How a Man Called Citindi Married the Daughter of a Chief

Here is a story:

There once lived a very beautiful daughter of a chief in a certain village. There also was a boy who smelled like cattle dung who lived there. His name was Citindi. During the time they stayed there, Citindi said to himself: What shall I do? Let me go out and look for women. He looked like a poor man so he did not go anywhere. The father of the beautiful girl, the chief of the village, employed him and said: Herd my cattle because people smelling cattle dung would say: your smell and the cows are the same. Citindi accepted and he started herding the cows. Coming back from work, they gave him mush which he ate on a small piece of dried gourd rind. There was a small piece of metal among the things that covered him while he slept which would give him anything he wanted.

They built a hut on a high platform for the chief’s daughter only, far from the village. They appointed three wise women to guard and cook food for her. The girl hardly ever came out of the house.

There were some people from England who owned planes who came to propose marriage to her, but she refused saying: Oh no, my father will not forgive me if I do that. Then, ones who possessed cars went there, but the girl said: Oh no, they will not forgive me if I do that. All the rich people kept trying, but she kept on refusing.

One day, Citindi, while herding the cattle, went further than usual. Then he said to himself: That bright thing over there, what is it? He answered to himself: It is a house; and he immediately went there. He left the cows by themselves at a distance and came under the house. When he sat there, under the house, he said: You, my metal, would you be so kind to give me a great necklace of beads which shines beautifully like gold? Right away the necklace came with a bang. Then he placed the necklace in front of the window. At once, the girl, while inside, saw something glittering strongly. She looked attentively and asked herself: What does this small boy have down there? It is beautiful, let me go and fetch it. And then the lady started to go down. Looking at the great necklace, she forgot all her manners and came and asked the small boy: Oh, you boy, may I take this? He answered, saying: Of course, please take it. In the evening he came back with the cows and went to sleep.

Very early in the morning, they gave him mush. He went to herd the cattle and then headed straight to the chief’s daughter. He sat where he sat the day before and said: You, my metal, wouldn’t you be so kind as to give me a hat which could match well with the necklace you gave me? And indeed the hat came out with a whirling sound, matching the necklace in its brightness. Immediately, the girl noticed the hat. She said to herself: If I could put on that, and wear the necklace, it would be wonderful. Straight away, she went down and asked: Hey you, may I take it? And he answered: Of course, please take it.

On the third day, Citindi said: You, my metal, bring forth shoes and socks that will match very well with the other things of gold. Both came with a flash, and they were very beautiful shoes indeed. Seeing them right away, the lady quickly went down. When she came down, she took them and said: I wonder if they will fit me. Not only the shoes, but also the socks fit her very well. She asked: May I take them? Citindi answered: Of course, please take them. Although Citindi smelt like cattle dung, the lady took the beautiful things which came from him with her.

On the fourth day, he said: You, my metal, produce for me a beautiful dress that will match the other things the lady has taken. The dress popped out with a whoosh. She said to herself: Oh boy! Oh boy! Immediately, the lady went and took it. When she was alone, she said to herself: I will put it on! Will my father be upset if I wear these? No, he won’t care.

On the fifth day, he came under the house, yada yada yada, holding a glimmering ring which he put on the ground. The girl, as usual, came down and said: May I take that? He answered: Well, first let us greet each other. The small boy smelt like cattle dung, but the things he brought were just too beautiful. Hello. Hello. After they greeted each other, he said: Now you can take it. Then Citindi added: Are you going to leave me here alone? The girl replied: No (thinking he had other things more beautiful than she had already got). Then he said: Let me first go and put the cattle in the kraal. He came back to stay. He took off his disguise, which smelled like cattle dung, and left it on the ground and then climbed up. They stayed together in the house. Then the girl put him in a box she had brought to hide him. When they heard people coming to bring food, she would close the box. Whenever those who brought the food left, he would come out and they would talk. This happened for two weeks. Then, so it happened, they got married and the girl became pregnant.

As he went back to his village he thought to himself: If they find out about what I have done, will they cut off my head? Then he got to his village. The women who were guarding the chief’s daughter heard one day that a baby had been born. They said: This is terrible! The chief is going to kill us all. Things are looking bad. What shall we do? Finally, some said: Let us go and inform the chief. Then others said: He will kill us right away, so let us not be in a hurry. As they waited, the baby approached the age of reason (becoming a boy). They then grew courageous and said: Let him do whatever he wants. His daughter refused to get married to pilots, drivers and even to rich people. How are we going to know who has given her the child? – they asked themselves as they had never seen any person enter the girl’s house. They were completely bewildered.

One went to the chief and said: Listen to what has happened. The chief said: My child, I gave three people to guard her! He made an announcement to all the people living in the chiefdom to gather at his palace. They prepared many stools and chairs for the rich people. The child was brought there as well and was placed on the veranda. The people said: As there is no one here who resembles the child, the mother has to identify his father. The child went around and around among the rich people and couldn’t find his father. He went around, faced everyone and they watched him come back saying nothing. He just failed to find his father. Some people suggested: Go and bring the boy who is herding the cattle because everyone else is already here. Small Citindi is the only one who hasn’t come.

They went and found him in the meadows. They said: Listen, everyone came about the chief’s concern. So, you should leave the cattle in the kraal. The chief has asked for you to come. He answered: Oh, O.K., go and tell him: ‘he is taking a bath’. They came back for the second time. He answered: I am through with the body but what remains is to scrub my feet. The third time after scrubbing his feet, he answered: O.K., go ahead, I am coming. Then he took off his disguise that smelled like cattle dung, took along his small piece of metal which gave him whatever he wanted, and said: My dear metal, give me a horse so that I can ride to reach the place where I am called. The ring just made: Pow! – a horse appeared. He climbed onto the horse and galloped there. The people, seeing such an incredible unexpected thing, shouted: Step aside! Move over! They asked themselves: This stranger, where has he come from as the only one missing was the one herding the cattle? As soon as the horse stopped, the child, on seeing the face of his father, exclaimed: Oh, my father! Oh my father!

Everybody said: No matter what, he is the father. Let us proceed then with the case. Because the child didn’t accept anyone else, surely he is the father. The chief asked: Are you the one who married my daughter? He answered: Yes sir, it is I. The chief said: O.K., bring me two boxes full of money. One for the mother of this child and one for the father of this child. The small boy turned away from them and said: You my metal, give me four boxes. With a bang two boxes for the mother and two boxes for the father appeared. And once again he said: You, my metal, bring me much more so I can give to the ones who came to the hearing. Many things appeared. Everyone tried to grab as much as they could – everyone got their share.

At the end the chief handed over authority to him and said: This is the one whom I made a chief, however, because of him, I unjustly suspected others. He is the one who can solve my problems because he has some resources. Then the small boy Citindi burned the disguise he wore and became a chief and he still rules to this day.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: do not despise people who appear poor and insignificant. Don’t judge by appearances. Honesty, wisdom or goodness cannot be recognised by somebody’s appearance, age or sex.

The Mambwe proverbs say: An abdomen (belly) which ate a guinea fowl does not shine (Inda ilili kanga, isyawalala; Inda ilili kanga, isyaengesa); Beauty is like a thin, uncooked gruel (Usuma, uli munya); Beauty is in the calabash (Usuma, uli nu ku nkolo); Important people haven’t got big feet(Amalumba, yasikula ngazo).English equivalent: All that glitters is not gold; Appearances are deceptive/deceitful/deceiving; Beauty is but/only skin-deep; Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; Beauty will buy no beef; Never judge a book by its cover; Never judge from appearances; Things are not always what they seem; You cannot judge of a tree by its bark; You can’t tell a book by its cover.

Subjects: appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – poor – insignificance – underestimating – dangers


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).