Head Downsizing (Planing)

Here is a story:

There was a man who had a wife and three children. He would say to them: When the rooster calls for the first time, I want you all to wake up so that I may plane your heads to downsize them. The children agreed.

In the morning when the rooster called, the children got up and went to see their father so he could plane their heads. He began with the oldest, and when he finished planing the next child went to him to have his head planed. But the youngest child refused to have his head planed. One day when the rooster called, the youngest woke the others up and said: We better hurry because the rooster has called and we are late. They went and the father began to plane their heads but the youngest said: My head is not yet hard enough to be planed.

One day they all went to the forest to pick isuku fruit, and as they began to pick the fruit they heard the roar of a Lion. So they all began to run back home. Halfway back to the village, they ran into a gate in the middle of the road. The children that had had their heads planed made it through the gate, but the one who had not had his head planed could not get through. He started to shout and tried to put his head through but failed because the entrance was too small. In the end, the Lion got him and ate him.

Listening to teachings is good, but there are some who are like the youngest son and don’t listen to teachings.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: obedience is always good and disobedience may lead to misfortune. In our actions we should be led by set point of references, by the stable advice of elders rather than passing whim. The young men must rely on elders as they have more wisdom and experience. Thus, let us not run from (or disobey) our parents, because the disobedient child comes to grief. Sometimes in their pride people ask for trouble by not following advise or God’s commandments. We people are creatures of God. God gave us commandments to follow so that we can save ourselves. Some people follow them and others refuse to obey, saying: “If I follow the commandments of God, I will not work well and I will not have many children.” That is why they do what they like. Don’t we know that death comes to all of us? But on the day of death, where can those who wouldn’t listen go for safety? So let us follow our God who is our Father and who will save us from the soldiers – meaning from Satan.

The Mambwe proverbs say: What fills up the small basket does not fill up the winnowing basket (Apakazuli citundu, pasizulu lupe); Where it was thatched (badly), it will keep on leaking (Na pavimbwe, apanyeke); People, like fish, follow the water (Antu inswi, zikalondela manzi); He who pays no attention to the advice of elders grows a beard on his back (Cintuvwa vya yakulu, wamelili vilezu kwitundu); The child who does not listen is taken by an earache by surprise (Mwana wamukana kuvwa, aliucilu mulembu mw’ikutwi); The servant is never above the master (Muomvi, atalusile pali sikulu wakwe); In fording a river, one calls upon someone who knows (Pilambwa, yakaama akumanyile). English equivalent: Better to ask the way than go astray; He that has a tongue in his head may find his way anywhere; He that will not be counselled, cannot be helped.

Subjects: advice – elders – disobedience – misfortune – pride – God’s commandments – wisdom – experience


Written by Mutale Mutamfya, Cikunta 4th of April 1984. Cf. in second version 17 (The Man and His Three Children Whose Heads Swell) written by an unknown author.