is in the forest and notices that branches move without knowing the cause of the movement, he may not fire a shot or throw a spear. Your desire or appetite for meat may not make you blind for the danger of intervening. When you take the risk and your action kills somebody, you change and spoil the rest of your life.


32. A man and his daughter

Shortly after they married, a husband and his wife had a daughter. On the day of her birth, the man planted a tree next to their house. He said, ‘The man, who will later ask for her hand and marry her, is the one, who will sit underneath this tree without eating its fruits.’ Both the tree and the daughter grew up. The girl reached the nubile age. In the meantime, the tree had grown to the extent of bringing forth fruits. Young men came to see her by the dozens. They asked her father for her hand. The first in the row was a chimpanzee. He came in singing. He sang: Who will obtain this beautiful daughter? I will get her today. I, the chimpanzee, will have the daughter. The daughter heard the chimpanzee’s song and went to meet him. She welcomed him and showed him a chair beneath the big tree. He had hardly sat down, when a big fruit fell from the tree. He picked up the fruit and started eating. When the father came to meet him, he asked him to sing a song before he would give him his daughter. However, the chimpanzee had his mouth full and could not sing. He had no option but to leave! The next one to present himself was the forest rat. He too came in singing. He too sang: Who will obtain this beautiful daughter? I will get her today. I, the forest rat, will have the daughter. He too was welcomed wholeheartedly and shown the chair under the tree. He too dashed to the falling fruit. They showed him the door. After him came the frog. He too could not resist the temptation to go for the fruit. He put his teeth in the fruit. He too was shown the door. A few days later, the tortoise showed up, whilst singing the same tune. They welcomed him too and gave him a chair in the shadow of the big tree. The first fruit dropped on top of him. However, he just looked at it. The second fruit fell next to him. Again, he looked at it. Then a third, a fourth and a fifth fruit dropped and still other ones. The tortoise did not eat any of them. The father of the daughter came out of the house and asked the tortoise to sing a song. The tortoise sang on top of his voice. He received the beautiful daughter and married her. Explanation: 1. It is the father’s task to marry off his daughter. She has to procure a bride price to enable one of her brothers to marry a girl. The parents, uncles and aunties arrange the 104

dowry. They all are witnesses. ‘A woman is like dry maize; without teeth you cannot chew it’ (CRC2248). This proverb wants to say, ‘Without dowry there will be no marriage. The father is the one who marries off his daughter. 2. The father has to be on the lookout that his daughter does not marry a lazy fellow. He stipulates the conditions and the quantity of the bride price. If the future son-in-law makes stupid mistakes in front of his future father-in-law, he had better be gone. 3. A future marriage candidate must be able to control himself. The young man may have lots of money, cows and goats. However, he must be of good behaviour. If he is not able to control himself like the chimpanzee, the forest rat and the frog, how can he be a good candidate for someone’s daughter?

4. The tortoise (in Congo) and the hare (in East-Africa) are traditionally depicted as clever people. They are weak, slow and vulnerable. That is why they must be clever to survive. In many fables, they outsmart the other animals. ‘If the lion’s skin cannot, the fox’s shall. That is why in this fable no animal goes home with the beautiful daughter but the tortoise does.


33. A man and his daughter (no 2) Long ago, there was a very rich man. He was married. With his wife he had a beautiful daughter. The daughter grew up. She was as brown as a snake-gourd. Many boys and men admired her and wanted to marry her. However, the girl failed to make a choice. Her father could not make a choice either. Therefore, one day, he took some cowrie shells and went to consult a diviner. He wanted advice on the kind of person his daughter should marry. After reaching the diviner’s place, the father handed him the cowrie shells. The diviner threw all his cowries on his bark cloth. The shells all fell facing up. He said ‘You see: all these cowries are facing up. It is the same with your daughter. All the boys and all the men love her and she will marry all of them. But here is my advice to you: build a very big house with many rooms for your daughter. After you have finished the house, go hunting. Put one animal in each room and lock the door. Now, the room, which remains empty, is where you lock up your daughter. Then call every candidate, young or old, and give each of them a key to one room. What he finds is what he takes.

The father of the daughter built a house just as the diviner had told him. Then, he began hunting. He brought a leopard, a hyena, a wild cat, a snake, a dog, a cow and a monkey. Each of them he locked in a room. Later, he invited his daughter to enter the remaining room. Then, he called all those who loved his daughter. He gave each one of them a key and went away. Whoever opened his room, found something there. Some suitors just fainted and then took off immediately dismayed or terrified by what they had found in their rooms. The one, who opened the room where the daughter was waiting, left with great joy to marry her. When they reached his home, the future husband untied a goat and took it to her father as a gift. While the father was still there, the fellow, who had found a leopard in the room, came forward and said, ‘What kind of offspring did you have? Did you not bring forth a human being? She became a leopard and wanted to devour me’. The one who found a lion, approached also and said, ‘You did not father a person; you brought forth a lion to devour 106

me and finish me off.’ And still others turned up, accusing the father of having turned his daughter into different animals. That is what the proverb means to say, ‘What do parents bring forth? They do not form the mind, but only form the body’ (CRC638). Another proverb says, ‘In marriage, character is more important than beauty’ (CRC1914). Explanation 1. Before marrying someone, examine that person’s character. Otherwise, you may marry an impossible person. ‘One does not take a small snake aboard’ (PK274). One does not put a leopard in the basket, which you carry on your back’ (PK273). 2. In traditional marriage, the father of the bride plays an important role. The future husband should not lose his wits by the bride’s physical attractiveness.


34. The potter

Once upon a time, a potter was very good at his trade. He made dishes, small and big pots and saucepans. One day, when he had made many pots of all sizes, he realised that hardly anybody came to buy them. The next day, when he came back from his fields, he found a lot of rubbish and sticks in his compound. He asked himself, “Whose children came here to spoil my compound like this?� However, because he lived alone, nobody could answer his question. That day passed. Another day, when he came back from his garden, he found that the same thing had happened in his compound. Every day it happened again, because, when he left his home, all the pots would come out and dance in the compound singing the following song: The small pots you made, ready for the trade, full of joy they dance, getting into a trance.

The pots danced around, that is why in the compound many sticks are found.’


Whenever the pots and dishes thought the potter would come back, they retired into the store. Each day, the potter became more and more upset and more curious. He wanted to know which people were messing up his compound. One day, he took his basket and his tools, as if he left for his gardens. However, he hid in the bushes behind the house. To his amazement, he saw moments later that his pots and dishes came dancing out of the store. He was struck with fear, because he had never seen or heard pottery dancing and singing. The potter looked at the scene for a while, came out of his hiding, gripped a stick and smashed all his pottery. He vowed never to make a pot or dish again. Explanation 1. The message of the story seems to be: If you try something out and it does not work, stop it and look for another occupation. The potter knew what he did. When the sales went down, he did not sit down with his pots, but he went to the forest to make fields. 2. If somebody lets you down or goes against you, do not make much of it; everybody may cause an accident. However, if that person repeats that same action, that means he goes for you (see PK2197). In that case, he bullies you.


35. The wise orphan Once upon a time, there was a boy. He was an orphan who often played with his friends. However, whenever they were playing together and the orphan saw that the leaders of the village sat together to discuss and end village quarrels, he decided to join them. He wished to hear what the judges said and how they solved problems. His friends did not like that the orphan stopped playing whenever the judges met. However, the orphan stuck to his guns and said, ‘Let me hear the village problems. You go and play, I want to sit and stay.’ His small friends scolded him making him look like a fool. They said, ‘It is none of your business what the elders say.’ However, the orphan did not give in and said, ‘I do not have a father and mother. My ears are my father and my ears are my mother. Just let me listen.’ His friends ridiculed him and scoffed at him. Many years passed by. Most of the elders were no longer around. His young friends had replaced them. They were the authority in the village. However, none of them knew how to solve disputes. They did not know how to reconcile warring parties. That is why there were many conflicts in the village. The same quarrels kept showing up repeatedly. One day, a serious dispute threatened to get out of hand and could cause a fatal accident. Therefore, the men came together to restore order in the village like the forbears used to do. However, nobody knew how to go about it. Then they remembered the orphan whom they had taken for a fool. They invited him to come in their midst. They feared that he would decline the invitation. However, he came in with his head high in the air. They said, ‘Please, tell us what you formerly heard the elders say. We ourselves have no idea at all.’ The orphan reflected a while and then sang the following song, ‘They turned towards the one whom they had rejected. The men said, ‘We lost our way, but now we have come back in the village.’ After the song, the orphan explained how the village elders used to handle the problems and how they put an end to the quarrels. Everybody was baffled by the wisdom of the orphan. With his help, they put an end to the continuous rows and squabbles. The orphan became and stayed the president of the village council until his death.

Explanations 1. Every community needs leaders to keep the peace and to hold people together. ‘It is better to put your shield down than to take it up’ (CRC179). ‘Jaw jaw is better than war war’ (Churchill). Dialogue is better than waging wars. 2. One obtains real wisdom, when listening to elderly people, who used to listen to their parents and to those who became wise through experience.


 ‘The one at home knows how to organise things (CRC102).  ‘The oldest cow enters last’ (CRC1224); the wise old man speaks last.  ‘An old hunting net catches game where there are no animal traces’ (CRC1603). 3. Children should listen well to their parents and to village elders. In this way, they can later apply their wisdom and to hand it on to the next generation. ‘The one who refused to heed advice, walked with faeces on his calves’ (CRC1775). If you do not want to listen, you will one day look a fool. 4. When you are young, play is very important. However, play is not everything. 5. Entrust authority in the village or community to the one who is wise and not to one who happens to be your friend.    

‘When the old man is at home, no goat will enter’ (PK1124). When the old man is a wise guy, there are few quarrels. Where elders are, few things get spoilt’ (CRC137). ‘The owner of an old cloth knows how to mend it’ (CRC204). Elders possess much wisdom. ‘The finger of an elder is sharper than a double-edged sword’ (CRC2145). The word of an elder carries much weight.

6. Not a single person but a group of elders is called upon to settle disputes in an African community. (See CRC1210).


36. Wiser-than-the-elders

A man and his wife had three sons. The boys continued to stay at home. One day, the father told them, ‘I want to give each of you a name. The boys replied to their father, ‘No, dad, we do not want you to do that. Once we have grown up, we shall give names to ourselves.’ The father did not fathom what he heard. In his consternation, he called the council of the elders together and informed them about the special situation of his family. The leaders too were flabbergasted about what had happened. The elders summoned the boys and asked them, “Your dad wanted to give each of you a name. Why did you reject his proposal?’ The three boys answered, ‘Indeed, we rejected it. When we have grown up, we shall give ourselves a name’. The elders did not push the question. Some years passed. Then the elders asked the eldest son, ‘What do you want to be called?’ The boy replied, ‘I am called the Ridge of the Roof.’ They put the same question to the second son. He replied, ‘I am the Way.’ Then they asked the youngest of the three sons. He replied, ‘My name is Wiser-than-the-elders.’ Their answer was, ‘O yes? How is that possible?’ The elders wanted to test the youngest son in order to see whether he was really a clever person. They called the boy, gave him a kernel of maize, and said, ‘Plant this kernel and bring us tonight maize to eat. The boy had brought the elders an egg and said, ‘Take this egg and put it under a chicken to hatch and tonight a cock should crow.’ The young man went back home. Towards evening, the elders called the young man again. They asked, ‘Is that you, Wiser-than-the-elders? He replied, ‘What is the problem?’ They answered, ‘Bring us this morning’s maize so that we can eat it!’ He did not hesitate a moment and asked the old men, ‘Where is this morning’s egg? If it has been hatched, give it to me.’ The old men asked him, ‘Did you ever see that an egg is hatched in one day?’ He replied, ‘Did you ever see a kernel of maize bringing forth an ear of maize in one day?’ The elders were amazed and dumbfounded. The elders were annoyed that the young man carried that name. They looked for another way of getting him. They took a needle, dug a deep pit and let the needle drop in it. Whilst they were digging, the young man understood their plot. He too dug a deep pit and connected it to the pit with the needle. The elders called him and said, ‘Give us the needle which is in the pit.’ The youngster said, ‘Just give me a ladder.’ They lowered a ladder in the pit. The young man went down the rungs. He picked up the needle and quickly moved into the tunnel. He had just entered the tunnel, when the elders lifted buckets full of soil and filled up their pit. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves, whilst they shouted: ‘Here you are! You are as dead as a doornail!’ The elders called the oldest son. He showed up. They called also the second son and he too turned up. They told them that they could use their surnames. However, the one, who called himself Wiser-than-the-elders, was dead. So where was his wisdom? Listen, 112

we shall call him, because we want to drink at the end of the mourning period. One of them called, ‘Wiser-than-the-elders’? There followed a deadly quiet. He called still louder, ‘Wiser-than-the-elders’? The answer came, ‘Here I am’. The young man came walking and said, ‘Here is your needle’. The elders were at a loss altogether. They asked themselves, ‘Where does he come from?’ The elders looked for another trick and told the father of the three boys, ‘Look, remove all the stuff from your house. Then take your coat and give it to your youngest son. Then he should enter the house for a minute. We will close the door and put the house on fire.’ They called out, ‘Wiser-than-the-elders’! He replied, ‘Here I am.’ The father said, ‘Here is my coat. Can you put this inside the house?’ Whilst the boy was inside the house, they closed and locked the door. They put the house on fire. However, the clever boy jumped through a window at the back of the house. When the whole house was reduced to ashes, the elders took leave of the two eldest boys and said, ‘We will see you again. Your names have saved you. But the one, who reckoned himself to be wiser than the elders, is no more.’ However, one of them called out all the same, ‘Wiser-thanthe-elders’! He answered, ‘Here I am’. In addition, he said, ‘Dad, here is your coat’. The elders were at a loss what to say. Sometime later, the elders came together again. They felt uneasy about the fact that the youngster had evaded all their tricks. They pondered how to get hold of him. They told the father of the boy, ‘Take a coffin. Call your youngest boy, put him inside the coffin and we shall give him the following mission: go to the Ekonda to gather news concerning the ongoing war.’ They chose four men. They came and put the boy inside the coffin. They put a lock on the lid. These four men had to carry the coffin and throw it a bit further on into the river! Whilst the men were on their way with the coffin, they reached the forest and became very thirsty. They asked the young man in the coffin, ‘You are cleverer than the elders, please, tell us where we can find drinking water.’ He said, ‘The water is in a place where reeds grow.’ The men started a discussion. One of them said, ‘I propose that two of us go and collect water, whilst the other two wait here for the water.’ However, another one said, ‘That does not work, because the place is faraway and there are only reeds growing.’ In the end, they decided that all four of them would go and look for water, because they said, ‘He is in the coffin. The coffin is locked. He cannot escape.’ The four left. After quite a while, Wiser-than-the-elders heard someone approaching. From within the coffin he asked, ‘Who is there?’ The man answered, ‘It’s me, the chief of the Ekonda. I am on the way to Wiser-than-the-elders, because the elders are gathered at his place.’ He told the man, ‘I am here. Open the coffin and I shall tell you why they sent me to you.’ The chief opened the coffin. The young man asked the man all the information concerning the Ekonda. The young man invited the chief to lie down in the coffin, so that they would carry him back home. The chief lay down in the coffin. The clever boy locked the box and said to him, ‘When they ask you something, just say, ‘Here I am; I am on the way to be thrown into the river.’


The four men came back and threw the coffin into the river. The coffin disappeared for good. Afterwards Wiser-than-the-elders returned home. He had only one piece of news, ‘The chief of the Ekonda does not know me. I have come back empty-handed. I have never been where you sent me.’ The elders cried out in amazement. They said, ‘Let him carry the name ‘Wiser-than-the-elders’. They all returned to their homes. The youngest son inherited his father’s authority. Explanations 1. Some proverbs insist that children and young people possess wisdom too. Elderly people could profit from their wisdom. They should listen to youngsters. 

The egg advises the broody hen (PK471). Thousands of safari ants invade the chicken coop. A hen is hatching her eggs. If she stays, she will be eaten alive by the ants. One of the eggs speaks to its mother and says, ‘Mum, you‘d better go. We shall manage all right. However, the hen does not want to abandon her eggs. The ants devour the hen. She should have listened to her egg. However, the hen probably thought, ‘What does the egg know about the real world?’ In the same line of thinking, we, adults, should listen to children, who with their advice, can sometimes save our lives. Another proverb says, ‘The tom-tom carries far but not on account of its size (PK1850). The sound of a small tom-tom carries further than the sound of a huge one. The proverb wants to say, ‘you are not always the best and the wisest, because you are big, tall or old.’ Even children can give good advice.

The famous tom-tom, lokolé, transmits all kinds of messages in the region.


Still another proverb says, ‘A young monkey sees someone’ (PK2229). When a group of monkeys is on the move, young monkeys go ahead of the group, because they see and hear better than the others. They have the task to be on the lookout for danger. When they spot a suspicious looking hunter, they utter a cry and the whole band takes to its heels. Children are sometimes better observers than the elderly are. Children can warn the whole village. Do not underestimate children and youngsters. The elders should listen to what the youth has to say.

In the above story number 8 on pages, 45-46 the youngest child sees how its father blocked his anus with resin. When later his father becomes seriously ill, the child narrates what he observed. The family investigates his story. The upshot is that the father is saved. Children see a lot. We should not look down on them.

2. The story shows that the elderly are not always ready to listen to the youth. Also in Africa, the elderly sometimes talk about children and call them brats and urchins. However, the youngsters too have a task in society.


37. Two with the same name.

Two men with the same name lived in the same village. Both were called Botúli. The one was Botúli the Great, the other Botúli of Botúli. One day, people organised a communal hunt. For that kind of hunt people erect nets between shrubs and bushes. One part of the hunters chases game with much noise towards the nets. Behind these nets, other hunters hide in the bushes. As soon as an animal is trapped in the nets, the waiting hunters spear it. It is customary that when you spear an animal, you call out your name as a sign that you are the one who killed the animal and who has a right to certain parts of the animal. That day, the two men Botúli were standing next to each other, waiting for the animals to come. All of a sudden, an animal turned up and became stuck in the nets. Botúli the Great killed the animal, whilst Botúli of Botúli exclaimed his name. The two men quarrelled heavily and their case was forwarded to the tribunal of the village. They allotted the animal to Botúli of Botúli, because his name had resounded in the forest. Botúli the Great resigned himself, because, when judges pass a verdict, you are bound to accept it. Otherwise, everybody regards you as an outcast. He went back home and did not talk about what happened. However, he felt a great unease about the injustice. His namesake had gone off with his animal. After some time, the village organised another communal hunt. And the two Botúli participated. The ancestors told us: ‘The one who caused the injustice has forgotten all about it; the one who suffered the injustice still knows it exactly.’ The two men stood again next to each other. Botúli the Great said to himself, ‘Last time my namesake robbed me of my animal and got away with it. Maybe, he will try the same trick again. But today I will get him.’ It did not last long for a village mate to pass in the bushes and Botúli the Great shot an arrow at him. Botúli of Botúli did not even look what or whom his friend had shot. He exclaimed loudly his name again. The wounded man cried aloud, ‘My dear mother, who hit me? ‘Hunters from all sides came rushing towards the wounded man. Some of them testified that they had heard the name of Botúli of Botúli. There was no way of denying it. Botúli of Botúli protested vehemently and denied the assault. Whilst they were quarrelling, the wounded man passed away. Botúli of Botúli was killed on the spot, because he had committed murder. Explanations 1. We meet deceit everywhere.  

The Mongo say, ‘A lie is not heavy’ (PK1303). Lying is easily done. It is not difficult to deceive someone. ‘One cannot deceive all people all the time’ (PK2197). When you are caught out, people no longer trust you. 116

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The Básogá say, ‘A good reputation is worth more than affluence’ (CRC1234). ‘Lies spoil good relations’ (CRC1549).

2. When you have deceived someone on purpose, you will get the bill eventually. That person may get you as the story tells us. The Mongo say, ‘When cutting the meat you hurt someone in the finger, he will forgive you; if it happens twice, you did undoubtedly so on purpose’ (PK2086 and PK2448). 3. Be always honest; deceive nobody. Honesty is the key to a peaceful cohabitation. Honesty is the best policy.    

‘You can throw away the bones without problem, if you did not steal the meat’ (CRC240). You have nothing to hide. You can live your life in peace. ‘An agreement does not burn with the house’ (CRC1133). Even when someone’s home burns down with all its documents, the obligations still stand. ‘A debt never rots’ (CRC847). ‘A fallen tree trunk rots away, but a word never rots away’ PK2516). People do not easily forget your deceitful story.


38. The fisherman

Long ago, there was a fisherman. He had a wife and four children. He was a very poor man. The roof of his grass-thatched house was leaking whenever it rained. He used to wake up at dawn to go fishing, while his wife went to work in her fields. One day, this man went fishing and upon reaching the lake, he found a very big fish entangled in one of his nets. He killed it, therefore, before he could get it out of the net. When he managed to put the fish in his canoe, he cut the fish into fillets and found a shiny stone in its belly. He took it home and gave it to his children to play with. The stone looked like a ball. The children used to play with it on the road. One day, as the king passed by, he saw the children playing with the stone. He stopped and asked them who the owner of the stone was. The children informed him that it belonged to their father. The king examined the stone critically and admired it. He continued his journey leaving the stone with the children, since the father was not around.

. Sometime later, the king returned and this time he found the fisherman at home. The fisherman welcomed him as he wondered what had brought the king to his humble abode. As they started talking, the neighbours approached. They too wondered why the king visited the fisherman. The king said to the fisherman, ‘I saw your children with a precious stone and I sincerely admired it. Please, give it to me, even if it means me giving you part of my kingdom.’ At first, the fisherman refused; however, after thinking more about it and about the fact that he owed the king respect, he gave him the stone. He said, ‘My Lordship, what you promised to give me, I want you to do so in public.’ The


king accepted the proposal and called his people together. Publicly he gave the fisherman part of his kingdom. I left them, when the poor fisherman had become rich. Explanations 1. Even if poverty strikes, do not give up hope.     

‘What you did not see when young, you may see in old age’ (CRC1551). ‘What God has kept for a poor person, does not rot’ (1577). One day, he will experience happiness. ‘What God forms at night will save the poor man’ (Básogá). Some people have good luck on their side. Like the man who wanted to cut a tree. A storm came up and blew the tree down (CRC1540). ‘Good luck is like the wind. Even when you close the door, the wind comes in’ (CRC2275).

2. With humour, the Básogá tell the luck of someone eaten by a wild animal: ‘He was lucky. He came out of a belly and went back into a belly’. 3. Good luck. According to the Bantu, one obtains good luck by God’s blessing or by the blessing of the ancestors. ‘It is all God’s doing for a woman to feel at home where she was not born’ (CRC1582). 4. Bad luck. One has bad luck by the actions of bad spirits. A bad spirit has entered your blood (makilá mabé = bad blood as they say in Lingála.) 

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‘When you have bad luck, you fail to get a refuge’ (CRC1551). When fleeing the enemy, you like to hide. However, if bad luck accompanies you, you will not find a shelter. ‘When you are destined to die, whatever herbal medicine you take, will be bitter’ (CRC1606). When your time is up, you cannot escape. One receives bad luck by a spell. ‘He, who has not been bewitched, does not fit in the grave.’ ‘Nobody dies unless bewitched’ (CRC98). ‘The day you are destined to die, even your mother scolds you’ (CRC1606). If children engage themselves in evil activities, parents will side with those condemning them.

5. The clever fisherman is not seduced by the blue eyes of the king. He insists that the king repeats his promises in public. He does not let slip the nice opportunity through his fingers. He knows the proverb, ‘One who says, “We shall share the spoils from across”, ends up cheating you’ (CRC2718).


39. The fisherman (no 2)

Near the great Victoria Lake, a famous fisherman lives with his wife and three children. Nearly every day, he paddles onto the lake to fish with his hoop nets and floats with long lines with numerous fishhooks. He has made the hoop nets himself with the thin iron threads taken out of discarded car tires. He fishes mostly at night, at least when the moon is not full. At that time, one does not catch anything at all. Sometimes, the fisherman goes out with one or two friends, when they beat the water with flat pieces of wood or with their oars to chase the fish towards their hoop nets. They prefer catching tilapia or Nile perch. Part of the catch goes to their wives for their own daily meals. The rest of the catch they sell on the market or to people waiting for them in the harbour. The life of a fisherman is not easy. Whenever he ventures onto the lake at night, thousands yes millions of mosquitoes and other insects attack and bite him until dawn chases the insects. He continually watches out of for ill-humoured hippos and crocodiles. In the dark, he watches out with his eyes and ears. Sometimes a certain uncomfortable feeling warns him of a looming danger. The proverb tells us, ‘One’s hair informs one of the presence of a leopard’ (CRC 7).

That night, our man wants to catch a lot of fish. He rows his boat carefully, inspects his nets and fishhooks and replaces the worms on the fishhooks. Now and again, he is lucky and catches a hefty floundering fish. When the day is dawning, he calmly paddles back to the landing site near his home. He is quite happy with his catch. He looks around. The first cormorants show themselves. The morning mist rises from the lake. He hears the constant cry of the blue kingfishers. A fish eagle sits in the top of a high tree and looks out over the lake. It is the king of the birds. Its white head and ruff as well as its piercing eyes earn him the appearance of a king or emperor. It bides its time. Nobody pushes it around. Slowly the comforting sun rises above the horizon and tries to chase 120

the mist. Slowly the fisherman paddles back home. Through the snippets of mist he stares ahead to see whether one of his children is on the lookout for him.

When he approaches the landing site, he sees a white object on the dividing line of water and land. The last stretch he rows with a certain tension in his knuckles. His dugout slides and grates over the sand and comes to a halt. He steps out of his boat and automatically he pulls the prow to make sure the boat does not drift away on an unexpected wave. Then he makes a beeline for the white object. His eyes are fine. He nearly immediately distinguishes the outlines of a bleached human skull. He bends down to see whether the skull shows any sign of violence. However, the skull is intact without any trace of brutal force. Whilst he inclines over the skull, he hears clearly a big sigh and the words: ‘I said too much’. Our fisherman becomes scared out of his wits, falls back and cannot believe his ears. He gathers all his courage, bends again over the skull and asks, ‘Skull, what did you say?’ The skull again heaves a big sigh and repeats the words, ‘I said too much.’ The boisterous kingfishers fall silent. A lone heron passes with its usual slow wingstroke. Flabbergasted and shocked the fisherman looks around, runs to his dugout, takes his catch of fish and runs home. When he has left the fish in the hands of his wife, he runs immediately in the direction of the village chief. At his arrival, he sees a few strangers. Among them is the chief of police. Two formidable police guards try to prevent him to enter the house. However, the fisherman is so shocked that he ignores the guards and heads for the door. He calls out, ‘kodi’. The chief invites him in. The fisherman asks his permission to tell his extraordinary story. He narrates his unbelievable story of the sighing and speaking white skull. Both police guards look disbelieving first at the fisherman and then at each other. The village chief asks the fisherman whether he had had a strong drink. The fisherman becomes irritated, rejects with force any insinuation,


and repeats again the big sigh and the words spoken by the skull. He invites the village chief to come along immediately and see the miracle. The village chief doubts. He has to attend to other business. However, the police officer becomes intrigued and shows his interest. He says, ‘Fisherman, I do not mind to accompany you, but in case you waste our time, we shall kill you.’ The fisherman replies, ‘Please, sir, do accompany me.’ The police chief nods to his formidable guards who have two sharps machetes with them. He says ‘Boys, let us go.’

The fisherman leads the way. They follow him i.e. the guards, the police chief and the village chief. The fisherman sets a quick pace. He is in a hurry, afraid that waves would wash away the white skull. His company is not in such a hurry. They do not want to lose their dignity. However, they too are extremely curious. Together, they reach the lake. First, they see the dugout and then nearby the white skull. The fisherman heaves a big sigh of relief and he no longer looks anxiously at the guards and their sharp machetes. He walks in the direction of the skull. The others follow him. When they all have arrived at the scene, the fisherman bends over the skull and asks, ‘Skull, what did you say?’ In great tension, he looks down upon the skull and waits for the big sigh and the famous words. However, nothing happens, not a single sound to be heard. They hear the splash of the waves against the dugout. The fisherman starts sweating, first on his brow, then under his armpits and finally all over his body. His small kids come running to see what the police guards are doing with their dad. Then the fisherman bends anew over the skull and repeats the words he spoke before, ‘What did you say just now?’ Complete silence hung over the landing site. For the third time, the fisherman repeats his request. But again a dead silence. The skull keeps mum. 122

The police chief loses his patience. He shouts at his guards and says, ‘This man has made a fool of us and wasted our time. Chop off his head.’ The biggest guard gives the fisherman a big push. He drops onto the ground next to his boat. The guard lifts his machete and with one stroke, he beheads the poor fisherman. He picks up the head and throws it into the waves. The guard looks at the chief of police. He looks quite content and says to the village chief, ‘Come. Let us go.’ The whole company leaves the lake and returns to the village. The bloody head floats on the red coloured waves. A sudden wind comes down on the lake and pushes the waves higher and higher. A big wave carries the head towards the waterfront and in the direction of the white skull. A second wave gives it another push. As by misfortune, the fisherman’s head touches the white skull. The skull heaves a big sigh and asks the bloodied head, ‘Man, what happened?’ The fisherman’s head replies and says, ‘I said too much.’ Explanation 1. The upshot of the story is: Pay attention to your words. They can be used against you. They may cause your downfall. Do not talk too much.      

‘Shit in the intestines does not smell’ (PK2289). Keep certain thoughts to yourself. ‘Your heart is a box’ (PK905). You have the key of the box. As long as your heart is closed, nobody can enter. ‘You cannot enter the heart of a friend’ (CRC1657). As long as he does not open up, you can only guess what is inside. ‘The underwater openings keep fish, the forest keeps animals and the heart keeps secrets’ (PK2308). A great trouble kept in one’s heart is like the mucus of a chicken (CRC1439). The secret you cannot share, remains inside your heart. ‘One can empty someone’s bag; one cannot empty his heart’ (PK158).

2. Be aware of those in authority. They are capable of ruining you, only to maintain their authority or to empower their ego. ‘Quarrel with the chief and your house will not blacken with soot’ (CRC711). Disrespectful people do not live long. 3. Do not use people in authority to promote your ego or business. They have little patience with troublemakers or stupid people. ‘The one, who says, ‘‘Build big’’, only gives you advice and will not help you to meet the costs’ (2804). Those in authority can ruin you, before you even realise what they are doing to you.


40. Big Hunter and Great Fisherman.

One day, a man called Big Hunter, went hunting with his dog and tracked a porcupine. This animal came unexpectedly out of its hole. The dog gave chase and its boss incited it by saying, ‘Go ahead, go ahead!’ From the opposite side, he heard someone exclaiming, ‘Attack, attack!’ Not long afterwards, the two men met. They presented themselves. The one said: ‘I am Big Hunter.’ The other one said, ‘I am Great Fisherman.’ I invite you to visit me tomorrow morning. Bring all your folks along to see my special powers.’ They agreed and each one went home. The next day, Big Hunter presented himself with lots of people. Great Fisherman told them, ‘You, women from the forest, I allow you to put now your hoop nets in the rivers and brooklets wherever you want. Eat all the fish you catch.’ And indeed, they caught a lot of fish, prepared the catch and sat down to eat. Great Fisherman went into his banana plantation, cut a banana tree and brought part of the stem to the place where the women took their meal. He said, ‘My friend, Great Hunter, could you please come to the front? I want to show you my astuteness. I will put my head on the banana trunk and you chop it off. Then put my body in my bedroom. You will see something.’

Without anybody noticing it, they put a slave on the banana trunk under a layer of banana leaves. Someone came to the fore and with one mighty stroke, he severed the 124

head from the body. They lifted the body and put it down in the bedroom. Great Fisherman was already there. He stayed there the whole morning until the afternoon. Then he appeared from there. All those present were flabbergasted, clapped in their hands and said, ‘You are really the greatest man in the world.’ His friend, Big Hunter, stepped forward and said, ‘Friend, I go home. But come tomorrow with your people and see what I can do.’ Big Hunter and his people returned home. The next morning, his friend, Great Fisherman, presented himself together with his people at Big Hunter’s place. Big Hunter stood up and said, ‘You, fisherwomen, go round in the forest and in the grassy lands and hunt any game you like. They went round but did not catch anything. When they came back, they said, ‘We looked everywhere but we did not see any animal.’ Everybody laughed wholeheartedly. When the sun stood high in the sky, Big Hunter brought a banana stem and threw it down in the middle of the group. He said, ‘Yesterday, my friend, Big Hunter, showed me what he is capable of doing. Today, it is my turn to show you my wisdom. Sever my head from the trunk and put the body in the bedroom.’ People severed the head from his body, which they put down in the bedroom. However, he did not show up again. His relatives waited in vain for his return. In the end, they opened the bedroom and brought the corpse outside. Big Hunter died, because he wanted to imitate his friend. Explanations 1. In general, forest people look down on fishermen, who are often away on the river and therefore hardly keep up their habitations. They and their families often live in huts and hovels. This sarcastic story told by fishermen shows the stupidity of the forest dwellers and their chief. 2. Formerly, people did not hesitate to bury a chief together with a slave. People first killed the slave on the trunk of a banana. When they would use an ordinary tree, they could damage the machete, when the knife severing the head would touch the hard wood. That is why they used the trunk of a banana tree for the decapitation. 3. Each person has his own gifts. One should not envy someone else’s gifts.    

‘Each human being is different’ (PK798). ‘Monkeys’ children do not have the same face’ (PK185). ‘Let us measure our hooves; however, footmarks differ’ (PK2780). ´A person´s strength is known by the person himself´ (CRC1294).

4. The conclusion of the story is: we should not ape one another. Each of us should go his own way in life. Otherwise, people regard us as stupid individuals, they will ridicule us, break our legs or we die prematurely. Do not let yourself be excited: keep your cool. Otherwise, you end up like Big Hunter. 5. ‘When you have the choice between jealousy and competition, choose competition’ (PK1483).


41. The street vendor Once upon a time, there was a street vendor. Besides cosmetics, he sold shoe polish and shoestrings. He earned his living until the authorities imposed heavy taxes on him. He could no longer run his street business and went bankrupt. For weeks on end, he sat at home until his wife advised him to attend market days and to present himself as a carrier. He would earn something any way. He found it a good idea. Sometimes, he helped to put up the stalls. In that way, he earned some pennies. He had some good days and some bad days.

After some time, he noticed that, whenever his wife would open the door early in the morning, that day he would earn a good living. Whenever he would open the door himself, he would have a bad day. Since that day, he insists that his wife rises early to open the door of their home. She brings good luck to him. Explanation: Some people are born lucky. In the story above the woman brings good luck to her husband and to her family. The street vendor himself does not have that good luck. However, through the influence of his wife, when he buys a goat, it turns out to be with young. When he himself buys a small goat, it will turn out to be a billy goat.


Signs of bad luck in Uganda:    

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When you leave the house to travel and you meet a dog, you had better stay home; the trip will not be a success. When you meet a cricket by day, it is a bad sign. When your lower eyelid throbs, someone is bound to die. When the firstborn is a boy, it is bad luck. When he wants to marry, he needs to find a bride price. When the firstborn is a girl, it is good luck, because she will obtain a dowry so that one of her brothers can marry.

A man, who gets bald from the back to the front, has bad luck. He will always stay poor. Identical twins of the same gender bring bad luck; they are capable of killing one of their parents. Do not do any transaction on Wednesdays or Fridays; these are bad luck days. It is bad luck when a car hits a cat. The driver will be accused of causing many accidents; he will pass many days in prison. When you marry a widow or widower, this person will die; when you marry two more widows or widowers, these too will die. You need three cooking stones to put a pot on. When a woman roasts sweet potatoes, she brings bad luck in the form of a hailstorm. When she roasts sweet potatoes on a boat, the ship will sink.



When an owl hoots on top of your house, it announces the death of a relative.

Anja van der Waart 128

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When a cock crows between seven in the evening and two o’clock in the morning, somebody of that family will die. In order to prevent a death to occur, the people of that family should kill that cock the next morning and eat it. When you trip up, it is a sign that someone is slandering you. When a snake has bitten you, do not kill the snake, otherwise you also will die. When a snake attacks you, ask the one who accompanies you to step with one foot on the big toe of his other foot. That movement will completely immobilise the snake. You will have time to look for a stick, a machete or a stone to kill the snake. When a bee crawls around in the house, it is a sign of bad luck: a friend or a relative will die. When a dog shakes its head, you will get very bad luck. A dog rarely sneezes. However, when it sneezes, it forecasts a catastrophe. When a black cat crosses your path, it is a sign of imminent danger. When a mouse crosses your path and crosses back the path immediately, it is a sign that you should call off your trip. Parents, who speak ill of their children, will face bad luck, because their slander will become reality. When you sit in the doorway, you bring poverty to the house. When a woman whistles, she may grow a beard. When she whistles whilst preparing a meal, the meat will not become tender. Never count your children. If you do, some of them will die. When you look at your reflection in the water, you bring bad luck to yourself. You will be accused of all kinds of things. When you sit down on a cooking stone, your mother will die. When an old person talks to himself, he/she is bewitching you. When a child has its first teeth in the upper jaw, it forebodes very bad luck. Some people have local medicine to force the teeth back into the jaw. When a child walks before getting teeth, it is bad luck. The parents will tie the legs of the child to a heavy object to prevent it from walking. When a child is born with teeth, it is bad luck. The teeth show it is the child of certain spirits. A flatfooted person is not good in doing business. He will always have bad luck. In addition, people dealing with a flatfooted person will face business problems. Do not carry a winnow to your garden (field).The produce (vegetables) will not grow anymore. Do not throw potato peals in your banana plantations, but dispose of them in another field, in a rubbish pit or give them to animals. Members of certain clans bring bad luck to other clans. So do not look for a wife in one of those clans. Old people can bewitch others. If they have become old and sickly, they normally will die. However, if they recuperate, a young person will die. The days allotted to


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the young person are taken over by the old and sickly person. The youngster just has bad luck. Do not use a kitchen wooden implement to hit a boy; he may have potency problems later in life. When one of your animals is on heat and you take it to the boar or the bull, do not greet anybody on the road, otherwise the animal will never be with young. When a strange dog dies near your home, it is a bad omen. You will face big problems. An earthquake is dramatic for pregnant women and for animals with young. Miscarriages may follow. Pregnant women should tie lemon grass round their middle to prevent a miscarriage. When a pregnant woman hears that a well-known woman has died in childbirth, she should pinch her ears to prevent that she will die in that way also. Do not take a broom or brush to hit someone; it brings bad luck. People use a broom also in a ceremony to bring reconciliation between two warring parties. On that occasion, the broom becomes a symbol of peace.


42. Two brothers Once upon a time, a father had two sons. One day, he called his sons and told them, ‘Each of you has to prepare a basket full of cassava, because I will send you on a long journey.’ The sons put lots of cassava in the brooklet, took the tubercles out of the water after four days and smoked the whole lot above the fire. Then the father told his sons, ‘Pack the cassava in your baskets and walk until the end of the earth. There you will find a beautiful house. Behind the house, there is a pond, where you can wash yourselves. ’ The boys were on their way. They walked a very long time until the elder one became exhausted. He lay down in the grass along the road. However, the younger one walked on, until he reached the house their father had talked about. After having toured the house and having observed the whole situation, he returned to the spot where his older brother was still lying in the grass. He woke him up and said, ‘Come on, man, I was where dad talked about.’ Both of them continued their journey. They reached their destination and slept. However, before dozing off to sleep, junior said, ‘Brother, tomorrow morning, we shall have a bath in the pond that is lying behind the house.’ Senior agreed to the proposal. At daybreak, junior woke his senior and said, ‘Let us go and bathe in the pond.’ Senior was not in a hurry. He said, ‘I stay in bed, it is still far too cold.’ Junior went outside and dived into the pond. He had a good wash and turned white. He came out of the water and found many very precious objects. He appropriated them. Later that day, the elder brother came out of bed. However, in the meantime, the water in the pond had dried up. The lad could only moisten his hands and the soles of his feet. When he came out of the pond, he did not find any valuable objects, only a couple of knives, baskets, arrows and so on. Then the elder brother asked his junior, ‘Brother, give me a part of the valuables you received.’ However, junior did not want to hear of it. He decidedly refused and said, ‘Did you not hear what dad told us? Why did you let sleep entice you? You ask me part of my wealth. Do you, lazy bloke, really want me to spoil our dad’s wealth? You now regret. Let it be!’ The elder brother did not want to live his life in misery and asked his younger brother for work, so that through work he would obtain part of the wealth. Explanations 1. This text is found in ‘Contes Mongo’, pages 399-401. 2. The bitter cassava needs to be soaked in running water for a couple of days to rid it of its toxic elements. 3. This story explains the origin of the skin colour of Africans and Whites. 4. The African regards himself as the senior. In fact, the eldest has the most rights. However, laziness tempted him to stay in bed. Now he has to pay for his mistake by 131

working for a white man for a pittance. However, he is and remains the elder son! Even science maintains that the first men lived in Africa. 5. Even now, the white man is not ready to share his wealth with the Africans. Those, who tempt to cross the Mediterranean, are sent back or, in the worst case, perish in the waves. The story remains relevant to what is happening today. 6. In the story, the African portrays his humour and self-mockery. He seemingly admits that he often feels tired and does not possess such a fanatic work ethic compared to the rest of humanity.

7. In the story above as well as in popular belief, the Whites have only to stoop in order to pick up all kinds of treasures; in Europe, money grows on trees! 8. ‘God gives meat to those without teeth’ (CRC71). This saying refers to Europeans who have false teeth, but who can afford to eat meat most of the time, whilst the African, with his strong teeth, has to content himself with banana stew. Speaking of gallows humour!


43. The orphan and the dog.

A couple had one child. They gave him the name Bompongo. Before the parents died, they left him their last wish: ‘Take this knife, buy a dog and go hunting with it.’ Bompongo accepted the knife, bought a dog and he, together with his dog, went hunting on a daily basis. They killed many animals. He hardly ever tasted the meat. He preferred to sell the meat for copper rings. Once he possessed a great number of rings, he could acquire a wife. They lived together and had a beautiful child. However, Bompongo’s wife did not live long. She died after a few years. Bompongo, the father of the child, continued hunting. His dog always accompanied him. One day, he and his dog went into the swamps and killed two porcupines. They ate one and kept the other one on the rack above the fire.

After that, the hunter went to work in his field. He left his son, the dog and the meat on the rack behind. When the man had gone to his field, the dog climbed on the rack and ate all the meat. When the boy saw this happen, he took a stick and hit the back of the dog. The dog howled aloud. A kingfisher told the dog, ‘Dog, flee into the forest. You catch animals for your boss. When he eats the meat, he gives you a spanking. Let them go to hell.’ The dog took to his legs and disappeared into the forest. The father returned from his field and asked his son, ’Where is the dog?’ The boy answered, “Father, the dog ate all the meat on the rack. That is why I beat up the dog. After that it fled into the forest.’ The father went into the forest and called out the name of his dog. However, alas, the dog did not return. The father became more and more angry and rebuked his son, saying, “You beat the dog, because it ate the meat. Did I not marry your mother with the money I gained with the dog?”


When his father had spoken these words, his son became very much ashamed and angry. He left the house and went to live in his mother’s village. The father stayed behind just by himself, without dog and without his child. Explanations 1. A hunting dog or anybody who helps us, deserves our appreciation. A dog helps its boss in catching animals. When we refuse to give the dog its share, it has reason enough to become angry and walk away. When someone assists us, we should show our gratitude. ‘A friend who comes to our aid, is the one to whom we offer our hand’ (CRC1711). In other words, help the friend who helps you. 2. A hunting dog has a right to its share like the calf has a right to part of its mother’s milk. ‘The one who milks his own cow, does not deny her calf milk’ (CRC224). 3. The dog had another reason to be angry. His boss had been able to marry thanks to all the meat he had caught. That meat had enabled him to buy copper rings, a substantial part of any dowry. 4. The young boy thought that he had the right to beat the dog. The father, the son and the dog were all right. However, when you insist too much on your rights, it may cause a distance between you and the others. The father lost his dog and his son. The dog lost its boss and the fire. The son lost his dad, the village and the dog. They are all losers, because they all wanted to be right.


44. The origin of death. (Towards an African narrative theology, page 204) Adam was the first man who God brought to earth. God told Adam, “When someone dies and you want to carry off the corpse, you have to say, “Man, die and come back again. Moon, die and stay away.” Many months passed before anyone died. However, when a neighbour’s child died, Adam was invited to take the corpse away. As he took the body outside, he made a big mistake and said, “Moon, die and come back again. Man, die and stay away.” Since that day, nobody survives death. A few months later, Adam’s own child passed away. The father lifted its body and brought it outside. He said, “Moon, die and stay away. Man, die and come back again.” When God heard this, he told Adam, “You are too late now, for through your own mistake, death was born the day when your neighbour’s child died.” This is how death came about. Whenever someone dies, he does not come back again. However, when the moon dies, it comes back. Explanations 1. This is a Maasai story. The Maasai do not believe in life after death. They carry the corpse out of the kraal and leave it in the bush for the hyenas. They say, ‘when a child dies, it goes missing. When an adult dies, he/she has fallen asleep.’ 2. It is the human being’s stupid mistake that death entered the world and came here to stay. We should not blame God for it. 3. Death is not on a visit. Death does not disappear from our midst. All people, rich and poor, “We will all die without exception” (PK1585). “We are all corpses” (PK1525). “We are all earthworms. We are only leaving traces” (PK1524). 4. “Death comes without appointment” (PK1583). 5. “Death does not allow a replacement” (PK1586). Nobody can take your place. We all get our turn. 6. “When you fear death, you will not accomplish anything worthwhile” (CRC746). Even though you will die, do not miss any sleep over it. Live a full human life. 7. “The farthest place is the grave” (CRC840). Nobody comes back from the grave. We all have to wait for our turn. 8. “The soil can swallow people” (CRC878). This is said when a feared person has died. Nobody dared to take that person on. Only death dared to do so. 9. “What grows quickly dies quickly” (CRC929). What is done in a hurry, will not be done properly. ‘More haste, less speed’.


10.�When your turn comes, you die when and where death catches you� (CRC1305). We may make plans, but finally we have very little to say about our own death. 11. In most African stories about the origin of death, a woman is seen as the cause of death. It is rare in a patriarchal society to find a man depicted as the origin of death in human society.


45. Theft

(New Vision, 10/02/2012)

One day, the hare visited his sister who, at the other side of the river, was married and lived with a crocodile. The hare soon came to know that the crocodile had ten beautiful eggs in the granary.

The hare desired to fetch these eggs. However, how could he do so without being noticed? He hatched the plan to eat one egg a day. The next morning, the crocodile asked him to climb in the granary to count his eggs. The hare took the occasion to remove one egg. He lifted the same egg ten times and showed the crocodile in this way that all the eggs were there. Every day, he repeated the same trick and every time he carried off one egg. He did as if he showed ten eggs and counted them aloud: one, two, three and so on. On the tenth day, there was only one egg left. The hare acted as usual and lifted the same egg ten times. That same day, the hare would return to the other side of the river. The crocodile was happy and content that all the eggs were still intact. He invited the hare to take one egg home as a gift. The hare took the last egg and carried it off. The crocodile swam to the other side of the river. The hare sat triumphantly on the back of the crocodile, while holding the crocodile’s egg in its paws. While they were crossing the river, the crocodile’s spouse went to inspect her eggs in the granary. She was shocked to discover that all the eggs had disappeared. She raised


the alarm and shouted to her husband to dump the hare into the river. She called out loudly: ‘Crocodile, throw the hare into the river; he stole all our eggs.’

She continued to shout this message. However, the crocodile was slightly deaf and asked the hare, “what do people shout?’ The hare replied, ‘Your wife asks you to swim faster, since a thunderstorm is brewing.’ The crocodile deposed the hare safely at the other side of the river. Only much later, he discovered that the hare had deceived and robbed him. Only then, it was too late. Explanations 1. In African stories, we often encounter three vulnerable animals, the hare, the small antelope and the tortoise. These weak and slow animals survive thanks to their cleverness. Cunning surpasses strength. ‘If the lion’s skin cannot, the fox’s shall.’ 2. The African newspaper printed the fable to indicate that officials and public servants are culpable of corruption and large-scale theft. They too confiscate the eggs and deposit them on the other side of the river (in Europe) in bank accounts or through investments in big buildings and expensive cars. The old story is still true today. 3. The public officials are like the crocodile hard of hearing. Stories of corruption are published in the newspapers. However, public servants do not become upset by those publications, because no servant or minister ever lost his job because of them.


46. Mr Poor and Mr Rich Mr Poor and Mr Rich were children of the same mother. Mr Poor could not afford anything at all. Mr Rich could not care less about Mr Poor. When his wives had cooked and prepared a lot of food, he would not share anything with his poor brother. Mr Poor went always hungry. One day, people beat the war drum. All men showed up and departed. They arrived at the battleground. They all managed to capture war prisoners. Mr Poor caught also a prisoner of war namely a vegetable ladle. He came home with his ladle. Everybody ridiculed him, because he had not managed to catch a real prisoner, but only a useless ladle. Mr Poor did not feel ashamed. He took his ladle and put it down outside his house. It did not last long before a cockroach sat on the ladle. Mr Poor caught the cockroach and tied a thread to one of its legs. He put the insect outside his home. It was not long before a chicken came and ate the cockroach. Mr Poor went to visit the owner of the chicken and forced him to pay for the cockroach. The owner of the chicken said: ‘I do not have money to pay the indemnity. Take my chicken that ate your cockroach. Mr Poor took the chicken and locked it up in his house.

It did not take long before a dog entered the house, took the chicken and killed it. Mr Poor said, ‘The owner of the dog should pay for my chicken.’ The owner of the dog said, 139

‘I do not have money. You take my dog.’ Mr Poor took the dog along. That same night, a leopard bit the dog. Mr Poor was outraged and said, ‘Did you ever encounter such mishaps! I went to the battlefield. I only managed to obtain a ladle. A cockroach walked over the iron and I caught it. A chicken got hold of the cockroach. I went after the owner of the chicken. He left me the chicken. A dog then killed my chicken. I accused the owner of the dog. He left me the dog; however, a leopard took my dog. You, the parents of the leopard, have a problem with me. They gave him the leopard. Mr Poor killed the leopard, skinned it and dried the skin in the sun. After that, he kept the hide in the house. I did not take long for the chief to die. This man had left a last will that, in case he would die, he should not be buried in mats or in a coffin, but in a royal skin i.e. in the skin of a leopard. Relatives of the chief asked around for a leopard’s skin until they arrived at Mr Poor’s. They inquired whether he still possessed the skin that he kept in the house. Mr Poor confirmed that he still possessed the skin. The chief’s relatives asked him, ‘Give us the skin. We will pay for it later.’ Mr Poor did not turn down their request. He said, ‘Take the skin to bury our chief, but know that you must pay me fifty.’ The relatives did not ask further questions what he meant by fifty: fifty copper rings or something else. They left with the skin and buried the patriarch. A few days after the burial of the chief, his relatives received a visit from Mr Poor. He said, ‘Here I am. I have come for the payment of the leopard’s skin. The son of the patriarch presented fifty copper rings and said, ‘Mr Poor, here is your due.’ However, Mr Poor refused to accept the rings and said, ‘When I mentioned the word fifty, how did you know I was speaking about fifty rings or other objects? You are giving me fifty copper rings. Did I sell the skin for copper rings? For that skin I want fifty wives!’ The chief’s son was flabbergasted about the request. He called the village elders in order to come to a solution. The chief’s son explained his point of view. Then Mr Poor stood up and explained to the elders his side of the story. The village elders decided as follows: ‘Mr Poor has to be content with fifty rings.’ However, Mr Poor said, ‘Look, I do not want anything else. I am a poor fellow. I am going to fetch the leopard’s skin from the grave, because you only bother me and do not give me what I want, because I am a poor guy.’ Then the village elders and the chief’s son heard these words. They became very much afraid. They said, ‘You are not to touch the chief’s body and remove it from the grave.’ The deceased had two hundred wives. Just take fifty of them.’ Mr Poor was overjoyed and said, ‘Very well. Our dispute 140

has been solved.’ Mr Poor went home with fifty women. His in-laws presented additional bride prices. Mr Poor became a famous chief with a great harem. One day, Mr Poor had lots of beer prepared. He called a big meeting and said, ‘You all heard how people laughed at me, when, in the battle, I had obtained only a ladle. Look what it produced for me.’ People praised his wisdom. His elder brother was too ashamed to present himself in the harem, because he had branded his younger brother a poor man. Explanations 1. As long as one continues to work and to live, there is always hope of a lucky break.  

‘Do not give up hope as long as the sun has not set yet’. (PK528). ‘Leg of the dog, do not tire to walk around; maybe you will meet a bone’ (PK1705).

2. Do not ridicule a poor person.  

‘One day, you may need him or profit from him’ (PK2964). ‘In the dry season you avoid me, the well. However, in the rainy season, you come to draw my water’ (PK721). In other words: you never even greet me. However, when you need my help, you show up. Do not treat people like that.


3. Be content with little. Do not despise a small gift.  ‘You complain about a gift as if you bought it on the market’ (PK2136).  ‘Do not complain about a small gift before you have it in your hands’ (PK146). 4. When someone damaged your property, you have the right to ask for compensation. 5. Before buying or borrowing, enter into a clear agreement, otherwise the owner may surprise you. 6. Even a good agreement does not guarantee a good conclusion.  

‘People laugh when receiving a loan; when you ask for the repayment, they become angry’ (PK2336). ‘What you lend to a poor person, you need a shield to get it back’ (CRC1544). Some people do not pay their loan in time or they seem not to know the difference between a gift and a loan. When you want to recover the object or the money, it becomes quite a hassle.

7. Respect someone’s property.  

 

Even a child has a right to his toy. ‘One should not rob the child of his palm nut’ (PK262). ‘Do not take the owner of a house for an idiot’ (PK642). In order to build a house, one needs to possess different qualities: courage, entrepreneurship and zeal. Each owner has to be respected, even a child, a sick person or a stranger. Do not suppose that someone does not want to eat leftovers. The proverb says, ‘One should not warm up somebody else’s food’ (PK1371). ‘When the small antelope has a copper ring, the big antelope cannot take it from him’ (PK1955). Even when you are big and strong, your physical supremacy does not give you the right to rob someone’s property.

8. The proverb says, ‘Misery made me wise’ (PK1089). Mr Poor was a wise man. That is why his wealth increased steadily.


47. The firstborn

Mr Lombóto had two wives. He had married Bolúmbú first. However, because she did not produce children, Lombóto took a second wife. It did not take long for the second wife to give birth to a son. After some time, Bolúmbú also had a son. Both children grew up and became adults. Lombóto looked well after his children and gave each of them a wife.

After a number of years, Lombóto became ill and died. The whole family came together with the in-laws in order to appoint the eldest son, namely the son of the second wife as the successor of the patriarch. However, the son of the first wife did not agree. He said, ‘I merit being the successor of our dad. I am the eldest son of his first wife.’ However, the son of the second wife replied, ‘Your mother may well be the first wife, but I am the firstborn, because my mother had me before your mother had you.’ The row flared up. The village elders intervened and stopped the discussion. They said, “Next Wednesday, we gather in order to find a solution.” Everybody went home. People asked themselves, ‘which of the two sons has the right to be called the firstborn?’ The village elders came together and decided as follows: ‘Bolúmbú is indeed the first wife, but she did not give birth first. The firstborn of the father matters for the succession, not the firstborn of the first wife. Therefore, the son of the second wife deserves to become the successor of the patriarch. 143

Explanations 1. The mother of the second boy probably incited her son to stand up for his rights. ‘An animal licks what it brings forth (CRC1429). Each mother fights for her own children. 2. It is the task of the village elders to end rows. ‘When the old man is at home, no goat will enter’ (PK1124). ‘If you do not stop the quarrel, you incite people’ (PK2519). The elders know the oral tradition and the proverbs to find a fitting solution. Their decision restores the peace in the community.


48. The hunter and his wife

Once upon a time, there was a great famine in the land. A hunter and his wife moved to the forest to look for food. They walked for a considerable distance, arrived at a convenient place. They were glad to have found an open space in the forest. The hunter proposed to his wife to put up camp. The woman readily agreed to the proposal. They constructed a hut. They were extremely tired after having walked such a great distance and having constructed their temporary shelter. That day, the man stayed put. He did not construct any traps. However, the following day, he went into the forest and constructed some traps. After that, he returned to his camp. His wife welcomed him back. That night, they slept peacefully, until the dawn woke them up. The hunter entered the forest to check his traps. In one of the traps, he found a water antelope. He took it out of the trap and carried it to their shelter. You know how glad a wife is, when her husband comes home with game. She does not stop to congratulate and to praise him. They cut up the meat. The wife smoked half of it and roasted the other half. She prepared a great pot of steamed bananas. When the bananas were ready, she beat the dough with a bat, as people are wont to do. She rolled the buns in a leaf, which she put in the hot ashes. When everything was ready, she called her husband to come and eat. He broke a bun in two, dipped the pieces in the sauce, put them in his mouth and ate them with much appetite. His wife too broke a banana bun, but when she wanted to put the bun in the sauce, her husband took her arm and said, ‘Hold it. Let us ask the owner of the forest permission first’. The hunter sang, ‘Owner of the forest, owner of the forest?’ The owner answered, ’Yes?’ The hunter then asked the following question, ‘Is my wife allowed to eat this meat?’ The owner of the forest replied, ‘She cannot eat, otherwise you won’t catch anything anymore.’ That day, the husband stuffed himself full. His wife only ate dry bananas. Whilst eating his meat, the husband did as if he was ill at ease and said, ‘This is a disaster. We have come together in the forest to hunt. When I catch some game, you are not allowed to eat’. His wife could not do anything else but listen to his talking. That day passed without anything special happening. And all the following days passed in the same way. The husband became fatter and fatter. The poor woman went hungry and her belly became flat. The man caught plenty of animals, because he was a real expert in making fences, in which he put his traps. However, his wife could not stick it any longer. She said, ‘In the midst of all that meat, have I to continue eating dry bananas? I am going to look for food myself.’ They found themselves in a forest without water. When her husband was in the forest, she picked up a palm nut and threw it in one direction. She did not hear anything. She picked up another nut and threw it in another direction. She did not hear a single sound. She again picked up another palm nut. She threw it in still another direction. Now she 145

heard a splash. She walked in that direction and arrived at a swamp. Fish showed their backs in the mud. She gathered a number of big forest leaves, made fish traps out of them, cordoned off the brooklet and put the fish traps there.

That day, her husband came back from the forest without any meat. He ate from the meat that had been kept drying on the rack. Next day, each of them went into the forest: he to his snares and she to her traps. The man was surprised to see his snares closed but no game in them at all. He became annoyed. However, his wife only knew success. In her traps, she found a great amount of delicious fish. Overjoyed she went back to the camp. Her husband had come back quite a while ago without any catch. He felt tired, because of his frustration. At a given moment, he looked up and saw his wife coming back with a great load of fish. The man smiled from ear to ear. The wife made a small fire. Part of her catch she smoked. Of another part, she made small packets, which she suspended above the fire. She roasted another part in the fire. The roasted fish was quickly prepared. She took bananas from the fire and beat them with a bat, until they had become soft banana buns. She took a packet of fish, opened it and saw the fish melting in its own fat. You know what fish in a packet tastes like. She sopped a banana bun in that fat and put it into her mouth. However, the moment her husband also wanted to sop a banana bun in the fat, she took the arm of her husband and said, ‘Hold it! Let us ask the owner of the swamp. ‘Owner of the swamp. Owner of the swamp.’ The owner of the swamp said, ‘Yes?’ She replied, ‘Is my husband allowed to eat this fish?’ ‘He may eat it, but then the traps will be washed away.’


The man said, ‘My goodness! Do you stop me from eating fish?’ He took his machete and severed the neck of his wife. After he had killed his wife, the man put the catch of fish in a basket and returned to the village. He left behind the corpse of his wife. However, the head would not die. It said, ‘My husband and I go together’. You will not believe it, but the head rolled behind the man, whilst it sang: ‘Roll and stop my husband, Roll and stop my husband. He ate meat and refused to give it to me. When I caught fish, I refused to share.’ When the man heard the song, he turned round. With his machete, he dug a hole in the ground, buried the head and tamped the soil. A bit later, he heard the song anew. The man took his machete and chopped the head into pieces. He continued his trip. The pieces of the head reassembled, until the head was complete again. The head sang the song again. Relatives of the wife saw the head and understood the meaning of the song. They got hold of the man and killed him. Husband and wife suffered the same fate. Explanations 1. People tell this sort of stories with the invocation of the owner of the forest in a number of varieties. The youth readily listens and narrates these stories. Youngsters understand the excuse of the man or woman to appeal to the owner of the forest in order to refuse to share food. In the African culture, food is there to be shared. When husband and wife refuse to share food, this unwillingness leads to rows and even murder. So never invent an excuse to refuse someone food. Therefore, refusing to share the Eucharistic food, for whatever reason, goes against the African cultural grain. 2. It does not matter who the owner of the forest is: it can be a forest spirit, an ogre or the old man who existed before people appeared on earth. Indeed, there are rules and taboos to avoid or prevent an ineffective hunt. The invocation of the owner of the forest is in the same line.


3. The word for food indicates meat or fish. Other commodities are not essential. When talking about famine, people indicate the lack of meat or fish for a long spell of time. In central Congo, caterpillars take the place of meat in the months of July and August. Children and even adults enter the forest and know where and when caterpillars drop from certain trees. The caterpillars are smoked and sold in the region or sent to Kinshasa. 4. To catch abundant game one needs to penetrate far into the forest. People construct provisional shelters and racks to smoke the abundant meat or fish. They consume part of the catch. They carry the rest later to the village. 5. When far in the forest, husband and wife need to collaborate closely to cook and smoke the catch. If they have a serious squabble, they may return to the village early. It sometimes happens that one of them meets a person of the other sex far in the forest. When the other partner notices such an encounter, the other one may be accused of having an affair. Meeting strange creatures or hearing unusual noises may be other reasons to leave the camp prematurely and return to the village. 6. ‘If the hunt is futile, do not kill the dog’ (CRC1604). When frustrated, do not take revenge on an innocent person. 7. ‘People reproach revenge and not bewitching’ (PK361). Taking revenge is far worse than trying to bewitch someone. It is the worst thing you can do.


49. Her beloved son

A certain woman called Eyenga had only one son. She loved him with all her heart. One day, two villages had a row. Her son fought in the battle and died. Eyenga became broken-hearted. After they had buried her son, she went to see a diviner to know who the killer of her son was. However, the diviner was at a loss who to designate as the assassin. After her visit to the diviner, she returned home, took a tooth of her son and put it inside a small calabash. She closed off the hole in the calabash with pitch. When she had finished this job, she stored the calabash in her bedroom. Then she left the house to look for a wife for her son. She crossed the river that ran near the village. She came to a clan, where they had many girls. She asked for young girls for her son. The stupid girls believed the words of the mother. The girls were ready to follow their mother-in-law, but Eyenga asked them to follow her later.

Everything looked wonderful.

However, the stupid girls did not follow the advice or their future mother-in-law. Only a few days later, they followed her to meet their beloved. When they arrived in the village, they did not find Eyenga. They went to the house to see whether their husband was asleep. However, there was nobody. They looked around and saw the small calabash in 149

the bedroom. Some thought there might be drugs in it; others thought the calabash was used as an enema syringe. They shook it a couple of times. When they had opened the hole, they saw the tooth. They asked themselves where their husband might be. All of a sudden, they heard the sound of a whistle coming from the tooth. It said, ´Ladies, return home; my mother fooled you about a husband. I have died some time ago. Where does she get another son?’ The girls became furious and set the house on fire. They went back home without anybody having known them. When Eyenga returned home, she found her house in ashes. The only thing she found was the tooth of her son. Until today, Eyenga is weeping and crying about the death of her son without knowing who killed him. Explanations 1. A mother’s love exceeds all other loves. Obsessed by her love and sorrow, a mother may do strange things. Eyenga went to look for wives for her son, though he had died in the battle. She went to the other side of the river. The proverb says, ‘Go and tell a stranger’ (PK2768). He may believe you. 2. Eyenga’s invitation has a wonderful audience. The girls cannot wait any longer, being afraid to miss the chance to get married. They no longer respect and observe traditional customs. There is no question of dowry. There are no discussions between the two parties. Such girls are designated as being stupid. If you are a girl and you want to marry, you will have to observe the usual customs, which are a guarantee that your marriage takes off well. 3. The tooth of the son was a real relic for his mother. It was all she possessed of him. She kept it safe in a calabash. The tooth made him feel present.


50. The thief Once upon a time, a woman made life in the village impossible for others. She had the habit of stealing all the time. She was not stupid at all and had her ways and means to stay undetected. Men and women were constantly on the lookout to catch her redhanded, but she went on and on pilfering all kinds of things. One day, people had enough of it and came together to devise a way of catching the thief. A woman made the following proposal: ‘I propose to put human excrements in a leaf, hang it above the fire as if it is a packet of meat. Maybe the thief will come and fetch it.’ They all agreed to the idea. That same night, the woman made the packet of human excrements, wrapped it well and suspended it above her fire.

Next morning, everybody left the village to work in the fields including the woman, who had suspended the packet of excrements. However, she left her door ajar. When the thief passed her house, she saw the packet above the fire, entered the house, took the packet and went home. Once at home, she did not bother to open the packet. She


prepared a meal of cassava. When the cassava was sufficiently prepared, she took the packet from the fire and with the cassava, she took it all to her friend. When her friend saw that the packet of ‘meat’ was enormous, he invited his younger brothers and a couple of friends for a meal. They all sat down in a circle. One of the brothers took the parcel and opened it. He noticed the bad smell and said, ‘Is this meat rotten?’ He opened the packet a bit more by removing some additional leaves and the stench spread through the whole house. ‘What kind of meat is this? It is rotten!’ The boy, who had opened the packet, let it drop. Another took it, turned it inside out and saw that it contained human excrements. Everybody started shouting. ‘That woman has given us excrements!’ When the woman, who had invented the trick, heard the commotion, she approached and said to the guilty woman, ‘So it is you who were stealing all the time. You even stole the human excrements, which I prepared for you.’ All the village people surrounded her and scolded her the whole day. She felt very much ashamed. That same night, the thief went into the forest and hung herself. Explanations 1. A kleptomaniac steals shamelessly just for the kick. In a society without locks, people had to invent ways to catch a thief red-handed. People often used magical objects to deter thieves. 2. A multitude of proverbs shows that formerly also thieves went around:     

‘The chicken farmer has eaten only the chickens’ shins’ (PK2663). ‘The one, who killed the animal, has eaten the hoofs’ (PK2662). ‘The one, who picked the mushrooms, has eaten the stems’ (PK2613). ‘At night, he stole the honey and left next to nothing for the bees’ (PK206). The thief, who leaves nothing for the owner, is a person without pity:  ‘He is like the rat without pity’ (PK2103).  ‘He is like the one, who empties the bow-nets, which he did not put out’ (PK2194).  You should not steal what the owner needs urgently. ‘He took the walking stick from the invalid’ (PK38).

3. Sometimes, we admire the clever thief. (PK238). However, do not laugh too much, because the thief may find you one day. Nobody is safe. ‘‘No insect will pass a chicken house’ (PK1406). 4. You should not accuse a thief or your wife because of a footprint or a suspicion. One needs to catch a thief red-handed. 5. Do not put up thieves or criminals, because you may be their first victim (PK439 and PK2825). 6. Do not blame a certain village of thefts. One finds thieves everywhere (PK569). 152

7. ‘A thief does not like to be stolen’ (PK801). ‘The one, who pierces boils, does not like others to pierce his’ (PK1055). 8. A thief may be clever; but one day he will be caught (PK1359 and PK2237). 9. Like everybody else, a thief needs to know his limitations.   

A thief is like the rat; he is convinced that people will not catch him (PK922). One forgets the proverb, ‘However great you may be, you cannot throw a needle across the river’ (CRC1828). It is amazing for a leper to join in the wrestling (CRC1448).

10. ‘When one catches a thief, one needs to be careful that the thief does not escape’ (PK2636). ‘When you catch a rat, there is a good chance you are left with its tail’ (PK2099). A thief can leave you his shirt or coat and escape. 11. ‘When you find a fruit at the foot of a fruit tree, you may take the fruit’ (PK2406). Otherwise, you have to inform the owner or take the object to him. 12. Be careful with public accusations or insinuations.


‘The antelope makes the hunter fall into the pit’ (PK1951).Do not become too excited about a theft, because, if you accuse a thief, he can make life impossible for you. ‘If you accuse someone of theft and later he becomes a judge, you are facing a problem’ (PK2538).

13. Parents of a stealing child may be held accountable. The proverb says, ‘A stealing dog causes people to slander its boss’ (PK1986). 14. It is difficult to catch thieves. When they mix with the population, people say ‘dust and fish have blended (PK2092). 15. A proverb says, ‘The mouse and the banana were together; the mouse has gone and the banana has disappeared’ (PK2101). Sometimes you know who the thief is, though you cannot prove it. 16. ‘Some thieves are like monkeys leaving no trace on the branches’ (PK2218). 17. Some thieves accuse the owner of the disappeared object.   

They are like ‘the chicken which pushed the elephant’ (PK2357). They are like ‘the chicken which grabbed the sparrow hawk’ (PK2353). They are like ‘the worm which wants to swallow the chicken’ (PK881).

18. Thieves go where there is something to be had. ‘A leopard does not steal a tree trunk’ (PK2258). If you are rich, you are a likely host to thieves. 19.You feel ashamed when an insider robs you, especially when you trusted that person (CRC1444).


51. The monkey and the elephant

Long ago, the monkey and the elephant were friends of long standing. They even decided to make a pact of blood brotherhood. Their friendship became so strong that they would share even a white ant.

One day, they decided to make a common garden. The monkey brought up this suggestion, because he was too weak to dig. The elephant told his friend, the monkey, ‘My friend, right, we are going to dig together. I realise that you are weak. Moreover, I fear that, before the crops are ready for harvesting, you will begin to eat. Thirdly, you have many children. Therefore, I want us to agree that we shall let the harvest grow, until the plants and their fruits are fully-grown. Only then, we shall share. I do not want to 155

come into any conflict with you over our garden.’ The monkey agreed to the three conditions. When the season was right, they made a big garden, sowed maize, groundnuts, and peas. They planted also sweet potatoes. They weeded the garden and looked well after their plants. It did not take long for the maize to start yielding and the groundnuts to flower for the last time. The peas did the same. The monkey tried to be patient. However, he noticed that he could not keep under control his desire anymore. The result was that he went to their garden in the absence of his friend, the elephant, and harvested unripe maize and ate even groundnuts. When the elephant came back from a visit, he went to see his friend, the monkey, and asked him, ‘My friend, shall we walk to our garden?’ They went over there. However, they found that much of the maize had been eaten and that only a small number of plants were standing upright. The elephant asked his friend, ‘Who ate our maize?’ The monkey replied, ‘My friend, I am confused. It is a whole month since I was here.’ When the elephant looked at the soil, he saw the footprints of the monkey everywhere. He discovered that the same had happened in the area where he had passed to get the maize. When he went to check on the groundnuts, it was the same story. He turned to the monkey and asked him, ‘Now, why are you lying? Are these not your footprints?’ He got hold of him and nearly beat him to death. When the monkey saw that the elephant was going to kill him, he pleaded with him and said, ‘My friend, I beg you not to kill me with sticks. However, because you are so powerful, get hold of my hind legs and throw me into a tree. Then I shall fall down, when I am already broken and dead.’ Because the elephant had beaten him, he accepted the monkey’s proposal. He lifted him and threw him into the top of a tall tree. When the monkey arrived there, he got hold of a branch. Then he sat down, looked down on the elephant and roared with laughter. He abused the elephant saying, ‘You are a big fool.’ Up to today, the monkey and the elephant do not like each other. That is why the monkey always sleeps in trees.

Explanations: 1. ‘Misery brings people of all kinds together. Misery loves company’ (CRC47). 2. The monkey made friendship with the elephant because of his strength. ‘They love you as long as you are rich’ (PK154). 3. If people do not keep promises and agreements, friendships break up. 4. There are always false friendships: ‘Friendship in the eyes and hatred in the heart’ (PK133). 5. If friends no longer trust each other, their friendship will not last. ‘People are not trustworthy’ (CRC38).


6. Gluttony spoils friendships. ‘A mouth as the one of a pit latrine’ (PK685) 7. The monkey outwitted the elephant, because the latter was away for a long time. ‘If you are always on the move, the owner of the house will deceive you‘ (PK110) 8. The monkey outwitted the elephant to get away alive.


52. A woman and her son

A woman was at home, when the whole village had come together at a feast. She was in the house with her son who was covered with sores. It was evening and it became night. The boy spread his mat under the rack near the fire. He went to sleep. The woman also retired for the night and slept in the big bed. In the middle of the night, the woman heard someone knocking on the door: ‘knock, knock, knock.’ She called out, ‘Who is there?’ The man replied, ‘It is me, your lover. Just open for me.’ She opened the door and the man entered. The woman did not recognise him. She went to bed and fell asleep. The man went to sit near the fire to warm himself. His skin was as white as a banana trunk. The sick boy under the food rack looked at the man nearby and said to himself, ‘I have never seen this strange man’. He lay flat on the floor, because he became scared like an ensnared bird (CRC1714). Under the food rack, he made himself quasi invisible. The woman, however, slept the sleep of the innocents. All of a sudden, the man stood up, took the round leg of the bed and started beating up the woman. She sat straight up in her bed, but the man got hold of her and threw her down. He continued to beat her. When the woman started to rattle, the young boy under the food rack said to himself, ‘I do not want her to die.’ He took a sturdy piece of smouldering firewood, and with it beat the man, whilst he imitated the low voice of an adult man. The man, who was beating up the woman, was convinced that an adult man had been in hiding and wanted to kill him. He fled like a thief in the night and left the woman in a coma. The boy took some local medicine and revived the woman. She opened her eyes and came to. When she could think clearly again, she reprimanded the boy and said, ‘The two of us were asleep. That man nearly killed me. However, you continued to sleep!’ The boy answered, ‘No, not at all. I was dead scared, but when I heard you rattling and thought you might die, I fought him off with a piece of firewood.’ The woman poured water in a pot and cleansed herself. The next morning, the village people returned from the feast. The woman told them what happened. Everybody blamed her as if she still was a toddler. They said, ‘You were stupid. You opened the door without looking who was entering the house. He could have killed you.’ Explanations 1. ‘Avoid putting up thieves and criminals; otherwise, you will be the first victim’ (PK439 and 2825). If you are careless in putting up people, you become a danger to yourself and the whole village. 2. ‘When you enter a house, study people’s faces’ (PK2949). You remain responsible for your safety and your life.


3. The child saved the woman. ‘The egg advises the chicken’ (PK471). This saying refers to the story of a broody hen that was surprised by safari ants. The hen did not move, because she did not want to abandon her eggs. An egg told her, ‘Mum, please, go. We are safe.’ However, the hen remained sitting on her eggs and the ants ate her. If only she had listened to the egg! Sometimes people praise a child by saying, ‘He has the voice of a child, but the behaviour of an adult’ (PK1821).

Question: Is this child not too heavy? Answer: No, he is not too heavy. He is my brother.


53. The elephant

A pregnant woman had enough of the daily sweating and slaving away. She needed a period of rest and decided to go and stay some time in her native village and regain her strength. She left her children to the care of her husband and left. She had hardly arrived in her parents’ house, when she heard that, the next day, a group of women would cross the river to cut noongóté leaves. (People use these leaves in the kitchen to prepare meat, fish or cassava.) When the pregnant woman heard the news of the trip, she told her mother that she was keen to join them. Her mother forbade her to cross the river, because, on the other side of the river, elephants used to roam. These animals cannot stand the odour of a pregnant woman. They smell a pregnant woman at a distance of several kilometres and go for her. The next morning, the women rose even before dawn. The pregnant woman also stood up, put on her clothes and joined her friends. She said to herself, ‘Am I the only woman who happens to be pregnant? Will the elephants attack me?’ When an hour later her mother woke up and noticed that her daughter had gone, she became furious and desperate at the same time, because only recently people had spotted elephants there, on the other side of the river. The women went to that section of the forest where noongóté leaves were abounding. Indeed, they noticed fresh traces of elephants. That is why they cut the leaves as quickly as they could. They rolled the big and beautiful leaves together in order to carry them in big roles in their baskets. When they had gathered sufficient leaves, they decided to return home straightaway. All of a sudden, someone shouted, ‘Njoku e’ (an elephant)! A huge elephant went straight for the group of women, pushing aside the remaining leaves. The pregnant woman screamed and shouted, ‘It is coming for me!’ And indeed, the elephant headed straight for her. The woman screamed, ‘The elephant wants me! You get away!’ The elephant picked her up, threw her into the air and dropped her on the ground. After that it trampled her.’ Only then, the elephant turned round and disappeared into the green forest. The friends came out of their hidings and found their friend trampled upon and dead. They took her up and carried her to the river. Weeping and mourning they crossed the river. The village people heard their singing and rushed to the harbour. With much outcry, they carried the dead woman home. Her mother tore her clothes off her body, threw herself onto the ground and rolled in the dust. She was inconsolable. An elephant had killed her daughter and her future grandchild. Explanations 1. The daughter should have listened to her mother. In that case, the elephant would not have killed her. Elderly people have a wisdom, which their children cannot equal. Different proverbs clarify this point: 160

   

‘The string made by a youngster will always have a knot in it’ (PK531). Whatever a youngster does, he will always make mistakes. ‘A child does not know how to clean the intestines of the bombolo animal’ (PK1479). As we are inexperienced, we should leave difficult jobs to the elderly. ‘A youngster cannot dress a guinea fowl’ (PK 763). One needs experience and routine to do a job well. ‘The youngster found the elder already there’ (PK1463). People very often quote this proverb to say that children should listen to the advice and the instructions of their parents and grandparents. ‘Age means wisdom; the elder narrates what made him old’ (in order not be ridiculed) (Walser nr.1000).

2. Forest dwellers have an expertise, which we in the West can only dream about. By their centuries old observations they have insights about how animals behave towards one another and towards human beings. They profit from that knowledge in order to catch the animals and to protect themselves against wild animals. Many proverbs and fables show that animals behave like people and the other way round. 3. Experience has taught forest dwellers that elephants have a very sharp sense of smell, e.g. that they can smell pregnant women at a great distance. Their aversion to pregnant women may be based on their innate fear that the increase in human population forms a threat to their actual territory. 161

54. How the leopard became wise

Once upon a time, there was a man called Mariga. He was very rich but also very stingy. He had seven wives and big herds of cattle and goats. He was so stingy that he never killed a goat for his wives and children. It was the dry season. For weeks on end not a drop of rain! Grass, plants and shrubs turned dry. The women could no longer find any vegetables. Every day, their meals consisted of a dry lump of different grains. At a meal, the family sat around some leaves spread out on the ground on which a couple of big lumps of food were placed. With their fingers, each took a portion out of the lumps while pressing with the thumb a dent in that portion. With that dent, they scooped the soup of some vegetables. In better times, they used to scoop sauce of fish or meat. However much they begged the patriarch to kill a goat, the rich man would not budge. One day, the boys were herding the goats. A leopard jumped out of the bushes and grabbed a goat by its hind legs. However, the boys were not afraid, grasped the goat by its neck and pulled until the leopard let go of its prey. In triumph, they carried the crippled goat to the village. They assumed that that day they would not eat the usual dry lump. Their mothers too rejoiced. However, they did not realise how stingy their husband was. When he saw the wounded goat, he smeared some fat on its wounded hind legs. He would not hear their plea to kill the poor goat. Soon it would heal again. Next day early in the morning, two of his wives went to fetch water at the well. Each one carried a jar on her head. They talked about the wounded goat. The one said: ‘Only if the leopard would have grabbed the goat at its neck, the goat would be dead. Then we could have prepared it for a good meal.’ At that moment, they passed thick bushes where a leopard lay hidden. He overheard their conversation. He said to himself, ‘Oh that is the way to kill a goat! That is good to know!’ The same day, the leopard prowled a herd of goats. He jumped out of the bushes, grabbed a goat in the neck and killed it. However, the herdsman ran to his goat, got hold of its hind legs and pulled with all his might. He won again. The leopard had bitten a piece out of the goat’s neck. Because the goat was dead as a doornail, there was no sense in applying fat or herbs. The rich man regretted it, but he had to allow his family to eat the poor animal. Since that time, whenever the leopard grabs a goat, he kills it by biting it in its neck. In that way the leopard can drag it easily into the bushes. The people say, ‘The leopard used to be stupid. However, those fetching water made him wise.’ Explanation: 1. The wisdom we possess, we have obtained it from others. There are many proverbs expressing the idea that we should not think that we are the only ones who know:


- ‘The cuckoo says she is the only one to know the hour’ (PK546). She starts singing very early in the morning. She knows the day will dawn. However, other birds too know that like the cock. - ‘The bontole vine says it is the only one that can carry a basket’ (PK.791). A variety of vines and ropes can help us to carry a basket on our backs. - ‘The Podica bird says it is the only one that can sing’ (PK1399). Many birds can sing nicely as we all know. - ‘The kingfisher says it is the only one who knows how to nod’ (PK1446).

2. We need to ask questions, to listen well and observe things closely to increase our wisdom. ‘One knows by teachers’ (PK366). ‘People know the fruit nkaaso thanks to a dog’ (PK367). 3. To protect our property, we need to be aware of things happening around us. ‘When the old man is at home, no goat will enter’ (PK1124). 4. At the same time, we need to be courageous. ‘When the wildcat runs, it runs towards chickens’ (PK607). This saying glorifies people who show courage and force. ‘The centipede does not fear noise’ (PK2274). The centipede goes its own way, however much you shout at it. It is not scared.


55. A cute leopard

Long ago, in a certain village, a leopard finished off nearly all the animals. In fact, different species of animals became extinct. That particular leopard was very special in that he was very fat and possessed four eyes, so that he could see both in front and behind. People used to say, ‘Whoever sees the day, opens it for himself.’ All the animals were well aware that big trouble had come, because the leopard was about to finish them off. They came together and chose the edible rat and the bushbuck to go and meet the lion, their king. They had to ask him to convene a general meeting to discuss the havoc the leopard had created among them. The lion indeed called a general meeting. One specific day, all the animals from the whole region came together. At the opening of the gathering, the lion expressed his disappointment about the leopard’s absence. The leopard had in fact been invited to attend the meeting. The head of the princes among the goats, Mr Beard, spoke first and said, ‘My friends, I would like to suggest that we all leave this region, so that the leopard is left alone.’ However, all those present rejected the proposal, saying that the leopard would simply follow them. The edible rat spoke next and said, ‘My friends, I have only short legs; I cannot cover long distances, but I suggest that we hide from the leopard, so that the ferocious animal will die of hunger’. All the animals agreed with the edible rat and went into hiding. After some time, the leopard began to feel weak. One day, he went out to look for food. It did not take him long before he found the path used by the other animals, when they went looking for food. Right in the middle of that path, he lay down and pretended to be dead. That day, the edible rat and the bushbuck went out to look for food and they found the leopard on the road. The edible rat saw him first and uttered a cry of joy. He amused his friend, the bushbuck. The latter asked him, ‘What is the matter?’ The edible rat replied, ‘The killer is here, ‘helpless like two invalids moving together’ (CRC1419). He then began to dance, and as he did so, kicked the carcass of the leopard. He kicked while walking backwards, saying ‘When you mourn an elder, you mourn walking backwards’ (CRC737). He did so several times, while his friend looked on. I tell you, it was as if a Muhima woman sat on her milk gourd and bewitched the bushbuck. The bushbuck told the edible rat, ‘I saw that the leopard did not harm you as he did to others. But you are very kind even to his carcass.’ The bushbuck began to kick the leopard vehemently, saying, ‘This fool killed my father, he killed my mother, he killed my grandparents, my children and my friends. Now it is his turn to face the music.’ As the bushbuck was still jumping around, the leopard suddenly stood up, caught one of his legs and threw him down. The bushbuck tried hard to free itself, but it could not do so. In the end, the leopard killed it. At that moment, I left: the edible rat had run away and the bushbuck had been killed. 164


1. Remain alert when dealing with a clever person. ‘What is in the sky causes panic among the chickens’ (CRC1452). 2. Do not provoke a quiet person: he may become angry or upset. 3. It is from such a situation that we have the proverb, ‘When mourning an elder, do so whilst walking backwards’ (CRC737). 4. ‘Do not insult a crocodile halfway the river’ (West Africa). 5. Overconfidence can cause problems. Observe and analyse the situation well before acting. ‘It is amazing for a leper to join in the wrestling’ (CRC1448) 6. ‘When you bite a leper, you had better bite properly’. If you know the consequences of your actions, you had better get ready to face the music, because anger coupled with feelings of revenge may blind you to such an extent that you cause still bigger problems. 165

56. The cock and the wildcat Once upon a time, the cock and the wildcat were great friends and lived together. One day, they killed very many termites. It needed time to prepare and dry them. Therefore, they decided that the cock would go out and look for food. The wildcat would stay behind, put the termites in the sun, and prevent any animal from eating them. After agreeing on their respective tasks, each one went to do his job. The cock went to see other friends of his. He informed them that they had killed many termites. He said, ‘My dear friends, I would like to eat those termites alone, without the wildcat’s knowledge. How can I do that?’ His friends gave him the following advice, ‘Go and cut dry banana leaves and tie them around your body, except round your eyes of course, so that the wildcat does not recognise you. Then surprise your friend, the wildcat.’ When the cock went back, he cut dry banana leaves, wrapped them around himself and set off towards the termites. The cock approached the wildcat in all those banana leaves. The wildcat became scared stiff, whilst the cock sang, ‘Slowly, slowly, wildcat. If you are silly, wildcat, Just stay there and I’ll devour you, wildcat.’


There is a saying, ‘Surprise does not know a hero’ (CRC1014). The wildcat ran for dear life, thinking, ‘One only stays if bewitched’. When the cock saw that his friend had run away, he took his time and ate ants until he was tired. When he had had his fill, he took off the dry banana leaves in the banana plantation and came back with some bananas. When he saw that the wildcat was not there, he grumbled, saying, ‘I knew right from the start that the wildcat was good for nothing; he abandoned the termites for animals to eat. What has he gone to look for? Let him come back and I shall give him a piece of my mind.’ While he was still grumbling, his friend came out of his hiding and said, ‘My friend, why grumble? If you had been here, you too would have run away. What came here was not an animal, but a monster.’ The cock then said, ‘I have never seen anybody as silly as you. If it were a big animal or monster, you should have beaten it with a stick and killed it. Then we would have enjoyed a good meal.’ Not long afterwards, the cock acted as he had done earlier, but this time the wildcat took the cock’s advice to heart. He took a big stick, beat the animal to death, dragged it into the house, and waited for his friend, the cock, to come back before they would prepare a jolly good meal together. However long he waited, his friend did not turn up. At last, he said to himself, ‘Let me prepare the animal, cook it and by the time he comes back, the meat will be ready.’ When he removed the dry banana leaves, he saw his friend, the cock. Being very angry, he decided to cook and eat him. When he ate the cock’s meat, he found it delicious. That is why to this very day the wildcat hunts chickens to eat their meat. Explanations 1. Some people have many tricks up their sleeves. They are capable of playing a nasty trick even on their friends. So be careful! 2. When the wildcat realised the dirty trick the cock had played on him, he took revenge by eating it. It sounds much like an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.   

A Ugandan proverb says, ‘If someone cooks for you the meat of the head, prepare him that of hoofs, so that you can compare the smells’ (CRC285). ‘If one disrespects you, do the same to him’ (CRC284). ‘If your friend chokes you, choke him as well. What is the problem?’ (PK2907).

3. ‘Who so diggeth a pit, shall fall therein’. You think you are clever and can outsmart your friend. However, such an action can ruin your life. ‘The antelope makes the hunter fall into the pit’ (PK1951). 4. Be honest with your family and friends, in fact with everybody. Honesty is the best policy. ‘Deceit is without weight’ (PK1303). 5. About an inveterate liar people say, ‘He took the lies and put them in his basket’ (PK42). Every possible moment he pulls the lies out into the open and uses them.


57. The cock and the wildcat (number 2)

Once upon a time, very long ago, the wildcat made a pact of friendship with the cock. One day, the two of them went looking for termites. By drumming in certain spots, they wanted to drive the termites out of the soil. When they found a good spot, they drummed as if they were at a marriage ceremony. They then cut some branches and banana leaves to fabricate a trap. When they were at it, the wildcat said mysteriously, ‘If I do not get this one, I shall get that one.’ He laughed in a malicious way. The cock understood that the wildcat had something up his sleeve. But he replied in a friendly way, ‘What we see together, we eat together.’ When they finished the trap, they went home. In the afternoon, the wildcat came to collect his friend, the cock. However, the cock said, ‘I am very ill. But, my friend, can you bring me some ants?’ When the wildcat had gone away, the cock stood up and put on a leopard’s skin. Disguised this way, he went to the anthill. He stalked the place very carefully to see what the wildcat was doing. He waited until his friend, the wildcat, had filled three bags with ants. Clothed in the leopard’s skin the cock jumped out of the bushes. He scared the daylight out of the wildcat. The cat hid underneath a basket. The cock picked up the three bags and walked quietly home. After some time, the wildcat calmed down and came out of his hiding. He discovered that someone had stolen all the ants. In addition, no more ants came out of the soil. Therefore, he went home on a hungry stomach. On the way, he stopped at the cock’s. He informed him that a big ferocious animal nearly got hold of him. It stole all the ants, which he intended to bring to his sick friend. ‘Yes’, the cock replied, ‘What you hope for lets your teeth sleep on an empty stomach.’ That is where I left them. Explanation 1. After the hunt, the spoils should be equally divided among the participants. ‘What we see together, we eat together.’ 2. Being a glutton may make you a thief.


58. Why the tortoise has cracks in its shell

Many, many years ago, the tortoise already possessed a shell. However, at that time its shell did not have any cracks. He was so well behaved that all the animals living in the same forest loved him. Every day, he used to walk slowly in the forest searching for food and greeting all his friends. One day, he found all the birds gathered. He asked them, ‘My dear friends, may I ask you what this gathering is all about?’ They answered him, ‘We are discussing going to a feast. The king has invited all of us.’ The tortoise replied, ‘My friends, I would like to join you and go to that feast too, if you do not mind taking me.’ The birds asked him, ‘You cannot even fly, how can we all go together?’ The tortoise turned quiet and reflected for a moment. Then he replied, ‘The only thing that prevents me from flying is the lack of feathers. If each one of you would give me one feather, I would be able to fly. You would not leave me behind.’ It did not take long for the birds to agree to help their friend. Every one of them pulled out a feather for the tortoise to fly, because he wanted to find out whether he really could make it.

On a given day, the tortoise went along with the birds and took to the air. All the animals in the bush and in the forest were surprised to see the tortoise flying like a bird. At their arrival at the feast, each one had to give his or her name. When it was the tortoise’s turn, he replied, ‘My name is “all of you”.’ When they all had forwarded their name, the tortoise seeing the great amount of food, asked the host, ‘Mr King, can you please tell us for whom you have prepared all this food?’ The king replied, ‘I prepared it for all of you.’ The tortoise turning to his friends said, ‘Did you hear what the king just said? The food is for “all of you”, that means to say for me.’ The tortoise began to eat the food all by himself. The birds, in the meantime, became more and more furious and started pecking at the tortoise’s back, removing the feathers one by one. The tortoise happily 169

finished all the food. The birds could do nothing but return home. However, before they left, the tortoise asked them a favour and said, ‘Please, when you arrive back home, ask my wife to put all the mattresses out in the open, so that I can fall softly on top of them without breaking my neck.’

When the birds returned to their forest, they went over to the tortoise’s wife and said, ‘Your husband is still up there and does not know exactly where his home is. So he asks you to put all the axes, hoes, knives and spears in the open.’ When the tortoise saw the glittering of all the metal objects, he took them for mattresses and let himself drop. As you can imagine, his fall was terrible. He smashed his back and his shell broke into pieces. However, luckily enough as it happened, his friend, the snail, was passing near the spot where he fell. When the snail saw that the shell of his friend had broken into pieces, he went over, collected them and glued them together with his personal glue. Thanks to that assistance, the tortoise recovered completely. Only the cracks on his shell have remained visible. The tortoise no longer eats with gluttony. Explanations 1. It is important to remain who you are. Jealousy leads to disaster. ‘When you have the choice between jealousy and competition, choose competition’ (PK1483). 2. Some people rejoice over other people’s misery. Some inflict suffering on others on purpose. They may set a trap for others (PK391). 3. Gluttony is a sign that you do not wish others to enjoy a good meal. ‘The two widows of the same husband remain rivals’ (PK383). 4. Do not reward good with evil. 5. ‘Do not repay evil with evil’ (PK412). 170

59. The tortoise and the ngilá monkey

The tortoise and the ngilá monkey made a friendship covenant. And as happens with good friends, the ngilá monkey invited the tortoise for a meal. The tortoise accepted the invitation gladly. On the agreed day, he, his wife and kids went to see the ngilá monkey. When they arrived, the meal was ready and the monkey was there to welcome them and serve them the meal. He carried the meal inside the house and put the food on a high mortar, while wishing his friends a good bite. However, the tortoise asked the monkey to put the food on the ground. The monkey replied, 'My dear friend, I never put my food on the ground. I just cannot do so, because you are an important family. That is why you should not eat the meal on the ground.’ However, the tortoise insisted and said, ‘My friend, may I kindly request you to put the food on the ground?’ However, the ngilá monkey stuck to his guns and said, ‘No, not at all, I cannot do so.’ The tortoise became angry and said, ‘You keep your food. I do not need it.’ He, his wife and kids stood up and returned home. However, he invited the ngilá monkey to come and have a meal at his home.

On the agreed day, the ngilá monkey, his wife and children went to see the tortoise. The tortoise had a meal prepared and served the food for the monkey family. When the 171

monkey wanted to approach the meal, the tortoise told him, ‘My friend, wait a moment. Before you starts eating, please, wash your hands thoroughly.’ He handed him a bowl with water. The monkey washed his hands thoroughly, but his hands did not change colour; they did not become white. In the end the monkey said, ‘My goodness, I do my utmost; however, my hands do not become clean.’ The tortoise said, ‘There is no other way around the problem. Here you have a good brush. Continue washing your hands. You are an important person. It is below your standing and dignity to eat with dirty hands.’ The ngilá monkey kept washing his hands. However, they remained black. In the end, the ngilá monkey became very angry. They returned home furiously: he, his wife and his children. The monkey went straightaway to the tribunal and asked the judges to pronounce a verdict about the controversy between him and the tortoise. They invited both animals to come and tell their stories. The judges listened well and, in their verdict, they indicated that the tortoise won the case. Explanation The ngilá monkey is completely black. He has a tuft of hair standing straight on top of his forehead, giving him a distinctive look. The tortoise won the case, because the monkey was the first one to turn down the request of the tortoise to put the food on the ground. If the monkey had complied with the tortoise’s request, there would never have been a question of washing his hands. The one, who initiates a squabble, is the main culprit and is to be blamed. The proverb says, ‘The evil one started’ (PK411). It has become a proverb: ‘Friendship like the one between the tortoise and the ngilá-monkey’ (PK856)


60. The tortoise and the sparrow hawk

One day, the tortoise and the sparrow hawk made a friendship pact. It did not take long before the hawk paid a visit to the tortoise. The tortoise received him with a basket full of fish and ten bunches of bananas. The tortoise spoilt the hawk. The hawk returned home in a very happy mood. Three days later, the hawk visited the tortoise again, but this time he brought with him both his wives. The tortoise was happy to receive them and gave them two pitchers of wine and three chickens. When the day ended, the tortoise helped the hawk to prepare the journey home. To say goodbye he gave them a spear, a machete and a leopard’s tooth. When the hawk was taking leave, he shouted to the tortoise, ‘You and I have a friendship pact. I visited you twice. Will you one day visit me?’ The tortoise reflected a moment and said, ‘Good, thanks very much for the invitation. I’ll come tomorrow.’ The hawk replied, ‘How will you reach my place? You have no decent legs to climb and no wings to fly! How will you succeed?’ The tortoise answered, ‘I know how to get to your home. Come and fetch me tomorrow.’ The sparrow hawk departed and his wives accompanied him. The tortoise stayed behind and called his daughter. He told her, ‘Make of me a ‘bontsingá’ (packet of leaves in which normally meat or fish is prepared), and put me on top of the roof. When the hawk comes tomorrow, tell him “Dad has gone hunting for a few days. This is the food which he prepared for you.” When the hawk came the following day to fetch the tortoise, he did not see the tortoise and called aloud, ‘Tortoise! Tortoise!’ The tortoise’s daughter replied, ‘Dad is not at home. Look, this is what he prepared for you.’ When the hawk heard this, he picked up the packet and left for home, high in the tree. When he arrived home, his wives asked him, ‘You are back quickly. Where is the tortoise?’ He replied, ‘I did not find the tortoise. He had gone hunting. However, he had left this packet of food.’ His wives opened the packet; they got a fright when they saw the tortoise in it. The hawk and his wives were not pleased with the situation. The hawk told the tortoise, ‘Tortoise, what is wrong with you?’ The tortoise replied, ‘You thought I would never reach your place. But here I am!’


To welcome the tortoise, the sparrow hawk gave him four gifts namely two lizards and two caterpillars. The tortoise became very angry and said, ‘When you came to my home, I gave you delicious food. Now at my very first visit to your home, I receive lizards and caterpillars. We should no longer have that friendship pact between us, because you are an evil person. Please, throw me down into the grass. I cannot stomach your behaviour.’ The sparrow hawk complied with the request, pushed him out of the tree so that the tortoise landed in the grass. The tortoise returned to his village. He invited all his relatives and informed them about the bad reception he had received from the hawk. His relatives disapproved of the behaviour of the hawk and forbade the tortoise to live any longer in friendship with the hawk. Explanations 1. Assistance should be reciprocal. Small gifts should come from both sides:   

‘If you save me in the wet season, I shall save you in the dry season’ (PK2606). ‘The one who shares, will not go empty-handed’ (PK2529). ‘The arm does not go, where it did not come from (PK1915).

2. The hawk had never thought to receive a visit from the tortoise. His arrival was a great disappointment. That explains the bad reception he received. 3. In friendship, the relationship between the two parties should be well balanced: the mutual gifts should be proportional. In friendship, the relationship should be like the one between the families of bride and groom. In between the two families, gifts go back and forth and are of the same value. ‘The basket taken to the in-laws does not return empty; it returns with a cock’ (CRC200). 4. Who gives much, has the right to expect much. A gift is not given for nothing; it is an investment to be returned later with interest!


5. ‘When friendship goes sour, he, who used to be your friend, will demand even the penny you owe him’ CRC1263). The past friend becomes an enemy. 6. ‘Friendship compromises a lot. The flea throws down the dog’ (CRC949). When a dog lies down on its side to attack the itch of a flea, he pulls a wry face. It is as if the dog smiles. It looks as if it welcomes a great friend; however, it wants to get rid of the flea.. The dog has to twist itself in all kind of shapes to get rid of the flea. Indeed, it is hard to get rid of bad friends. 7. ‘When you are in trouble, your friend will forget you’ (CRC697). The cat knows whose beard she licks. 8. ‘When you hate a friend, you increase your misery’. Try hard to keep your friends. They are not that many.


61. The tortoise and the girl

Once upon a time, a man and his wife had twelve children, ten girls and two boys. When the children grew up, they participated in the work at home: the boys looked after the cattle, whilst the girls did the cooking. Moreover, they fetched water. One day, the girls went to collect water, each one with her own jug. When they reached the well, they drew water and said, ‘Let us have a competition. Nine of the girls succeeded lifting their jugs on their heads themselves, but the tenth girl failed. Her sisters left her at the well. A few hours later, the girl saw a tortoise and she sang the following song: Tortoise, come and help me to lift the pot onto my head. Tortoise, on Saturday, Tortoise, I shall marry you. Our ancestors had a saying, ‘The days you promise to the beloved do not take long to come.’ So, Saturday came. The tortoise woke up early in the morning, put on his coat and began the journey to see the girl, who had promised to marry him. On the way, he met a man, who asked him, ‘Well now, tortoise, where are you going dressed like that?’ He answered with a song: I, the tortoise, am going this way, I, the tortoise, am going uphill, I, the tortoise, there is a big girl, I, the tortoise, you told me,

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tortoise, come and help me to lift the pot onto my head. Tortoise, on Saturday, Tortoise, I shall marry you.’ When the man heard the tortoise’s song, he said, ‘My friend, hurry up. I wish you good luck.’ The tortoise started running to arrive in time. When he reached the house, he asked to be allowed to come in. They welcomed him and gave him a seat. After the usual greetings, people asked him what brought him there. He answered with his song: I, the tortoise, I have come here. I, the tortoise, there is a big girl, I, the tortoise, who told me, ‘tortoise, come and help me to lift the pot onto my head. Tortoise, on Saturday, Tortoise, I shall marry you.’ When the father of the girls heard the tortoise’s song, he called four of his daughters. When they had arrived, he questioned the tortoise as follows: ‘Is it this one?’ ‘Is it this one?’ Is it this one? Is it this one?

‘Aaa, no, not at all.’ ‘Aaa, no, not at all.’ ‘Aaa, no, not at all.’ ‘Aaa, no, not at all.’

After those four, another group came. They sang the same song, with the same negative answer. Then came the girl whom the tortoise had helped to lift the jug onto her head. The tortoise said, ‘That is the one.’ At that moment, I left. The father gave the tortoise his daughter as his wife. I only came to tell you. Explanations 1. When in need, we should not be in too great a hurry to ask for help, because strings may be attached to that assistance. 2. Women often get into problems because of the help they received.


62. The tortoise, the hippopotamus and the elephant.

One day, the tortoise met the hippopotamus at the river and said, ‘Hippo, do you know that I am stronger than you are? When I tie a rope around your neck and around mine and we both start pulling, you in the water and I on the riverbank, then you will not be able to pull me into the water. When the hippo heard this story, he laughed aloud and was ready to bet on it. And in fact, they made a bet. The tortoise said, ‘Tomorrow afternoon, I shall be here with the rope.’ Later that day, the tortoise met the elephant and said, ‘Mister Elephant, do you know that I am stronger than you are? If I tie a rope round your and my neck, and we both pull, you in the forest and I on the riverbank, you will not be able to pull me into the forest. The elephant laughed wholeheartedly. He was even ready to make a bet who would win. The tortoise said, ‘Tomorrow, I shall be back with the rope.’ The tortoise went home and looked for a sturdy rope. The following day, in the afternoon, when darkness set in, the tortoise went to the river. He said to the hippo, ‘Please, come out of the water. Here I am.’ The tortoise fastened the rope round the neck of the hippo and said, ‘Just wait until I call. Start pulling only then.’ The tortoise went to the forest and called the elephant. When the elephant turned up, he tightened the other end of the rope round the neck of the elephant. He turned round and called to the hippo, ‘Hippo, I am ready. Just pull’ He told the elephant the same. The hippo and the elephant started pulling. They pulled and pulled. However, neither of them was able to pull the other off his feet. The tortoise walked off. When the two animals became tired, the crocodile came out of the water and the elephant came out of the forest. When they saw each other with the same rope round their necks, they became furious at the tortoise that had deceived them. Explanations 1. A small fellow like the tortoise deflated the arrogance of the two biggest animals. Do not let yourself be tempted to maintain or defend your proud self-esteem. Someone may be playing a trick on you. The tortoise taking on the two big mammals was like David taking on Goliath. 2. If you have great capabilities, do not throw your weight around unnecessarily. You create only enemies.


63. The tortoise and the red bird

The tortoise and the red bird go together to the forest. The bird takes two of its fledgelings along. Together they prepare food and put it on top of the rack. The tortoise says, ‘Come, let us go and take a bath.’ The red bird tells its young ones, ‘Kids, take care of the food.’ They take the direction of the river and reach it. The tortoise tells the bird: ‘You dive first.’ She dives, comes back to the surface and comes on land. The tortoise moves into the water, takes a good dive and surfaces where the young birds are watching the food. The tortoise takes the food, eats it, saves a little and smears it on the beaks of the youngsters. He goes back into the water and turns up where the red bird is waiting. The bird is most amazed and asks, ‘Have you been staying in the water the whole afternoon?’ The tortoise replies: ‘Yes, I was there the whole afternoon.’ The red bird proposes, ‘Let us go home.’

They arrive well. The bird asks his children, ‘Children, where is the food?’ The children reply: ‘We do not know.’ The red bird is furious and says, ‘You must have eaten the food.’ She reproaches the children sternly. Then she prepares food again and goes back to the river in the company of the tortoise. The bird takes a bath first and surfaces again. Then the tortoise dives into the river and surfaces near the young birds. Again, the tortoise takes the food, eats it, saves a little only and spreads it on the beaks of the young birds. The tortoise dives into the river and surfaces near the red bird. This time again the bird asks, ‘Have you been in the river the whole afternoon?’ 179

They go back home. There the bird asks her young ones, ‘Where is the food?’ The children reply, ‘We are still small and we do not steal food. The tortoise came, took the food, ate it and spread some of it on our beaks.’ The mother says, ‘The tortoise and I went to take a bath in the river and he did not surface at all.’ You, my children, are a couple of thieves.’ The tortoise says, ‘The children accuse me of stealing. They are lying, you know!’ The sun comes up. The tortoise says, ‘My friend, let us go and take a bath.’ Together they are on the way. The bird says to herself, ‘I am going to hide myself.’ And so she does. The tortoise surfaces, takes the food, eats it and spreads some of it on the beaks of the youngsters. The mother bird says, ‘You, tortoise, are a scoundrel. We are taking a bath together and then you steal my food. Go and buy me other food.’ The tortoise says, ‘Go and fetch a small stick to give me a beating. The bird does so and beats the tortoise. The tortoise flees into the bushes and is not seen again. The bird takes her kids and goes home. The tortoise is gone. The red bird says, ‘We went to the forest to bathe and the tortoise deceived me. In the future, I shall be more careful. Children, did you hear the story of the tortoise and the red bird? The tortoise deceived the red bird! Explanations 1. The tortoise tries to get away with eating someone else’s food. ‘The one who did not cultivate the maize, wants to eat the biggest cob’ (CRC486). There is no justice done. 2. ‘A gluttonous messenger eats before his master does.’ (CRC423). The tortoise did not respect the owner of the food. He was just gluttonous. ‘The roasted seeds of a gluttonous person do not cross the swamp to the next village’ (CRC1172). 3. The tortoise spreads the leftovers on the beaks of the young birds. In fact, the thief accuses others of the theft. 4. ‘The days for a thief to brag about are forty’ (CRC1115). One day, the thief will be caught.


64. The tortoise, the hippo and the elephant (no 2)

One day, the tortoise went to see the hippopotamus and said, ‘Hippo, why do you never come out of the water?’ The hippo replied, ‘The river is my village.’ The tortoise told him, ‘Hippo, I do not like your body.’ The heart of the hippo became very angry, but the tortoise continued, ‘Hippo, if you dare to retort, I shall pull you out of the water.’ The hippo replied, ‘How can your small, miserable body pull me on land?’ The tortoise answered, ‘Yes, I can pull you out of the water. I am going to the forest to get a vine; we shall tie the two of us together. You will tie the vine onto my arm and I shall tie the vine to your leg. Then we shall pull. The hippo retorted, ‘Yes, you go and get us a sturdy vine.’ The tortoise entered the forest and met the elephant. The tortoise lied and said, ‘Elephant, the hippo scolded your father and your mother; he said that your body smells bad, because it hardly ever touches water. He also scolded you by telling that you have a thick hide and colossal feet. He says you are a thief and your body is covered with leeches. In addition, he added, “If the elephant comes here, I shall pull him into the water; then he can flush the mud from his dirty skin”. The heart of the elephant became very angry and he said, ‘You go and ask that hippo whether I am his wife and tell him that I shall pull him out of the water.’ The tortoise cut a big vine and with it he went to the hippopotamus. The tortoise tied the vine to the hippo and the hippo tied the vine to the tortoise. The tortoise walked with the vine to the forest and tied it to the leg of the elephant. Out of the forest he cried, ‘Hippo, pull.’ The hippo pulled and the elephant pulled. Both of them pulled. The hippo did not manage to pull the elephant into the water; and the elephant did not manage to pull the hippo on land. In the end, both of them became exhausted. The tortoise called out of the forest, ‘Hippo, have you seen how strong I am and that you cannot pull me into the water?’ However, the hippo did not reply. Not many days later, the hippo heard that animals were busy making wine by thrashing sugarcane. He told his wife, ‘I am going to drink wine.’ There he met the elephant who said, ‘Hippo, why did you scold me? Why did you say that my body smells bad and that I have a thick skin and big feet? Why did you curse my dad and my mum? Is there anything between the two of us?’ The hippo startled and said, ‘Oh, child of my mother, who told you that I scolded you?’ The elephant replied, ‘The tortoise told me.’ The hippo answered, ‘The tortoise lied and he ridiculed me, because I never surface and never leave the water. He tried to pull me out of the water.’ The elephant replied, ‘It was not the tortoise but it was I who tried to pull you out of the water. Both the hippopotamus and the elephant called the name of the tortoise. However, the tortoise did not want to answer. Explanation:


1. Do not believe immediately what people say. Check the facts first. ‘The monkey cheats you with the batofe fruits by putting the shells upside down’ (PK2215). Before you believe, verify things first. 2. Do not spoil the friendship between people by means of a lie. It is bad to betray people’s confidence (PK1590). ‘One has the body of a sheep, but the heart of a leopard’ (PK1646). 3. ‘Nobody likes to be cheated’ (PK1580). 4. ‘The cheat will be cheated by others’ (PK1757). 5. ‘The mosquito is angry since I put up a mosquito net’ (PK1887). The cheat is not pleased, when he discovers that I prevent him from cheating me again. 6. ‘When your dog fools you by doing as if it sees some game, fool it as well by saying ‘get it’ (PK1979). If someone cheats you, cheat him as well. 7. ‘A liar cannot delude sleep’ (PK2196). One can cheat people. However, one cannot cheat nature; one cannot cheat God. 8. Follow the advice of the elders; in that case, people will not deceive you easily. ‘You try to deceive the one who sees through it’ (PK2747). 9. We pretend to speak the truth; in the meantime, we are hiding certain things. ‘Let us chew the dry cassava; however, there is something under the nail’ (PK2833). 10. ‘One who belches, reveals what he has eaten’ (CRC9). After some time, secrets are revealed. 11. ‘People resemble a white ant, which covers the outside, while being naked inside’ (CRC30). Some people pretend to be what they are not. Befriend many but trust few. 12. ‘When people have taken notice of the rumours, they say, “People are not friendly” (CRC32).’ The truth will come out to the regret of the rumourmonger. 13. ‘Men are like animals; some eat others’ (CRC56).The Romans already said: ‘Homo homini lupus’ : one man is like a wolf for another.


65. The tortoise and the hare Once upon a time, the tortoise and the hare were great friends. They used to stay in the same village. One day, the tortoise made an appointment with the hare to escort him to his in-laws. The hare agreed with pleasure. It did not take long for the day to dawn. The tortoise and the hare met at the agreed place and greeted each other as friends do when they meet. As they were conversing about different topics, the hare informed the tortoise that he adopted a new name. The tortoise asked him, ‘Now, what is your new name?’ The hare laughed a lot and said, ‘Ha! Tortoise, do you not know my name? I am called Visitor.’ The tortoise replied, ‘Ah is that it?’ He did not know why the hare had taken on that name. He did not realise the importance of that name. He would learn that only later. When they had arrived at their destination, the first people they met, gave them a very warm welcome, saying, ‘Our visitors.’ The hare whispered to the tortoise, ‘You see, they are welcoming me, the Visitor.’ The hosts said, ‘Let us clean the house, where the visitors will stay.’ The hare added again, ‘Tortoise, you see, they are saying that they are going to clean where the Visitor will stay.’ The hosts continued to say, ‘Let us greet the visitors.’ The hare told the tortoise, ‘You hear, they are saying that they come to greet me, the Visitor.’ Later the hosts said, ‘Let us go and cook for the visitors.’ The hare said to the tortoise, ‘You see, they say that they are going to cook for me, the Visitor. The hosts said, ‘Go and get the chickens for the visitors.’ The hare told the tortoise, ‘They said that they are getting chickens for me, the Visitor.’ The hosts said, ‘The food and the chickens are ready, let the visitors be served.’ The hare told the tortoise, ‘You see, they are saying that the food and the chickens are ready, let the Visitor be served.’ When the food was served in front of the visitors, it was served properly and left there for the visitors to enjoy. It is still a habit in Búsogá that the hosts do not eat together with visitors. Therefore, the hosts did not eat together with the visitors. They themselves withdrew. Before eating, the hare looked at the tortoise’s fingers. He became annoyed and told him, ‘My friend, your fingers are dirty. Go and wash them first.’ The tortoise washed his fingers. However, when the hare looked again at the tortoise’s fingers, he said, ‘Those fingers are not yet clean. Are those the fingers with which you want to touch our food? No! No! Wash them properly.’ The tortoise cleaned them as best as he could. When the hare looked at the tortoise’s fingers, he said, ‘Let me tell you. You do not seem to see it yourself. Go back and wash your fingers much cleaner than that.’ The tortoise this time cleaned his fingers much cleaner still. However, when he came back, the hare cautioned him and said, ‘What happened to your fingers that they are not yet properly clean? Go back and clean your hands with banana stems.’ When the tortoise came back with black fingers, the hare told him, ‘You are at your in-laws. Is this the place to be untidy like that? My friend, I will not allow you to share the meal with me, if your hands are not clean.’


All along, when the hare was pestering his friend, he was tricking him. In the end, when the tortoise came back, he saw that the hare had finished off all the chickens. The only remaining piece of meat was a chicken’s neck. The tortoise cautioned the hare, saying, ‘Maybe, you just invented the story to eat all the chickens alone.’ In the meantime, the hare as he always tricks people, had put the chickens in the bag with which he usually moves. The hare was shameless. He got hold of the remaining piece of neck and shared it with the tortoise. The tortoise commented and said, ‘The one who traps, does not count the flying birds’ (CRC189) When they finished eating, the hosts came and removed the utensils. The departure time had come. The hosts said, ‘Let us go and say bye to the visitors.’ Now clever as a child of a healer, the hare said, ‘Do you not hear them saying that they are coming to say bye to the Visitor?’ Their hosts escorted them to the road. There they stopped and said, ‘We do not want to hold you up any longer. Bye!’ When the hosts had left them, the tortoise told the hare, ‘It seems I am suffering from diarrhoea. Therefore, you go ahead, I shall meet you at your place. The tortoise disappeared into the bush. There he hurried to get ahead of the hare. When he got ahead of the hare, he turned into a bead. When the hare arrived at the bead, he laughed and said, ‘You, tortoise, you are pretending to be a bead, because you want me to carry you in my bag.’ The hare left the tortoise who was still suffering from a very hungry feeling. The tortoise asked himself, ‘What shall I do? This man insisted to eat all the chickens alone. Let the hare be careful, because I shall get him.’ The tortoise went ahead of the hare and pretended to be a cowrie shell. The hare walked on, while whistling. He noticed that the tortoise had turned into a cowrie shell. He said, ‘Tortoise, you are turning into things as if I am not your friend. Do you really think that I do not 184

know you? You are kidding me. Can you kid me? Those, whom you deceived, lived in the past. However, who will deceive us, people of the present generation? This tortoise is convinced that he can confuse me. But he is stupid, you know! If he does not stop trying to fool me, I shall beat him, until he stops his foolish games.’ At that moment, they were about to arrive home. There and then, the tortoise said, ‘Ha! Now for sure this little being, the hare, has defeated me. He was determined to eat all the chickens alone. No, no! Let me think a while. Even when he claims to be very clever, today I shall get him. I know where his wife is cultivating. What am I waiting for? The hare’s wife had a baby that was being breast-fed. She carried her baby on her back in a sling. The tortoise did not hesitate and branched off to her garden. When he arrived, where the hare’s wife had stopped working, he turned himself into a sling. The hare did not want to arrive home without passing where his wife had her garden. He branched off and took the path to her field. When he arrived at the field, he found his baby’s sling. He said, ‘Is not my wife stupid, leaving here the baby’s sling? Does she want my baby to be bewitched?’ He did not hesitate, picked up the sling and put it in his bag, where he had put the chickens, which he had stolen from the tortoise. He continued his trip. Ha! Ha! When the tortoise landed up in the bag, he sighed and said, ‘Even if I miss my coffee, I shall praise the ancestors. Whoever has some wisdom, knows only his own.’ He said so, because the hare in his ignorance did not realise that the tortoise could make plans too. My friend! The hare hurried along his path on his way home. He was in a hurry to upbraid his wife for leaving the baby’s sling lying in the field. In the meantime, the tortoise kept the little finger of his right hand pressed tight against his teeth, hoping that his good luck would not abandon him. When the hare arrived home, he took the bag from his shoulder and put it hanging on a post near the fire. The tortoise had not wasted his time and had quickly eaten all the chickens. He even belched. After a while, the tortoise said to himself, ‘Climbing was easy, but now coming down. How do I manage to get onto the ground again? I cannot figure out how to do so!’ Therefore, he stayed inside the bag. When the hare arrived home, he forgot to ask his wife about the sling. He forgot also all about the tortoise. However, when you tell a hare that food is ready, you are his great friend. When lunch was ready, the hare took the bag to fetch his chickens, only to turn his eyes on the tortoise. He stared at where he had put the meat, but only the smell of meat remained there. The tortoise was fully satisfied and had even difficulty in breathing well. In his surprise, the hare told the tortoise, ‘My friend, you have completely confused me.’ The tortoise replied, ‘A deceiver is not your friend. You are the one, who confused me and robbed me of all my marijuana.’ At that moment, the tortoise was no longer afraid of the hare. He barked at him and frightened the spirit out of him, saying, ‘You, little-good-for-nothing, get out of my sight. Bye, you, little being. You are a witch.’ That is how I saw the tortoise and the hare ending their friendship up to today. The reason why? ‘A deceiver is not your friend.’ 185

Explanations 1. ‘A cheat will not eat twice’ (PK2197). One will not allow oneself to be cheated twice. One will be on one’s guard. Deceit spoils any friendship. 2. Deceivers have ways of collecting money for charitable organisations. However, the assistance lands up in the hands of people pretending to take care of the poor. 3. In present-day-society, great sums of money disappear. Nobody is ever arrested. Corruption has become a way of life. ‘The mosquito became angry, when I hung up a mosquito net’ (PK1887). Thieves become angry when you blame them or thwart their efforts. 4. Do not think that you are the only one who knows how to do a certain job. - ‘The bontole liana says that it is the only one capable of carrying a basket’ (PK791). People use various lianas and ropes to carry their baskets on their backs. - ‘The ficus tree claims that it is the only one to embrace other trees’ (PK1861). - ‘The cuckoo claims to be the only one to know the time’ (PK546). - ‘The Podica bird claims to be the only one that can sing’ (PK1399).


66. The tortoise and the leopard.

Two friends, the tortoise and the leopard, go to the forest to look for food. The leopard is on the lookout for monkey meat. They had cleared the area, leaving a big tree with only one branch. When monkeys want to pass there, they have to cross that one branch. When they pass, the hunter pulls the vine attached to the branch. The monkey tumbles into the net underneath. Then the hunter clubs the monkey to death. Very soon, they catch the first monkey. The tortoise pulls the vine again. The leopard catches his second monkey. The tortoise pulls a fruit out of the tree. The leopard catches his third monkey. The tortoise has now three fruits. They continue this way until the leopard has caught ten monkeys and the tortoise has ten fruits. The tortoise says, ‘Leopard, I am going home. I am sick to death.’ The leopard said, ‘You‘d had better go.’ The tortoise, however, armed with a spear, hid along the road. After the departure of the tortoise, the leopard killed another twenty monkeys. The leopard took the monkeys and was on its way. The tortoise hidden along the road lies in wait for the leopard. He shouts aloud. The leopard drops the monkeys and takes to his heels. The tortoise gathers the monkeys, leaves the fruits behind and with his bounty goes to the leopard’s home. The leopard says, ‘On my way, I fled for someone, leaving my monkeys behind.’ The tortoise says, ‘You are stupid. You should not flee for a human being.’ The tortoise says, ‘You take the intestines of my monkeys.’ The leopard has a closer look at the monkeys and says, ‘They look like the monkeys, which I trapped.’ The tortoise in his great surprise says, ‘Your monkeys? Where are they? Are these your monkeys? That is a lie. They belong to me.’ The leopard is put off and says, ‘It is all right!’ The tortoise eats his monkeys. The leopard refuses to eat the intestines. He mumbles the accusation, ‘you are fooling me, scoundrel.’ At dawn, they enter the forest again and notice monkeys jumping around. Both of them sit down and wait. The monkeys approach. The leopard pulls down a monkey and the tortoise obtains a fruit. The tortoise asks, ‘My friend, how many monkeys did you catch?’ The leopard replies, ‘Two monkeys.’ ‘And I got two fruits’, the tortoise says. The leopard pulls down a fourth and a fifth monkey. The tortoise obtains five fruits. Both have the same number. The leopard asks the tortoise, ‘How many monkeys did you catch?’ The tortoise replies, ‘The same number as you caught. You are not quicker than I am.’ The tortoise says, ‘Leopard, I am going home. I am sick and tired.’ The leopard says, ‘Go ahead, I shall come later.’ While the leopard catches another forty monkeys, the tortoise hides in the bushes along the road. The leopard gathers his monkeys and returns home. When he reaches the spot where the tortoise is hiding, the latter utters a threatening sound. The leopard drops his monkeys and flees. The tortoise picks up the monkeys and finds the leopard at home. The leopard says, ‘They chased me again’. ‘You, stupid bloke,’ the tortoise says. The leopard replies, ‘If you chase me tomorrow again, I shall not run away. Do you


really think I shall abandon my meat again?’ The tortoise cuts the monkeys in pieces and gives the leopard the intestines. He says, ‘I do not want them. I am too angry.’ The sun rises above the horizon and they enter the forest again. They trap many monkeys. The tortoise says, ‘Leopard, I am off, I am sick and tired.’ The tortoise goes off and hides in the bushes. The leopard comes along with his bounty. The tortoise has nothing. The tortoise cries out from the bushes to scare his friend. However, this time the leopard does not run away and says, ‘I am here, you are fooling me each time. You, tortoise, you are fooling me and rob me of the monkeys.’ The leopard gets hold of the tortoise. Both return home. The leopard wants to kill the tortoise. However, the tortoise says, ‘Take a stick, beat me and the stolen monkeys will come back.’ The leopard looks for a stick. The tortoise takes to his heels and flees into the bushes. He says, ‘I finished off all your meat.’ The leopard tries to catch the tortoise, but he is gone. The leopard shouts after him, ‘We will not hunt together again. You are a big cheat.’ The tortoise ridicules him and shouts, ‘You, stupid bloke. I deceived you all the time.’ Explanation Some people are out to profit from our naiveté and thoughtlessness. Be aware of wicked people. If someone did you in the eye, be careful that he does not repeat his trick. The ancestors told us, ‘A cheat will not eat twice’ (PK2197). We should always be on our guard.


The tortoise and the leopard, no 2

In the olden days, the tortoise and the leopard were great friends. One day, the tortoise proposed to the leopard, ‘Let us go hunting for larvae (mpóse)’. The leopard said, ‘Yes, that is a very good idea.’ They went into the forest, constructed a shelter of leaves and made a bed of branches. Next morning they set out to look for larvae; the leopard went to the right, the tortoise to the left. The tortoise went into all directions. However, he did not find any larvae. The leopard, on the contrary, discovered many larvae. He pulled them out of tree trunks and put them into a big leaf, which he bound together in a bundle. Because the tortoise could not find any larvae, he plucked resin from a tree, put it on a leaf and made a small packet of it. The tortoise came home first. When the leopard came back, the packet with resin was hanging above the fire. ‘Yes, I am home already’, the tortoise told the leopard; ‘look at the amount of larvae I gathered’. He pointed to the packet above the fire. The leopard went to prepare his larvae above the fire. He went to have a look, where the tortoise was busy. He heard the boiling resin exploding in the packet. He asked, ‘Tortoise, what are you brewing?’ ‘Look, brother leopard, the larvae, which I caught, are very fat indeed. Ha, ha! Very fat indeed!’ The resin sizzled and frizzled! Full of envy and with a hungry look the leopard regarded the packet. He licked his lips. ‘Friend’, he said, ‘let us swap. You take my packet, and I take yours.’ The tortoise replied, ‘For me it is the same; all right, we swap.’


The leopard received the tortoise’s packet and the tortoise received the one from the leopard. As soon as the tortoise received the leopard’s larvae, he ate them and finished them off. The leopard would also eat his larvae. He was going to feast on them. He untied the packet. He could not distinguish the contents, because it was dark. Ai! He puts his big claw in the boiling resin. ‘Ai, ai!’ He screams. Oh, what a pain! The boiling resin stuck to his nails and fingers. His whole claw was burnt. He moaned with pain and screamed to the tortoise, ‘Cheat, swindler, you ate my larvae and gave me resin instead! Oh, my hand. What a pain!’ The tortoise asked him calmly, ‘Am I a cheat? No, I did not deceive you, my friend. You yourself proposed to swap our packets. I did not insist at all.’ The leopard forwarded the case to the tribunal. However, the tortoise won the case. Explanations 1. The larvae are fattish and white and are found in tree trunks, especially in old palm trees. When one knocks on the trunks, the larvae start singing or humming together. That is how larvae reveal their presence. The larvae are very much appreciated; they are tasty like cracklings and they are even sold at airports! 2. All kinds of meat, fish, larvae and caterpillars are prepared above the fire in packets made of big leaves. That food is steamed and cooked in its own fat. Delicious and very much appreciated in Congo as well as in Uganda. Yum, yum.


68. The tortoise and his wife

The tortoise and his wife had one daughter. They had made a big garden in the forest. That had been a lot of work. One day, the tortoise said to his wife, ‘My dear wife, I never get sufficient food. What you prepare is not sufficient.’ His wife replied, ‘How can you say so? There is always plenty of food!’ The tortoise answered, ‘It is not true. After every meal, I am still hungry. Just listen: The best thing we can do is that each of us takes care of his own food. We shall divide our garden, each one having half of it’. His wife agreed to the proposal. Both went to the garden and the husband divided the field: his wife one-half, he himself the other half. They went home and slept. When the new day dawned, each of them went to work in his/her half. Each one thought to collect food for the day. When they arrived at the field, they noticed that elephants had uprooted the whole harvest in the tortoise’s field. He moaned, ‘Ahaa, the elephants have finished off all that was eatable. How shall I have something to eat?’ He thought of a trick. When he arrived home, he said to his wife and daughter, ‘I am off to cut leaves in the forest. However, if, in my absence, someone, who resembles me, comes to visit us, know that it is my brother. We resemble very much.’ After that, he left the home. He had not walked far, when he sat down beside the road and waited a while. He then plucked out one of his eyes and went back home with one eye only. When he entered, his own daughter did not recognise him. He asked her, ‘Is my brother at home?’ She answered, ‘Dad left to cut big leaves in the forest.’ ‘And where is your mother?’ ‘Mother is at home.’ She went to call her mother. When she came and saw the visitor, she assumed that he was her husband’s brother and went to her kitchen to prepare a meal. She set the table and the guest had a jolly good feed. When he finished the meal, he said, ‘I have to move on. Thank you, my dear brother, and all the best to you. In three days’ time, I shall be back.’ The tortoise returned to the spot, where he had placed his eye. He put it back into his head and went home. For three days, he stayed at home. Then he told his wife, ‘I am going back to cut leaves.’ However, he did not do so. He took out his eye and put it on the log, where he had put it three days earlier. With one eye, he returned to his wife and daughter to obtain a meal again. This time also he received a delicious meal. After the meal, he went out to collect his eye. He looked for it everywhere. However, he could not find it. Whilst he was thinking who for heaven’s sake could have taken his eye, a bird crossed his path. The bird cried to the tortoise, ‘I have got your eye. Here is your eye.’ The tortoise begged the bird, ‘Ahaa, dear brother, please, give me back my eye. I am your elder brother, do you not know?’ The bird flew away with his eye. The tortoise thought, ‘What can I do? During the day, I cannot return home with one eye! I had better wait until evening.’ When it had become dark, he went home. His wife and daughter were at home. Outside, he called his daughter, ‘Girl, throw me a knife to scratch the dirt off my legs.’ His daughter said, ‘Wait 191

a minute, I shall bring a light.’ ‘No, just throw the knife here’, the tortoise replied. The daughter threw the knife. Immediately her father yelled aloud, ‘Ai, ai, my eye! Oh, you hit my eye. Oh, what an excruciating pain!’ The neighbours heard him yelling and rushed to the scene. They lit a couple of lamps. They went looking for the eye everywhere. In the end, they found it. The bird must have dropped it there. The tortoise said, ‘Wife, your daughter knocked out my eye. You will have to pay up.’ The wife said, ‘I do not have any money.’ The tortoise replied, ‘What? You will have to pay up. In case you do not have the money, hand me over your field.’ The wife gave her field to her husband. This is how the tortoise deceived his own wife and daughter.’

Explanations 1. Gluttony creates its own downfall. ‘It is the gluttonous fly which goes down with the corpse into the grave’ (CRC1212). ‘The stupid hernia! It will kill its owner, as if it can live without him’ (CRC1927). 2. Gluttony brings on deceit and enmity. ‘Give small portions now, says the one who has already obtained his share’ (CRC1287). 3. Gluttony can become an addiction. It leads us to deceive even our dear ones. We lose our sense of shame and become merciless. 4. You take your enemy for a friend. - ‘The one near you kills you’ (PK2552). - ‘The one who kills you is the one who eats with you a meal prepared with palm oil’ (PK2551). - ‘What you take for a vine, is in fact a snake’ (PK2635).


69. Mrs Tortoise and Mrs Guinea Fowl

Once upon a time, there was a couple who had been married for a long time. However, the couple remained childless. Once day, the husband went to the medicine man to look for local medicine. The healer gave them medicine and told the man, ‘You will start by producing a baby boy. However, note well: the rain should never drench him. Moreover, he should never take a bath. When he grows up, please, warn him.’ A few weeks later, the woman became pregnant and eventually had a baby boy. They named him Tutule. The boy grew up. In the course of time, he got married and had two wives. His wives were Mrs Tortoise and Mrs Guinea Fowl. The man became a great hunter. Sometimes, he would go hunting rather faraway. However, when the rain threatened, his wives would call him back. Mrs. Tortoise was his favourite wife. Whenever he came back from the forest, it was in her kitchen that he left the package of meat. Unfortunately, Mrs Tortoise had a weak voice. When she called her husband Tutule to warn him about the oncoming rain, he did not hear her. Then, Mrs Guinea Fowl would interfere and call Tutule without any problem. He would hear her. In the beginning, when Tutule went hunting and rain threatened, Mrs Tortoise climbed an anthill and began to call: Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly, Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly, Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee, you, who hunt, Tutule ee ee. They hunt nearby, Tutule ee ee. They hunt at Kiroba, Tutule ee ee. They hunt at Namaira, Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly, Tutule ee ee. However much Mrs Tortoise would shout, Tutule would not hear it. Yet the rain kept threatening. Therefore, Mrs Guinea Fowl would climb a tree and would call in a clear and loud voice: Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly, Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly, Tutule ee, you, who hunt, They hunt nearby, They hunt at Kiroba, They hunt at Namaira, Tutule ee, Tutule, come back quickly,

Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee. Tutule ee ee.

Tutule would hear her and run back home. Every time Tutule would put the package of meat, which he brought from the forest, in the kitchen of Mrs Tortoise. Mrs Guinea Fowl became extremely annoyed and swore never to call Tutule again, in case the rain would threaten him.


It did not take long before Tutule went hunting again. Again, the rain threatened. With her weak voice, Mrs Tortoise tried to warn Tutule. However, he did not hear her. This time Mrs Guinea Fowl refused to intervene. When the rain started, Tutule tried to run home, but by the time he reached home, he was already drenched. As soon as he entered the house, he dissolved into water. Mrs Guinea Fowl flew into a tree and sang: Misery is nearby, misery is nearby. Misery is nearby. Misery is nearby, misery is nearby. Misery is nearby. Misery is nearby, misery is nearby. Misery is nearby. Misery has stricken Mrs Tortoise also. This is how I left them. Mrs Tortoise and Mrs Guinea Fowl had separated: the one on the ground and the other one up in the trees. Explanation 1. A polygamous family has to cope with specific problems - The husband should be impartial and show no clear favour. ‘Plantations, which are not well apportioned, leave one to pick bitter tomatoes.’ (CRC1214) - Jealousy among the wives is a constant danger. ‘Two families are a problem’ (CRC433). ‘With jealousy in her heart, a woman has no peace of mind’ (CRC874). 2. Remuneration should be based on the work done and not on other considerations.


70. The leopard and the dog

A very long time ago, dogs lived in the forest. Dogs did not always live in the villages. Once upon a time, the dog was a wild animal and lived in the forest in the company of other animals. One day, the dog paid a visit to mother leopard that had three young ones. The leopard asked the dog to take care of her kittens, whilst she was away to look for food in the forest. The dog agreed to do so. Mother leopard went into the forest, caught many animals, and brought them home. She cut the animals into pieces and gave some to the dog. Whenever the leopard went into the forest, the dog watched over the kittens. These grew up and became quite fat. With a lot of envy, the dog looked at their well-fed bodies. Remember in the olden days the dog was a wild animal and did not live in a village. One day, when mother leopard was hunting, the dog called an antelope to come and look at the small leopards. When the antelope arrived, the dog said, ‘Child of my mother, look how fat they are, what kind of delicious feeling would we enjoy, when we would eat one of those fat children! Their bones are still soft.’ The dog and the antelope killed one of the kittens and ate it. They agreed to kill another one the next day. When the antelope had left, the leopard turned up. She said, ‘My friend, bring me one of my kittens so that I can breastfeed it. When the small one had drunk enough milk, mother leopard called out, ‘My friend, take this child and bring me another one.’ The dog complied and brought a second kitten. When the stomach of this kitten had had enough, the leopard called out again, ‘My friend dog, bring me my third kid.’ The dog carried the second one inside and came back with the first one that had had enough. Mother leopard noticed that her child was not hungry and asked the dog, ‘My friend dog, I think you brought the first kitten which had had its fill. The dog lied and said, ‘Oh no, I did not get mixed up. Your babies receive too much milk. They are no longer hungry.’ Next day, when mother leopard went to the forest, the dog called the antelope. They killed the second kitten and ate it. In the evening, mother leopard came home and asked, ‘My friend dog, can you bring me my children? I have to breastfeed them.’ The dog went inside and came back with the kitten that was still alive. Mother leopard breastfed it. Then she said, ‘My friend dog, put this kid in bed and bring me another one.’ The dog took the small one, went inside, waited for a while and came back with it. Mother leopard gave it its breast, but the kitten did not want to drink. Mother leopard became suspicious and asked, ‘My friend dog, did you get mixed up? Did you not bring me the wrong one?’ At that the dog became angry, he exploded and said, ‘Your kids do not drink, because they are not hungry. Do you not see how fat they are?’ Mother leopard did not say a word. Mother leopard went to the forest again. Again, the dog called the antelope and together they killed the third kitten and ate it. After that, they fled. The antelope ran to where antelopes run. The dog climbed a tree, where it hid in the branches. When in the evening mother leopard returned home, she called out, ‘Dog, dog!’ However, she did not 195

receive an answer. Then mother leopard thought, ‘Perhaps he has fallen asleep. I’ll wake him up.’ When entering the house, she found the door open. She looked inside and saw the skulls of her kids on the floor. Mother leopard went to sit down on a fallen tree trunk and wept about her children. The next morning, she rose in time. She found the trace of the dog and followed it for a long time. When she arrived at the tree, where the dog was hiding, she looked up and saw the dog hiding in the branches. The dog had seen mother Leopard coming. He put his head up so that the leopard would not recognise him. Mother leopard did as if she did not know who was there in the tree. Therefore, she called out, ‘You, who are sitting there in the tree, who are you?’ The dog changed his voice and said, ‘I am called Above.’ Mother leopard called back, ‘Above, please, come down, I would like to talk to you.’ The dog shouted, ‘Just tell me now, my ears are fine.’ Mother leopard became angry; she climbed the tree and got hold of the dog’s tail. Hear how the dog howled, ‘Mother leopard, I did not eat your children alone. The antelope helped me to kill and to eat them.’ However, mother leopard did not hear his cries. She went down with the dog to kill him. However, the dog managed to liberate himself, let himself drop onto the ground and ran for dear life. The dog ran on and on. One only saw his legs. Mother leopard followed him with mighty bonds. The dog thought, ‘If I manage to reach the people’s village, I shall survive.’ The dog reached the village. The village people saw the dog and grabbed their spears, because the dog was still a wild animal living in the forest. When the dog saw the men with their spears, he softened their hearts: he performed some tricks. He sat on his hind legs, stuck out his tongue and wagged his tail. He danced, jumped and gyrated. With his mouth, he grabbed his wounded tail. The men stood around the dog, laughed and admired the tricks the dog played. Then mother leopard entered the village to grab the dog. However, the men took their spears and impaled her spotted body. They tied mother leopard to a long pole and carried her singing through the village. The dog, once a wild animal living in the forest, became the people’s friend. Until today, the leopard goes for the dog and for the antelope to take revenge for her children. Explanations 1. The dog knows that it owes its life to people. For that reason, it remains our friend. 2. Respect other people’s property. Respect and protect other people’s children. If you hurt or kill someone’s child, you are in serious trouble. You may pay for it with your very life. 3. Be careful that other people do not drag you along in their misdeeds, like the dog invited the antelope in killing and eating the children of the leopard.


71. The visitor and the hyenas

Once, a man paid a visit to a neighbouring village. When he arrived there, his friends welcomed him, chatted with him and gave him much food. On top of that, they gave him a lot of drink, which made him almost blind. Around dawn, he begged to leave and asked his hosts to give him a long drum, so that, on the way home, he could drum in order not to feel lonely. However, he had become so drunk that he fell down and dropped off to sleep. The long drum fell on the ground next to him. He slept soundly and was not even aware that he was lying on the road. In that village, people did not go for walks at night, because they feared the many hyenas, which used to roam around looking for food. That very night, the hyenas were moving all over the village. They came across the drunkard, who had failed to reach home. They sniffed at him and shook him; they shook him again in vain. First, they had a good laugh; then they lifted and carried him off. Others carried the long drum up to the cave where they stayed. On arrival, they immediately started discussing the day they would devour him. Some wanted to eat him immediately, while others wanted to eat him after his body would start going bad. Only then, the meat would be delicious. They eventually agreed to eat him later. Then, they picked up the tall drum of the drunk. They drummed whilst they sang ‘When shall we eat the man? The man will be eaten when rotting. When shall we eat the man? The man will be eaten when rotting’. Due to all that noise, the man suddenly woke up and clapped his hands, wondering what had happened to him. The hyenas continued singing while moving around him. That was when he realised that he was in the hyenas’ cave. He tried to rise but the hyenas restrained him. Therefore, he said to them, ‘I can’t run away, because I am already dead. Give me the tall drum and I will drum for you. I see you can dance well.’ They agreed to give him the drum. The man started drumming while he sang: ‘I do not want someone to drum: while going downhill, while moving down, while moving to the doorway, while moving outside, moving in front, I don’t want, moving behind, I don’t want’. The man drummed while confusing the hyenas. They even forgot to eat him. Eventually, after realising that the song pleased them, he started drumming whilst approaching the doorway; then he sneaked out and ran right up to his home. 197

I left him, when he had stopped drinking for good, because the drink he had taken during his visit had made him drop on the road. Explanations 1. A glass will cheer us up. However, in many regions of the world, drink has become a problem. People become addicted and spoil their marriage, their family, their health, their future, in short their whole life. By the addiction, they drop into a black hole. The greater the misery, the more people take to the bottle. By drinking people try to forget their problems. However, by the addiction their problems become even bigger. 2. ‘The secret of your alcohol addiction betrays itself in drunkenness’ (PK2934). Being drunken means you drank too much or you are addicted to alcohol. 3. ‘If people reprimand you several times and you do not listen, you will regret things afterwards’ (PK2775).Stop drinking before you get addicted. Listen to the advice of good friends. ‘Only if I had known, comes later’ (PK1821). ‘He who warns you is a friend.’ (CRC306) 4. ‘What is going to kill you, blocks your ears first’ (CRC942). Your downfall is your unwillingness to listen to solid advice. 5. ‘To hold back a warning in time leads one to say ‘I almost warned him’, when that person is in the grave’ (CRC1728). We need to warn a person in time. When we see the problem, why do we wait? 6. What we say about alcohol addiction, is also good advice concerning other forms of addiction like the addiction to power, money, sex, gambling, smoking, chocolate and so on. Those addictions too drag us into a black hole from which we can only come out with the greatest difficulty. The fable of the dark cave is a splendid metaphor of what addictions do to us: we finish up in a black hole. We lose sight of our life. In addition, the nasty hyenas too are an image of what addictions do to us. They keep us in their merciless grip. 7. ‘When your desires become too strong for you, discard them’ (CRC1865). When you think that you are going to lose control over yourself, try to put an end to your addiction.


72. The three friends

Once upon a time, there were three great friends, namely the fruit bat, the swift and the edible rat. They enjoyed one another’s company. They grew up together. When the time came, each of them wanted to get married. They decided that they would celebrate their marriages together on the same day. They fixed the day of the marriages and started to prepare the event. Each of them would invite the in-laws, clansmen, friends and neighbours. They came together to determine the budget. They agreed to buy a fat cow together. One such cow would be sufficient for all three weddings. They went round collecting money to buy the cow. Therefore, on the eve of the weddings, they set off together to go to the cow market. It was at quite a distance.

When they arrived at the market, they found many cows. Therefore, they walked around for some time. In the end, they chose a very fat cow. They agreed with the owner on the price and paid for the animal. Then they started on the trip back home. Hardly on the way, a fierce thunderstorm pelted hailstones on the three friends. I was pouring. They had wanted to go straight home. However, it was impossible to continue the journey. They decided to tie the cow to a tree and take shelter in someone’s house. When the rain stopped, they came out of the house and went straight to the tree where they had tied their cow. However, the tree was there all by itself. There was no cow to be seen, not even a trace of it. They searched everywhere, in the bushes and in the swamps. Bu they did not find the fat cow. 199

After failing to find the cow, each of our three friends made a resolution. The fruit bat’s resolution was the following: ‘My children, my grandchildren, and also I myself will never look upwards, where the rain and hailstorm are coming from.’ The swift also made a resolution. He said, ‘I and all my successors will never climb a tree, because it was to a tree that we tied our cow.’ The edible rat said, ‘My children, grandchildren and I myself will never cross a road, because it is the road, which took our cow that disappeared’. Therefore, even today the fruit bat never looks upwards. Whenever it does so, it dies. The swift never climbs a tree. Whenever it does so, it dies. The edible rat never crosses a path or a road. If by mistakes it does so, it dies in the middle of the road. Explanation 1. Though we may be in for disappointments, we need to cooperate with our friends to reach far in life. ‘One power does not break a branch’ (PK593). One finger does not pick up a louse (PK849). 3. Disappointments are part of life. ‘Life consists of pieces’ (Mongo proverb). 4. The three friends stuck to the agreement they had reached. Each one paid its contribution towards buying a cow. When the cow disappeared, they all lost. We too should stand by our agreements or promises. ‘An ox is taken by the horns and a man by his words.’ -- ‘One should realise what one has promised’ (PK2668). -- ‘I shall kill you a fish as big as my thigh’ ‘I see your thigh, but I do not see the fish’ (PK2277). -- ‘It should not be like the fish lokámbá, which Imámbó promised.’ (PK4). -- ‘The false promises of a smith’ (PK407).


73. The right to be

Once upon a time, the peacock, the king of the birds, went on a trip to see its brother who was reported to be ill. It was a very long journey indeed. Halfway through the journey, at around midday, the peacock felt hungry and thirsty. The inside of its beak had dried up, when it arrived at an enormous tree having long branches full of leaves. Very soon, the peacock folded its wings and perched peacefully in the branches of the tree to regain its strength. The heat of the day did not disturb only the king of the birds but also a great animal called the lion. The lion was lying under that great tree to enjoy a great nap. I shall not let you wait any longer. The peacock was arranging his feathers like chickens do too, when they take a rest. When the lion heard the rustling in the tree above him, he looked up to see what was happening. However, the moment he looked up, a very small branch dropped and hit the lion so badly on the eye that it nearly popped out of its socket. He closed his eyes and growled at the peacock, ‘You there, do you not know and respect the king? Do you think that you are stronger than I am? Jump down from that tree; let us fight and see who is stronger.’ My goodness, they quarrelled an awful lot. The peacock was very angry indeed and said, ‘I do not permit anybody to look down on me. Am I not a king like the lion is?’ They discussed how they would put up a fight between them, each bringing family and friends to see who would win the battle.

Painting by Simone v.d. Wardt.

The lion went home and informed all the animals and insects that walk on the ground. He said, ‘Next Tuesday, we shall attack the peacock and his flying followers.’ The lion walked over to the hare and said, ‘Because you are a wise creature, you are to head my army’. The hare replied, ‘That’s all right, sir’. The hare convoked at his home a meeting of all the animals. The bee, which sided with the peacock, was sitting on the ridge of the roof and overheard the conversation. The hare told his army, ‘When we are going to fight, I shall take position in front of you. I shall pull up my tail. I shall not put it down, unless we have lost the battle. The bee overheard the instructions and then went 201

to the other side and informed them about their strategy. Not many days passed, when the day of the battle dawned. Both sides came forward and the fight started fiercely. The climax of the battle was when the buzzard swooped down on the left eye of the hippopotamus, pecked at it and removed it clean. At the same time, the elephant barged in to beat up the finch. The latter fell into the nose of the elephant, which sneezed and kept sneezing, all to no avail. There was nobody to assist him. The snake sneaked in fast as it went for the fly and swallowed it alive. O dear! The heron saw the plot from afar, dropped from the sky and bit the snake three times before swallowing it. When the battle climaxed, the bee saw its chance. It moved in quickly and, with only one thing in mind, went for the tail of the hare. That tail had to be brought down, so that his friends would be convinced that the all-wise hare was warning them to take to their heels. Otherwise, they may be exterminated. In that way, the peacock would win the battle. In a split second, the bee came down and bit the tail of the hare. What a sight it was! Someone cried aloud, ‘Look! The tail of the hare is down; we have lost.’ In fact, the lion spoke in a broken voice. You can imagine what happened next: all the animals and crawling insects fled the scene; each one of them was off to its home. When the ones with feathers saw that their enemies had fled, they were immensely glad, organised a party and celebrated their victory over the lion and his friends who look down on other creatures. Explanation It is through cooperation that we manage to survive.    

‘A single chimpanzee does not laugh’ (PK1006). ‘The small black anthill does not stay upright on the animal track without the support of a shrub’ (PK1244). ‘With one hand one cannot clap’ (PK1724). ‘The banana tree with a support will not fall’ (PK1768). 202

74. The lizard and the frog.

Very long ago, the lizard and the frog were great friends. One day, all the lizards were to meet at an annual festival in a big tree. Every lizard was allowed to bring along a friend. The lizard invited the frog to accompany him to the festival. The frog graciously accepted the invitation. When the day arrived, the lizard collected his friend, the frog, to go together to the festival. When they neared the big tree, the lizard told his friend, ‘Let us buy a rope, because the meeting place is in a big and tall tree; without a rope you will not be able to climb the tree.’ They bought a big piece of string. When they approached the big tree, they heard the loud beats of the drums. The lizard asked the frog, ‘Please, turn round and I shall tie the string round your tail. Only then, we shall climb.’ The frog agreed to the proposal. After tying the string onto his friend, the lizard, whilst he was climbing, pulled his friend up the tree. When he was about halfway up the tree, the frog’s tail broke off. The frog fell down and broke his back. The lizard was not very upset about his friend’s fall; he continued the journey to where the festival was to take place.

The frog lay in great pain on at the foot of the tree. He wondered why his friend, the lizard, was not upset about his fall and did not come to his rescue. All of a sudden, he conceived the idea of asking people to help him to cut down the festival tree. He sent out the invitation. He promised workers a good salary. All the termites of the region presented themselves and started the job immediately. By early morning, the tree was down. The hot soup turned their necks red immediately and 203

burnt all the lizards that were present up there. They tried hard to wipe off the burning soup using their tails. However these also were burnt in the process. That is why until now every lizard has a red neck and a red tail and all the frogs lack a tail.

Explanations 1. This story tells us to be careful with people who are good at inciting others, because, when push comes to shove, they abandon their friends. 2. The saying is, ‘Wisdom is not the prerogative of one person only’ (CRC419). 3. ‘Wisdom is like the white ants; the one that comes out of the soil, flies its own way’ (CRC418). Everybody will find a way out of his problems. 4. Commiseration is part of friendship. When your friend faces great difficulties, it is normal to visit him or her and show your empathy. 5. Another explanation of the redness of the lizard’s neck: ‘The lizard got burnt being attracted by the warmth of the rock’ (CRC957).


75. The lion, the enemy of all the animals.

Once upon a time, the lion, the bushbuck and all the other animals, birds and even the insects were all friends of one another. They had common territories and they all could freely roam around. After some time, however, they noticed that some of their friends had disappeared. However, they had no idea what had happened to them. The elders noticed that their friends continued to disappear one by one. They asked among themselves, ‘Friends, we no longer see some of our comrades. Where could they have gone? Did they die in the bush or did they disappear in a treacherous swamp?’ However, others said, ‘No, if they have died in the bush or in the swamps, their bodies would have been found, because we ourselves ply daily the paths in the bush and in the swamps. The quagmires cannot swallow up all our friends. We would notice it. Therefore, we are inclined to think that someone is finishing us off, though we do not have a clue who that person is.’ The lion was not present at that discussion. That is why some animals expressed the following opinion, ‘Our friend, the lion, sometimes disappears for two or three days. Then we see him coming back again. However, on the off-days when he is not in our midst, where could he be? In the meantime, we see with our own eyes that he becomes fatter and fatter and his physical power has become beyond description. Is there not the possibility that he is the one who is eating our friends? Someone made the following suggestion: ‘If that is the case, do you not think that it is a good idea to hide ourselves from him? Whenever we hear him roar, we hide ourselves until he starves to death.’ All those present agreed to the suggestion and said, ‘Indeed that is what we are going to do. That will save us.’ For quite a number of days all the animals were in hiding from the lion. When the latter missed his usual diet, he began eating grass like a cow. One day, the bushbuck was walking around alone, when he saw, in the distance, the lion lying on his back in the grass near a bush. The bushbuck cast a quick glance at the lion and then walked quickly back, taking good care of himself as he was thinking, ‘Is this animal asleep, does he feign to be asleep or did he finally die?’ The bushbuck went to see his friends and said; ‘I have seen the lion. However, I do not know whether he is asleep or dead. His friends replied, ‘Only when he is dead, we shall be safe.’ When they were talking like this, some animals leapt into the air for joy; others walked stealthily towards their enemy to find out whether he had really died. The lion in the meantime was lying quietly as if he were dead. A bird flew towards the lion. He knew that hunger had struck down the animal. The bird sang the following song: ‘O yes, this one who died is alive, O yes, his death I shall mourn later.’ 205

The bird flew up and landed in the top of a tree, very near where the lion was lying. The bird sat there in the top of the tree and continued to sing. In the meantime, its friends gathered there and answered the song. The excitement spread and got hold of the edible rat and he too started a song: ‘I dance around; I dance at the death of my brother.’ The animals joined in the song of the edible rat wholeheartedly. He was not good at singing just by himself; that is why he initialled the song so that everybody could happily join in. Another bird slowly made for the lion’s nose. It entered it to find out whether the owner of the nose was alive. It listened carefully and noticed how the animal breathed slowly in order not to betray himself. The bird, therefore, warned its friends by singing this song: ‘Concerning our friend, concerning our friend, be careful!’ The bird’s friends answered his song, thinking he was giving them his daily song. The bushbuck had brought with him a long drum, which was suspended around his neck. He sang next to the lion: ‘The lion has fallen. The one, who persecuted us, has dropped down.’ When the bushbuck was singing and beating his drum, everybody answered and sang: ‘The lion has fallen. The one, who persecuted us, has dropped down.’ While they were joyfully jumping up and down, the drum hit the lion’s nose. The bushbuck was like someone collecting firewood covered by insects, bringing plenty of problems unto himself. The lion quickly jumped up, landed on its feet and ran after the fleeing animals, saying, ‘You have been despising me all along.’ The lion went for the bushbuck, who had hit his nose with the drum. The great speed of their run made the lion sneeze. When he sneezed, the bird came out of his nose. Then he went for the bushbuck at a terrible speed. The bushbuck ran for his life, though the long drum hampered him around his neck. The drum prevented him from running at his usual speed. At a certain moment, the strap that was cutting his throat, snapped. The drum dropped. He ran with all his might. He never looked back and left the lion far behind him. It was a pity for the lion, but because he had not eaten for a number of days, he was no longer capable of catching any animal. He was openly declared the enemy of all animals. Since then, the lion hunts any animal that comes his way.


The only friend he has, is the hyena. Whenever he has not eaten for a while and has become hungry, the two of them will go and hunt together. The hyena will always be in front, the lion then follows. That is why, whenever the animals hear the hyena, they disappear quickly, because they know that the hyena is accompanied by their enemy, the lion. Explanations 1. The edible rat was not good at singing. That is why he invited the other animals to sing along. When you are not good at a certain job, invite your friends to help you. 2. To do or to finish a big job, one needs assistance from friends. Do not hesitate to invite them.    

A single person will not lift a fallen tree (PK2036). A single person will not cut up an elephant (PK2462). A canoe with a wooden scooper will not sink’ (PK2898). You cannot give birth and at the same time cut the umbilical cord (CRC2687).


76. The frog and the snake

One day, the frog was sent on an errand to collect taxes. Halfway he met a snake. The snake asked him, ‘How are you, my friend?’ The frog answered, ‘I am fine, Sir. How are you?’ The snake asked him, ‘You are up early. Where are you going?’ The frog: ‘I have quite a trip to make. That is why I am up early.’ The snake: ‘Is there any news in town?’ The frog: ‘No, nothing special. But the one, who catches his friend, is the one they kill.’ The snake: ‘Because you are in such a hurry, may I ask you where you are going?’ The frog: ‘Those that sent me, told me to hurry up. I am to collect taxes for the king! The snake: ‘My goodness! Your eyes are all red, man!’ The frog: ‘That is on account of the smoke in the hut where I stayed.’ The snake: ‘And look at that throat of yours. I see you are out of breath!’ The frog: ‘The princesses gave me some tobacco and I smoked too much.’


The snake: ‘And all over your body you look awfully pale.’ The frog: ‘In town, I have been labouring and carrying heavy baskets. That is why.’ The snake: ‘Why haven’t you got a tail, for heaven’s sake?’ The frog: ‘Did you not hear about the celebrations that were going on? When we were dancing, my tail got caught up in between something.’ There and then, the snake pounced on the frog. He wanted to swallow him alive. When they were struggling and twisting around, people came running towards them. The snake got hold of the frog. People beat the snake on the head and killed him. Once the frog felt liberated, he made an enormous jump, got out of the fray and left for the pond where he used to stay.

Explanations 1. Did the frog not tell that ‘The one, who catches a friend, is the one they kill?’ 2. What does this refer to? Did you never hear the story of Judas and Jesus? Judas accused Jesus but died even before they killed Jesus. 3. The whistle-blower, who catches a colleague red-handed and accuses him, is the first one to suffer. Be careful before you act.


77. Why bulbuls wake up early

Once upon a time, there were two bulbuls. They were friends. However, each lived in its own house. One day, a big famine struck their land. These two bulbuls retired to their homes and meditated about their plight. They had been so used to eating ripe fruits. One day, the finch came very early in the morning to one of the two bulbuls and called it, ‘Bulbul! Bulbul.’ The bulbul did not answer. That is why his friend in the neighbourhood called him loudly, ‘Bulbul! Bulbul.’ It answered, ‘Hallo’. It asked its friend, ‘Do you not hear the finch’s call? It answered, ‘What is it saying?’ The finch replied, ‘I happened to be in the village over there and I noticed that bananas are ripening. Let us go early tomorrow morning before others go and eat them.’ The bulbul replied, ‘That is a very good idea. Let us go there together.’ The other bulbul overheard the conversation and asked, ‘Can I also come along early in the morning?’ His friend answered, ‘How can I stop you?’ Then he explained, ‘Ah, yes, they are ripening, they are ripening, they are ripening.’ The next morning they went to eat ripe bananas. They had the day of their life. Since that day, the bulbuls wake up early in the morning and go out to look for ripe bananas. Explanations 1. You may fall on hard days. However, a friend may come along and invite you to a good occasion. ‘Never despair before the sun has set’ (PK528). 2. Friends are like treasures. Do not discard them, because we all need the support of others (CRC1056). ‘Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together”. (Woodrow Wilson). 3. ‘Better two fools than one genius’ (CRC60). When you are two, you can share ideas and solve problems.


78. Famine drove a man away from his family.

Long ago, a great famine struck big regions. Very many people did not have anything to eat. Even drinking water was nowhere to be found. In a certain village, a man ran away from his two wives, even though they were pregnant. When time passed, both women gave birth. One gave birth to a baby boy; the other wife brought forth a baby girl. With time, the children grew up and they asked their mothers, ‘Where did our father go?’ The mothers answered, ‘We do not know.’ Every morning, these children went out to watch over their rice fields. One day, when the children were in the fields, small birds swooped down in large numbers to eat the rice. The children began to sing, while chasing away the birds: ‘Sii, these little birds, sii at the borehole. Sii, these little birds, sii at the borehole. The little birds told someone: we eat millet and leave the rice. (3 x) Those who fly, tell father: you forgot your children. (2 x) Sii, these little birds, sii at the borehole. Sii, these little birds, sii at the borehole. The little birds told someone: we eat millet and leave the rice’. (3 x) As they were singing, a weaverbird became interested in their song. He approached them, sat down in a tree and asked them, ‘Please, children, repeat for me that song.’ The children repeated the song. After listening to the song, the weaverbird asked them, ‘Where did your father go?’ They answered, ‘We do not know; even our mothers do not know where he went.’ Then the weaverbird told them, ‘You come along and I shall get you feathers to fly. Then we go and look for your father.’ The children readily agreed. When the weaverbird had gathered sufficient feathers, they fixed them onto their bodies. They set off flying and looked for their father. When they reached a field, where people were harvesting millet, people chased them away, thinking they were little birds bent on eating the millet. However, they began to sing, ‘We are not little birds eating millet we are looking for our father He left his wives pregnant . Now we, the children, are healthy

- wererere - wererere - wererere - wererere.’

There, they did not find their father. They flew to another place, where they found people harvesting rice. Again, they sang, ‘We are not little birds eating rice We are looking for our father

- wererere - wererere


He left his wives pregnant. Now we, the children, are healthy

- wererere - wererere.’

Finally, they arrived, where their father was. When the man heard the song, he told his friends that those were his children. He welcomed them. They tied up his luggage and they all returned home. That is where I left them: the wives, the children and the man himself, happy to be back in his family, whilst the famine had ended. Explanations 1. One should take responsibility for the family one has founded. 2. A bird helped the children to trace their father. Please, respect the tiny birds wherever you are. Animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, trees and human beings, we are all parts of nature. If we respect them, they will assist us in innumerable ways.

3. Famine, misery, sickness, rows, catastrophes can upset us in such a way that we abandon our dear ones. However, we should not abandon all hope. One day, we shall find new energy to reconnect and find happiness.


79. Why babies cry

Long ago, there was a man to whom God had blown his air of good luck. That man became very rich. He was called Bwereere. He was so rich that he had a huge herd of cows. His big kraal was full to the maximum. His goats and sheep were innumerable and the chickens in the compound were like pigeons. Moreover, he had twenty wives and a great number of children. The time came when Bwereere felt that his strength was waning. He began to reflect on how he was going to leave his wealth. He said to himself, ‘Is there anyone who will think of me after I have gone?’ This was for him a daily worry. Then it struck him that he should leave his riches to the one who would think of him even after his death. One day, he showed the fattest and biggest cow he had. He gathered all his people at his home, both old and young and told them of his worry and intentions. He said, ‘Those who promise to cry for me every day of their lives, may eat this cow.’ The elderly said, ‘How can a person cry, when he has not been beaten?’ Finally, the babies accepted to eat Bwereere’s cow. From that time on, they began to cry, one by one without keeping quiet. Their mothers asked them, ‘Why are you crying and why can you not keep quiet?’ They all answered, ‘Bwereere.’ Even the passers-by asked why the babies were crying so hard without keeping quiet. The parents answered, ‘They are crying for Bwereere.’ Until today every baby born cries for Bwereere, because they ate his cow.’


Explanations 1. Every human being longs to leave some trace behind, longs to be remembered and longs to leave behind children and grandchildren. 2. In lullabies, mothers wonder why their babies cry so much:           

‘My baby, I did not beat you, I did not smear shit on your face, why do you continue to cry so much?’ ‘Is it the worms that bite in your intestines?’ ‘Baby, just listen for once. Why do you pester your mother?’ ‘I shall administer you a purge to free your intestines of all those worms.’ ‘Tell me, who hit you? Then you will see a wrestling match early tomorrow morning.’ ‘My only child is not a good one. It is a thunderstorm with lots of rain.’ ‘It does not sleep at night. It waits for the food that its mother has put on the fire.’ ‘Sleep, come and take my baby in your arms. Come and take my baby.’ ‘I die of misery; your mouth is like a basket without a rim.’ ‘The cries of a baby stop only when the baby is reunited with its mother.’ ‘Stop your cries; they do not cause tears, they cause drops of blood.’


80. The python of Kalungu

Once upon a time, there used to be an enormous python. It dwelt in the village of Kalungu. It had finished off very many people. It had killed some people by biting them. Others it had swallowed alive and others it had strangled. You could survive only by crossing your fingers.® One day, the Kabaka (King) discussed the option to hunt down the python, to get hold of it and kill it. The royal council looked for someone who could kill the snake. However, they could not find anybody. But a dwarf stood up and said, ‘I shall attack your python. I shall catch and kill it.’ People reprimanded him and said, ‘Man, stop boasting. The snake has finished off people far stronger and bigger than you are and that for years. And do you think you can handle it?’ However, the little man said, ‘Give me an axe, a machete and a cooking pot.’ My dear friend, people started making the objects the dwarf had asked for. The pot was moulded in no time. When the pot was ready, the dwarf cooked some millet, put it into the pot and put the pot on his shoulder. Then he walked for nine days. On the way, he kept asking for the village Kalungu, until he arrived at his destination. When he arrived at the spot where the python lived, he started blowing into a powerful horn, ‘Python, python of Kalungu, you killed my father and my mother. Now I have come to finish off your empire.’ The snake answered him, ‘Yes, I am around. Look, here I am, the exterminator. Yes, here I am, the father of Gaba.’ The dwarf replied, ‘Sir, the king sent me to bring you these items. Enter my cooking pot and you will see them.’ When the python had entered the pot, the dwarf quickly put the lid on, placed the pot on his shoulder and carried the python to the king. When he arrived at the palace, the Kabaka was astounded. The people made a huge fire and brought the machete and the axe. They put the pot on the pyre. They added still more firewood, even on top of the pot. Then they took the lid off the pot. When the python tried to escape, the flames and the heat of the fire burnt his body. People took the animal and cut it up. They then threw the pieces back into the fire. This is how they killed the python of Kalungu. When the dwarf returned to the king to inform him of the killing of the snake, the king rewarded the dwarf by promoting him to chief of a number of villages. In his speech, the king praised the dwarf for his initiative, his courage and his inventiveness.

® It is a popular belief that, when you meet a snake and want to stop its advance, you cross your ring fingers over your little fingers and you step with the left foot on the big toe of the right foot. By doing so, you immobilise the snake. You then call out to anybody around. In calling, do not say, ‘There is a snake here’, because the snake will understand and sneak away. But say, ‘There is a little stick walking around’. People will understand, will get hold of a stick and kill the snake. 215

Explanations: 1. In critical situations, the leader should stand up and call his councillors together. After reviewing the situation, they will decide which measures they should take. The leader needs to take the initiative. 2. The whole community should be ready to join in to put an end to the crisis at hand. 3. The Mongo people believe that, when a snake has bitten you, you should not kill that snake. When you kill the snake, you too will die. 4. Do not look down upon so-called insignificant people. Big and strong people are sometimes cowards. The dwarf here in the story saved the whole community from extinction. Do not dismiss anybody who is courageous enough to come to your assistance. 5. ‘The tom-tom carries far but not on account of its size (PK1850). The sound of a small tom-tom carries further than the sound of a huge one. The proverb wants to say, ‘You are not always the best and the wisest, because you are big, tall, strong or old.’


81. Why the moon is in space.

Once upon a time, the moon used to be very near. One could nearly touch it. The distance between the moon and the earth was very small. People used to live together in one single village. People in that village were very happy. However, their joy ended because of a child called Zilaba (Seer) and his grandfather who spoiled the child. How did this happen? One day, when the evening turned into night, the moon started shining. The child Zilaba said to his grandfather, ‘Grandpa, what is inside the moon that it is bright?’ The grandfather said, ‘I do not know either, but I think there is silver inside the moon.’ Zilaba replied, ‘My goodness, can you bring the moon down for me? Then I shall have silver to play with.’ The old man said, ‘We cannot just bring the moon down. And even if we could, we would take its light away from many people who appreciate the moon.’

Painted by Tineke Timmers

However, later, the old man agreed to pull the moon down one evening, though he said, ‘Zilaba, if I comply with your request, people will come to hate me.’ The evening was not 217

long in coming. Together they went to the back of the house in order to pull the moon down to earth. The old man climbed upon a chair. He had attached a knife to a long pole. With the long pole, he tried to pull the moon towards himself. However, every time he touched the moon, the moon went up higher and higher. It was at his last touch that the moon leapt into space, where it is now. Another bad accident happened at that moment. The old man slipped from the chair on which he stood. He had a very bad fall. Zilaba told him, ‘Grandpa, look, you pushed the moon right into space whilst you yourself fell down.’ This is how the moon fled from us and continues to move very far away.

Explanations 1. In Bantu culture, the grandparents have the role of teasers and spoilers of their grandchildren as a natural counterweight to the disciplinarian attitude of parents towards their children. 2. In their love for their grandchildren, the grandparents may spoil things and spoil their own wellbeing. 3. The grandparents may regret the harsh attitude they adopted towards their own children, when these were still small. They may feel that, in the pursuit of a good moral education, they had been too strict towards their children. With their grandchildren, they try to compensate the former lack of a loving attitude.


82. The otter, the leopard and the pig.

These three animals used to be great friends. One day, the leopard proposed, ‘Let us tie one another.’ The otter replied, ‘I do not mind. Yes, let us tie one another. You can start with tying me up.’ The leopard went out to look for vines, cords and reeds. He tied the front legs and the hind legs of the otter. The otter twisted, turned round and round and came loose. He then said to the leopard, ‘Look, I came loose by my own efforts.’ The leopard could not do anything else but propose himself as the next victim. He said, ‘Now you tie me up.’ The otter went out to look for vines, cords and reeds. Then he tied the leopard’s front legs and hind legs. The leopard tried to loosen himself but no way! The otter left him in that situation. He said, ‘I am not going to loosen you. We made an agreement to tie up one another. That was our arrangement. The otter left the scene. The leopard made great alarm. The bomende-antelope heard the noise and came to see what happened. The leopard told the antelope, ‘Loosen me.’ The antelope replied, ‘Nothing doing! I will not loosen you. You are a mighty beast and you could kill me. They did a great job by tying you up’. The bomende-antelope walked away. The leopard started screaming again. He screamed, ‘Murder. Help me, help me.’ A deer responded and saw him lying there. He asked him, ‘Who is it that tied you up?’ The leopard replied, ‘That crazy otter tied me up; come and loosen me.’ The deer answered, ‘Are you asking me to do a crazy thing like that? You are a bloodthirsty animal. You will devour me.’

And all the animals passed and came to see the leopard and let him lie there. In the end, a pig came round with four young ones. The pig asked the leopard, ‘Who was it 219

that bound you?’ The leopard replied, ‘That crazy otter bound me. Come and loosen me.’ The pig answered, ‘I would like to see the otter die. For heaven’s sake, why did it fasten you like that? Yes, I shall untie you.’ The pig untied the leopard. In that way, the leopard came loose, stretched himself and said, ‘Come on, let us go.’ They moved on. The leopard then called the pig and said to him, ‘Why is that young one of yours insulting me for nothing?’ The pig replied, ‘Hit him in the face.’ However, the leopard took the piglet, put his teeth into the poor animal and ate it. They moved on again. Anew, the leopard asked the pig, ‘That piglet of yours, why is it insulting me?’ The pig answered again, ‘Hit it in the face.’ The leopard, however, got hold of the piglet, put his teeth in the animal and devoured it. There were only two piglets left. They moved on again. The leopard told the pig, ‘That piglet of yours is insulting me!’ ‘Leopard, just listen. All the other animals abandoned you, when you were tied up; I arrived and untied you. Why do you treat me without pity? Why do you devour my children? Just give it a box on the ears.’ However, the leopard took the piglet and devoured it. They continued their journey. The leopard called the pig and interrogated him. He said, ‘Why does that piglet insult me?’ The pig answered, ‘Give it a box on the ears.’ However, the leopard got hold of it and devoured it. The pig started crying and mourning: ‘A great fool I was! What wrong did I do? The way he treats one, he treats all. When all the animals passed him by, who was it that untied him?’ However, the leopard addressed himself to the pig and said, ‘Why is the piglet in your belly insulting me?’ The pig replied, ‘Leopard, come on! How can a young one in the belly speak?’ The leopard replied, ‘O yes, it can. I have heard it myself.’ After that, the leopard attacked the pig and threw it down. The pig turned stiff like a tree. The leopard devoured it. That is why we say: ‘The way he treats one, he treats all.’ Explanations 1. A thoroughly bad person is not to be trusted. He is like the leopard among the animals. 2. When you face evil people, do not be naïve. Do not seek their company.   

‘One does not take a small snake aboard’ (PK274). ‘Do not add a phantom to your company’ (PK323). ‘The visiting leopard has caught the owner of the house’ (PK439).

3. ‘The speaker has forgotten; to whom it was said, keeps it at heart’ (CRC1449). An insult is never forgotten.


83. The hare and the leopard

Once upon a time, the hare and the leopard were friends. In fact, they were great friends. Whenever one had food, he would take it to the other. One day, the leopard requested the hare to accompany him to his in-laws. He liked to see his relatives, because he had not visited them for a long time. The hare readily agreed to his friend’s request. On the fixed day, they set off. When they arrived, the inlaws received them with open arms. Whatever food they longed for, was available. At nightfall, the in-laws took the visitors to their sleeping quarters. The leopard had the habit to drink some blood before going to sleep. The hare, however, was tired because of the journey, the dancing and the drinking. Therefore, he retired straightaway and fell fast asleep. When the leopard saw his friend asleep with his long ears on the floor, he left the house to steal. He did not go far away, but moved in the neighbourhood they had visited. He saw a goat and killed it. He came back panting, covered with blood, which he smeared on the hare. He could not wash the blood off his own body for lack of water. Early next day, the owners of the goat realised that someone had eaten their goat. They immediately searched the neighbourhood. This was very new in their area. Very soon, they arrived at the house where the visitors spent the night. They requested the visitor to come out and greet them. The hare came out of the house covered with blood. This bloody sight pushed the owners to jump at the hare and pull at his long ears. They wanted to pull them off. In fact, his ears became bigger and longer than ever before. However, they forgave him, because his host pleaded in his favour. That whole day, the hare stayed in bed because of the pain. The following day, the visitors said goodbye and went back home. On their way home, the hare thought of a way to take revenge on the leopard. He bought some cowrie shells. He also wrote a letter to his in-laws requesting them to welcome him. When they received the letter, they invited him. The hare informed his friend, the leopard, in time that they would undertake a journey to his in-laws. The day came and they made the trip. They received a warm welcome. At nightfall, the hare and his friend went to sleep. After a short while, the leopard got up and as usual, he went out to kill a goat and drink the blood of his victim. After the leopard had left the house, the hare tied cowrie shells on his eyes and went back to sleep. When his friend turned up, the hare saw him. Whenever the leopard tried to smear blood on him, he would think he was awake. This went on until morning, when the leopard was still covered in blood. When the owners of the goat came looking for it, they found the leopard with blood all over. They beat him almost to death. He received wounds all over the body. When he recovered, the wounds had become spots. That is why the leopard has spots all over his body. That is where I left them: the hare with long ears and the leopards with spots. 221

Explanations 1. ‘The one who told the white ant to fly, also told the bird to be ready’ (CRC1256). Beware of a twofaced ‘friend’. 2. ‘The one, who asks for the leopard, is the one it eats’ (CRC1270). Never trouble trouble, before trouble troubles you.


84. The hare and his wife Once upon a time, the hare and his wife lived in a very dry area. The only food, which would grow, was millet. As vegetables were scarce, the hare used to trap guinea fowls to supplement his diet. After some time, the hare became so gluttonous that, when he trapped two animals, he would eat one by himself and share the other one with his wife. If you want to know how far his gluttony went, the hare went to a faraway hill and built a very tall granary with a door near the top. Then he started harvesting their millet secretly to fill the granary. Not long afterwards, the village faced a famine. The hare lied to his wife that he had discovered a place, where he could find food to save them from famine. He said that there was a mysterious creature, which had built a granary on the bushy hillside, and which gave out millet in exchange for a guinea fowl. This lie gave the hare the opportunity to eat guinea fowls alone. When his wife asked what this mysterious creature looked like, her husband replied that he did not know either. Someone, who wants millet, has to throw a guinea fowl into the granary. The creature, i.e. the owner, would fill the basket with millet. The client is not supposed to peep in. If you peep in, you will die. When his wife continued asking where the creature got the millet from, the hare angrily replied, ‘Why do you keep on questioning me? Why don’t you just take a guinea fowl rather than asking me as if I did something wrong?’ She did not ask any further questions. She picked up the basket, in which she had put a guinea fowl and took it to the granary on the bushy hillside.

No sooner had she moved out of the house or her husband ran to the hill and entered the granary, waiting for his wife to bring the guinea fowl. He received the guinea fowl, and then poured the millet into her basket. She went back and did not know that her 223

husband was in the granary. He continued to do this, until his wife gathered enough courage to peep in and see what exactly the mysterious creature looked like. When she reached the granary, she did not call out as usual. She just climbed up and peeped in. When the hare heard someone climbing, he wondered who was approaching, because whenever his wife arrived, she would call out. Therefore, he immediately stood up to find out who was climbing. Unfortunately, they encountered each other in the doorway. She screamed and wondered about her husband’s gluttony which made him each time eat a whole guinea fowl alone. I left them, when the hare was dying of shame. Explanations 1. Many people are corrupt and are not ashamed about it. They praise themselves as being clever beings. 2. Gluttony drives people to selfish conduct.           

‘Those who are quick to swallow, swallow whatever is presented (CRC65). ‘The one who has success, does not mind those who do not succeed’ (CRC79). ‘He hides his desires like a glutton asking for a bone’ (CRC86). ‘The one who is satisfied, may only say so on his own behalf’ (CRC183). ‘A gluttonous person usually eats meat’ (CRC212). ‘A gluttonous messenger tastes before his master does’ (CRC423). ‘The one who is about to finish the meal, dips his food deeply into the sauce’ (CRC463). ‘The one who did not cultivate the maize, takes the biggest cob’ (CRC486). ‘Those, who hunt together, may not take long to fight each other’ (CRC637). ‘What spoils eating together, is the habit of eating secretly one’s own dish ‘ (CRC916). ‘Gluttony makes a hyena move at night’ (CRC1006).


85. The hare and his wife (no 2)

Once upon a time, the hare married a wife. However, they quarrelled every day. The cause of the quarrel was the hare’s poverty-stricken status and his untrustworthiness: whatever money they obtained, the hare would spend it on eating and drinking. After some time, the hare’s wife got tired of their miserable way of life in their home. She realised that there was not even enough grass to roof their house properly. One day, she decided to pack her bags and return to her native village. When the hare learnt that his wife wanted to divorce, he said to himself, ‘If that is the case, I want my in-laws to return the bride price and build me a corrugated iron roofed house. He decided to dig a tunnel from his home to the house of his in-laws. Whenever his wife threatened to quit, he would enter the tunnel up to his in-laws in order to follow their conversation. First, the hare’s wife packed her belongings and carried a big bag up to her parents’ home. On her way, she asked people whether they had seen her husband. However, thanks to his ingenuity, the hare had suspected his wife’s plan. Therefore, he dived into the river, put clay all over his body and ran ahead of his wife. On her way, she met her husband, but did not recognise him. In fact, she asked him, ‘Did you see my husband, the dry hare?’ The hare replied, ‘No, not at all. What are you looking for? You look overburdened with your luggage. Where are you going?’ His wife answered, ‘My friend, the extremely bad behaviour of my husband is making me do all this! He drinks a lot, he has gaps in his teeth and he does not want to take a bath. Moreover, he is very poor; he cannot even build a house.’ The hare replied, ‘Let me cut you short. ‘We, hares, we all have gaps in our teeth; check mine if you like. We drink a lot. I too am covered with mud.’ When the woman heard this and at the same time saw what this hare looked like, she lost courage. What happened next was that she turned round and returned home. The hare used all these tricks to make the in-laws build him a house. After some time, the hare’s wife asked permission to visit her parents. Her husband allowed her to go. As soon as she started on her trip, her husband entered the tunnel and ran ahead of her to her parents’. When she reached her parents’ home, she called her clansmen and parents together. She said, ‘My dear friends. I am tired of my small husband. He is gluttonous, drunken most of the time and he can achieve nothing.’ Her listeners advised her, ‘If you are tired of him, go and fetch water, and coming home, call him to help you put down the pot. You will use that opportunity to throw the pot on top of him. That will kill him before you leave’. They discussed all this, while her husband was listening.


Shortly afterwards, the hare’s wife returned home. When she reached the house, she picked up a pot to fetch water. When she came back, she found her husband making a basket, while he sang: ‘I, the hare, I, the hare, I hear everything at my in-laws. For me, I hear everything at my in-laws’. The woman pleaded her husband to assist her, but he kept singing instead of helping her put down the pot. One day later, the woman went back to her parents’ and said, ‘My friends, my husband refuses to help me to put the pot down’. They advised her again and said, ‘Because he does not have a house, take these poles; when he comes to help you to put them down, drop them on top of him.’ However, this time also her husband refused to help her. The hare refused to cooperate, until the in-laws gave their daughter some iron sheets. They told her to carry them home, so that this time her husband would sympathise with 226

her and that he would come and help her to put the iron sheets down. That would be the moment for her to drop them on him. When she arrived home bent under her iron sheets, her husband was not bothered at all about helping her. He just told her to drop them, because iron sheets do not feel pain. The woman decided to drop the sheets, because they were heavy. When the hare noticed that there were sufficient iron sheets, he immediately started constructing a house. His wife gave up her idea of divorcing him, because she had finally a decent house to live in. That is when I left them, after they had reconciled.

Explanations 1. The proverb says, ‘Wisdom cannot get finished.’ (CRC420) If you have a problem, use all your ingenuity to solve it. 2. ‘Wisdom is not possessed by one person’. (CRC419). Other people too have wisdom. Do not hesitate to consult them. 3. You cannot exhaust wisdom, for grass sweats in the evening’ (CRC421). The sun has not obliterated the dew. Nobody possesses all wisdom. We should not think that we are the wisest person on the planet. 4. ‘Sometimes, we are foolish like the little monkey that enjoys the forest fire’ (CRC1610). Here we talk about a foolish joy, which may turn out to be disastrous. 5. The hare’s wife decided to stay, once she had a decent house to live in. What a woman looks for, is a roof over her head (PK658).


86. The hare and the lion

The hare and the lion were great friends. As it happened, both of them possessed one cow each. The two cows were herded together. However, the hare’s cow was fat and very good looking, whilst the lion’s cow was a real bag of bones, which were very visible through its hide. One day, the lion and the hare decided to move to another territory, which would have enough grass to feed their cows. Next day, they rose early and put themselves on the road going on foot as rebels do. Before long, they met a family of leopards. When the leopards spotted the cows, they said, ‘Look at that, the cow over there looks fine, but the other one, good heavens, is totally emaciated.’ Upon hearing these words, the hare was quick to answer, ‘The nice looking one is mine. However, the one that staggers, belongs to the lion.’ Where upon the leopards laughed their heads off. They said, ‘If the hare would be there with his cow just by himself, we would grab the cow away from him.’

When they had passed the leopards, the lion scolded the hare for putting him so much to shame and told him, ‘If, my friend, you put me to shame again, I shall leave your company and leave you at the mercy of those who will grab your cow.’


Before long, they met the hyena family, who were very surprised to see the cows. The hare behaved again as he had done when they had met the leopards. My dear, it was then that the lion became furious, left the hare and went his own way. When the lion continued to walk, he began to reflect and said to himself, ‘What made me so angry? What bad thing did the hare really do? What he said seems to be true: my cow is all bones and his cow is fat. Let me go back and apologise.’ When the hare went ahead, he met all of a sudden a wild dog with a puppy, both of them dying from starvation. The hare became very scared indeed and cried for help with a very loud voice. Then the lion heard the scream, turned around quickly and came to the hare’s rescue. And indeed, when the wild dog saw the lion coming, he thought twice about attacking the hare’s cow. Instead, he took to his heels and went into hiding. The fact that the lion came to the rescue of the hare reinforced their old friendship. Explanations 1.’An old friend is one who comes back to you, just like water that goes back to the pond’ (CRC1257). 2. ‘A fly, which does not like you, won’t alight on your wound’ (CRC1211). Unknown people have no discussions between themselves. No wonder that friends sometimes quarrel. 3. ‘Friendships die on account of mockery’ (CRC1080). Friendships are destroyed by ridicule. 4. Friendships may cease any time. Blood relationships last forever. A distant relationship is better than a close friendship (CRC197) 5. We all need company and protection. ‘Eating alone is only enjoyable in times of famine’ (CRC1077). People are by nature social beings.


87. The hare and the fox

Long ago, there was a great famine in the world. Everybody was working hard in the fields in order to overcome the famine. At that time, there were two great friends and they used to sleep in the same house. These two were the hare and the fox. The fox had the habit of rising early to go and work in the field. The hare was never in a hurry and would turn over in his bed. When the famine intensified, the hare started stealing other people’s food. One day, the hare rose early and, at dawn, he stole beans from someone’s garden. Several people had been stealing from that garden. That is why the owner of the garden had installed a trap. When leaving the garden, the hare stepped into the snare with his loot. His friend had gone to a nearby hill. There he heard his friend’s voice calling, “Fox, fox, come and help me. I am stuck in a trap.” When the fox arrived at the scene, his friend, the hare, asked him, ‘Please, descend into the pit, so that I can climb on your back and get out. Then I shall help you to get out as well. However, the hare’s intention was to get out of the pit in order to escape. He hated to be accused of being a thief. The poor fox descended into the trap, which had been a pit covered with sticks and leaves. The fox presented his back to the hare. He climbed onto it, jumped out of the pit and left his friend behind. Then the hare raised the alarm, “Wa-la-la-la-la-la-la, here is a thief.” The owner of the garden came running and took the fox out of the trap and said, “Today I have got you. I am fed up to the teeth with you.” A-a-ah! They battered the fox and killed him. Since then, foxes hate hares and people hate foxes. That is why even today we see foxes coming to kill hares and grab our chickens. Foxes are a real threat to poultry farmers. I left them. Since that day, the fox and the hare live separate and, in fact, are great enemies. Explanations 1. The story encourages us to work hard to avoid famine. ‘If your little leg does not move, your belly will not eat’ (PK1354). 2. In life we have to choose trustworthy friends, because sometimes ‘the eyes show friendship, whilst the heart is full of hatred ’ (PK133). 3. ‘One quarrels only with friends’ (PK15). With unknown people, one has no problem. 4. When you spoil a friendship, people say, ‘He has defecated in the fishing camp’ (PK60). 5. A real friend shares what he has: ‘When the rat prepares wine, will the mouse not have a drink?’ (PK91). 230

88. The hare and the elephant.

Once upon a time, the hare and the elephant were good friends. The hare used to admire the elephant’s weight, but he did not tell him. On the other hand, the elephant admired the hare’s ability to dance. However, he did not tell him either. Whenever they went out to a party, the hare would dance very well, but his friend, the elephant, would fail to dance right from the start. The hare would tie small bells on his own legs and would dance still better than before.

One day, they both attended a party. On their way back, the elephant asked the hare, ‘My friend, how do you manage to dance so well?’ The hare did not reply immediately. He pondered for a while in order to formulate the right answer. After some time, the hare invited his friend to his home. That day, the elephant woke up at dawn and set off for his friend. When he arrived, he found the hare at home. The hare had lit a great fire, where he had put three pieces of iron, which by now had turned red-hot.

Then he told his friend, ‘Right now, I want to help you in such a way that you can dance properly. First, you turn and show me your back. Then I shall push into your body these three red-hot pieces of iron, one after the other, so that you slim down a bit.’ When the elephant heard about dancing properly, he did not ask further information. He just turned his back. The hare took the first red-hot iron and pushed it into the right hind leg of the elephant. He felt the pain, but persevered. Then the hare took a second iron and pushed it into the elephant’s left hind leg. The elephant screamed, ‘Stop, stop, my friend, you are killing me.’ The hare replied, ‘My friend, just persevere, the iron bells are beautiful. There is only one piece of iron left.’ The elephant replied, ‘My friend, please, give me a mat, so that I 231

can rest on it before you push the last one in. The hare rushed to bring a mat for his friend to lie on. The elephant lay down and never rose to his feet again. He died! I left the scene, where the hare and his wife were cutting up the elephant for a meal.

Explanations 1. Sometimes, we trust the ones who are out to harm us. Often, these are not strangers but our own friends (PK2486, PK2551, PK2552). 2. Blind trust saves us a lot of energy and worries, but it may cost us our life. ‘Befriend many but trust few’ (CRC1509).


89. The hare and the elephant (no 2)

The hare and the elephant went to a feast to commemorate the birth of twins. The hare danced and the elephant danced, but the way the elephant danced was terrible. The hare asked him, ‘Why do you dance so badly? You are too heavy and clumsy! Let me cut away some flesh off your legs, so that you dance as elegantly as I do’. And in fact, he cut off quite a bit from his sturdy legs. After that, they both returned home. The hare went home with the meat he had cut off. When the elephant arrived home, he started feeling pain in his legs. He sent the buffalo to the hare, saying, ‘Go to the hare and tell him to give me back the meat he cut off my legs.’ The buffalo arrived at the hare’s place and said, ‘Hare, give the elephant his flesh back.’ The hare asked him, ‘Messenger, do you not want to eat first?’ The buffalo replied, ‘That is a good idea.’ The hare cooked some bananas and added the meat of the elephant. When the meal was ready, they ate together. The buffalo said, ‘This meat is delicious. How did you get it?’ The hare answered, ‘This is game I obtained by hunting.’ The buffalo said, ‘Let us go out hunting together.’ They went and dressed their hunting nets. The hare told the buffalo, ‘When you hear something coming with a thud, do not stick out your head. However, when you hear a piercing sound, hold your head high up.’ The buffalo heard a piercing sound and held up his head. The hare hit him, killed him and carried him home. Not long afterwards, the elephant sent an antelope, saying, ‘Go and tell the hare: your friend is dying; send him the flesh of his legs.’ The antelope arrived at the hare’s place and received the same treatment as the buffalo. The elephant sent a great number of animals to demand the flesh of his legs, but the hare killed all of them. Not even one managed to escape. In the end, the elephant sent the leopard. He said, ‘Go to the hare. You are strong, bring soon my flesh. Please, do not take long, because otherwise you may not find me alive.’ The leopard ran as fast as he could, arrived at the hare’s home. He stayed on the road and called aloud, ‘Give me your friend’s flesh, so that I take it back immediately.’ The hare said, ‘Messenger, do you not want to eat a bit first?’ The leopard asked him, ‘Did not one of the messengers arrive here?’ The hare replied, ‘I haven’t seen anybody.’ He cooked some bananas and added the meat of the messengers. When the meal was ready, they ate together. The leopard said, ‘My dear friend, this meat is delicious. How did you get it?’ The hare replied, ‘I went hunting on the hill.’ The leopard said, ‘Let us go and hunt together.’ They went off and put up the nets. The hare said, ‘You stay here. When I chase the game and you hear the sound of a thud, keep your head down. When you hear a piercing kind of sound, put your head high up.’ The leopard heard a kind of thud; he kept his head low. Not long afterwards, he heard a piercing sound, but he kept his head low


and did as if he had died. The hare approached him and said’ ‘You fake your death and let escape a giant buffalo.’ However, the leopard did not answer. The hare cut some tree branches and rolled the leopard in them. He put the parcel on his head and carried it home. On the way, the leopard put out his claw and scratched the hare’s head. The hare took the load off his head, put it on the ground and said, ‘A thorn must have hurt me.’ He carried the parcel further to the butcher’s. There he took a knife and cut the parcel open. The leopard jumped out of the branches and pursued the hare. The latter ran for his dear life and entered a hole in an anthill. The leopard could not enter the hole. He ordered the crow, ‘You mount guard here, while I go and fetch fire.’ The crow mounted guard. Inside the anthill, the hare addressed the crow and said, ‘Crow, shall I give you some ants?’ The crow replied, ‘Yes, pass me some ants.’ The hare said, ‘Open then your eyes, I shall give them to you.’ The crow opened wide his eyes. However, the hare threw sand into them, came out of the hole and ran away. The crow said to himself, ‘The leopard will kill me. What shall I do? I shall look for ntengo fruits’. These fruits explode in the fire. He gathered some of these fruits and threw them into the hole. The leopard returned and asked the crow, ‘Is he still in the hole?’ The crow affirmed the question. The leopard then threw fire into the hole. One of the fruits exploded. The crow said, ‘One of his eyes exploded.’ A second explosion followed and the crow said, ‘His second eye exploded too.’ A third explosion was heard. The crow exclaimed, ‘Now his belly has burst. He is dead. Let us go.’ The leopard went back to the elephant and said, ‘I reached the hare’s place. However, he crept into a hole in an anthill, so that I could not hit him. Then, I threw fire into the hole and killed him. The elephant thanked the leopard for having done a great job. This is how the hare saved his skin.

Explanations 1. The vulnerable hare survived thanks to multiple tricks. If the lion’s skin cannot, the fox’s shall. The hare outsmarts them all. 2. Do not be naïve: do not walk right into a trap. Some people may try to take advantage of your naïveté. 3. Do not take everybody at his word. Some people entice you for example by offering you a good meal.


90. The mouse and the rat.

Once upon a time, the mouse and the rat were great friends. The mouse used to visit his friend, the rat, in the bush whenever he went hunting. They used to meet and discuss local problems and issues, which they faced in their lives. It became apparent that the rat had hardly anything to eat if he did not go hunting. The mouse looked always very clean, even the hairs on his body were shiny, whilst his friend, the rat, looked pale. The hairs on his body were a mixture of white and dark brown. Its appearance showed that the mouse was eating well, in fact, far better than the rat, that always had to cover great distances before finding any food. One day, the mouse decided to visit his friend, the rat. On arrival, he peeped into the food baskets belong to his friend. He was amazed to find them completely empty. He asked his friend, ‘Rat, do you have trouble finding your daily food?’ The rat replied, ‘Wherever you find me, that is where I look for food. Sometimes I eat elsewhere, only when I find something big and heavy. When I have young children, I take what I can carry so that my kids eat as well. The mouse told the rat, ‘Oh, you have a hard time indeed. In comparison with you, I have an easy life. I do not have trouble finding food. I have a lovely friend, who provides whatever I need. He has built a big grass thatched house. I can climb the wall to sleep in the thatch. At night, I go down and eat in his dining room. There is always plenty of food, some on the dishes, in the banana leaves which they used for cooking food and sometimes on the floor.’ The rat was amazed to hear all that. He said, ‘Indeed, you are doing great.’ The mouse replied, ‘When the owner of the house wakes up at dawn, he sweeps away what we dropped on the floor and then throws it into the bush.’ The rat said, ‘You must get your daily food all right.’ The mouse said, ‘When we eat too much and can no longer climb the wall, we sleep in one of the holes in the floor. And to increase our comfort, we took cotton from a mattress and put it in that hole.’ The rat said, ‘Your friend is so kind to you.’ The mouse, however, told the rat, ‘The owner of the house does not like to hear us laughing in the hole’. If he hears us laughing, he rises at dawn to look for us. He fills the hole with cow dung. That smells awful. At times, when he becomes over annoyed, he pours hot water into the hole. If we do not run quickly, we or the children may die.’ The rat asked, ‘Why does your friend get excited about you laughing?’ The mouse replied, ‘When we laugh a lot, we disturb the children’s sleep in the house. My friend, may I invite you to come and see for yourself, because I cannot narrate everything.’ One day, the rat went to visit his friend. He arrived at dusk. His host met and welcomed him. He requested him to take it easy and first rest a while. After the nap, they climbed up to the mouse’s nest. It was a warm place; the bed was covered with cotton, soft 235

grass and some pieces of cloth, which resembled the dresses of the owner’s children. Because the rat was so tired, he fell fast asleep as soon as he had reached the bed. When the food was served, the mouse woke up his friend. ‘Let us go and see.’ When they reached the dining room, they stood on top of the wall. The mouse showed his friend the room. He said, ‘Look, they are preparing our food. When they have finished, they blow out the candle. That is for us the sign to go down and eat.’ That day, the owner of the house, set up a snare containing a piece of meat. He blew out the candle. When the mouse saw that the candle was out, the mouse invited his visitor to go down and eat. When they had gone down, the rat followed the mouse. When the rat studied the situation to see whether indeed the mouse was served food, the mouse became shortly distracted. Straightaway, he went for the food, not knowing that the meat was placed as a bait in the trap. While he struggled to get away with the food, the trap came down on his neck. He could no longer talk or breathe. He tried to flee, but in vain, because the trap had caught him. Moments later, the mouse died with his eyes wide open. When the rat realised that he found himself in complete silence and darkness, he called out to his friend, but he did not receive an answer. He then moved closer to his friend, only to see his friend’s eyes wide open, whilst the mouse was unable to talk or to breathe. He realised that his friend was dead. The rat touched his friend and shook him whilst he said, ‘Ah, you ate the food, but you did not realise that the food was deadly.’ The rat hurried back to the bush.’ That is where I left them, while the rat swore that he would never enter a man’s house again.’

Explanations 1. There are no easy ways to get your daily meals. If they do exist, they may be traps. ’If your little leg does not move, your belly will not eat’ (PK1354). Your only friend is your hand (PK1143): only by working hard, will you survive. ‘The fishnet on your shoulder will not catch fish’ (PK894). 2. When you have friends, they will invite you to their homes. ‘If the rat prepares wine, will the mouse not be there to have a drink?’ (PK91). 3. ‘When you enter a house, observe the faces well.’ (PK2946). 4. Not everybody is your friend. Some people have grudges; others may despise or even hate you. All those persons may turn out to be dangerous. 5. The one with an alibi showing that he was at home, cannot be incriminated’ (PK2238). East west, home’s best. The rat understood: hurriedly he went back to the bush and stayed there ever since.


91. The barren woman and three pumpkins

Long ago, there was a barren woman whose husband was very keen to have a child. She tried every possible means to conceive, but all to no avail. One day, she visited a friend of hers of the same village and narrated to her the sorrowful predicament she was in. Her friend advised her to visit a diviner. She informed her how to get there.

At the diviner’s shrine.

When she arrived at the diviner’s, he said, ‘I have already seen in my cowrie shells that, however much you try, you will never have a child from your own womb.’ The woman cried a lot. She then said, ‘What shall I do?’ The diviner told her, ‘There is a spirit that gives children. If you want, I will take you there.’ The woman really wanted a child and agreed to go to the spirit. It was in a rock on top of another rock, which had water flowing from it. When they arrived at the spot, she started asking for children. The spirit replied, ‘Now go home, but, when you wake up in the morning, you will see a pumpkin plant growing in your courtyard. Do not cut it; give it time, until it produces three pumpkins. Pick them and keep them; that is how you will get children. However, never abuse them in any way. When the woman returned home, she acted accordingly. The pumpkin plant grew and produced three pumpkins. She collected them and kept them. After only three days, the pumpkins turned into children. Unfortunately, each of these children was handicapped. The first child had a lame leg, the second had a dead hand and the last one had a hunchback. She named him Katumba. These children were stubborn. The older they became, the more stubborn they grew.


One day, this woman sent her children to go and fetch water from the well. At first, they refused; however, when she insisted, they agreed to go. On the way back from the well, one of them hurt his toe and the pot fell down, breaking into pieces. The children wept right up to their home. When the mother asked them why they were crying, before even they could explain the situation, she barked at them. She said, ‘We are suffering with these small children. Is it that you went against your will, that you decided to break my pot? Why did I get you? After all, do you not know you were not children, that you were mere pumpkins without any parents? Katumba was near his mother, when she was quarrelling. Therefore, his brothers asked him, ‘What did mother say?’ Katumba told his brothers everything their mother said. In the courtyard near the place where they washed the dishes, there grew a bitter tomato plant. The children danced around it while singing, ‘Katumba, mm, What did mother say? Mother said we were not children, have no parents! Katumba mm. Jump in.’


At the end of each verse, one child fell into the bitter tomato plant and disappeared. They sang until all of them had disappeared. Again, the woman became childless.


There and then, I noticed and understood the consequences of not following the prescriptions given to us. Explanations 1. Every medication has prescriptions, which we need to observe. That is our way of showing them our respect: One attracts a spirit with ripe bananas’ (PK718). ‘One does not appease a spirit with any food. One appeases a spirit with ripe bananas’ (PK2425). 2. Children are a gift from the spirits. ‘Where quarrelsome people live together, witchcraft will soon take place’ (PK965). When husband and wife often quarrel, the wife will not conceive. Parents beseech the ancestral spirits not to close the womb of their daughter. To underline their prayers they place ripe bananas on the ancestral graves. 3. A child will flourish in peaceful surroundings. 4. Do not cry for what you do not have. Appreciate what you have.


92. The spider with a thin waist

Once upon a time, there lived a king, a hare, an eagle and a spider with his wife. The spider and the hare were great friends. Both of them never befriended the eagle, because the eagle flies high in the sky. The spider was a gleeful person. One day, the spider and the hare were invited to a party. On the way, they saw the eagle perched in a tree. The hare called him out of the tree and then beat him. The eagle died. The spider told the hare, ‘You have killed the eagle, but the king, when he hears of it, will kill us.’ The spider suggested to bury the eagle but to leave the legs sticking out. The hare agreed. Together they buried the eagle. However, they left the legs sticking out of the soil. After the burial, they continued the journey.

The spider told the hare, ‘There is something I forgot to tell my wife. So let me run back quickly.’ The hare followed him. On the way back, the hare noticed that the spider dug up the eagle and he shouted, ‘Spider, are you really digging up the eagle?’ The spider replied, ‘No, not at all. I am only removing the termites from his body.’ The spider dug up the eagle and ran home with him. The hare, however, followed the spider to his home. When the spider arrived at his home, he ordered his wife to cook the eagle. However, 240

the hare, who was outside, heard the order. But, because the spider was gluttonous, he asked his wife, ‘My love, please hand me the food that is ready.’ In the meantime, the hare on the road waited for the spider. The spider had told his wife to pull the rope, which he had tied round his waist. The hare heard the message. When the hare saw the spider with a rope round his waist, he asked him, ‘Hare, what is the rope for?’ The spider replied, ‘It is for tying up what we shall take to the party.’ When they arrived at the party where they had been invited, the hare sat on the rope. When the food was ready, the spider pulled out the rope and the hare felt it. He told the spider, ‘I shall be back.’ The hare ran quickly to the spider’s home. He arrived when it was already dark. When the hare’s wife heard someone entering, she thought it was her husband. The hare changed his voice and asked the woman for food. The woman presented the food and he ate until he could not eat anymore. After that, he told the woman, ‘The party is not over yet, so I am going back there.’ After a short while, the spider came rushing home and ordered his wife to give him quickly some food. His wife replied, ‘My dear husband, you have just finished eating and the food you left, I gave to the children.’ The hare became very annoyed indeed. The next morning, the king heard that the eagle had been killed. He ordered the arrest of the hare and the spider. Soldiers interrogated the hare. He said, ‘The spider’s wife cooked the eagle. It is the spider himself who ate the bird.’ The king condemned the spider and told him, ‘You are going to die. You have two options: to be burnt or to be thrown into the lake. Choose one possibility.’ The spider knew that the king would not agree with his choice. Therefore, the spider chose to be burnt. The king replied, ‘No, you will not be burnt. We shall dump you into the lake’. The spider feigned to cry for a while. The king’s soldiers got hold of the spider and threw him into the lake. The spider swam happily to the shore and went home. Since then, the spider hates the hare. Whenever he is invited to a party, he goes alone and does not inform the hare about his trip. One day, the spider was invited to two parties at the same time. Because he was so gluttonous, the spider wanted to attend both parties. He would go to one party first, and then run quickly to attend the other. However, he did not know at which party they would serve food first. However, he got an idea: he told his hosts at one party to keep some food for him, because he would come a bit late. He got a rope and tied it round his waist. He took one end of the rope and gave it to the first host, and the other end he gave to the second host. He asked them to pull on the rope, when they would serve the meal. In that way, he would know where they would serve the meal first. After that meal, he would hurry to have his fill at the second party also. The proverb says, ‘You will not eat what you long for’. A hen was longing to eat the evening-white-ants. However, these appear only when the hen has entered the house. As it happened, both hosts pulled the rope at the same time. They tightened the rope around the spider’s waist so much that he could not even talk. He fell speechless on the


ground. They asked him the reason why he failed to appear at the parties, but he had nothing to say. That is the reason why a spider has a thin waist. It is because of his gluttony that he invited the two hosts to pull the rope. By accident, they pulled at the same time. Explanations: 1. Gluttony like any other addiction enslaves and brings on many serious problems like the loss of friendships. 2. ’Eating alone can only be enjoyable during a famine’. Food usually brings people together. ‘When hands meet, one takes a good medicine for friendship (PK2793).


93. The seven small pots

Once upon a time, there lived a man and his wife. They had seven daughters. The man made seven small pots and gave each daughter one pot. He said to them, ‘Take good care of your pot, because the one who breaks her pot, should never come back home. The children used the pots to draw water at the well. After drawing water, they sang, ‘Let us carry, it is not for one. Let us carry, it is not for two. Let us carry, it is not for three. Let us carry, it is not for four. Let us carry. It is not for five. Let us carry, it is not for six.’ When they arrived at the seven, she lifted the small pot to carry it on her head. However, the pot fell down and broke into pieces. Her sisters said, ‘Dad said that whoever breaks her small pot, should never come back home.’ They left her there and went home. The girl, who broke her pot, climbed a very tall tree. When the other girls reached home, they told their mother that their youngest sister had broken her small pot. The man and his wife gathered very many people. However, before the meeting started, the mother told her husband, ‘Let me go first and see.’ The woman went. When she reached the spot, she began to sing: ‘My child, my child, come down, let us go, those small pots we shall make together.’ The child replied and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. no, no, no, no, no, no.’’ The mother went back and quarrelled with her husband about what he had told their children. The father went to see his daughter. When he reached the place, his daughter answered him the way she had answered her mother. Her friends too came and sang, ‘ ‘Our friend, our friend, come down, let us go. Those small pots, we shall make other ones.’ The girl continued to give the same answer. A man with a motorcycle came, then another one came by plane, one by car, one on a bicycle, even people came on foot and sang the same song requesting her to come down. However, the girl stuck to her guns and refused to come down.


Then a man came. He was rather dirty from top to toe. He had been on his way and heard people telling about the girl. He turned round and went to see her. When he reached the spot, he began to sing. Lo and behold, the girl came down and accompanied the man, married him and looked after him very well. That is where I left them: when the girl had refused to go with rich men and accompanied the dirty man. They had a very big party.

Explanations 1. Marriage does not depend on riches or material needs. Its basis is love. 2. Traditionally, it is the man who takes the initiative to declare his love; ‘A hen cannot crow’ (PK2364). ‘A female hippopotamus does not crush a dug-out´ (PK2151). 3. In the beginning of a relationship and/or an infatuation, everything is lovely, is wonderful. Difficulties and disputes arise later.


94. The dog Mulebera

Once upon a time, there was a man who had three wives, a cow and a dog. He used to milk his cow every day. After milking the cow, he would distribute the milk to each of his wives. Each wife was supposed to keep her milk. He asked his wives that, whoever does not take care of the milk and the dog would drink it, she should never beat the dog for drinking her milk. One day, the man went out to have a drink with his friends. While there, he told his friends, ‘I have a dog, but even when I am here and I call the dog, it comes’. His companions did not believe the story. So the man started calling, ‘A a a, Mulebera’. He called the dog three times, but it did not come. His friends ridiculed him. The man decided to go home. On his way home, he continued calling the dog.

Meanwhile, his third wife did not bother to store her milk in a safe place. The dog drank it. When she found the dog drinking the milk, she beat it and killed it. When the man came home, he asked his wives, ‘Where is my dog?’ They all said, ‘We do not know where it is.’ He became annoyed and went to consult a seer. The diviner told him, ‘Go and dig a deep trench, light a big fire in it, then tell your wives to jump over it, one by one while singing: The one who will see the dog Mulebera (3x) This small gourd, I am taking it to my grandparent, Mulebera. Let me jump, but I fear falling into the trench. The man did as the diviner had instructed him. He dug a big trench and lit a big fire in it. He invited his wives to come and jump over the fire. The first wife sang and jumped over the trench to the other side. The second wife did the same. The third wife sang while in 245

tears. When she tried to jump, she fell into the trench with one leg sticking out. The man cut it off; then he buried his wife in the trench. A few days later, the father of the deceased wife came to check on his daughter. He was warmly welcomed. When he asked for his daughter, he was told that she was away visiting a friend. The husband went and bought meat for his father-in-law. The latter asked the wife, who cooked, to ‘Include also the leg of my deceased wife’. When everything was ready, they served the visitor in the shade. When he was eating, a child nearby rocked a baby for whom it was singing lullabies: ‘Pull, pull, even if he pulls, he is pulling his daughter’s leg. Pull, pull, even if he pulls, he is pulling his daughter’s leg.

Because of the contents of the song, the father-In-law asked, ‘What are you singing about?’ The child replied that she was singing: ‘Baby, keep quiet, the animal may not eat me, ooh. Baby, keep quiet, the animal may not eat me, ooh.’ The small girl sang like that confusingly, until the man finished eating. He sat for a while, until time came to say bye. He went home. On the way, the man felt tired; so he sat under a tree by the roadside. When he sat there, he fell asleep and eventually died. On that tree, there was a bird. This bird flew over to the man’s home and sang like this: 246

‘The one, who went to his in-laws, got stuck at the thorny kakuukulu tree. He ate a lot, which made him fail to arrive. He ate a lot, which made him fail to arrive.’ Eventually, the man’s wife heard about her husband’s death. She called others to come and hear what the bird was saying. When they heard the song, they followed the road the man had taken. In the end, they found him dead under the tree by the roadside. That is where I left them, when they carried the dead body home for burial.

Explanation 1. Sometimes, husbands maltreat wives for minor things. 2. Sometimes, men treat their wives like property they have acquired. 3. Women and men are asked to uphold the rights and freedom of women, because of their importance in society. 4. For a hunter a dog is a precious asset. When he loses his dog, he may become extremely annoyed. P.S. The following story is another version of this one.


95. The man and his dog Mudera

Once upon a time, there was a man who had a dog called Mudera. The dog’s work was to watch the home, when the master was on a journey. That man had four wives. One day, he wanted to go on a journey. He called all his wives and told them, ‘I am going on a journey, but when I am absent, you give food to my dog Mudera.’ All his wives agreed. Three wives used to give the dog food, when it was their turn to cook. When the fourth wife’s turn came, she cooked food, but she did not give anything to the dog; the result was that the dog entered her kitchen and stole food. She found it stealing the food and beat it to death. When the husband came back from his journey, all the people at home welcomed him warmly. He looked around to see whether his dog Mudera would welcome him. However, he did not see the dog. He asked his wives, ‘Where is my dog Mudera?’ None of the women told him the truth. They all denied knowing anything about the dog. The husband then asked them to go and call all their relatives. When the wives went to fetch their relatives, the husband dug a trench and collected a lot of dry spear grass, which he threw into the trench. When his wives came back with their relatives, he took them to the trench and put fire to the grass. He told them, ‘I want every one of my wives to jump over the trench. The one, who falls into it, is the one who killed my dog Mudera.’ The first wife began singing: Mudera, Mudera, Mudera, never go and steal. Mudera ii ii, Mudera. Never steal, not even vegetables, not even pumpkin leaves. The one, who did that, is the one, who wanted it. Let me jump the fire. The first wife jumped and came down on the other side. The second wife came and sang in the same vein. She also jumped and made it across the trench. The third wife also succeeded. The fourth wife was the last to come. She started singing: Mudera, Mudera, Mudera, never go and steal, not even vegetables, not even pumpkins. You, fathers, I am saying bye to you. You, mothers, I am saying bye to you. The one, who did that, is the one who wanted that. Let me jump the fire. When she jumped, she fell into the blazing trench. She died in the fire. 248

I left the place, when the relatives of the wife, who killed the dog, were going to bury her.

Explanations 1. Some people do not love animals. 2. The story shows that some people think that their property is more important than their fellow human beings. 3. If you have committed a mistake, acknowledge the fact. This prevents further embarrassments. After all, we are all liable to trip up.


96. The big party

Once upon a time, the cat, the leopard, the rabbit, the eagle and the monkey were living in the same area. One day, the monkey organised a party and invited his friends, the leopard, the cat and the rabbit. He refused to invite the eagle, because he did not like him. The cat, however, liked the eagle very much and informed him about the invitation. When the day came to have the party, the leopard, the rabbit, the cat and his friend, the eagle, went there. When they arrived at the party, the host, the monkey, spotted the eagle, the one he had not invited. Then the monkey and the leopard decided to hold the meal on the bottom of the lake. They knew very well that the eagle being so light could never reach the bottom of the lake.

The cat, the leopard, the rabbit and the monkey went to the bottom of the lake and feasted as never before. The eagle, however, could not make it. The eagle looked for a stone and tied it onto himself, but the stone proved too light. He looked for a heavier one, but as he was tying it onto himself, the leopard, the rabbit, the monkey and the cat came up from the lake after their meal. The cat brought the eagle the leftovers of what they had eaten, because the eagle was his friend. The eagle told the cat that he was annoyed, because the leopard and the monkey had decided to exclude him from the party. The eagle told the cat that, at the next invitation, he would find a way of preventing the leopard from eating. One day, the rabbit was invited to a party. The rabbit informed his friends, the leopard and the cat. When they reached the party, the cat told his friends, ‘My dear friends, I 250

have a game.’ His friends said, ‘You tell us’. He told them to tie him tightly, and then throw him into the air so that he would drop down. The leopard felt very happy, because he knew that he was too heavy to be lifted. Therefore, they tied the cat and threw him up in the air; then he dropped down. Then the cat and the rabbit tied the leopard with strong ropes, left him in the sunshine, until the time for food arrived. They ate without the leopard. The leopard tried to free himself but he failed. Moreover, he felt very hungry and thirsty being there in the sunshine. The cat and the rabbit ate until they could not eat anymore.

The cat took the leftovers and threw them in front of the leopard, but the leopard could not reach them. The cat and the rabbit left the leopard and went home. The monkey happened to walk around. He found the leopard tied up. He asked him who tied him. The leopard replied, ‘Untie me first before I give you the whole story.’ The monkey untied him. The leopard first ate the leftovers, because he had become very hungry. After the meal, he narrated how things happened. The leopard and the monkey decided there and then that they would never side again with the cat and the rabbit. Since then, there is enmity between the two groups. The leopard and the monkey went to one place, whilst the cat and the rabbit took another direction. The eagle went home alone, because the cat hated him for preventing the leopard to eat. The eagle had made the cat being hated. That is why you see monkeys and leopards living in the bush, while cats and rabbits live in people’s homes and eagles up in the trees. That is where I left them hating one another. Explanations


1.’Ten people cannot hate one person; one of them will leak information’ (CRC868). It is hard to keep a secret, if more than two people know it. 2. Among enemies, there may be friends; among friends, there may be enemies. ‘One should hate the one who comes to chat’ (PK410). ‘The one near you kills you’ (PK2552). Be on your guard even for your friends, because they may bewitch you. 3. Sharing food with friends is very important. ‘A good relationship is brought about by food’ (PK819). ‘The medicine bringing about peace is hands meeting in the same plate’ (PK911). Friendship means food (PK829).


97. Ndiwulira

Once upon a time, there lived a man called Basoga. He was a great polygamous man with eight wives. His main occupation was growing maize. He planted other crops also, but maize was his favourite. One day, Basoga planted maize on a very big piece of land. The maize grew wonderfully well. When the maize was ready to be harvested, another man, called ‘Ndiwulírá (I shall hear), walked around in the region and found Basoga’s maize field. He was amazed about the length of the field and about the amount of maize. He was delighted and said, ‘Ha! How lucky I am. I was going to die of hunger. However, I have found food. I’ll never quit this place.’ He entered the maize field and sat down. He ate one maize cob after another. While ‘Ndiwulírá was in that maize field, a passer-by started singing: ‘Mother planted, mother planted a small garden, mother planted a small garden of groundnuts, a small garden. I also planted, I also planted a small garden, also planted a small garden of groundnuts, a small garden. Even this one planted, even this one planted a small garden, even this one planted a small garden of maize, a small garden.’

He met ‘Ndiwulírá and told him, ‘Say, ‘Ndiwulírá, come out of someone else’s maize field’. However, ‘Ndiwulírá replied, ‘Don’t you worry! I shall hear when the owner cuts his 253

maize. Then I shall leave the field’. Again, another passer-by walked past and sang the same song. He had seen one of Basoga’s wives cutting the maize. He told ‘Ndiwulírá, ‘My friend ‘Ndiwulírá, leave this field. The owner’s wife has started harvesting the maize. You will be caught red-handed’. However, ‘Ndiwulírá replied, ‘Ah, I, ‘Ndiwulírá, am wise. I shall hear when Basoga’s wife wants to cover the cooking pot. That will be the moment, when I come out of the maize.’ When Basoga’s wife took her maize home, she took ‘Ndiwulírá too. She put the maize in the cooking pot. Even at that moment, ‘Ndiwulírá did not come out. Basoga’s wife put the pot on the cooking stones. Another passer-by noticed ‘Ndiwulírá in the cooking pot and asked him, ‘He, ‘Ndiwulírá, what are you doing there? Come out of the maize, man! Otherwise, they will cook you too.’ ‘Ndiwulírá replied, ‘You do not know my wisdom. No one surpasses me in wisdom. You think I do not know. However, I will hear when the woman lights the fire. Then I shall come out of the maize.’ In the end, the woman brought water, poured it into the cooking pot and lit the fire. Still then, ‘Ndiwulírá did not come out of the maize. That is how he died, the man, who did not want to listen.

Explanations 1. Do not think you know it all. ‘Wisdom comes later’ (PK2894). We all learn by trial and error.


2. ‘One who asks what he does not know, seeks knowledge’ (CRC85). ‘One mind will not design a house’ (PK2893). We need to consult people and work together to arrive at something worthwhile. 3. We should be concerned about certain dangers. ‘He is not bothered, like a bushbuck at which a knife is thrown’ (CRC255). 4. ‘The one who gives you wisdom, is better than the one who gives you food’ (CRC291).


98. Terrorising monkeys

Formerly monkeys used to terrorise whole villages by devouring people. A man, called Mukuma lived in his village with his mother, Namulanda. She had become very old and could only take food by drinking it. Her son Mukuma was worried about her because of the devastating monkeys. He took her and hid her on his loft. He himself went to hide elsewhere. He had hardly gone, when the monkeys showed up at his home. They called out, ‘Is Mukuma home?’ The old woman could not control her tongue and told them that her son had hid himself. The monkeys entered the house, climbed onto the loft and dragged her down onto the street in order to eat her.

Mukuma was not far away. He heard the noise and the racket and came running to save his mother from a violent death. He managed to do so by chasing away the animals. He hid his mother again. He implored her not to speak when the monkeys would come and ask whether he was at home. She promised to keep her mouth, but she did not keep her word. She perished. This carelessness cost her her life. When Mukuma turned up, the monkeys had already devoured his mother. Mukuma was at a loss and went to consult a diviner. After receiving nine cowrie shells and having heard the whole story, the diviner ordered beer and asked Mukuma to invite many friends to beat the drums.


The monkeys would hear the music and would feel attracted to the music and to the beer. Mukuma cut bananas, let them ripe and squeezed them. He filled two big pots with their delicious juice. The friends turned up with lances and spears. They beat the drums and caused an enormous racket. The monkeys soon turned up. They enjoyed themselves, drank much beer and asked whether they were allowed to sing. They sang: ‘We ate Mukuma’s mother. We took her head and made a drum out of it. We used the arm-bones and used these as drumsticks. We took the bones of her legs and made a xylophone.’ In the end, they were completely drunk. The men attacked and killed them. A male monkey, before he died, said, ‘A man should not die like a woman. Cut open my little toe.’ They complied with his request and all the people, who had died at the hands of the monkeys, came out alive. When the king heard about this event, he invited Mukuma. He had to narrate all that had happened. He received a royal reward and became the chief of many villages. Explanation 1. This is a liberation story. The hero liberates his people. He gives people new life. He deserves to become the chief. A chief should not be a negative ruler; he should inspire and encourage people. 2. A terrorist is someone who is out to seek life just for himself. He feels the urge to destroy people’s happiness and their very lives. The hero puts an end to his terror.


99. Traps

Once upon a time, there was a family consisting of a father, mother and one child. The father used to set traps, catch animals and sell them as food. However, one day, the father died. After his death, the son asked his mother, ‘Mum, how is it that we die of starvation?’ Later he put another question, ‘Mum, what did dad do to get food?’ She answered and said, ‘Dad used to set traps, catch animals and sell them.’ He replied, ‘Then I too will set traps to catch game and sell them.’


The first day, he was busy cutting branches. The second day, he made traps. The third day, he worked the whole day in fabricating rope. The fourth day, he was busy the whole day and set the traps. The fifth day, he worked the whole day and installed more traps. The sixth day, he checked the traps, took out the game and killed the animals. He took them to town, sold them and bought grain. Their home had plenty of food. Again, he went out to check his traps. The first day, he found a monkey in one of his traps and wanted to kill it. However, the monkey said, ‘Son of man, do not kill me. Free me from this trap so that I can protect myself in the rain. Later on I shall turn up and protect you against the sun.’ When the monkey was free, he said, ‘I can assure you, that no son of man is good. Do not treat him well, because, if you do, he will react tomorrow and return evil for good.’ The second day, our man reached a trap and caught a snake. He wanted to walk away and call people of the village. However, the snake called him back and said, ‘Come back, son of man, do not go to the village, do not call people to kill me. Free me out of this trap. One day, I shall help you. But a son of man will not do anybody good.’ The third day, he went to inspect his traps and there he was, an old lion. Our hunter wanted to walk off to call people. However, the lion said, ‘No, save me from the rain and I shall save you from the sun.’ However, once free, the lion said, ‘Son of a man, you helped me, you treated me well. I declare and give you my word that a son of man does not act well. The following day, he caught a human being. The owner of the trap set him free. In the end, all the food in the house was finished. They suffered again from famine, the mother and her son. The son asked his mother, ‘Mum, can you make me seven big biscuits?’ When his mother had baked the seven biscuits, the son took his bow and arrow and went off into the forest. However, he lost his way, and ate six of his biscuits. There was only one left. He decided to walk on. He then met a monkey. The animal asked him, ‘Son of a man, where are you going?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. I am lost.’ The monkey replied, ‘Take it easy, man. I am happy to return the favour you did to me. You freed me from the trap. Just stay here and wait until I am back.’ The monkey went to a banana plantation and stole some ripe bananas. He took them to the lost man and said, ‘Take these bananas.’ He handed them to him. Again, the monkey asked him a question, ‘Do you want to drink some water?’ He went and stole a calabash full of water and gave it to the hunter. He was very happy to have a drink. When he had finished the drink, they took leave of each other and said, ‘Take care, bye bye, my friend.’ The hunter went his way. He continued to walk on and met a lion. The animal asked him, ‘Son of a man, where do you come from?’ The man replied, ‘I lost my way.’ The lion answered, ‘Just sit down; I would like to honour you for what you did for me. You freed me from the trap. Please, sit down and I shall help you.’ The hunter sat down and waited for the lion. The lion went off and caught some game and brought it to the hunter and said, ‘You lost your way, eat this food and let me show my gratitude.’ The lion gave him the game and fire to prepare 259

the meat. The man roasted the meat and had his fill. When he had finished eating, he took courage and continued his trip. A little further, he came into a plantation, where he met a very old woman. She asked him, ‘Someone in town is very ill. Help me to prepare some medication.’ The hunter answered: ‘I do not know anything about preparing medicine.’ He returned to the path and saw a bucket. Next to the bucket, there was a well. He said to himself, ‘This is great. I shall drink water from this well.’ He looked into the well and saw a huge snake. The snake told him, ‘Son of a man, wait a minute. The snake crawled out of the well and asked him, ‘Son of a man, where are you going? Do you know me?’ He replied, ‘No, I do not know you.’ Then the snake said, ‘You liberated me from the snare, when I asked you “Free me from the rain and I shall free you from the sun.” You are a stranger; where are you going? Give me your bag and I shall fill it with things, which may come in handy where you are going.’ The man gave it the bag and the snake put in chains of gold and silver and said, ‘Take the bag and do with the contents as you like.’ The hunter went into town. When he reached the town, he met the man, whom he had freed from the snare. This man took the hunter and his bag to his home. When his wife saw the stranger, she started making porridge and said, ‘I’ll cook for our visitor.’ However, the man went to see the village chief and said, ‘The stranger, who came into my house, do not regard him as a human being. He is a snake, living in a well. Believe me, he is a snake. If he does not look like a snake, he can easily change into a snake. Chief, send a man to get hold of him and his bag, because I have looked into the bag and saw golden and silver chains.’

The chief sent a man to arrest the hunter. He returned with the man and his bag. They opened the bag. Many people were present and saw golden and silver objects. Among the precious objects were chains of the chief’s child and of other important people in town. The stranger was handcuffed with his hands on his back. 260

However, at that moment, the big snake came out of the well. He crawled into town and went around, until he arrived at the place, where the stranger was incarcerated. The people in town were awestricken and told the hunter, ‘Tell the snake to go away.’ When they had loosened and taken off the ropes with which the hunter had been bound, the snake was content and went back to the well, saying, ‘Son of a man, when people treat you unjustly, call me and I shall come immediately to your assistance.’ After the snake had left, people honoured their visitor. People asked the man, ‘Why did your host treat you the way he did, whilst you were his visitor?’ He answered, ‘The snake, the lion and the monkey told me that the son of a man does not act well and returns good with evil.’ That is true. It is not a lie. That man treated me badly, because I helped him. The saying of all three animals is very true.’ The chief heard this and asked him what he meant. He narrated what had passed. The chief said, ‘Your accuser deserves to be bound in mats and to be thrown into the lake, because he does not know what is right. He returned good with evil.’

Explanations 1. When we act according to ‘an eye for an eye’, the whole world will turn out to be blind. (China) Traditional teaching is sometimes different: - ‘If one disrespects you, you disrespect him’ (CRC284). - ‘If someone prepares for you the head, prepare for him the hoofs, so that you compare the smell. (CRC285) - ‘When a mudfish throws you in the mud, pay it back by smoking it’ (CRC1047). - ‘The debt of beer is cleared with beer (CRC1344). You are likely to be paid back in your own coin. 2. Never return good with evil. - ‘The remuneration of a donkey is a kick’ (CRC1173). - ‘The one with a good harvest, forgets who gave him the seeds’ (CRC1251). - ‘An in-law’s basket never goes back empty’ (CRC1393). 3. When you host a visitor, you extend protection and hospitality to him. -- ‘He slept under the rack laden with smoked fish’ (PK52). When you receive a visitor, receive and feed him well. -- ‘When there are no more drinks and a visitor shows up unexpectedly, he cannot blame his host’ (PK90). 261

100. The girl and the chimpanzees

Once upon a time, a woman and her husband had one child, a girl. One day, a famine spread all over the country. People did not have anything to eat. In the village, where the three of them lived, there were chimpanzees that grew pumpkins in the wild. One day, the woman and her child went to the wilds to steal the pumpkins of the chimpanzees. When they reached the place, they began to harvest the pumpkins. Whilst they were at it, the chimpanzees approached them and found them taking the pumpkins. The woman ran as fast as she could, leaving her child behind. The child climbed a tree and sang: Be defeated, be defeated, be defeated. Mother, I told you: be defeated, ooh, ooh, be defeated. You are old women, be defeated, mm mm be defeated. You have just been stealing. Be defeated, mm mm be defeated. Pumpkins of the chimpanzee, be defeated, mm, mm, be defeated. See these and those, be defeated, mm mm, be defeated. However, the chimpanzees said, ‘We have to eat this girl.’ Among the chimpanzees, there was one, who was blind. That one they left to guard her. They told him, ‘Sit here and guard the girl as we go to collect our knives, spears and fire.’ When they had left, the blind chimpanzee began to sing: When I bend like this, my teeth become sharper than an axe. (3x) Then the chimpanzees, which had gone to collect knives, spears and fire, came back. In their absence, the girl had climbed down and escaped, while the blind chimpanzee continued singing. They asked their blind companion, ‘Where is the girl we entrusted to your care?’ He replied, ‘She is up that tree.’ However, they did not see her. What they did was to kill the blind guard. They roasted him and ate him. That is where I left them: the girl had come down and had run away, while his friends ate the blind chimpanzee.



1. Be proactive i.e. prepare for the future instead of waiting and seeing what is going to happen and then stealing food to stay alive. ‘As long as one sits waiting, the squirrel will not come down’ (PK1169). One has to make a serious effort, if one wants to attain certain objectives. 2. Gauge a person well before assigning him/her certain responsibilities. 3. When you assign the wrong person for a given job, you should blame yourself and your poor judgment. However, you should not punish the poor victim.


101. The hen and the kite

Long ago, the hen and the kite were great friends. Hardly a day passed without them visiting each other’s place. All the time that they were friends, the kite used to fly to her friend’s. The hen admired her friend very much. She even tried to fly. However, she could not manage, because she did not possess tightly knit feathers. One day, the hen asked her friend, ‘My friend, what enables you to fly high up in the air?’ The kite replied, ‘My friend, I have a needle which sewed my feathers firmly together before I managed to fly. The hen asked the kite to lend her that needle. The kite replied, ‘I know you, hen. You are rather careless. I shall lend you my needle. However, I am nearly sure you will lose it.’ The hen pleaded with her and said, ‘Aaa, my friend, am I the one who cannot keep a simple needle? Why is it that every day you entrust me with big things and I take good care of them?’ The kite showed her good heart and agreed to lend her the needle. However, when the hen borrowed the needle, she lost it even before she had sewn the feathers. Right from the start, even when the hen and the kite were great friends, the kite longed to eat the hen’s children. When the hen lost her needle, she got the chance of taking revenge. It happened like this: The hen rose early in the morning and went to inform her friend that she had lost the needle. The kite replied, ‘Ah, did I not tell you, Mrs Hen, that you are very careless? Now that you have lost the needle, what am I going to use for sewing? Together with your children, go and look for my needle. I shall come every day to see whether you have found it. Meanwhile, I shall keep some of your children at my home, until you have found it and returned it to me. Until today, the hen and her children wake up early in the morning to scratch the soil in search of the needle. The kite has never stopped taking the hen’s children because of the loss of her needle. Explanation 1. The story teaches us to be careful when handling other people’s property entrusted to our care. The saying is, ‘What kills friendship is borrowing and lending’ (CRC919). If you want to stay friends, do not borrow from or lend to a friend. 2. A mistake made by parents may also affect their children. Through the loss of the needle by the hen, the kite continues to carry off her children. Their children and grandchildren continue to scratch the soil in search of the needle.


102. The wasp and the black ant

The wasp and his friend, the black ant, were good friends. Their friendship was so great that, even when there was only one white ant, they would share it equally, one eating one half, the other eating the other half. I tell you: they were friends of long standing. It did not take long for the wasp to become very sick, suffering from a terrible headache, which lasted a full week. It is for that reason he sent his child to the black ant, saying, ‘You go and tell my friend, the black ant, “Your friend is very sick. ‘It needs a cow to heal him.’ Come along, let us go and see him.” The wasp’s child met both the black ant as well as his wife, when they had just returned from their field. When the ant heard the wasp’s message, he became confused. He said, ´Woo, haaa, when the wasp loses weight without any problem, then what does he look like when he is ill?’ He breathed heavily and did not know what to do. After dispensing its information, the child returned home. When the ant’s wife saw that the child had gone, she rebuked her husband. She said, ‘My dear husband, you did not speak kindly at all. What if the child tells her father what you said, will he be happy with those words?’ The black ant replied, ‘My dear, indeed I spoke badly. I became my old self again, when those words jumped out of my mouth.’ When the little girl reached home and met her father, the latter welcomed her back, saying: ‘Welcome back from where I sent you. However, where is the black ant to which I sent you in order to bring him here?’ The child told him, ‘When I arrived, I found that they had just come back from working in the garden. He and his wife welcomed me all right, but after the greetings, the black ant asked me, ‘How is your place?’ I told him, ‘At our place we are sick. The one, who is sick, is your friend. What we need to heal him is a cow. But let us go and he will tell you.’ When I told him, he just exclaimed, “Woo haaa, but if the wasp loses weight without him having any problem, then what does he look like when he falls ill?” He then breathed heavily and became very much confused. That is what he said. He did not say anything else. When I finished telling him, I came back.’ The father said, ‘Let us look at the road and see whether he’s coming.’ I tell you, my friend, they looked and looked at the road. However, the black ant did not come. What happened later was that the wasp’s health improved without his friend, the black ant, having come to see him. It is for that reason the wasp said, ‘I thank the black ant for refusing to come and see me, when I was ill. One day, he too will fall ill.’ One day, when the wasp was walking around, he met his friend, the black ant. The wasp said to him, ‘Hullo, my friend, I am glad to see you.’ The wasp asked his friend, ‘How is your place?’ ‘We are fine’, the friend answered. The wasp told his friend, the black ant, ‘You fellow, you are very bad. Your friend fell seriously ill and sent you his child to ask you to come and see him. However, you refused to come and see me. Or did my child not visit you?’ The black ant answered stammering, ‘the child did come and then and then, then, yes, yes, what happened... .’ He became ashamed and confused.


A few days passed. The black ant became very ill to the extent of losing consciousness at intervals. That is why he too sent his child, saying, ‘You go and tell my friend, the wasp, that your friend is very ill. You come with me, so that you can still see him, because this illness will carry him away. Do not delay’. The child set off to where her father had sent her, namely to the wasp. She arrived there, when they just had come back from work. The wasp and his wife were taking a rest. However, they welcomed the child and greeted her. ‘How is our friend?’ The child replied, ‘We are all right. They asked the child again, 'How is your place?’ The child replied, ‘We are ill.’ Then they asked her, ‘Who is ill?’ The child replied, ‘Father is the one, who is ill and we are just waiting for his death to carry him off. Let us go so that he sees you before he dies.’ When the wasp received the news of his friend, the black ant, he just exclaimed, ‘Woo, ahaaa, but when the black ant stinks without any problem, then what when he is ill? He must have gone bad. Stinking like the dead! Even the attendants are probably suffering from the stench which is about to kill them.’ When the child finished informing them, she went back. When she arrived home, her father, the black ant, welcomed her back from the wasp’s place. The daughter replied, ‘Yes, father, I have come back.’ The black ant asked his daughter, ‘But where is my friend, the wasp? Did I not send you to bring him here?’ The child replied, ‘I reached there and told him, ‘Your friend is very ill. We are just waiting for death to carry him off. Therefore, let us go that he can see you before he dies.’ He only exclaimed, “Woo, ahaaa, but when the black ant stinks without him having any problem, then what when he is ill? How much does he stink? Even the attendants are suffering from the stench which is about to kill them.” He told me only that and nothing more.’ The black ant, after being told by his daughter those words of his friend, the wasp, said, ‘Haaa! We have difficulties to approach strangers, but my friend, the wasp, refused to come and see me and even abused me. From now onwards, we are no longer friends.’ The black ant decided to build his home underground, saying: ‘In that case, I do not need to look at the wasp.’ The wasp built his home up in the trees, saying, ‘In that case I do not encounter the black ant that spoilt our friendship.’ Explanations: 1. We need to show our empathy with friends in case of illness, death or other grave incidences or problems. We ourselves too appreciate our friends’ presence in those circumstances. 2. We need to control our tongue, also when we are angry. Our words can destroy longstanding friendships. ‘A fallen tree rots away, words do not rot away’ (PK2516). Words can have a permanent effect. 3. Note the beautiful and empathetic expression: ‘We are ill.’ The illness of one person affects his whole family.


103. The palm larva

Once upon a time, a certain hunter was an expert in catching white termites. Sometimes, when he could not go hunting, he used to split rotten logs and extract palm larvae out of them. He would take them home, roast and eat them. In the beginning, this man was alone at home except for his dog, which would assist him in hunting. One day, the hunter decided to marry. He looked for a wife. It did not take long to find a bride and to marry her. After bringing her home, he asked his wife, ‘My friend, do you like palm larvae, termites and bush meat? His wife replied that she did not eat any of them. Some days later, the man went to split logs, came back with palm larvae, roasted and ate them. The remainder he gave to his wife to keep them for him. Early next morning the man left to work in his garden. After he had left, the wife decided to try the palm larvae. What happened was that one of the larvae became stuck to her mouth. She came out of the house to see if anybody could remove the larva from her mouth. However, there was nobody. The dog saw her and began to sing the following song: The bride has a palm larva; the bride has a palm larva on her mouth. The bride has a palm larva, a palm larva on her mouth. Please, come and remove, please, come and remove a palm larva from her mouth. When the woman heard the dog singing, she also sang: Mr Dog, come and remove, Mr Dog, come and remove the palm larva from my mouth. Please, come and remove, please, come and remove the palm larva from my mouth. The dog refused to remove it from her mouth. Her husband came back and found her in the same sorry state. He sent her away. She went back to her parents with the palm larva still stuck to her mouth. Explanations 1. The story teaches us not to deceive anybody. 2. It is good to be open about what we eat or like to eat rather than pretend not to eat and then to pinch a certain kind of food. Be open and sincere in life like the hammer, which does not hide its bang (CRC1165). 267

104. The one, who warns you, is your friend.

Once upon a time, there was a rich man, who was a great farmer. He cultivated different kinds of crops. He possessed many sorts of livestock including cows and bulls of the local variety. Some of his cows gave milk. If someone needed milk, be it sour, fresh or ghee, he could go to this rich man and get some. The rich man was called Isabirye. His wife was called Nabirye. They had children and many grandchildren. One day, Isabirye visited the room where he kept his groundnuts. He saw that most sacks had holes in them. The mouse and his friends had gnawed holes in the sacks and had eaten most of the groundnuts. Many sacks were almost empty. He became very angry, called his wife Nabirye and showed her what the mice had done to the groundnuts. He asked her, ‘Please, give me water that I can bathe before going to the market to buy a trap. The mouse and his friends really annoy me.’ Isabirye, after bathing and taking tea, walked to the market, bought a trap and brought it home. At night, Isabirye laid the trap baited with a roasted groundnut to attract the mouse and his friends. He placed it in the room exactly on the path, which the mouse and his friends usually took to the groundnuts. Unfortunately, the mouse, the leader of the group, was not around, when Isabirye laid the trap. He had gone for a celebration, where a friend of his married three wives at the same time. It is a tradition that, when the leader is out, nobody of the group may look for food. When the big mouse came back, he saw the trap on the way to his residence, where he had left his friends. He put his hand to his mouth and thought for quite a long time. He had a brainwave and said, ‘Let me go and tell our friends with whom we live in Isabirye’s house and see whether they can help us with this problem, because, if the trap is not moved or removed, my friends will die of hunger in their little holes.’ The mouse walked over to the cock and said, ‘My friend, I have come to warn you that Isabirye has laid a trap. If you do not come and remove it, you will get caught.’ The cock laughed very loudly and replied, ‘For me, at nightfall, I go, roost and dose off. Where or how will that trap catch me? Only you, who pilfer Isabirye’s groundnuts, will be caught. From the cock, the mouse went to the goat and told him, ‘My friend, I have come to warn you that Isabirye has laid a trap. If you do not remove it, you might get caught.’ The goat answered him, ‘I think you are under the influence of the spirits. Have you ever seen me move at night in Isabirye’s house as you, mice, do? Maybe the trap will catch you and your friends who eat his peanuts.’ The mouse was undeterred. He went to see the sheep and warned her in the same way. However, the sheep, a person of few words, reacted angrily. First, she sneezed strongly, sending saliva all over the mouse. Then, she abused him, saying, ‘You, stupid fool! Have you come to mock me and make me your slave? Have you ever seen me enter Isabirye’s house? It is you and your friends that stay there and eat the goodies. You, mouse, go and drop dead!’ 268

Lastly, the mouse went to the cow in tears. When the cow saw him, she asked him, ‘What is wrong, my friend? Why are you crying like a buffalo?’ The mouse replied, ‘It is for your sake that I am crying! The cow said, ‘I am still alive; why would you cry?’ The mouse told her, ‘Mrs Cow, listen to what I am going to explain. Isabirye laid a trap in the house. His aim is to kill you, the sheep, the goat and the cock. I thought that you did not know about the danger. That is why I have come to warn you. If all of you die, I will be left alone!’ When the cow heard the story, she laughed so loudly that even people far away heard the laugh. She even fell and rolled over while laughing. After that she calmed down and said, ‘My friend, the mouse, you make me laugh enough to burst. I do not know how to give you a decent answer... By the way, is the doorway of Isabirye’s house wide enough for me to enter? In addition, another point, I do not eat groundnuts. Therefore, I am not interested either. However, what I have seen is that you want us to clear the way for you by removing the trap, so that you can steal the owner’s food. For that matter, we all are tired of your continuous pilfering. Go and get trapped!’ When the mouse saw that everybody turned down his proposal, he decided to visit the kitchen and wait for the night, before doing anything. That very night, the snake, that had spent the whole day without any food, entered Isabirye’s house unnoticed to look for food. Immediately, he was firmly caught in the trap. Therefore, when Isabirye heard the sound of the trap, he thought that he had caught a mouse. That is why he did not even switch on the light. He made a beeline for the trap, being afraid that the mouse might escape. On his way, he picked up a stick to beat and kill the mouse. However, it was a hungry snake filled with pain and anger. In the dark, the snake bit Isabirye several times. That is why he called his wife, Nabirye, to bring a lamp. That is when he discovered to have caught a huge snake instead of a mouse. They beat and killed the snake. Not long afterwards, Isabirye fell ill. A healer administered him some local medicine. They called the neighbours who also came with all kinds of medicine. However, as the saying goes: ‘A wound that is intent on getting worse, does not respond to treatment.’ (CRC944). When the cock crowed before dawn, Isabirye breathed his last and raised up his chin. His wife Nabirye and the neighbours cried loudly and started mourning. That morning, the villagers and other mourners gathered and discussed how to bury their dead friend Isabirye. The chief said, ‘Because Isabirye was the father of twins, let a death notice be sent to another father of twins to come and officiate at the burial ceremony. That man came and said, ‘Bring a sheep which is to be sacrificed before taking Isabirye’s body out of the house.’ Meanwhile, the mouse was still in the kitchen and followed what was going on. He ran quickly to remind the sheep, ‘My friend, did I not warn you that the trap would catch you?’ However, it was too late. Just at that moment, they came in and pulled the sheep away to be killed.


After the burial of Isabirye, his nephews and nieces asked for a cock before they could light a bonfire in Isabirye’s compound to announce his death publicly. Again, the mouse went to remind the cock and said, ‘My friend, did I not tell you that the trap would catch you?’ He even mocked him, saying, ‘Let us see whether they will ask for a mouse before lighting the bonfire.’ The only thing the cock could do was to cry. When evening came, he too descended into the cooking pot. Lastly, the clan leaders sat to arrange for the last funeral rites. They all agreed with Nabirye, that, because Isabirye was a rich man and an opinion former, they should kill a cow for all the mourners to eat, plus a goat for the in-laws. Because of Isabirye’s death, they removed many things from the house, including the trap. The mouse, celebrating the unexpected victory, went over to his friends, the cow and the goat, to remind them of their conversation and their refusal to listen to his advice. He found them at Nakivubo swamp, both of them in tears. They had received the news about the fate they had to undergo the next day. It was too late. There was nothing they could do, except to be part of the ceremonies of their master’s death, the late Isabirye. The mouse left them in that sorry state and went back to congratulate his friends, who had survived the famine and to greet the mourners. On his way back, he met the dishwasher who was sweating all over. He had been doing lots of work since Isabirye’s death. He informed him what had happened to his friends the cow, the sheep, the goat 270

and the cock. He replied, ‘My friend, the one who warns you is a friend’ (CRC306) and ‘the one who refuses advice, is responsible for his own fate’.

Explanation 1. The fable teaches us to take a warning or advice seriously. We should never say that the problem does not concern us. Indeed, ‘the one who warns you is your friend’ (CRC306). 2. When noticing a danger, we have the moral obligation to warn those being threatened. 3. Sometimes, we have forebodings (e.g. gooseflesh) of a threatening situation: ‘When trouble is afoot, even when we eat cold food, we sweat’ (CRC190). 4. We need to flee danger. ‘The one eating good things abstains from other food, for the insect solonko left the yam and entered a reed’ (CRC388). 5. ‘Little wisdom is dangerous’ (CRC412). Learning can be perilous. We should not think we know it all. We do not know what tomorrow will bring: ‘Before one dies, one can never say that one never will go blind’ (CRC487).


105. The beloved and unloved wife

Once upon a time, there was a man who had two wives; he loved the one and did not love the other. The man had plantations of plantains and sweet bananas of all kinds. Of the plantains, this man liked most the ndíizí and bógóyá, which he would not allow anybody to eat except himself. Maybe he would allow an exceptional visitor to eat them. One day, he cut a bunch of ndíizí, called his wives and said, ‘I have put my bananas aside to ripen. No one is allowed to touch or eat them.’ After some time, the beloved went and inspected the bananas to see whether they were ripe. She picked a banana and ate it. She then took the peel and threw it into the bedroom of her rival. Later that day, the husband came back from the garden. He went to inspect his bananas. He noticed that someone had removed one banana. He called his wives and children and asked, ‘Who ate one of my bananas?’ However, everybody denied having taken that banana. Afterwards, the beloved said, ‘Maybe your wife ate the banana. Go into her bedroom and see.’ The man went into her bedroom and found the banana peel. He got hold of the unloved wife, beat her and killed her.’ All his children became afraid and ran away. As they went, they sang. The children of the beloved wife were the ones singing the following song: ‘Mother ate the banana and threw the peel into the unloved’s bedroom.’ ‘Mother ate the banana and threw the peel into the unloved’s bedroom.’ ‘Mother ate the banana and threw the peel into the unloved’s bedroom.’ ‘Mother ate the banana and threw the peel into the unloved’s bedroom.’ The children of the late unloved wife all sang as follows: ‘Mother is rotting, mother is rotting, mother’s body is rotting Mother is rotting, mother is rotting, mother’s body is rotting Mother is rotting, mother is rotting, mother’s body is rotting.’ They continued singing, until they reached their grandparents’ home. When they arrived, people heard them singing and asked them why they were singing as they did. The children of the beloved wife answered, ‘Mother is the one who ate the banana and threw the peel into her rival’s bedroom.’ Those of the unloved wife replied, ‘Father killed mother, because mother, the beloved, ate the banana and threw the peel into mom’s bedroom.’


The grandparents stood up, went over there and discovered that their daughter had been murdered. They became furious, grabbed the loved wife, beat her and killed her. That is when I left them burying two bodies, the one of the beloved and the one of the unloved wife.

Explanations 1. Women sharing the same husband will always be rivals, vying to win their husband’s favour. ‘With jealousy in a woman’s heart, she has no peace of mind’ (CRC874). 2. ‘Two families are a problem’ (CRC433). Divided loyalty creates problems. 3. ‘The one, who is not the parent, places a heavy stone on the child’ (CRC513). The mother has pity on her own child. She will not overburden her own child. 4. ‘Being fed up in one’s marriage makes one bring one’s younger sister as a co-wife’ (CRC876). One tries to solve one problem by creating another one. 5. ‘If your rival pays your dowry, quarrels will never cease’ (PK462). The first wife will feel herself always superior. That is the origin of a bad relationship. 5. ‘Being argumentative causes the unloved wife to be beaten’ (CRC1218). It is very difficult to live with the feeling of not being loved or appreciated. 6. ‘There is a favourite wife and the wife out of favour’ (PK2879). A polygamist needs to be impartial, though we know that nobody appreciates everybody in the same way.


106. The heron with its long neck

Once upon a time, the fox lived happily as a great hunter. Apart from his many hunting skills, he was very lucky. Whenever he went hunting, he would come back with lots of meat. The fox was therefore nicknamed: ‘He never misses'. However, despite all his luck, the fox was very gluttonous. One day, the fox went hunting. He killed an animal. However, instead of taking the meat home and sharing it with his wife and children, he decided to devour it in the bush. I tell you, “When bad things are to happen, whatever you taste becomes sour.” When the fox ate that animal, a bone became stuck in his throat. By retching and vomiting, the fox tried hard to remove the bone from his throat. However, the bone did not move. When the fox realised that he could not remove the bone himself, he decided to look for help. However, whomever he asked for help, refused to do so. They all thought he was just playing a trick. At last, the fox approached the heron. He requested the heron, saying, ‘My friend, please remove that bone from my throat. I am poor, but I shall give you whatever you ask for.’


To tell you the truth, the heron did not even remember the proverb, which says, “The one you know to be an expert in handling a spear, do not wait for him to reach out for that weapon”. He just stretched out his neck, pushed his head into the fox’s mouth and removed the bone. When the fox felt that the bone had been removed, he grasped the heron’s head, saying, ‘My friend, you have saved me. However, since yesterday, I have not tasted any meat.’ The heron regretted having put his head into the fox’s mouth. What happened next was a great struggle between the heron and the fox. In the end, the heron managed to free himself, because the fox felt tired and was weak from the pain caused by the bone. The heron fled the scene, but now with an elongated neck. Ever since that day, the heron has, as you know, a very long neck. Explanations 1. It is bad to betray someone’s goodness. One’s love is not sincere. - ‘It is a cheating kind of goodness’ (PK1590). - ’Someone has the body of a sheep, but the heart of a leopard’ (PK1646). - ‘Love in the eyes, but hatred in the heart’ (PK1865). - ‘The antelope thought the leopard to be his friend (PK424). 2. Sometimes, we regret that we need to live with a certain person. When we help him, he causes us problems (see PK417).


107. The hornbill and the black ant

Once upon a time, there were two friends, the hornbill and the black ant. At that time, a severe famine hit the country. Fortunately enough the black ant was very rich. At first people thought lightly of the famine. However, the famine persisted for a long time. People and animals suffered very much. Food became a great problem. One day, the hornbill realised that the famine had come to stay. He went to see his friend, the black ant. He said, ‘My friend, I have come to ask you to help me with eight hundred shillings to buy food. At home, we are all very hungry.’ The black ant was not amused by the request. However, he agreed to give him eight hundred shillings. Of course, the hornbill promised him that he would pay the money back after one month. The proverb says, ‘The days you promised the one you owe, pass quickly (CRC1120). After one month, the black ant went to his friend’s home to ask for his money. The hornbill saw him coming from a distance and flew to a high and mighty tree. He knew that the black ant could not climb it. When the black ant arrived at the foot of the big tree, he asked the hornbill, ‘My friend, how much do you owe me?’ The hornbill answered, ‘Four hundred’. The black ant was greatly surprised to hear his friend denying the other four hundred shillings. One month later, the black ant went back to demand his money. However, this time he knew how to climb the big tree. Again, at the foot of the tree, the black ant asked for his money. The hornbill denied owing him eight hundred shillings. While the hornbill did not notice him, the black ant climbed the tree slowly. When the black ant caught up with his friend, he bit him in his mouth and asked him, ‘How much do you owe me?’ In great pain, the hornbill cried out, ‘Lúnáána, lúnáána, lúnáána (eight hundred, eight hundred, eight hundred). To this very day, the hornbill flies looking for ways to pay his debt to the black ant. We hear him shout, ‘Lúnáána, lúnáána, lúnáána’ i.e. eight hundred, eight hundred, eight hundred. Explanation 1. ‘When receiving a loan, people laugh; when you ask for the payment, they become angry’ (PK2336). Often people find it difficult to repays their loans in time. 2. ‘The one who comes to you for a loan, does not show up when it is time to reimburse’ (CRC320). 3. ‘What has been agreed upon, one should not fail to fulfil’ (CRC209). 4. ‘When you sleep with a loan, your heart does not sleep’ (PK2621). An honest person does not feel at ease, until he has paid back his loan. ‘Without a debt, you sleep relaxed’ (PK809).


108. Gourd ladles

Once upon a time, a man had two wives. He loved the one but not the other. He had a child with both wives. One day, the man went to the lake. When he got there, he saw four small gourd ladles floating in the middle of the lake. They were shiny, glittery and attractive. He desired to possess them. He returned home, called his wives and children and told them, ‘I just have come back from the lakeshore, where I have seen small gourd ladles, which are very beautiful. However, they are in the middle of the lake. The child, who will fetch them for me, is the one I shall make my heir.’ The child of the favourite wife was the first one to go to the lakeshore, whilst singing on the way: ‘I am going for the small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles. I am going for the small gourd ladles, which are in the lake. I, the child of the beloved wife, I am going for the small gourd ladles, which are in the lake’ (x 3) He arrived at the lakeshore and saw the small gourd ladles, looked at them from a distance. However, he was not able to fetch them. He went home without the small gourd ladles. The child of the unloved wife went to the lake also, whilst singing on the way: ‘I am going for the small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles. I am going for the small gourd ladles, which are in the lake. I, the child of the unloved wife, I am going for the small gourd ladles, which are in the lake’ (x 3) When this child arrived at the lake, he was struck by darkness for a little while. When he opened his eyes, the four small gourd ladles were hanging round his waist. He was elated and came back singing again: I return from fetching the small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles, small gourd ladles. I return from fetching the small gourd ladles, which were in the lake. I, the child of the unloved wife, 277

I return from fetching the small gourd ladles, which were in the lake. When he reached home, his father and mother were very happy; they rejoiced wholeheartedly. His father lifted him up and said, ‘I make you heir of all my property.’ The favourite wife became annoyed and walked away with her child. Explanations 1. Each person has his or her own charisma. ‘Everybody is different’ (PK798). ‘A monkey’s children do not all have the same face’ (PK185). ‘The viper and the python have different patterns’ (PK1685). Each person has a different character. 2. The child of the unloved wife carried the day. It is like the Gospel saying: ‘The last will be first and the first, last’ (Matthew 20,16). 3. In a polygamous situation, jealousy thrives. Competition should rather replace jealousy. ‘If you have the choice between envy and competition, choose competition’ (PK1483). 4. Avoid envy by all means, because envy is regarded as the cause of witchcraft. ‘Envy does not pass by anybody, not even your relative’ (PK1482).


109. Murder

Once upon a time, a man had married four wives. They brought forth four children: all daughters. The child of the first wife was called Necklaces. The second one was called Beauty. The third daughter was called Skinny. The fourth one was called Ugly. Sometime later, the man divorced three of his wives, remaining with the mother of Ugly. However, the man loved his daughter Necklaces far more than the rest of his daughters. This annoyed Ugly’s mother so much that she decided to kill Necklaces. One day, Ugly’s mother sharpened her knife before preparing the children’s beds. After tucking the children in, she went to the main house. When she was on her way to the main house, Necklaces and Ugly switched beds. A little while later, Ugly’s mother left her husband to check on the children. Arriving at the children’s dormitory, she stabbed her child Ugly, thinking that she was stabbing Necklaces. After murdering the child, she tucked them all in. At dawn, the woman woke up early in order to wake up the children. When she arrived at the children’s house, she sang the following song: Let me go and open, let me go and open. Let me go and open for Ugly. Let me go and open, let me go and open. Let me go and open for Beauty. Let me go and open, let me go and open. Let me go and open for Skinny. Let me go and open, let me go and open. Let me go and open for Necklaces. The children answered in their song: We are inside, we are inside, We are inside, Beauty. We are inside, we are inside. We are inside, Skinny. We are inside, we are inside. We are inside, Necklaces. They have murdered Ugly. They have murdered Ugly. The husband was outside and heard how his wife called the children. He became very much afraid, when he came closer and heard the children’s reply. He clearly heard the children singing that Ugly had been killed. He ordered his wife to open the children’s dormitory. He entered and indeed found that Ugly was dead. His wife started crying and shouting, ‘I have murdered myself. I intended to kill Necklaces.’ There and then, the man killed his wife, because she had killed the child. 279

That is where I left them burying two corpses, that of the child Ugly and her mother. Explanations 1. Murder works like a boomerang. It kills also the author of the act. ‘The one, who does not trust God, is the secretary of the witches (CRC527)’. Witches end up creating many problems for themselves and others. 2. Jealousy, if not restrained, may lead to witchcraft and murder. ‘The shrewdness of a witch, after killing, causes him/her to wonder how the victim died’ (CRC442).


110. I never retrace my footsteps

Once upon a time, a girl did not manage to obtain a husband. The very first young man, who asked for her hand, went away, when he heard the condition put down by her father. The condition was that, when he, the father of the girl, would die, his son-in-law would be buried with him in the same grave. The price for such a bride was too high for any candidate. Other candidates also withdrew after hearing the father’s condition. One day, another young man presented himself. His name was ‘I never retrace my footsteps’. This time also the father of the bride put down the same condition. The young man agreed. The marriage was celebrated and the young man took his happy bride home. Very soon, she became pregnant. After the birth of her baby, she went home to her parents and proudly presented her son. The baby looked beautiful. One year later, she gave birth again, this time to a daughter. This time also she went to her parents to show her daughter. After a couple of weeks, she came back. Their daily life took its normal routine. One day, the bad news came that her father had fallen seriously ill. They took their children and left home to visit her dying father. They did all they could, but the old man could not be saved. In the evening, they prepared a huge bonfire in front of the house of the deceased. That night, they held the traditional wake. Early next morning, a carpenter made a coffin. In the afternoon, the funeral procession made its way to the graveyard. When they had finished digging the grave, people invited the son-in-law to lie down on the bottom of the grave. He complied with the invitation and lay down. His wife burst out in tears, because she would say goodbye to both her father and her husband. The village men slowly lowered the coffin into the grave. They then discovered that the grave was too shallow to contain both the son-in-law and the coffin. The coffin could not descend properly. They removed the coffin and asked the young man to come out of the grave. They had to do some more digging. When they had dug the grave at its proper depth, people invited the young man again to lie down on the bottom of the grave. However, he said, ‘What is this all about? Did you forget my name? I am called “I never retrace my footsteps”.’ All people present rejoiced. They shook hands with him and embraced him. They were extremely happy that he had found a way out of his predicament. They buried the old man in a dignified manner. They were grateful that the father had found a fitting husband for his daughter. Explanations 1. Life can be very complicated. It takes courage and a sense of responsibility for a young man to become an adult. It takes courage but also a shrewdness to weasel one’s way out of a difficult situation. 2. This story runs parallel to the many stories of the tortoise, which constantly needs all his shrewdness to dodge his way out of life-threatening situations and save his skin. 281

111. The squirrel and his wife.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bombúla. He was a bachelor. One day, he sat down and made snares to catch squirrels. He lined them up in a tree. The next day, he inspected his snares and saw that he had caught one squirrel. He took the snare in order to kill the squirrel. But the animal said, ‘Bombúla, do not kill me. I‘ll be your spouse’. Bombúla said to himself, ‘A squirrel is an animal. How can an animal be my wife?’ Together they returned to the village. When the squirrel left the forest, it turned into a woman. She stipulated one strict condition, ‘Look, once we are together, you should never, not even in your anger or when you lose your patience, mention that I am a squirrel. If you call me a squirrel in front of others, I will leave you for good. You will then be more miserable than you were before.’ The man agreed to the condition and they lived happily together. One day, the man planted a palm tree of high quality. He called his wife and said, ‘Listen to what I am saying. I too stipulate a condition: When this palm tree gets fruits, you should never give them to someone else. If you ever give one nut of this tree to someone else, then I shall no longer be bound by your condition.’ His wife understood what he was saying and agreed with her husband. Some weeks later, she became pregnant and eventually gave birth to a son. The child grew up and became an adult man. One day, his wife said, ‘My dear husband, we have become a big household with a lot of work. I would appreciate to have a helper.’ The man agreed. Therefore, she went off to her native village and looked for a helper. This woman came along and they lived in a friendly relationship.

The squirrel.


One day, the village chief called all his people together. Bombúla also joined them. At that time, the palm tree was producing beautiful nuts. He gave an order to his son to cut the fruits. The son did what his father had ordered him to do and gave the ripe fruits to his mother. She cooked and pounded them. When she too went to the great meeting, she took some nuts to her husband. When she arrived, she heard that her husband had gone to the toilet. She gave the nuts to someone else. Just at that moment, her husband returned and saw that a man was eating his palm nuts. He asked her, ‘Who has given him those nuts?’ She answered: ‘I gave them to him.’ The husband became furious, because she had not kept her promise. He said, ‘You, awful squirrel, are you not aware that you have broken your pledge?’ At hearing his words, the wife became very angry. She felt ashamed and went back to the house. She said to her helper, ‘Come together with my son, we are off.’ The helper stood up. However, the son did not want to leave. He said, ‘I am not leaving. I do not want to abandon dad.’ The women left and returned for good to their native village. When the man came home, he found the house empty and abandoned, because the women had packed and taken along all their belongings. In this way, Bombúla became a bachelor again and his misery was worse than ever before. Explanations 1. Husband and wife should never humiliate each other in public. If one of them does so, that is the end of their marriage. Each person has a right to his/her dignity 2. Strict conditions like ‘over my dead body’ bring about grave problems. Marriage consists of compromises. Strict conditions have no place there. 3. When someone has been living as a bachelor for a long time, he will experience great difficulties in his marriage, because he will not always realise that he is no longer a bachelor. Therefore, a proverb says, ‘An old bachelor will never have a wife.’ 4. The helper in the household becomes automatically the second wife of the husband, but she stays subservient to the first wife who invited her. Therefore, the helper leaves the husband together with the first wife. 5. The son did not leave the home together with his mother. In a patriarchal society, the children belong to the father’s family. 6. After the break-up of his marriage, the life of an old bachelor is even more miserable than before. His wives had spoilt him. Now he has to do all the chores himself. 7. The nuts, which the first wife had prepared, were a nice gift for her husband. When she gave them to another man, she gave the impression that that man was her lover. That was a solid reason for her husband to become infuriated.


112. Mister Bosala

Mister Bosala was a real hunter. One day, he took his cassava buns and entered the forest. The first thing he did was to build a decent shelter. He made a small fire and went to sleep. The next day, he went hunting. Whilst walking, he bent small branches to be able to find his way back to the shelter. He encountered a herd of wild pigs. However, those pigs talked with one another like people do. They said, ‘That fellow Bosala kills us every day. We did not do anything to deserve that punishment. What is his problem?’ The boar of the herd told them, ‘If ever an arrow of his hits me, all of you should attack and kill him.’ When Bosala heard this, he became afraid and retreated to his shelter. When evening came, he took his cassava buns, ate them and went to sleep. The next day, he took his arrows and went hunting. This time, he met a solitary wild pig; he shot an arrow and killed the animal. He took the animal along to the shelter.

The following day, he was off hunting again. He killed several animals. However, he could not retrace his steps. He was lost in the forest! For quite a while, he hurried along in the forest. However, he did not find his way back. In the end, he sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree. Whilst sitting there, he heard chickens cackle. Bosala thought, ‘If there are chickens, a village must be near’. He ran in the direction of the cackle. However, there was no village at all. What he did find, was a chickens’ village without any sign of a human settlement. Whilst exploring the surroundings, he found an enormous field of big and long sugarcanes. Bosala was hungry. He took a long cane to alleviate his appetite. However, when the chickens heard the noise Bosala was making in breaking the 284

sugarcane, they all attacked him and pecked at him all over his body. Bosala had wounds all over his body. He ran for his dear life and ended up in his village. When his relatives saw his wounds, they asked him, ‘What happened? How did you get those wounds?’ He replied, ‘The chickens pecked at me after I had taken sugarcane from their garden.’ His relatives said, ‘Let us go. Show us the way to those chickens.’ They departed. When they arrived at the sugarcane field, Bosala told them, ‘Cut a cane and you will see the chickens coming.’ They had hardly cut a sugarcane, when all the chickens came and attacked them. The peoples grabbed sticks to ward off the attackers and kill them. However, the chickens spread out. Since then you find chickens all over the world. Explanations 1. The life of a hunter is not that easy. He too runs up against all kinds of difficulties. 2. In the tropical forests, you may encounter all kinds of miraculous beings. 3. The chickens organised themselves to ward off common enemies. ‘A war can only be won by a great number of shins (PK1259). Being such vulnerable beings, they protected themselves by living and working together.


113. The rat and the leopard

One day, the rat and the leopard went hunting together. They took their mothers along. In the forest, they built a shelter of leaves and two beds for their mothers. After that, the rat and the leopard went hunting. They divided the animals they caught in four equal parts. After a couple of days, the leopard said, ‘Friend rat, why should we, the four of us, suffer from hunger? Let us kill our mothers, and then we can divide the game in two parts only and eat comfortably. Your belly too will received two big portions rather than one of four small portions. Therefore, let us kill our mothers! The rat agreed to the proposal, but his heart did not agree with what his mouth was saying. He loved his mother very much. That is why he invented a trick. He said, ‘Tomorrow, I shall take my mother to the river. We shall row upstream. You too go to the river with your mother. Wait there until you see the water turning red. Then you know that I killed my mother. Then you should do the same.’ The next morning, the rat and the leopard took their mothers down to the river. The rat helped his mother to get into the dugout. They rowed until the leopard could not see them anymore. Then the rat took two lumps of red limonite stones. He rubbed them against each other above the water. The water turned red. After that, the rat took his mother to an anthill. Quickly he dug a cavity, in which he hid his mother. When the leopard saw the red coloured water, he knew that the rat had killed his mother. Therefore, he got hold of his own mother and killed her.


The rat and the leopard went hunting again. After the hunt, they divided the spoils into two equal portions. The rat took the animals’ intestines to the river and cleaned them. When he had finished cleaning them, he took part of them to his mum. When he returned home with the intestines, the leopard asked him, ‘My friend, these are all the intestines?’ The rat replied, ‘At the river, there were some dogs. I could not keep all of them at a distance.’ The leopard did not reply. Every day, the rat took some meat to his mother. One day, the leopard went for a walk. Near the anthill, he saw so many footprints belonging to the rat that had walked many times up and down to the anthill. He put himself near the anthill and imitated the rat’s voice and said, ‘Mother, open the door; I brought you some meat.’ When the mother rat opened the door, the leopard caught her and killed her. When, in the evening, the leopard returned home, he did not whisper a single word. The next day, the rat took some meat to his mother, he found her dead in front of the anthill. His heart knew that the leopard had killed her. That evening, when the rat wept near the fire, the leopard asked him, ‘My friend, what are you crying about?’ The rat replied, ‘I am not crying. You see tears, because the smoke irritated my eyes.’ Explanation 1. The rat and the leopard concluded a pact of friendship, though there was none. The rat came to regret it. ‘Might is right’ or ‘might overcomes right.’ ‘It is the big one that swallows the small one’ (CRC953). 2. ‘Clan members love one another as long as they are rich’ (CRC72). Birds of the same feather flock together. Material inequality is often the cause of division. 3. One should not be naïve. ‘Being too friendly can make the cricket bite you’ (CRC979).


114. The monkeys choose a chief

Very long ago, the monkeys came together to choose a chief. The oldest monkey said: ‘The one with the most beautiful voice will be our chief.’ All the monkeys replied and agreed by saying ‘eeeeeee’. The oldest monkey stood up and asked their attention by calling ‘Kise, kise.’ All the monkeys said, ‘In any case, you will not be our chief.’ Then the black monkey called and said, ‘Inyako, inyako.’ The monkeys replied, ‘No, you will not be our chief.’ Then the red monkey stood up and shouted, ‘Hwe, hwe’. The monkeys refused to choose him as their chief as well. Then the chimpanzee raised his voice and shouted, ‘Hwiya, hwiya.’ The monkeys did not want him as their chief. They ridiculed him and answered, ‘No, not at all; no, not at all.

In the end, the mbeka (Cercopithecus) monkey called ‘kuu, kuu, kuu’. The whole gathering praised the monkey. They all called, ‘Our chief, our chief.’ That is how the mbeka monkey became their chief. 288

Explanation 1. The monkey chosen is one of the smaller monkeys. Traditionally people do not want a big bully to be their chief. They want to be left in peace to do their daily chores. They prefer an unassuming, kind and wise person to lead and guide them. 2. In hardly any case, Bantu peoples are organised in kingdoms. Their chiefs are chosen among the village people. They and their councils rule the clan by preventing small disputes to escalate. They have no standing armies. They rule by persuasion.


115. The monkey’s heart

Many, many years ago, in the Kagera River, which divides Uganda from Tanzania, there lived a huge crocodile. He happened to be a great friend of the monkey. You could say that they were more like brothers than friends. Every day, the crocodile used to swim under the great fruit tree to chat with his friend, the monkey. He enjoyed listening to the stories, which the monkey would narrate. One day, the crocodile´s mother fell ill. As she felt that she was not getting any the better, she decided to go and consult the local healer. The healer was a good-natured person. He told her, ‘If you want to get over this illness of yours, bring me the heart of a monkey.’ When she told her son what it would take to heal, he was flabbergasted. However, he said to himself that, anyway, the task of obtaining a monkey’s heart would not be too difficult, his friend being so near. The crocodile did not waste any time in looking for a way to get hold of the monkey. He decided to invite him over to his place. The problem was of course that the monkey did not know how to swim. However, the crocodile crossed the river and promised to carry the monkey on his back. Therefore, the next day, the monkey jumped on the back of his friend. And off they went. When they reached the middle of the river, the crocodile told the monkey what the healer had told his mother. The monkey laughed wholeheartedly and berated his friend for not informing him sooner, because he had left his heart at home. Therefore, they turned around and went back. When they reached where they had started their trip, the monkey climbed into his tree to fetch his heart. However, when he attained the top, he told the crocodile: ‘Go home, you stupid ass! We, monkeys, appreciate our hearts as well.’ The crocodile waited and waited. You can well imagine that the monkey would not come down again. My friend, this is how the monkey escaped death by using his brains!

Explanation 1. ‘If you do not see the way, go back’ (PK2502). Going back, you gain time to reflect. 2. ‘It is a feigned friendship’ (PK866). The friendship of some people is only temporary, followed by quarrels and deceptions. 3. ‘The heart detests you, while the mouth smiles at you.’ (PK897). Someone is fooling you. 4. A distant relation is better than a close friendship (CRC197). Friendships may cease any time.


INDEX advice:15, 19, 30, 32, 55, 59,75,76, 86,101, 102, 106,111, 114, 123, 149, 161,166, 167, 182, 198, 270, 271. advise: 45, 55, 114, 126, 159, 225, 226, 237. ancestor: 6, 8, 18, 19, 22, 23, 28, 30, 34, 66, 68, 69, 80, 81, 103, 116, 119, 176, 185, 188. angry: 16, 17, 33, 49, 50, 65, 66, 68, 69, 85, 86, 93, 101, 109, 133, 134, 142, 165, 167, 171, 172, 174, 181, 182, 186, 188, 195, 196, 201, 229, 266, 268, 276, 283. animal: 2, 3, 6-11, 21-23, 25, 36, 37, 43-45, 66, 75, 79, 82, 85, 86, 88, 91, 94, 96, 99-102, 105-107, 111, 116, 119, 123-125, 129, 130, 133, 134, 138, 144, 145, 152, 160,162, 164, 166-169, 172, 178, 181, 182, 195, 196, 199-202, 205-207, 212, 215, 219, 220, 223, 233, 246, 249, 256, 258, 259, 261, 274, 276, 282, 284, 286, 287. ant: 4, 155, 182, 222, 265, 266, 276. antelope: 7, 62, 94, 99-102, 138, 142, 145, 154, 167, 195, 196, 219, 233, 275. ashes: 40, 113, 145, 150. authority: 31, 32, 110, 111, 114, 123. baby: 2, 25, 26, 55, 62, 73, 97-102, 185, 193, 211, 213, 214, 246, 281. bachelor: 34, 44, 64, 102, 282, 283. banana: 14, 15, 29, 53, 54, 73, 74, 76, 80, 81, 124, 125, 129, 132, 145, 154, 158, 166-168, 183, 202, 235, 259, 272. barren: 4, 25, 237. Básogá: 1, 6, 18, 30, 31, 35, 57, 61, 117, 119, 299. bat: 88, 89, 145, 146, 199, 200. bath(e): 132, 180, 181, 194, 226, 269. beast: 65, 219. beat: 57, 68, 70, 75, 86, 88, 97, 100, 103, 120, 133, 134, 139, 145, 146, 156, 158, 167, 180, 185, 188, 202, 203, 206, 209, 213, 214, 221, 240, 245, 248, 256, 257, 269, 272, 273. bee:129, 201, 202. bewitch: 119,129, 148, 164, 167, 185, 252. bird: 3, 21, 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 41, 62, 86, 88, 89, 158, 163, 169, 178, 180, 186, 191, 192, 205, 206, 212, 222, 241, 246, 247. birth: 15, 21-23, 25, 26, 29, 32, 50, 55, 58, 62, 68, 69, 80, 88, 100, 104, 143, 207, 211, 233, 281, 282. bonfire: 8, 39, 40, 270, 281. boy: 21, 23, 25-27, 29, 34, 46, 57, 64, 65, 68, 73, 80, 106, 110, 112, 113, 122, 127, 130, 131,133, 134, 144, 152, 158, 162, 176, 193, 211. breast: 62, 185, 195. bride: 18, 20, 107, 174, 267, 281. bride price:19, 76, 102, 104, 105, 127, 141, 225 (see dowry). brother: 2, 10, 11, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, 27-32, 34, 35, 46, 64, 73, 80, 104, 127, 131, 139, 141, 152, 155, 159, 189, 191, 201, 206, 238, 290. bulbul: 3, 210. burial/bury: 1, 18, 31, 40, 54, 57, 58, 80, 81, 125, 140, 147, 240, 246, 247, 249, 269, 270, 273, 280, 281. burn: 35, 40, 65, 91, 117, 190, 204, 215, 241. bush: 18, 43, 47, 56, 62, 75, 82, 109, 116, 135, 162, 164, 168, 169, 180, 184, 187, 188, 199, 205, 206, 223, 235, 236, 251, 267, 274. bushbuck: 91, 92, 164, 205, 206, 255. Búsogá: 18, 183, 300. cat: 1, 75, 82-84, 106, 127, 129, 175, 250, 251. caterpillar: 21, 62, 81, 148, 174, 190. cattle: 13, 14, 18, 73, 162, 176. chappie: 41. cheat: 119, 182, 186, 188, 190, 275. chicken: 14, 15, 18, 46, 66, 72, 112, 114, 123, 139, 140, 152, 154, 159, 163, 165, 167, 173, 183-185, 201, 213, 230, 284, 285. chief: 5, 45, 46, 54, 67, 68, 70, 113, 114, 121-123, 125, 140, 141, 215, 257, 260, 261, 269, 283, 288, 289. child: 6, 8, 15-21, 23-26, 29-31, 33, 35, 38, 44, 46, 48, 50, 56, 59, 64-67, 72-76, 80, 81, 90, 94, 99, 100103, 108, 111, 114, 115, 118-121, 125, 129, 130, 133-135, 139, 142-144, 148, 154, 155, 159-162, 164, 171, 172, 176, 179-181, 184, 193, 195, 196, 200, 211-214, 217, 218, 220, 235-239, 241, 243, 246, 258, 260, 264-266, 268, 272-274, 277-283. chimpanzee: 1, 4, 47, 48, 104, 105, 202, 262, 288. clan: 6, 7, 35, 38, 39, 64, 74, 129, 149, 199, 225, 270, 287, 289.


cock: 3, 29, 112, 129, 163, 166-168, 174, 268-271. cockroach: 139, 140. Congo(lese): 6, 9, 18, 20, 21, 30, 34, 56, 62, 65, 76, 78, 81, 99, 105, 148, 190. courage(ous): 6, 7, 10, 19, 23, 25, 32, 57, 91, 121, 142, 163, 215, 216, 224, 225, 230, 257, 259, 281. cow: 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 44, 59, 66, 71, 75, 76, 79, 86, 105, 106, 111, 184, 199, 200, 205, 213, 221, 226, 229, 235, 245, 265, 268-270. cowrie: 106, 184, 221, 237, 256. crocodile: 1, 36, 37, 66-69, 83, 120, 137, 138, 165, 178, 290. daughter: 1, 2, 10, 11, 19, 20, 32, 35, 38-40, 57, 64, 68, 74, 103-107, 160, 173, 177, 191, 192, 226, 239, 243, 246, 266, 273, 279, 281. dead: 1, 6, 31, 49, 65, 69, 80, 82, 103, 112, 113, 122, 156, 158, 160, 162, 164, 197, 205, 234, 236, 237, 247, 266, 268, 269, 279, 283, 287, 299. death: 2, 7, 11, 14-20, 22, 23, 28, 31, 37, 40, 42, 50, 58, 64-66, 68-71, 80, 102, 110, 128, 135, 136, 150, 156, 167, 187, 205, 206, 213, 221, 234, 247, 248, 256, 258, 266, 269, 270, 290. deceit: 7, 116, 117, 167, 186, 192. die: 6, 7, 11, 15, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26-28, 31, 34, 40, 42, 44, 45, 49, 50, 54, 56, 57, 62, 64, 65, 70-72, 75, 119, 125, 127, 129, 130, 133, 135, 136, 140, 143, 147, 149, 150, 158, 164, 200, 205, 209, 214, 216, 220, 223, 229, 232, 234-236, 240, 241, 246, 248, 253, 254, 257, 258, 266, 269, 271, 280, 281. dirt(y): 7, 30, 60, 167, 172, 181, 183, 191, 244. dive: 131, 179, 225. diviner: 57, 104, 107, 150, 238, 246, 257. dog: 2-4, 6, 21, 25, 29, 32, 42, 66, 71, 79, 91, 92, 106, 124, 127, 129, 130, 133, 134, 139-141, 148, 154, 163, 175, 182, 195, 196, 229, 245, 247-249, 267, 287. dowry: 19, 53, 57, 64, 73, 105, 127, 134, 150, 273. (see also bride price). drink: 6, 10-13, 18, 26, 46, 48, 56, 69, 78, 88, 91-93, 113, 121, 181, 195, 197, 198, 211, 221, 225, 230, 236, 245, 256, 257, 259, 260, 261. eagle: 120, 240, 241, 250, 251. eat: 10-12,18, 21, 23, 24, 27, 31, 39, 43, 45, 46, 54, 56, 59, 61, 66, 67, 72, 75, 78, 81, 82, 86, 89, 98, 101, 104, 112, 114, 119, 124, 129, 132, 133, 137, 139, 142, 145-148, 152, 155, 156, 159,162, 166-172, 179, 180, 182-188, 190-192, 195-197, 205, 207, 210, 211, 213, 220-225, 229, 230, 233, 235, 236, 241, 242, 246, 247, 250, 251, 253, 256, 257, 259, 262, 264, 265, 267-272, 274, 283, 284, 286. egoistic: 1, 70. elephant: 2-4, 18, 21, 34, 42, 66, 67, 82, 154-157, 160, 161, 178, 181, 191, 202, 207, 231-234. enemy: 3, 18, 119, 175, 192, 205, 207. envy: 25, 31, 100, 195, 278. excrements: 46, 151, 152. faithful: 1, 25, 65. family: 3, 7, 18, 24, 31, 54, 62, 64, 66, 84, 92, 112, 115, 126, 129, 143, 162, 171, 194, 198, 201, 211, 212, 228, 229, 258, 266, 283. famine: 3, 6, 66, 77, 88, 145, 148, 210-212, 223, 229, 230, 242, 259, 262, 270, 276. father: 8, 11-15, 18, 19, 21, 22, 39, 53, 54, 56, 58, 64, 68, 69, 73, 74, 80, 90, 100, 101, 103-107, 110, 112-115, 118, 131, 133-135, 143, 164, 177, 181, 192, 211, 212, 215, 243, 246, 248, 258, 265, 266, 269, 272, 278, 281, 283. father-in-law: 13, 19, 105, 246. fire: 29, 39, 40, 57, 63, 64, 76, 95, 103, 113, 131, 133, 134, 146, 150-152, 158, 185, 189, 190, 214, 215, 227, 231, 234, 245, 248, 254, 259, 262, 284, 287. fireplace: 58, 63. firstborn: 2, 127, 143. fish: 31, 32, 53, 54, 63, 67-69, 74, 86, 89, 90, 100-102, 118-121, 123, 124, 146-148, 154, 160, 162, 173, 190, 200, 212, 230, 236, 261. fisherman: 2, 40, 66, 71, 95, 118-125. food: 6, 10-12, 17, 21, 23, 24, 27, 29-31, 45, 58, 59, 63, 65, 66, 71, 72, 77, 78, 84, 89, 92, 94, 96, 97, 100, 102, 103, 139, 142, 145, 147, 148, 155, 158, 162, 164, 166, 169-174, 179, 180, 183, 185, 187, 190, 191, 195, 197, 214, 221, 223, 224, 230, 235, 236, 239, 241, 242, 248, 251-253, 255, 256, 258, 259, 263, 267-269, 271, 276. forest: 17, 30, 36-41, 45, 47, 49, 51-53, 56, 57, 62-64, 67, 68, 89-91, 94, 95, 99-105, 109, 113, 116, 123125, 133, 145-148, 152, 160, 161, 169, 170, 178-181, 187-189, 191, 193, 195, 196, 227, 259, 282, 284286. fox: 4, 7, 67, 91, 92, 97-99, 105, 138, 230, 234, 274, 275. friend(ship): 3, 4, 7, 10-12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 37-40, 44, 51, 57, 64-66, 70, 71, 75, 76, 78, 80, 82-87, 91, 92, 94, 95, 101, 102, 110, 111, 116, 120, 123-125, 129, 134, 152, 155-157, 160, 164, 166-175, 177, 180,


182-190, 192, 195-210, 212, 215, 219, 221, 222, 225, 226, 228-233, 235-237, 240, 242, 243, 245, 246, 250-252, 254, 256, 257, 259, 262, 264-271, 274-276, 282, 286, 287, 290. frog: 3, 104, 105, 203, 204, 208, 209. furious: 100, 150, 160, 169, 172, 178, 179, 229, 273, 283. generous: 2, 100-102. girl: 1, 3, 4, 19, 24-29, 32, 34, 38-40, 57, 59, 62, 64, 65, 67, 68, 73, 74, 100, 104, 104, 106, 127, 149, 150, 176, 177, 191, 211, 244, 245, 247, 263, 266, 282. glutton/gluttonous/gluttony: 45, 46,157, 168, 170,180,192, 223-225, 241, 242, 274. goat: 1, 6, 14, 16, 17, 19, 30, 40, 43, 55, 56, 66, 73, 77, 79, 85, 86, 89, 95, 105, 106, 111, 126, 144, 162164, 213, 221, 268-270. grandfather: 8, 80, 217. grateful(ness): 12, 75, 77, 96, 281. grave: 6, 40, 49, 72, 119, 135, 140, 192, 198, 239, 266, 281, 283, 299. guinea fowl: 3, 161, 193, 194, 223, 224. hailstorm: 127, 200. handicapped: 1, 51, 52, 237. happy/happiness: 16, 25, 29, 31, 32, 45, 56, 60-62, 89, 100, 119, 120, 137, 173, 212, 217, 251, 257, 259, 265, 278, 281. hare: 3, 4, 7, 91-93, 105, 137, 138, 183-185, 201, 202, 221, 223-234, 240, 241. hawk: 3, 21, 154, 173, 174. head: 13, 18, 22, 30, 35, 39, 54, 61, 62, 64, 67, 68, 78, 85, 86, 88, 91, 110, 120, 123-125, 129, 147, 162, 164, 167, 176, 177, 191, 196, 201, 209, 227, 228, 233, 234, 243, 257, 261, 275. healer: 55, 56, 65, 89, 184, 193, 269, 290. heart: 5, 8, 32, 57, 59, 61, 64, 83, 123, 149, 156, 167, 181, 182, 184, 196, 220, 230, 264, 273, 275, 276, 286, 287, 290. hen: 4, 14, 114, 159, 241, 244, 263, 264. heron: 4, 121, 202, 274, 275. hill: 16-18, 20, 35, 61, 70, 101, 102, 223, 230, 233, 299. hippopotamus: 3, 178, 181, 202, 244. hospitality: 7, 261. house: 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 24-26, 29, 30, 33, 36, 40, 43, 53, 59, 62, 64, 65, 67, 68, 70, 73, 75, 83, 89, 95, 101, 104, 106, 109, 113, 117, 118, 121, 123, 127-129, 131, 134, 139, 140, 142, 149-152, 157, 158, 160, 167, 171, 177, 183, 194, 196, 199, 210, 218, 220, 221, 223, 225-227, 230, 235, 236, 241, 248, 255, 256, 259, 260, 267-270, 279, 281, 283. hunger: 11, 18, 46, 90, 103, 164, 205, 253, 268, 286. hungry: 11, 27, 30, 45, 67, 68, 78, 82, 139, 145, 168, 184, 189, 191, 195, 201, 251, 269, 276, 284. hunt: 20, 21, 26, 29, 31, 32, 42, 47, 63, 75, 78, 82, 94, 106, 111, 116, 125, 133, 134, 145, 147, 148, 167, 168, 173, 188, 189, 193-195, 207, 215, 224, 233, 235, 267, 274, 284, 286, 287. hunter: 2, 30, 40, 41, 45, 47, 48, 66, 71, 94, 95, 103, 115, 116, 124, 125, 133, 145, 154, 167, 183, 193, 247, 259-261, 267, 274, 284, 285. husband: 16, 19, 23, 24, 30-32, 36, 37, 45, 49, 52-55, 59, 65, 70, 73, 74, 84, 89, 97-102, 104, 106, 107, 126, 138, 145-150, 160, 162, 170, 191-194, 223-227, 237, 239, 241, 243, 246-248, 262, 265, 267, 272, 273, 279, 281-283. hyena: 3, 43, 91, 106, 135, 197, 198, 207, 224, 229. injustice: 34, 116. in-law: 13, 19, 46, 53, 54, 65, 102, 103, 105, 141, 143, 149, 174, 183, 199, 221, 225, 226, 246, 247, 261, 270, 281, 293. Ă?sotĂĄ: 1, 55. jaw: 37, 67, 110, 129. jealousy: 7, 31, 32, 34, 125, 170, 194, 273, 278, 280. justice: 180. Kalungu: 3, 215. kill: 7, 12, 15-19, 21, 22, 27, 33, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 52, 54, 56, 60, 61, 64, 66, 68, 75, 82, 91, 94, 95, 9799, 102, 103, 116, 118, 122, 125, 127, 129, 133, 139,140, 147-150, 152, 156, 158, 160, 162, 164, 167, 187, 188, 192, 195, 196, 198, 200, 208, 209, 215, 216, 219, 221, 225, 230, 231, 233, 234, 240, 241, 245, 248, 249, 252, 257, 259, 262, 264, 266, 269, 270, 272-274, 279, 280, 282, 284-287. king: 11, 17, 24-26, 29-34, 37, 56, 118-120, 164, 169, 201, 208, 215, 240, 241, 247, 289. KintĂş: 1, 10-19, 299. kite: 4, 264. ladle: 4, 139-141, 277, 278. larva: 4, 189, 190, 267.


lazy: 89, 90, 93, 97, 105, 131. leaf : 29, 76, 100, 145, 151, 189. leg: 32, 54, 57, 60, 61, 67, 86, 102, 125, 129, 133, 139, 141, 156, 158, 162, 164, 173, 181, 191, 196, 230, 231, 233, 236, 237, 240, 246, 257. leopard: 2-4, 48, 66, 82, 83, 91, 92, 106, 107, 120, 140, 154, 162, 164, 168, 173, 182, 187-190, 195, 196, 219-222, 228, 229, 233, 234, 250, 251, 275, 286, 287. Lianja: 1, 21-23. liar: 1,167, 182. lightning: 70 lion: 1-4, 7, 36, 37, 82, 85-88, 94-96, 105, 106, 138, 164, 201, 202, 205-207, 228, 229, 234, 259, 261. liver: 56. lizard: 3, 99, 174, 203, 204. Lombóto: 1, 46-48, 143. love(ly)/lover: 2, 7, 11, 29, 32, 35, 57, 58, 60, 64, 65, 106, 149, 150, 156, 158, 169, 176, 218, 235, 241, 244, 249, 272, 273, 275, 277-279, 283, 286, 287. luck: 12, 36, 43, 56, 78, 119, 120, 126, 127, 129, 130, 141, 170, 177, 185, 213, 253, 274, 299. magic: 1, 6, 49, 50, 57, 152. man: 1-4, 10-13, 18, 19, 22, 24, 26-28, 30-33, 35-38, 41, 42, 46-49, 51-53, 57, 59-67, 70, 73-75, 77, 78, 80, 82-86, 88, 94-96, 99, 100, 102,104-106, 111-113, 116, 118-120, 123-125, 127, 131-133, 135, 136, 140-142, 144-147, 158, 162, 163, 176, 177, 182, 184, 193, 197, 200, 208, 211-213, 215, 217, 218, 236, 243-248, 253, 254, 256, 257, 259-261, 267-270, 272, 277, 279-283. marriage: 1, 19, 25, 31, 32, 53, 57-59, 62-65, 99, 105, 107, 150, 168, 198, 199, 244, 273, 281, 283, 298. meal: 12, 24, 31, 45, 48, 58, 60, 99-101, 120, 124, 129, 152, 162, 167, 170-172, 183, 191, 192, 224, 232234, 236, 241, 250, 251. meat: 12, 45, 56, 78, 82, 83, 90, 92, 102, 103, 117, 129, 132-134, 145-148, 151, 152, 160, 161, 167, 173, 184, 185, 187, 188, 190, 193, 197, 224, 233, 236, 246, 260, 267, 274, 275, 287. medicine: 56, 89, 119, 129, 158, 193, 242, 252, 260, 269. Mongo: 6, 9, 18, 20, 21, 50, 79, 116, 117, 131, 200, 216, 298, 299. monkey: 2-5, 21, 66, 88, 89, 93, 106, 115, 125, 154-157, 171, 172, 182, 187, 188, 227, 250, 251, 256, 257, 259, 261, 278, 288-290. moon: 3, 17, 67, 86, 120, 135, 217, 218. mother: 19, 21-24, 29, 32, 35, 39, 44, 48, 64, 76, 80, 86, 90, 97, 100, 101, 114, 116, 119, 129, 133, 134, 139, 143, 144, 149, 150, 160, 162, 164, 180, 181,191, 195, 196, 211, 213-215, 238, 243, 248, 253, 256259, 262, 272, 273, 278-280, 283, 286, 287, 290. mountain: 26-29, 31, 33-35, 68. mouse: 4, 24, 44, 129, 154, 230, 235, 236, 268-271. Mpaayo: 1, 38-40. myth: 1, 6, 8-10, 17, 18, 20-23. Námbi: 10, 11, 14-16, 18-20. ‘Ndiwulírá: 4, 253. neck: 4, 94, 147, 162, 170, 178, 184, 203, 204, 206, 236, 274, 275. net: 47, 48, 94, 95, 111, 116, 118, 120, 124, 152, 182, 186, 187, 233, 236. ngilá: 3, 171, 172. old: 1, 8, 14, 17, 21, 23, 26-28, 30-33, 38, 43, 44, 49, 54, 59, 62, 70, 72-76, 102, 106, 112, 114, 119, 129, 130, 138, 144, 147, 161, 163, 190, 195, 213, 216-218, 229, 237, 256, 259, 260, 262, 265, 281, 283, 288. orphan: 2, 110, 133. otter: 3, 219, 220. owl: 128. packet: 83, 92, 101, 146, 151, 152, 173, 189, 190. palm: 4, 45-48, 60, 68, 69, 74, 89, 142, 145, 146, 190, 192, 267, 282, 283. parent: 8, 19, 24-26, 30-32, 49, 74, 80, 84, 103, 104, 107, 110, 111, 119, 127, 129, 133, 154, 160, 161, 213, 218, 225, 226, 238, 239, 264, 267, 273, 281. party: 4, 202, 231, 240, 241, 244, 250. patience: 50, 76, 123, 282. peace(ful): 21, 24, 69, 75, 100, 103, 110, 117, 130, 144, 145, 194, 204, 239, 252, 273, 289. peacock: 201, 202. pig: 3, 71, 89, 97, 219, 220, 284. pigeon: 59, 88, 89, 213. pit: 11, 34,54, 55, 60, 71, 89, 90, 113, 130, 155, 168, 231. pit latrine: 54, 55, 158. pity: 34, 79, 80, 95, 97, 153, 207, 221, 274. placenta: 80, 81.


poor: 2, 47, 118, 119,123, 127, 135, 139-142, 145, 162, 164, 186, 220, 225, 230, 263, 274. pot: 4, 13, 45, 57-59, 78, 94, 108, 109, 127, 145, 158, 176, 177, 215, 225, 226, 238, 243, 254, 257, 270. potter: 2, 108, 109. power(ful): 7, 56, 67, 69, 71, 91, 124, 156, 198, 200, 205, 215. promise: 33, 39, 62, 66, 100, 118, 119, 156, 176, 200, 203, 213, 256, 276, 283, 290. proverb: 6, 8, 9, 18, 19, 31, 40, 44, 46, 50, 52, 54, 61, 62, 64, 65, 71, 74, 76, 89, 105, 107, 114, 115, 119, 120, 142, 144, 150, 152-154, 160-162, 165, 167, 172, 200, 216, 227, 241, 275, 276, 283, 300. pumpkin: 4, 43, 237, 238, 248, 262. python: 3, 22, 215, 278. rabbit: 250, 251. rain: 62, 99, 118, 141, 162, 193, 194, 199, 200, 214, 259, 260. rat: 2, 4, 44, 75, 94, 95, 104, 105, 152, 153, 164, 199, 200, 206, 207, 230, 235, 236, 286, 287.

red: 3, 22, 47, 95, 123, 151, 152, 179, 180, 203, 204, 208, 209, 231, 254, 286, 288. rich: 2, 9, 73, 74, 89, 106, 119, 135, 139, 154, 156, 162, 213, 244, 268, 270, 276, 287. ridicule: 125, 141, 229. river: 22, 25, 34, 50, 56, 60, 67, 68, 75, 100, 113, 114, 125, 137, 138, 149, 150, 153, 160, 165, 178-181, 225, 286, 287, 290. roof: 22, 31, 51, 112, 118, 173, 201, 225, 227. rot(ten): 70, 103, 119, 266. seer: 217, 245. sheep: 6, 14, 21, 86, 182, 213, 268-270, 275. shell: 3, 106, 169, 170, 182, 184, 221, 237, 256. sister: 11, 14, 16, 20, 22-32, 34, 35, 49, 50, 53, 57, 86, 137, 176, 243, 273. sleep: 11, 36, 39, 40, 43, 44, 51, 63, 69, 75, 88, 100, 131, 135, 149, 156, 158, 168, 182, 196, 197, 205. 214, 221, 230. 235, 236, 246, 276, 284. snake: 3, 21, 30, 36, 40, 57, 83, 106, 107, 129, 192, 202, 208, 209, 215, 216, 220, 259-261, 269. snare: 21, 41, 146, 158, 230, 236, 260, 282. son: 2, 11, 12, 18-21, 27, 31, 35, 53, 69, 76, 80, 90, 100, 103, 112-114, 131-134, 140, 143, 144, 149, 150, 156, 258-261, 281-283, 290. spider: 4, 240-242. steal: 11, 17, 18, 21, 49, 70, 117, 138, 151-154, 168, 180, 185, 188, 205, 221, 230, 248, 259, 262, 263, 268, 269. stingy: 70-72, 162. stomach: 31, 46, 168, 174, 195. stone: 1, 12, 35, 57-59, 69, 84, 88, 118, 127, 129, 199, 250, 254, 273, 286. street vendor: 2, 126. strength: 42, 75, 80, 85, 86, 89, 93, 125, 138, 156, 160, 201, 213. stupid: 1, 7, 29, 32, 34, 36, 43, 60-62, 95, 105, 123, 125, 135, 149-151, 158, 162, 185, 187, 188, 192, 268, 290. squirrel: 42, 89, 91-93, 263, 282, 283. swamp: 40, 41, 70, 100-102, 133, 146, 180, 199, 205, 270. termite: 42, 74, 166-168, 203, 240, 267. theft: 2, 137, 138, 152, 154, 180. thief: 2, 151-154, 158, 168, 180, 181, 186, 230. threat(en): 6, 8, 27, 51, 63, 87, 110, 161, 187, 193, 194, 225, 230, 271. toe: 129, 215, 238, 244, 257. tooth : 57, 67, 71, 92, 104, 105, 129, 132, 149, 150, 167, 168,173, 185, 220, 225, 230, 262. tortoise: 3, 7, 21, 89, 104, 105, 138, 169, 174, 176-181, 183-185, 187-194, 281. trap: 4, 21, 29, 41, 75, 94, 116, 145, 146, 168, 170, 184, 187, 188, 223, 230, 234, 236, 258, 259, 268270. tree: 6, 11, 14, 15, 18, 21-23, 26-29, 32, 36, 37, 47, 48, 56, 59, 62, 67, 68, 74, 75, 80, 81, 87, 90, 94, 104, 117, 119, 120,124, 125, 132, 148, 153, 154, 156, 173, 174, 186, 187, 189, 190, 193-196, 199-203, 206, 207, 211, 212, 220, 234, 240, 243, 246, 247, 251, 262, 266, 276, 282-284, 290. trick : 7, 64, 77, 113, 116, 137, 152, 167, 178, 184, 188, 191, 196, 225, 234, 274, 286. trust: 83, 84, 96, 99, 116, 154, 156, 182, 220, 225, 230, 232, 262, 264, 280. twin: 1, 22, 23, 73, 100, 127, 233, 269. Uganda(n): 6, 9, 10, 18, 20, 30, 34, 44, 56, 62, 65, 79, 99, 127, 167, 190, 290.


umbilical cord: 80, 81, 207. village: 6, 23, 24, 29, 38-40, 43, 47, 53, 54, 57, 64, 65, 67-69, 78, 80, 94, 100, 102, 110, 111, 115, 116, 121-123, 134, 140, 143, 144, 147-149, 151, 152, 158, 160, 162, 164, 180, 181, 183, 195-197, 210, 211, 215, 217, 223, 225, 237, 256, 257, 259, 260, 262, 269, 281-285, 289. visitor: 3, 33, 59, 183, 184, 191, 197, 221, 236, 246, 260, 261, 272. waist: 4, 240-242, 277. war: 4, 17, 42, 51, 52, 67, 74, 95, 113, 130, 139. warn: 4, 15, 19, 25, 31, 32, 37, 40, 59, 71, 86, 87, 110, 115, 120, 193, 194, 198, 202, 206, 268, 269, 271. wasp: 4, 21, 265, 266. water: 13, 16, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 34, 37, 39, 60, 62, 63, 65, 68, 69, 88, 91-93, 100, 102, 113, 120, 121, 123, 129, 131, 141, 145, 158, 162, 172, 176, 178, 179, 181, 194, 211, 221, 225, 226, 229, 235, 237, 238, 243, 254, 259, 260, 268, 286. well (noun): 2, 13, 91-93, 141, 176, 238, 243, 244, 260, 261. wife: 2-4, 14, 15, 18, 20-21, 24-26, 30-34, 36, 37, 45, 46, 49-51, 53, 54, 56, 60-62, 64-66, 68, 70, 74, 80, 83, 84, 89, 94, 97-104, 112, 120, 121, 126, 129, 133, 138, 143, 145-149, 152, 170-172, 176, 177, 181, 185, 191-193, 211, 223-227, 232, 239, 241, 243, 245-249, 254, 260, 265-269, 272-274, 277-283. wildcat: 3, 25, 29, 32, 92, 106, 163, 166-168. wine: 68, 69, 173, 181, 230, 236. wisdom: 8, 18, 30, 76, 110-112, 114, 125, 141, 160-163, 185, 204, 227, 254, 255, 271, 300. wise: 2, 32, 69, 70, 93, 95, 110-114, 142, 162, 201, 202, 216, 227, 254, 289. witchcraft: 239, 278, 280, 300. woman: 1, 2, 4, 11, 18, 19, 21-23, 26, 27, 30, 31, 43, 45, 49-54, 58-65, 67, 68, 70-76, 80, 81, 83, 84, 86, 89, 97, 98, 100, 102, 105, 119, 124-127, 129, 130, 136, 141,145, 147, 149, 151, 152, 158-162, 164, 177,193, 194, 211, 225-227, 237, 238, 241, 243, 247, 248, 254, 256, 257, 260, 262, 267, 273, 279, 282, 283, 300. year: 1, 9, 18, 33, 34, 38, 50, 55, 65, 68, 75, 110, 112, 133, 143, 169, 215, 281, 290. young(ster): 8, 19, 24-28, 30-32, 34, 35, 46, 49, 57-59, 62, 67, 73-76, 80, 88, 94, 104-106, 110-115, 119, 126, 124, 130, 131, 134, 141, 147, 149, 152, 158, 161, 179, 180, 195, 213, 219, 220, 235, 243, 273, 281.



Ababita ababiri

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 1998

Akatabo akasooka ak´enfumo

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja,1998

Amagezi tigamalwayo.

Cultural Research centre, Jinja, 1999

Autobiografie, Missionaris in Kongo en Oeganda. Piet Korse,2006. Basankusu Testimonies

Ed. Piet Korse, 2011

Basoga Traditional Concept of Marriage Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2013 Bilingual Dictionary

MK Publishers, Kampala, 2007.

Bokolo boki ulu

Coquilhatville, 1950

Bokóló yeke

Piet Korse, Oosterbeek, 2006.


Piet Korse, Oosterbeek, 2007

Celebrating the sanctity of human life

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2004

Contes d’Afrique

Henri Gougaud, Seuil, 1999

Contes des Tikar

Ben Beemster, 2015.

Contes Mongo

Académie Royale, Bruxelles, 1965

De moeder van het Parelhoen

Ben Beemster, Aspekt, 2015

Ebikoiko eby’Abasoga

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2002

Enfumo edh’Abasoga

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja,1998

Ensambo dh’Abasoga

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2009

Fabelachtig Afrika

Vrijland, Oosterbeek, 2de druk, 2012.

Het zwarte paradijs

Mineke Schipper, 1999.

In Gesprek met Afrika

Vrijland, Oosterbeek, 2013


Piet Korse, Mbandaka, 1990


Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 1998

La Grossess et l’Enfance dans la Société Mongo, Crc, Balinga, 2003 Lusoga Grammar Lwaki Abakazi tibabeeda Mulambo

CRC, Jinja, 2000. Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2000 297

Mill Hill Annalen (1890-1967)

Mill Hill archives, Oosterbeek.

Missiehuis Hoorn en Westfriese Mill Hillers Piet Korse, 2016 Mwidhe tufume

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 1999

Obufunvu magezi

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja. 1999

Once upon a Time in Africa

Joseph Healy, 2004

Op Studie

Piet Korse, Oosterbeek, 2009.

Proverbes Mongo de Basankusu (2 vol.) Piet Korse, Arnhem, 2005 Rechtspraak Fabels van de Nkundó

Tervuren, 1954

Reconciliation among the Basoga

CRC, Jinja 1999.

Ritual gestures in Busoga

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja

Sorcellerie, maladies, bonkanga

Piet Korse, Baringa, 1987.

Sorcellerie, maladie et chasseur de sorciers Ceeba Publications Vol.103,1989 Spiritual Dialogue with the Bantu

Piet Korse, Oosterbeek, 2009

The concept of good/bad luck among the Basoga: CRC, Kisubi, 2010 Towards an African Narrative Theology, Orbis Books, 2004 Traditional Religion and Clans among the Basoga. CRC, Jinja, 2002 Twire ku butaka

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 1999

Visimo, Afrikaanse fabels en verhalen

Mathys van Koolwijk, 1995

Volkssprookjes en Legenden uit Z-Amerika Felix Karlinger…. Why women don’t carry the dead to the grave, CRC, Jinja, 2000 Wij Ngombe

Harrie van Thiel, 1974

Wisdom never ends

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 1999

Wisdom of the African World

Reginald Mcknight, 1996

Witchcraft, divination and Healing

Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, 2003


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African Legends  

by Piet Korse mhm

African Legends  

by Piet Korse mhm