How Death Found its Way on to the Earth

Here is a story:

There once was a man who pleaded with God that he bestow on him something that would improve his life on earth. He kept asking, but soon he realised that he received nothing. He said: Does he hear me or does he not hear me? God responded to him by saying: I have heard this man beg me for some time now and I think it is time that I give him what he is after.

One day, God heard the man’s pleadings. God said to him: If I give you what you want, will you be able to choose it when I put the choices before you? The man agreed to God’s terms with a lot of joy. God brought the man two tidings. One of them was death; the other one was eternal life. God put them before the man and said: One of these is life, and one of these is death. You have to choose for yourself which it is that you want. Then the Lord went back to his home.

He took a good look at the two packages and decided on the one that gave off a shine. Then the man went home and said to himself: I will unwrap the package. As the man opened the package, death shot out like a bullet out of a gun. When death shot out, it caught a little baby that cried out: po po po po. He cried: Dear God, my Lord, my Lord. God heard him yelling and replied: Oh man! There is no other way, you have chosen what you wanted. In the morning, he immediately went to visit God but he said: My friend! Did you choose according to what I told you? He replied: Yes I did, but when I unwrapped it, I saw how it was killing my child. And you’re responsible for that. The Lord replied: Oh no, I gave you two tidings. One of them is life; the other one is death. Choose what you want. It happened to you how you wanted because it appealed to you. The man said: I beg you Lord, please give me back my child. If you give him back to me, I will do your bidding for the rest of my life. The Lord looked at him carefully and said: Very well, I agree. I will give you back your child if you follow that: for three days you must go without food or water. Just sit and withstand it. If you do as I have said, I will give you back your child.

The man went home and said to his wife: God is looking after our child, and he said that if we go three days without food and water, we will get our child back. His wife replied: If our first born will come back thanks to God’s will, we will truly be very grateful to the Lord; therefore, let us try.

They sat in front of the house and the first day without water or food went by very quickly. The next day also went by quickly. Only the third day remained, and when the day was ending, it was almost time for them to get their child back.

But the hunger conquered them. They went inside and made a lot of mush because the hunger was too much to bear. They ate and ate until they were very full. The man then said: Not much time was left and we would have died of hunger. Then the Lord at his place knew what they did. O.K. this is what they want. Let me go there. The Lord went to their home to visit them and when he got there he said: Hello! How are you? They repeated: Fine, thank you. Then he asked: Have you done what I have asked of you in order to get your child back? The man said: Sir, there was only one hour left but our hunger was so severe we failed to withstand it and we ate. God replied: In that case what do you want from me? We made an arrangement that I cannot break. And the more I showed you mercy, saying: ‘try to conquer the hunger and I will get your child back’. You refused to do as you were told and the thing that you chose to bring will now fall upon you. This kind of fate repeats itself always.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: for as long as we are in this world, we are all mortals, that is our destiny. Due to our arrogance and disobedience we refuse to live according to what God tells us and that is why we remain mortals.

The Mambwe proverbs say: You corpse, you are smart but the undertakers have more authority than you (Cala wacenjela, azisi yakulusile);Everything that has seen the sun will die to the last (Consi icala caloli ndaka, icifwe citupu); The bird directs its head where it will fly to (Kuno cunyi citwazilu mutwe, kuli kwa upapucilo); Stones do not undertake that journey, people do (Kusyaya mawe, antu akaya kweneko); The world is like a bone, they just gnaw it (Mpanga ifupa, yakakolokota kweneko sile); An arrow stays in the air only for a short time as its home is on the ground (Muvwi ukalenjela sile ukupela, apa mwao apansi); The rain, even if slow in coming, has its home on the ground (Mvula nantu zimbe, apansi pako); The year which has not yet come (which does not belong to you), you can’t jump over it (can’t be jumped over)(Mwaka usi wako, usitampukwa);You who are dead, rejoice – there is no permanent resident in this world (Wa kuzimu cinanga, munonsi musi wikazi (orwikalo)). English equivalent: “A man’s destiny is always dark”; “Death defies the doctor”; “Death devours lambs as well as sheep”; “Death is the great leveller”; “Death is sure to all”; “Death takes all”; “Every door may be shut but death’s door”; “Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweeps, come to dust”; “There is a remedy for everything except death”.

Subjects: death – inevitability – disobedience – following God’s commandments


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).