How the Frog Saved the Girl, Ngoza, who Mocked the Massive Stone

Here is a story:

Dear Friends, there once was a great village and in this village there were six girls. One day, these girls made an arrangement: My friends, let us go and pick fruit from the musuku tree. The girls got up and went to look for their baskets, flat baskets. One girl, who had an older sister, was known to the people of the village as Ngoza. Little Ngoza really enjoyed playing with the older girls.

One day, the girls went on a trip towards the mountains where the musuku trees grew, and they returned with a great amount of fruit. Little Ngoza always followed closely behind, but when her older sister saw her she didn’t want her coming along and said: You’re too young and too inattentive so you might get lost among the musuku trees or you might do something sacrilegious because the souls of the dead kings rest on that mountain.

The girls went on the trip, but little Ngoza followed behind, hiding. When the girls got very far, little Ngoza began to run very quickly. Until finally she found the girls and realised she was on the mountain top where the musuku trees were found. The girls began to gather the musuku fruit and they noticed a massive rock which had a belly-button like the ones humans possess. They warned each other saying: If we laugh, then we might lose our way.

When little Ngoza arrived there, she looked at the stone and said: How odd! What a stone! What a story, a bellybutton on the stone! Then she began to laugh uncontrollably. She went on a little further, and then she returned to the stone. She stared at it again, saying: This stone has a bellybutton like the ones humans possess. Once again, she broke out in laughter. She went on further to the other girls, and when she got there they said: Ngoza! She answered: Yes! They said: Stop mocking the stone or you will bring us misfortune.

On their way, the girls met an old woman. She had many wounds. The old woman was very quiet; she did not say a word. Of all of the wounds that covered her body the old woman had a massive one on her leg, just below her knee. It was big and gave off a foul stench. When the other girls left, little Ngoza found her way to the old woman and watched scrupulously, saying: Mmm mmm. Dear old lady, what a terrible wound you have got ! It is awful! I cannot stand this terrible stench of these wounds! The old woman paid no attention to her.

The girls, having gathered all of the fruit in flat baskets, went towards their village. On their way back they met a mountain which had grown as a spiralling mountain. The girls wondered how to get around the mountain so they could go back home; they were totally flabbergasted. Then they said to little Ngoza: You see, Ngoza, we told you: ‘If you laugh at the stone, you will make the Spirits mad’. When the girls got closer to the mountain, the girls started to sing. One of the girls struck up a song:

You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.
You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.

The great mountain opened up; it made a tunnel big enough for the girl who sang the song to walk through with her basket. Then it closed again. The next girl went up to the mountain and sang the same song:

You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.

And the mountain opened up again and the second girl passed through. All of the other girls did the same and they all passed through the mountain. When Ngoza’s older sister was about to past the mountain, she said: Ngoza, sing the song to let you by. Small Ngoza went up to the mountain and sang:

You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.

This time, the mountain did not open up to let Ngoza by. Her older sister said: Oh Ngoza, did I not tell you? What am I going to do? All the others are gone. Once again sing! So Ngoza sang the song again and the mountain did not open up. The older sister, the sister of Ngoza, began to sing:

You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.

The great mountain opened up. So she said to Ngoza: Just sing the song the same as I did and make sure to do it exactly the same way. Do not make a mistake, and it will open for you. So the small Ngoza sang but once again it refused to open. When Ngoza’s sister began to sing the song, the mountain opened up. So Ngoza said: Since it opened, I will try to pass through, but immediately it closed up on her leaving her all alone. She sang again:

You, our great mountain, open up;
You, our great mountain, open up;
It was not me who mocked you by saying:
‘Mountain with the bellybutton’.

As before, it did not open up. Finally, the older sister went. When the older sister went and arrived at the village, Ngoza’s mother asked her: Where is your younger sister? Where did you leave her? The girl told the mother all that happened to Ngoza and what she had done.

When Ngoza was alone, the old woman showed up and said: You see, I told you. You brought misfortune upon yourself, you really did. I am telling you. Is it not you who has laughed about the wounds? You will regret it! Now come with me! The old woman took Ngoza and locked her up in a small house. In this house there was a large assortment of bugs: cockroaches, bed bugs, and everything which can sting and bite. So she went to sleep. The old woman said: If something bites you, do not try to scratch yourself or squeeze it. If you do scratch yourself, I will kill you tomorrow. Ngoza slept in the old woman’s home that night and all of the bugs gnawed at her. Any insect which approached bit her but Ngoza lay on the floor motionless.

Early in the morning, the old woman said: Ngoza, go outside. The girl went outside. The woman then turned to the insects and asked: My beautiful animals, is there any one of you whom Ngoza hurt? The insects all replied: No, we are all healthy, and we are full having fed on Ngoza’s body. The old woman said: It’s good! Then she took Ngoza to her sleeping place where the fireplace was run down and the house was in a terrible state. The old woman said to Ngoza: I now want you to lick my wound. Little Ngoza began to lick the old woman’s wounds.

The next morning the old woman said: Ngoza, here is a hoe. I want you to dig up some Livingstone potatoes but do not eat even one of them. Ngoza went to dig up Livingstone potatoes. She thought: If I eat one potato, the hoe and the flat basket will both denounce me. So Ngoza returned to the old woman very hungry. The old woman asked: Basket, basket, did Ngoza eat any of the Livingstone potatoes? The basket said nothing. You Livingstone potatoes, did Ngoza eat any of you? The Livingstone potatoes said nothing. The old woman returned to Ngoza, and said: You have done well. That night, the old woman made Ngoza lick her wounds again and again.

The morning passed and in the evening the old woman made mush for Ngoza out of flies and Ngoza ate it. The next day, Ngoza went to the forest to dig up some groundnuts. When she returned, she had not eaten one nut. The old woman asked the groundnuts: You groundnuts, did Ngoza eat any of you all? The nuts remained silent. You basket of groundnuts, please, do not hold back anything. Tell me everything! But the basket also remained quiet.

One day, the old woman went far away and small Ngoza went to the river where she washed the Livingstone potatoes. There she met the Frog. The Frog said to Ngoza: You, my child! You are very foolish for not eating the groundnuts or Livingstone potatoes! Have you ever seen a place where a basket betrays anyone? Small Ngoza said: I can not eat because the old woman has forbidden it. The Frog said: Let me tell you something. This Wednesday the old woman is going to go to summon the bad Ghosts to come and eat you. On that day, come here to me and I will tell you how to save yourself.

Indeed on Wednesday the old woman disappeared without a trace and locked Ngoza in the house. The giant Frog came to the house and found Ngoza. The Frog said: Ngoza, today some bad Ghosts are coming to eat you. Let me then take a wooden mortar and put it on the bed. We will then run away, letting you go back home. And that is what they did. They went to the riverside. There at the river the Frog swallowed some mud and began to lick it. The Frog then said to Ngoza: Give me the box in which you hide the beads that you often wear. Ngoza immediately gave the Frog the beads. The Frog swallowed the box and then some more mud. Then the Frog took some medicine and then gave it to Ngoza, who threw up everything she had eaten before. Next the Frog swallowed Ngoza and became very big. The Frog then ate some more mud, and some more mud. On its way to Ngoza’s home, where the father and mother lived, the Frog had a hard time walking because it was so bloated.

They went very far and half way to the girl’s house the Frog saw the old woman coming. But before seeing the old woman, the Frog saw the flying Ghosts on their wings coming and passing by. They were flying with incredible speed towards the old woman’s house where the old woman left Ngoza.

When finally the old woman and the Frog met, she said: You frog, why are you so fat? Frog, what did you eat? The Frog replied: I didn’t eat anything. The old woman said: So why don’t you throw it up so I can have a look? Throw it up! The Frog threw it up and the old woman only saw mud.

The old woman was dumbfounded, and left not very far, when she came back and said to the Frog: Oh you Frog, You must have eaten something, why are you so fat? The Frog replied: You old woman, why are you so interested? I told you I gorged myself on mud. It is only mud that I have swallowed. And that is it. The Frog threw up some mud, making her legs dirty. So she said: Lick it now! The Frog licked the mud up. The old woman then said: Get away, you didn’t swallow anything!

When the old woman got to her home, she found the ghosts swarmed around her wooden mortar. They grabbed the old woman and said: Bring us this Ngoza you told us about. When the old woman uncovered the bed, she found the mortar that was left behind. One of the ghosts said to his tooth: Tooth of mine, kill, tooth of mine, kill, tooth of mine, kill. Then the ghost only heard his tooth break. The other ghosts began to say: Is this Ngoza? The Ghosts said then: You old woman, we will eat you instead. The Ghosts took the old woman and devoured her. Then the Ghostsreturned to where they came from.

Finally, the Frog and Ngoza came back to the village where Ngoza’s family lived. She saw that the family wore banana leaves tied to each of their heads as symbols of mourning over their daughter. When they saw the Frog, they said: Look, it’s a Frog. The Frog came into the house and the father of Ngoza said: Get a broom and sweep the Frog out of the house. Ngoza’s mother said: That frog is really big! The crouched Frog barely made its way into the house. The father said: Let the animal in. So the Frog entered the house. When the Frog went inside the house, it started to sing:

Ngoza’s mother, spread for me a mat;
Let me show you what I have in my belly.
Ngoza’s mother, spread for me a mat;
Let me show you what I have in my belly.

The Ngoza’s mother said: Bring this small mat; bring even a rough mat of laths. They put the mat on the floor and the Frog sat down on the spot. The Frog threw up lots of mud. Then the Ngoza’s father said: Get a broom and clean all the mud up! When it was all cleaned up, the Frog began to throw up again with a waa. This time Ngoza’s box completely full beads came out. Ngoza’s mother thought to herself: What is this then? Slowly they were getting happier and happier. The Frog then threw up some more mud, and finally, with a Waa, Ngoza came out whole. The family radiated like the sun. Then Ngoza kept on throwing up everything she had eaten. How she was tormented with throwing up! Really, she threw up all she had eaten. Her parents had no idea what to think of this.

The Frog began to explain: My friends! I have brought back your daughter for you, the one you have lost, she will now be able to describe the kind of suffering she went through. I felt sorry for her, so in order to bring her here I had to swallow her by doing no harm. She is in good shape. The father and mother were very happy. They called the rest of the family to come and welcome Ngoza. They were all so happy that they began to shout with joy and – as a sign of joy – they threw grains of finger millet at Ngoza. Then they asked: Who brought Ngoza back home? Who brought Ngoza back home? The mother said: This Frog just here has brought our daughter back home. What can we do to express our gratitude for all that you have done for us? Straight away, they took the Frog to the grain-bin where they showered it in lentil leaves. The Frog said: I don’t eat lentils, only the bugs that live on them. The village people said: It is not a problem. The Frog sat there and ate until it was very fat. The father and the mother welcomed Ngoza warmly and said: This is our child who was lost. They killed a cow for Ngoza to eat and they were very happy.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: (1) we should take care of things which seem to be worth nothing and should not be despised. Do not despise people who appear poor and insignificant. Don’t judge by appearances. As the Frog helped Ngoza, in a certain way, it may also be very helpful to us; Honesty, wisdom or goodness cannot be recognised by somebody’s appearance, age or sex. (2) we should keep on teaching even small children even though it may seem they understand little. Otherwise they will bring misfortune upon themselves and their parents; (3) we should follow the advice of our elders. He who listens to experienced elders avoids blunders and will grow old. The one who asks does not go wrong and there will always be somebody who will help him. It is wise to consult those who know your case (problem, work, etc.) from experience; (4) suffering begets wisdom.

The Mambwe proverbs say: (1) 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; (2) Children intoxicate (make somebody drunk) (Twana, tukakola); Parenthood makes some people eat excreta (Ukwasi, ukalisya mavi); English equivalent: Children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts; (3) The fire does not burn when the elders screen it from you (Moto uno akalamba yacinzile, usioca); He who despises the advice of older people (or who contradicts an elder), will never grow old (Akakana amazwi ya akalamba, asikota); Whoever contradicts an elder will never grow old (Akakanya umukulu, asyakota (orasikota), or Who contradicts an elder, will never grow old (Lukanya-yakulu asikota); A bearded mouth does not deceive (Akanwa ka cilezu, kasisomba); The one who travels with his mouth never gets lost (Akapita na kanwa, asiponga); Who asks does not get poisoned by mushrooms (Kuuzya, atakoliku wowa,); Go and ask the madman to show you the remedy they used to cure him (Kuzye ilyapenyile, likulangu mulembo uno yalilwazizizye).

Subjects: appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – elders – advice – little things – despise – poor – insignificance – sufferings – wisdom – underestimating – dangers – upbringing – small children


Told by Mr Silvester Siwiti Silwamba from Vimbuli village (recorded). Cf. in second version 9 (The Frog and Lozi) written by Joseph Kafunda.