Egoism is not a Good Thing

Here is a story:

There once was a village engulfed by famine. There was a man in this village who was named Caitemwa and he lived with his wife named Lolela. When the famine broke out in their village, they had one child, and when it came to eating, all they had were mushrooms. The man would go and pick mushrooms and his wife would often go with him. After they returned home, they would eat whatever they picked.

One day, the man went very far away, so far that he became very regretful, wondering: How can I save my wife and child from this famine? He then saw a great rock with a door in it in the water. He sang and the door opened and he said to himself: I think I’ll look inside. He looked in and saw all types of meat, mush and different excellent foods. At first, he didn’t know what to think of it all, and then he asked himself: What can I do to eat such food? So he decided to sing (to the door):

You door, open, save me, I am your child,
You door, open, save me, I am your child.

Everything came to him and he ate and ate. Then he asked himself: Should I tell the people from the village about this? No! He closed the door and went home. When he returned home, he found that they had cooked and prepared mushrooms. When they gave him some of the mushrooms, he said: No, I don’t want any mushrooms today, my stomach hurts. So his wife and son ate the mushrooms while he went to sleep without eating.

As his wife she woke up early in the morning, she said to herself: As my husband went to sleep without eating, I shall quickly prepare some mushrooms. When she was making this meagre food, he looked at the food and discovered it was mushrooms and he turned them down, saying: My stomach still hurts. I shall go for a walk in the bush, maybe I will feel better. There is a proverb: Where the rooster found some termites, that is also where he left his tail. He went back to the rock and sang the same song as before and the door opened. He ate and ate and ate. He then stopped, sang the song, and the door closed. He returned to the village and noticed that other people in the village could see his joy and that he had put on weight. So they asked: Hmm. Why does he refuse to eat mushrooms? Is it because he found something else or there is some other place where he eats?

Early in the morning, his son went after him. So they went and went and went, and when he said to himself: Let me look back, the small one jumped aside. Then he went until he finally reached the rock. The man said:

You rock, open, open, let your child eat.
You rock, open, let your child eat.

The rock opened up and he ate and ate. He then closed the rock as always and went on to the village by a different path. His small son went up to the rock and sang the same song as his father and the door opened up. He ate and ate. Then he took some food with him, saying to himself: I will take some of the food with me so that I may rescue my mother since only my father comes here to eat. The child then left the place. He found that his mother had prepared some mushrooms called yatente and yausefwe (when they were being cooked they made the characteristic noise: nafwata). He said: Mother, come here for a minute, and he took her aside. He showed her what he had brought with him. His mother then said: My child, what is it? He said: Allow me to explain, but first do not try to say anything because you will die and I also will die. But, tomorrow we will follow him together. She took some mushrooms and filled the pot with them and took it to her husband. Since he was full and didn’t want to eat, she said to him: You have not eaten for three days, you will lose weight, husband. He replied: When someone’s body is not used to eating food, the person begins to gain weight. They all knew what to think of it all a long time ago. They all went to sleep.

In the morning, the husband asked his wife: Are we all going to work today? She replied: I am not going to work today because I have no energy to work. I have been eating only mushrooms every day and it is causing me problems. The man went off to the same place as always and they followed behind him at a distance. They were going and going, hiding themselves and finally they reached the river. The man sang his song, and the door made only a noise, lepu. He ate and ate and ate, and again he sang the song and closed the door. When he turned back, he began to pick some mushrooms so he could give them to his wife and son. Then the wife and son came near and sang his song as he did. The door opened up and they said: That’s it! But at this time, they did not want to eat. So they gathered the food up and put it on the trays they had prepared for the mushrooms. They sang the song, and again the door closed. They took the food and hid it outside the house. Then they came back and stayed there.

His wife went and prepared mushrooms for her husband to eat. Her husband said: I told you, I cannot eat mushrooms. I keep telling myself that I will eat them but I cannot. His wife secretly informed her child saying: When we get hungry, we will go to the place where we hid the food. They went there and they ate and ate and ate. Then they came back. The next day the man said again to himself: I will go to where I always go to find food. He sang his song, the door opened, and he looked inside only to find that it was empty. He said: I left so much behind the last time I was here. Why is all of the food gone? He went off and began to pick mushrooms. He was then struck by a great hunger. He came back and brought the mushrooms to the house. When he brought them to the house, his wife told him: Eat. And they told him: Now we will cook only mushrooms for you. If you refuse to eat them, it is your business. He finally began to eat mushrooms, but he soon got bored of the mushrooms and lost interest in other relish too. Soon after, he began to lose weight and in the end he died. His wife and son survived, and they lived well together.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: it is not a good thing to deceive others. If you have a family, you should love each other. You as a husband together with your wife and child: that is how a good family is composed. Egoism, therefore, is not a good thing, but what is good is to help each other within the family.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Anyone who wants to be cleverer than his companion is stupid (Ukucenjela apa yacenjele yauzo, ukutumpa); Step step (‘tinti tinti’), a paddle and a pot go together (Tinti tinti, umuzwa ni ngaliko vitintikine); (Monsi ciyelecela, waleka ivilezu vyapya). English equivalent: “Charity begins at home”; “Near is my coat, but nearer is my shirt”; “Near is my kirdle, but nearer is my smock”; “Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin”.

Subjects: cheating – punishment – egoism – family love – helping each other


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).