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Contents

Introduction

Choose a Husband who Listens

Haste may be Essential

The Future is Better than the Past

Avoid Incurring Painful Obligations 

A Slave May Work for Freedom 

Justice for the Lowly

Monkeys Do No Work

A Child Can Catch a Lie

A Child Deserves a Fair Share

A Youngster has a Right not to be Robbed

A Child Sold into Slavery has a Right to Escape 

An Insult to an In-Law Incurs a Response 

Debts to In-Laws Must be Paid 

I am Calling You Loud—Beware of the River

Don’t Dance off with Miss Rabbit!

A Little Bird shall Reveal You

Lamba Proverbs

Sources

 

 

Introduction

 

The Bantu languages have spread throughout the major part of sub-Saharan Africa in dialects that vary from region to region. With the language spread there appears to have been a diffusion of a common folklore, with local variations. Traditional stories deal with village life, tribal mythology (comparable to those of Europe and Asia), historical records, and entertainments for children. They also include parables, animal stories, magical stories about people, stories of weird forest denizens, proverbs, riddles, and praise poems of individuals and trades. In the animal stories, a small hare or rabbit figures often outwits all other animals except the tortoise.

Most of the stories are believed to be of great antiquity, and often contain accounts like those found in the mythic traditions of other cultures—such as royal babies abandoned and brought up by a surrogate mother, attempts to raise a structure to heaven defeated by confusion of languages. Many of the tales extracted here are told by mothers to children to illustrate some moral principle or to warn them of the dangers of straying from parental control. Often the narrator intersperses the story with short sung choruses in which the audience takes part. The tales may be tragic or comic and the people who have collected them say they are told with considerable skill.

The first story in these extracts is an example of a village parable about choosing a husband. Then further parables follow, showing that haste can be important (2), as are the opportunities of the future(3), that mutual obligations have to be entered into with care (4), that even the lowliest can be deserving of reward (5) and are also entitled to justice (7) , and that not working for the community makes one a monkey (8).

Four stories follow that indicate the rights of children and youngsters: a child is not to be lied to (8); a child should get a fair share (9); a youngster has a right not to be robbed (10); a child sold into slavery before birth has the right to do anything to escape, and every creature is ready to help (11).

The next two stories are typical of the village gossip about the problems between in-laws, one showing that insults provoke insults in retaliation (12), the other that debts have to be paid (13).

Two stories with choruses for children warn them not to be led astray by strangers. The crocodile (14) represents the kidnapper that used to travel the rivers of Africa peddling wares from a boat. The rabbit (15) represents kidnappers on land. If foolish girls enticed by these ever reappeared, it was in the slave-market. The Bantu rabbit is probably the ancestor of the American Br'er Rabbit.

The last story is an example of a large number that show that a wicked deed will not go unpunished, even when the perpetrator thinks that no one has seen him. In this case, a little bird carries the news (16).

Finally, a very short selection of the many thousands of proverbs in Bantu is given, in this case from those of the Lamba People (17).

 

 

1  Choose a Husband Who Listens

 

An elderly man had one daughter; her name was nga Samba. This daughter, a number of men wanted her. Her father would not give her away. When there comes a man for her, her father demands of him a living deer. The men, each and all, who wanted his daughter, then they refuse, saying: "The living deer, we cannot get it."

One day, there appear two men, saying: "We have come to the old man who owns a daughter, nga Samba." The man then comes out, and they greet each other. He asks them, saying: "What is it you wish ?" One of them says to him: "I have come to ask for your daughter, whom I want." He turns to the other; he asks him also what brought him. The other tells him, saying: "I have come to ask for your daughter; I want her to be my wife."

Then her father says: "The girl is one. Two of you have come to ask her. Now, I possess only one daughter; I have not two children. He, who brings me the living deer, that one, I will give my daughter." And they go away.

On the road, on which they were walking, one speaks, saying: "Tomorrow, I will seek the living deer in the forest." Then the other says: "I too, to-morrow I will go to seek the deer. Where shall we meet to-morrow, to go and seek the deer ?" The other then says to him: "To-morrow we will meet at the muxixi tree, outside (the forest)." And they go, each one to his home. And they sleep.

In early morning, they rise and dress. With their machetes they go to meet to seek the living deer. When they meet each other, then they go until they are in the forest.

They come across a deer; they begin to pursue it. One in the pursuit got tired; he cannot run any more. He says: "That woman will destroy my life. Shall I suffer distress because of a woman? If I bring her home, if she dies, would I seek another? I will not run again to catch a living deer. I never saw it before that a girl was wooed with a living deer. I will await my comrade, to see whether he gives up, that we may go."

When he had spent a while, he sees the other, who is coming with a deer bound up. When the other had come near he says: "Friend, the deer, did you really catch it?" Then the other says: "I caught it. That girl delights me much. I would rather sleep in forest, than to fail to catch it."

And they go to the man, who was the father of the young woman. They bring him the deer. Then the old man says: "The deer you can keep; please stay and eat. We will talk the matter over directly." And he orders food to be cooked for them.

When they had done eating, this man who was father of the daughter then calls four old men and says to them, "I have one daughter; I never had a son. I need a good son-in-law, gentle of heart. Therefore I always demand a living deer. These gentlemen came yesterday, two of them, to ask for my daughter, and I told them saying "I am possessor of one daughter; he who wants her let him bring me a living deer." To-day these have come with it. The two came to ask for the girl; only one brought the deer. The other, what has moved him, that he did not come with a deer? You, elders and neighbors, to you indeed I have given my daughter. You choose yourselves our son-in-law among these two."

The old men, they ask these two men, saying: "Yesterday you came to ask for the girl, two of you; today, one came with the deer; the other without, what has caused him not to come with one?"

Then one of these two men said: "We went into the forest to seek deer, both of us, and we saw them. My comrade pursued and gave up. But your daughter charmed me so much, even to the heart, that I pursued the deer till it gave in. And I caught it. I bound it; and joined my comrade at the place where he got tired. My comrade, he came here only to keep me company."

Then the old men said: "You, sir, who gave up on the deer, what crime caused you to get tired of chasing the deer, if you did indeed want our daughter?"

He replied, "I never saw before that a girl was wooed with a deer. I went with my comrade to seek a deer, because perhaps I might catch it. When I saw the great running, I said 'No, that woman will cost my life. Women are plentiful.' And I sat down to await my comrade, to see whether he would give up chasing the deer, and come back, so that we might go on. I saw my companion coming with the deer bound. I have only come to accompany him. I have not come again for your daughter."

Then the old men said, "You, who gave up catching the deer, you are our son-in-law. This man, who caught the deer, he may go with it; he may eat it or may sell it; for he is a man of great heart. If he wants to kill, he kills at once; he does not listen to one who scolds him, or gives him advice. Our daughter, if we gave her to him, and she did wrong, when he would beat her, he would not listen to one who entreats for her. We do not want him; let him go. This gentleman, who gave up the deer, he is our son-in-law; because, our daughter, when she does wrong, when we come to pacify him, he will listen to us. Although he were in great anger, when he sees us, his anger will cease. He is our good son-in-law, whom we have chosen."

        Francisco P. dos Santos Vandunem, Loanda People

 

 

2  Haste May be Essential

 

Two men called themselves by one name. This one said: "I am Ndala, the builder of ability." The other said:" I am Ndala, the builder of speed."

They say: "We will go and ply our trade."

They start; they arrive in middle of road. A storm comes. They stop, saying: "Let us build grass-huts."

Ndala, the builder of speed, built in haste; he entered into his hut.

Ndala, the builder of ability is building carefully. The storm comes; it kills him outside.

Ndala, the builder of speed escaped, because his hut was finished. It sheltered him when the storm came on.

        Jelemia dia Sabatelu, Mbaka People

 

 

3 The Future is Better than the Past

 

Two men were walking along a road. They reach the middle of their journey and met a tapper of palm-wine. They say: "Give us some palm-wine!"

The tapper says: "If I give you palm-wine, tell me your names!" The first said: "I am Whence-we-come:" He who remained behind said: "I am Where-we-go."

The tapper of palm-wine said: "You, Whence-we-come, have a beautiful name. You, Where-we-go, spoke evil. I will not give you palm-wine."

They began to quarrel; they go to be judged. They find somebody and tell what happened. That person says: "Where-we-go is right, the tapper is wrong; because, where we have already left, we cannot from there get anything more. The thing that we shall find, is where we are going to."

        Jelemia dia Sabatelu, Mbaka People

 

 

4 Avoid Incurring Painful Obligations

 

Mr. Water-Lizard and Mr. Vulture they made a friendship. Then one day Mr. Vulture heard that the daughter of Mr. Water-Lizard had reached the age of womanhood. Whereupon Mr. Water-Lizard went to Mr. Vulture, and said, "My friend, I want some feather head-dresses for the people to wear at the dance." Then Mr. Vulture felt very sad. Then Mr. Vulture said, "Pull out my feathers." So indeed he pulled them all out of him. Mr. Vulture remained sitting in his house. And many days passed.

After a while the feathers grew again, and began to stand up. And the Vulture's daughter also reached the age of womanhood. Thereupon Mr. Vulture too went to Mr. Water-Lizard and said, "My friend, my daughter is of age, I want a skin to stretch over a drum" Mr. Water-Lizard said, "Skin me!"

Then indeed he began to skin him, and took his skin right off. So away went Mr. Vulture. There where Mr. Water-Lizard remained, he lay in a little bush. And the flies came in myriads. So he went quickly into the water; and then the fish, when they saw the red, swarmed to eat him. He hastily left the river again. In that way he died.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

5 A Slave May Work for Freedom

 

The slave had not the where-withall to have any possessions.

One day he thought, "Just let me try to sow some castor oil, perhaps the chief will be pleased."

Then indeed he sowed, and grew some full gourds. Repeatedly he took them to the chief.

When the chief saw that, he said, "My servant, you are doing well, now leave my service, and go to your home!"

That slave sat down and said, "Thank you, my dear master." He arose and went to his home.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

6 Justice for the Lowly

 

Mr. Frog had to fight for his meat. The animal belonged to Frog, but Mr. Meckling wanted to take it from him by cunning.

When Mr. Meckling went to the village, he found the little frog himself was seated on the animal. He said, "Frog, how have you killed the animal?." And Frog said, "It's mine !" Then Mr. Meckling said, "It is I who killed it."

And Mr. Frog said, "If it is yours, go and fetch people from the village, that we may decide fairly." Sure enough, he went to fetch many people; and they arrived. They said, "Explain !"

Then Mr. Meckling said, "I passed and put it in! I passed and put it in! I passed and put it in !" He added, "And then the animal died!"

But the little frog said, "It's mine !"

Then the elders said, "Just let us hear, Mr. Meckling—even if you chatter—just let us hear what Frog has to say."

And they said, "Just you explain, Frog."

Then the little frog said, "I was the first to find the animal myself; when Mr. Meckling came, he took it from me thinking, 'His voice is weak !'"

Then the people said, "Oh! After all the animal belongs to Frog, who was the first."

Then they gave it to Frog, the owner of the animal.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

7 Monkeys Do No Work

 

The monkeys used to be in a village; then when the food came to the human beings, they went into the bush. When they came back, they came back to the village to steal.

People are able to set on dogs and catch them. Then, when the monkeys say, "Would you kill me, a member of your own clan ?", the people say, "Why then did you fear the work at the village?"

        From the Lamba People

 

 

8 A Child Can Catch a Lie

 

One day the father went out and ate some honey. The child said, "Have you eaten some honey?"

The father said, "No, I did not eat even a little bit."

His little child, on looking at him carefully, saw some honey on his beard. The child said, "Father, the lie is on your beard!"

        From the Lamba People

 

 

9 A Child Deserves a Fair Share

 

The steward of the chief used to bring things to the chief. When meat came one day, the chief said, "Fetch the steward, let him divide it out." The steward came and entered the chief's house, and many people gathered together; and he divided the meat out. He divided it out to all the elders. But he refused one youngster.

The youngster went out and went to his mother. He said, "Why does Mr. Steward refuse me meat like this, mother?" And again the following day meat came to the chief's residence, and the steward was called. And the little youngster came and sat down where he was dividing the meat. On and on he divided to give to the people, and again refused the youngster. So again the youngster went away empty, he had grudged him. He went to his mother and said, "Mr. Steward, why does he refuse me, mother?." Then his mother said, "I wonder, dear!" Then he said, "One day I'll tell on him."

Then indeed one day meat came; and that youngster came and entered where he was dividing the meat. Again the steward divided out to his friends, and begrudged the youngster any.

Again he went out empty, and reached his mother, and asked, "And today, mother, Mr. Steward was dividing and he refused me meat;."

His mother said, "Leave him alone, let him eat it himself." Then he said, "I leave him alone.

Then, when everyone had shut his door in the village, and the chief too had shut up, out went that youngster to where the steward was. He found that the steward had shut his door. Then he said, "Open the door, steward!" Then Mr. Steward opened the door, and he entered. He said, "The chief calls for you; he said let him come anyhow, let him leave his calico clothing behind."

Thereupon Mr. Steward went out stark naked. His wife said, "Man, dress yourself!"

Then her husband said, "How am I to dress ? The chief said let him come anyhow."

Then, when he arrived at the chief's residence, that youngster disappeared. Mr. Steward said, "Open the door for me, Sir." And the chief sent his principal wife, saying, "Open the door!"

The chief's wife got up and opened the door. When the chief's wife looked out, she saw Mr. Steward coming in stark naked. The chief's wife hasted away behind the screen where the chief had remained. The chief said, "What are you frightened at?"

She said, "I'm afraid of Mr. Steward, he's stark naked! He has no calico." The chief said, "Oh, don't tell lies about him !", adding, "Is an elder likely to come stark naked here to the chief?"

Then the chief himself came to the doorway where the steward was waiting. He said, "Why ever do you go about like this, steward?"

And he answered, "I, whom you have called, sir, am I not to come?"

Then the chief sat silent for a time and said, "Oh, steward, why have you done this ?" He added, "Go back then." And Mr. Steward went back to his house.

When the morning had dawned, the chief said, "Call Mr. Steward, let us all hear about it." Then indeed they called him, and bound him.

He said, "For what cause have you bound me, Sir?"

He answered, "What caused you to go to the chief stark naked?"

And he said, "What came to call me was a little youngster."

The word was given, "Gather together all the little children, let him accuse before us the one that went to call him."

Then they called all the children, and asked them one by one. All refused to tell; but one confessed saying, "It was I, I went to call this steward."

"Why did you start a quarrel against him by calling him like that?"

He said, "It was because of his continually refusing me meat; because he gives to everyone else." Then the chief said, "For what reason do you refuse the youngster meat ? Isn't it this little thing that has bewitched you, today—an empty belly?

Thereupon they set Mr. Steward free.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

10 A Youngster has a Right not to be Robbed

 

A youngster undertook a journey and reached the place he was seeking, where he amassed great wealth. When he had done this, he set off to return home. After he had slept somewhere on the road he awoke in the morning, and reached a village of people, and bought his food, and was shown a house.

At night time many people gathered together and said, "Child, all this wealth, where has it come from?" He said, "I went to work for it myself."

Then some said, "Kill him!" And he replied, "Don't kill me, take all my goods, I myself give them to you." Then, sure enough they all said, "That is all right, leave him, don't kill him !" And indeed they did take all his goods, and went off with them.

When morning dawned, he went to the chief, and bade farewell to him saying, "That it may remain, 0 chief!" And he replied, "That it may arrive, friend !" Then off he went and the chief with him. On the road, when he asked the way, they said, "Just so, friend, keep a straight road." And the chief went back.

Now when he had traveled alone he said, "I shall go and betray them. Why have they taken my goods, since I never stole anything?" Then indeed he went to the King, and said, "I have come, sir, that you may help me, because they have taken away my goods, and would have killed me myself."

Then soldiers from the king arose. They arrived, and caught them all. They said, "Why did you want to kill the child because of his wealth?" They said, "He himself gave it to us." But he said, "No, because you wanted to kill me, I became soft-hearted like a wild-dog in a game-pit. I knew that if I refused you my wealth, you would kill me, and that is why I gave it to you."

And they took them all to the king's court. Some of them they cast away as slaves, some of them returned home; and his goods they gave to him.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

11 A Child Sold into Slavery has a Right to Escape

 

This is what an old woman did.

She was very hungry. So she went to steal meat from people's granaries. When she was caught, she said: "Let me go, I will give you at home a child round whose neck you will see a collar."

Having thus sold her child, the little woman came back home, and said: "Child, child, go into the hut."

Meanwhile the owners of the meat were coming, singing on the way:

There at the fig-trees.

Chorus—Give me a little tobacco

—Give me a little tobacco

There is a little old woman.

She said: Give me meat,

I will give birth for you to Mucinda,

Mucinda will have a prominent navel,

And a collar round his neck.

Hearing that, the child ran away into the forest.

The people came and said: "Where is your child ?"

The mother said: "Look at it running away there."

She added: "Come back to-morrow, you will find it in the garden."

They went away. When it was dark, the child came back home to his mother.

Next morning she said: "Go and bring me pumpkins from the garden."

The child went, but, instead of going to the garden, he went and sat down on an ant heap. Then seeing a duiker pass, he said to him:

"Go and bring me some pumpkins from the garden."

He sang:

Duiker! Duiker!

Chorus—Go and bring me pumpkins from the garden,

—Go and bring me pumpkins.

Duiker good boy!

Chorus—Go and bring me pumpkins from the garden,

—Go and bring me pumpkins.

The duiker went to fetch the pumpkins.

Now there are those people reaching the little old woman's abode.

"I have sent him," she said, "I have sent my child; you will find him in the garden. Just go there."

They go singing as before:

There at the fig-trees.

Chorus—Give me a little tobacco

—Give me a little tobacco

There is a little old woman.

She said: Give me meat,

I will give birth for you to Mucinda,

Mucinda will have a prominent navel,

And a collar round his neck.

Mother! They came to the garden, but found there only a duiker. So they came back to the kraal and said: "Old woman, where is your child, who you sold to us for meat? We have not found him."

"All right," she said, "to-morrow you will find him at the surface well."

They went away.

The following day the same story. In the early morning, the

mother said to the child: "Go and bring me clay from the well."

This time the child sent a black hornet. The hornet went to fetch clay.

Now here are those people coming and singing as before:

There at the fig-trees.

Chorus—Give me a little tobacco

—Give me a little tobacco

There is a little old woman.

She said: Give me meat,

I will give birth for you to Mucinda,

Mucinda will have a prominent navel,

And a collar round his neck.

They came to the surface well, but, instead of the child, found there only a hornet.

As they came back to the old woman's abode, they caught the child in a hut and got hold of him.

They took him away.

On the road they saw some nego berries. Then the child said: "Let me go up and pluck some fruit for you."

Up the tree he went and said: "Now open your mouths."

Those people opened their mouths. He then dropped berries, one into one mouth, another into another. The men were simply choked.

There is the story; that is where it dies.

        Nanuka and Nanga, Ba-Tonga People

__________________________________________________________

A prominent navel indicates a mother a too poor to have the umbilical cord cut properly at birth.

 

 

12 An Insult To an In-Law Incurs Another

 

One day at night, a father-in-law and his son-in-law were outside spending the evening. The darkness grew great and the father-in-law stood up from where he sat, saying: "My son-in-law, let us go to sleep! There is a darkness like the gloom of a blind eye." His son-in-law then remained with shame, for he was dead of one eye; but he kept quiet.

One day, when moonlight had come, they are again gossiping outside, both the father-in-law and the son-in-law. The son-in-law then says to his father-in-law: "Sir, let us go to sleep; for there is a moonlight like the shine off a bald-head, which will do us harm outside where we are."

The father-in-law then goes into his house. He does not wish to say good-by politely to his son-in-law. His son-in-law also then goes away into his house.

In three days, the father-in-law calls six old men, seven with himself. He says: "I want to be heard about the insult that my son-in-law gave me." The aged men then send to call the son-in-law. When he came, the father-in-law then spoke: "You, gentlemen, they are wont to say this proverb, ' Where there is a bought one, do not there refer to it.' But, my son-in-law, one day, we were outside spending the night, he sees the moonlight set in, he will not speak to me, saying, ' let us go to sleep ;' he speaks to me, with a heart to offend me, saying, ' there is a moonlight of bald-head shine! Let us go to sleep, my father-in-law, or this moonlight, it will do us harm.' Therefore, until to-day let him be with my daughter; but I am not his friend, because of insults which he gave me. I am bald-headed, he said ' bald-head shine.' To me! Did he not insult me? Therefore I reject the friendship with him."

Then the son-in-law replied, "I would not have said it, if my father-in-law had not first in insulted me. One day, after dark, we are outside gossiping, my father-in-law turns to me, saying, 'Come let us go to sleep; for it is as dark as the gloom of a blind eye.' I am dead in one eye! Did he not insult me by this, you men?"

They said, "In truth; he insulted you. Why! Your son-in-law, who is dead in one eye, you come to say this saying about the darkness ! If he said the moonlight of bald-head shine! he returned what you began to tell him. Thus be not in enmity, both son-in-law and father-in-law. You, father-in-law, have no son; your son is your son-in-law. You yourself were first in offending him; he then retorted to you in like fashion. Be friends. Do not go on with this affair. Take it out of your heart. Because you, the elder, was the first, the younger paid you back. We will not hate each other because of these things. Bring rum; let us drink. We will have no bad words like those. You yourself have said it, ' Where there is a bought one, do not refer to it.' You knew that your son-in-law is one-eyed; you did refer to it; now when he pays you back, shall that be a crime?"

They then remained in friendship, both the son-in-law and the father-in-law.

        Francisco P. dos Santos Vandunem, Loanda People

 

 

13 Debts to In-Laws Must be Paid

 

One day the father-in-law contracted a debt with some people and said to his son-in-law, "I want to borrow your goat."

His son-in-law agreed saying, "All right." And many days passed by. Then, when he saw that his father-in-law did not give him back the goat, he began one day to take action.

When they gathered together for a chat; he broke off some sticks, and stuck them like a goat's horns on his head; and went away. Again another day, on meeting together to chat, he also came with the sticks, and imitated the horns of a goat on his head.

Then, when the son-in-law went away, his father asked his companions, "Why does my son-in-law act like that?."

Then his companions said, "Have you given him the goat?." His father-in-law denied saying, "I have not yet given it to him." His companions then said to him, "Now you give it to him, and he will leave off that behavior of his."

Then he took some possessions and gave them to his son-in-law; and sure enough he saw that he left off his strange behavior.

        From the Lamba People

 

 

14 I am Calling You Loud—Beware of the River

 

Some little girls went to gather wild fruit, but found the river full. Happening to meet some bigger girls, they asked: "Where is it that you gather wild figs ?"

"Over there, on the other side of the river," answered the big girls..

"Go with us," they said, "so you can give us some." But the bigger girls refused to go.

The little ones had their baby sister with them. When they came quite close to the water, baby said: "Who is going to take us across ? See, the river is full."

While one of them was saying, "Let’s just try to cross," they noticed a crocodile stretched at his ease on the bank: "Come," they said, "carry us on your back." And, as he agreed, they started singing:

"I am calling you loud, lord of the rivers.

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Come and carry me on your back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

"Climb on my back—."

"The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

Oh dear! They are on the water. There he is landing them across. They pluck their wild figs.

Oh dear! The crocodile is swimming over there in the river. "Now," they say, "who is going to take us back across the river? Friends, let us call him."

So they came back to the water, and called:

"I am calling you loud, lord of the rivers.

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Come and carry me on your back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

"Climb on my back—."

"The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

He brought them across.

They went and found on the way other girls coming. They showed them the figs they had gathered and gave them some. These other girls, seeing that, went likewise to ride on the back of the crocodile, and sang just as their friends had done:

"I am calling you loud, lord of the rivers.

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Come and carry me on your back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

"Climb on my back—."

"The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there."

So they also gathered their figs, came back to the river, and were taken across.

Now, when the girls reached the village, baby said: "Dear me!

Mother, what takes us across! Why! It has hard swellings on the body, at the tail it is a knife . . . "

"Now, baby," interrupted the other children, "yes, go on about what takes us across! And the fruit we bring every time, did you forget that?"

"Children," said the mother, "you may go back if you like. But, you, my baby, do not go to-morrow; they would take you to your death."

On the following day, a little after dawn, the other children said: "Let us go and gather wild figs."

There they went, and this time they found there was only a little water in the river. So they went at once to eat at the trees. You might have heard the noise te te te te te.

Oh Dear! Soon they are back near the water calling the crocodile, though they could cross quite well without him:

Loud:

I am calling you loud, lord of the rivers—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Come and carry me on your back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Climb on my back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Low:

We are on a long log—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

On the body hard lumps—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

At the head it is a crocodile—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

At the tail it is a knife—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Well! He was bringing them across. They thought that baby had told lies, and went on singing:

I am calling you loud, lord of the rivers—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Come and carry me on your back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Climb on my back—

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Rich lord, I am your wife.

The watchman is gone, the watchman is gone there.

Good gracious! As they were enjoying themselves in this way, baby's sister said: "Let us go as far as the deep water." At this moment came the dive: the wicked crocodile carried them down with him and there ate them all up.

        Mumba, Bene-Mukuni People

 

 

15 Don’t Dance Off with Miss Rabbit!

 

Miss Rabbit, going one day to the river, found there some little girls drawing water. They shook hands together, then began to play.

Soon the little girls gave some of their strings of beads to Miss Rabbit, telling her to put them on. They further dressed her head with other beads, so that she looked just like a civilized little girl. Then she started dancing and dancing, the other little girls clapping their hands. The song was as follows:

Ozibane ! Zibane ! Zibane !

Chorus— Ozibane!

Dance like that! Like that! Like that!

Dance like that!

Miss Rabbit, they have strung beads on her near the river.

Miss Rabbit, the little girls have strung beads on her.

She is as pretty as Na Yandu.

How well dressed she is !

Uwi-I! Ozibane!

They danced, and danced, and danced. The day went on . . .

"Friends, companions, the sun is down, let us go."

Miss Rabbit gave them back their beads, and they moved away. She then said to them, "You little girls, to-morrow come here early; we will play near the river, you will dress me with beads, and I will dance."

The girls went, reached their kraal, and slept.

At daybreak they left their huts, came back to the river, and found Miss Rabbit already there, dressed her, and said: "Now let us dance."

Ozibane ! Zibane ! Zibane !

Chorus— Ozibane!

Dance like that! Like that! Like that!

Dance like that!

Miss Rabbit, they have strung beads on her near the river.

Miss Rabbit, the little girls have strung beads on her.

She is as pretty as Na Yandu.

How well dressed she is !

Uwi-I! Ozibane!

Miss Rabbit danced and danced, and danced, the little girls clapping their hands. Mother! This time too the sun went down So she gave them back their beads, saying: "To-morrow again come early, little girls, that we may play near the river. Also bring me a nice apron, that I may put it on."

The little girls went home, and soon turned to bed.

Early in the morning they picked up an apron for Miss Rabbit, then went to the river, and there found her waiting for them. . ."Here is a pretty apron," they said, "which we have brought to-day. Put it on."

"No," said Little Rabbit, "to-day I have no wish to dance."

They said: "No, no, you have to dance, put it on."

She dressed, dressed, dressed, and they strung beads in her hair.

Then she started dancing, the song being the same as before:

Ozibane ! Zibane ! Zibane !

Chorus— Ozibane!

Dance like that! Like that! Like that!

Dance like that!

Miss Rabbit, they have strung beads on her near the river.

Miss Rabbit, the little girls have strung beads on her.

She is as pretty as Na Yandu.

How well dressed she is !

Uwi-I! Ozibane!

They went on dancing and dancing, until Miss Rabbit noted that the sun was going down. But they went on, though from a distance was heard the cry Uwi-i !

O mother ! Then she begins to go away, but continues dancing and singing on her way. . ., "Friend Rabbit, give us our aprons. . . When will you give them back to us ?"

They go on following her as far as the middle of the forest. There Miss Rabbit stops, and starts this new song:

You children! You who have come!

Chorus—Come! Come!

It will be far where a beast gave me birth.

Lovers of high meat ! You who have come!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

Little Rabbit started running. And the girls after her crying for their aprons.

Mother! Mother! Mother! They found themselves this time right in the thickest of the forest, and the song started again:

You children! You who have come!

Chorus—Come! Come!

It will be far where a beast gave me birth.

Lovers of high meat ! You who have come!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

Mother! Mother! Mother! There she is gone once more. They go, they go. One of the girls dies of thirst on the way . . .

"Alas! Let us go back," say the others.

"Mother! Mother! Mother!" say some, "let us simply go on."

"Is Miss Rabbit going to give us back at all our things ?"

"Let us simply go on, let us go on."

Mother! She sings again:

You children! You who have come!

Chorus—Come! Come!

It will be far where a beast gave me birth.

Lovers of high meat ! You who have come!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

Chorus—What is it ?

You who are lost for good, lost, lost for good!

By going on and on they arrive as far as Munenga's There the hyenas ate them all.

        Nanga and Nanuka, Ba-Tonga People

____________________________________

"Uwi-I" represents the cry of a hyena, joining in the chorus.

 

 

16 A Little Bird Shall Reveal You

 

This is what was done by Sya-Mwiza with his child ....

At that time they went to hunt, but got no game whatever. Finding himself thus in a sore plight, the man thought to himself that he would kill his child. He pulled out some fibrous bark to tie him up with, and bound him by the neck to a tree. He then went further on, with the intention of coming back.

On his return he found his child dead, strangled by the string.

He then skinned him and cut him into pieces, so that they should mistake him for meat at home.

To make doubly sure, he got a small hairy beast, then rubbed and rubbed it against the flesh which he had cut up, making the hair stick on it. After that, he strung the pieces together on a stick, put the load on his shoulder and carried it on the way home.

As he carried it, a little bird came and sang:

The father of Mwiza !

He had left his child alone.

Chorus— In the forest.

He afterwards tied him up

along with a dirty hairy beast

Chorus.— In the forest.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

Hearing the little bird sing thus, the man put down his load and chased and chased the importunate creature. Finally, giving up the chase, he came back to carry his load. But once more the little bird came and sang as before:

The father of Mwiza !

He had left his child alone.

Chorus— In the forest.

He afterwards tied him up

along with a dirty hairy beast

Chorus.— In the forest.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

Once more he put down the load. Once more he drove the bird away. Once more he took up the load. Once more the little bird came back. When he had driven it away enough, and carried his load enough, at last he reached the village.

His wife said: "Father of Mwiza, where have you taken my child to?"

He said: "He has gone over to his cousin’s."

"Indeed ? To his cousin's ! What has he gone to do there?"

"He has gone to herd with him."

Then he added: "Wife, just take this meat."

She said: "Let my child come home first."

"He won't return for some time. He has gone to his friend."

Then the woman said: "Let my child come, let him come, my child of this hut."

He said: "He will come, sure enough."

She waited and waited for him. Again she said, "Where exactly have you left my child?"

"He stayed behind with his cousin."

Just then the little bird came and was heard singing:

The father of Mwiza !

He had left his child alone.

Chorus— In the forest.

He afterwards tied him up

along with a dirty hairy beast

Chorus.— In the forest.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

Wiriryo! I shall reveal you.

The woman then said: "what does the little bird mean by crying in that way ?"

The husband said: "No, this little bird is telling lies."

The woman then went to call some people at her mother's home, and brought them together. They asked, "What is the matter ?" She said: "He has killed my child."

Her husband had, meanwhile, gone to lie down in the hut, and shut the door.

The people came at night and set fire to the hut on the top of him.

.         Kalinda, Ba-Tonga People

_________________________________________

"Wiriyo" imitates a bird call. It can also mean "You—eat yourself!".

 

 

17 Lamba Proverbs

 

One mouth doesn’t taste the beer.

What is not bitter is good to eat.

What one won’t eat by itself, one will eat when mixed with other food.

Adjoining houses always burn [if one of them catches fire].

When there is a red-hot hoe, it is not grasped.

Even if you are cunning, you will not tie water up in a bale of grass.

People get to know one another when traveling.

Respect a little child, and let it respect you.

The tortoise stores its wisdom in his shell.

What nature gives us is not refused.

What makes the drum pleasing is the song.

He was entrapped by the evening, it has cost him his marriage.

The insolence of shortness is to stretch itself big.

A stick one bends while it is still green.

Hunger has no friend.

Days are many, what is one is life.

The judge also dies.

A bone does not bring itself, it is people that bring it.

Dance, father, people’s eyes don’t eat, they just stare.

Mother carry me, and I tomorrow will carry you.

Just one by one white hairs have come, and thus have they grown.

A redeemer of people is a walker with people.

Mr. Not-present was the brave man.

Even if we eat, earth will eventually enter our mouth.

There is no return, worse luck; for could I return, I would foresee what has come into the country.

Days cannot be tied in a bundle.

One doesn’t follow a wild beast into its lair.

Cut of the sick part while it is still small.

We celebrated at the wax door, and all the time the honeycomb was empty within.

Cunning comes to an end, what remains is folly.

Words in conversation are like beans, one breaks them off where they are ripe.

Where there is a friend, one does not have to call, he will come of his own accord.

It is the grass that knows where the snake goes.

Even if your bee-hive has no honey in it, you shouldn’t break it up.

A case is not to be decided from one mouth.

Your friend, one doesn’t stare at his forehead, one stares at his stomach.

A child one does not instruct on return, one instructs him when going.

The owner of the skin is the one to tan it.

A kingdom’s strength is in mutual honor.

Chieftanship is not infectious.

They are happy, the free men that have their fathers.

Young man, countries practice witchcraft on one another.

            Mulekela, Joshua Kamwendo, and Nsaka, Lamba People

 

 

Sources

 

1,2,3,12   Adapted from Folk-Tales of Angola, collected and edited by Heli Chatelain. American Folk-Lore Society, Boston and New York, 1894.

 

4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9, 10, 13, 17   Adapted from Lamba Folk-Lore, collected by Clement M. Doke. American Folk-Lore Society, New York, 1922.

 

11, 14, 15, 16   Adapted from Specimens of Bantu Folk Lore, translated by J. Torrend, S.J. Egan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co Ltd, London, 1921.

 

Some websites with further information on Bantu folklore, writers and languages are as follows:

 

African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories website contains the content its name suggests, and also provides a bibliography and book reviews.

 

eLandnet, an electronic highway to unrepresented nations, indigenous peoples and national minorities worldwide contains African stories.

 

A history of the Bantu people in Kenya is to be found at the website designed and maintained by Kenyaweb.

 

The Sacred Texts website contains Myths and Legends of The Bantu by Alice Werner, 1933.   New impression of 1st edition, Cass, London, 1968

 

The Open Directory Project (dmoz) provides examples of African myths in general.

An alternative site for these texts is the Google Web Directory.

 

African writers are listed in the African Writers Index: Rwanda, A Rwanda and Burundi Bibliography compiled by the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

 

The variety of languages that are spoken in Africa is described at the Africana.com website, where they are grouped into four families: Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Koisan, and Niger-Congo. The Bantu languages constitute the largest group in the last, and include Zulu, Khosa, Makua, Nyanja, Shona, Bemba, Mbundu, Swahili, Sukuma, Kikuyu, Ganda, Knyarwanda, Rundi, Kongo, Fang, Bulu, and Tswana.

 

A large listing of black periodicals compiled by the ProQuest Information and Learning company is to be found at the Index of Black Periodicals site.