How the Rat, Solo, Ridiculed Cangala for Theft

Here is a story:

Stealing is not a good thing.

There once was a young man called Cangala who travelled a great distance to find himself a wife. When he arrived at the place where he was going to find a wife, the people in the village kept him there. Therefore he did not return home; he began to live with his in-laws. This young man was a great hunter. What kind of animals? Wherever he went he would catch an animal and bring it to his in-law’s home. The in-laws liked him very much and they always prepared good food for him. Every morning and evening he would catch something and then he would return home to eat whatever it was. And it was always like that.

One day, the young man went to set traps in the Livingstone potato field. There were animals called Solo (little creatures that have a tendency to eat Livingstone potatoes) there. He went to the field and found a Rat caught in one of his traps. When he picked it up to take it to the village, it begged: Please, do not take me to the village, I will not do it again. Cangala refused absolutely. When the Rat kept trying to convince him, Cangala slammed it against the ground in order to kill it. Then he heard it sing a song:

Our Cangala, do not hold me;

if you do then you shall see, if you do then you shall see;

Don’t take me to the village,

if you do then you shall see, if you do then you shall see.

They will laugh at my snout;

if you do then you shall see, if you do then you shall see;

Because I ate their Livingstone potatoes;

if you do then you shall see, if you do then you shall see;

It sang this song all the way back to the village. When the people of the village heard this, they wondered: What is headed this way with such a song? It was little Solo who was making all of this noise. When he returned to the village with the Rat, the people gathered around it to see and said: Is this not the little creature that eats our Livingstone potatoes? Then they began to laugh at the Rat because he had a long snout.

After all this, Cangala gave the Rat to his wife who took it home. He hoped that he would be able to eat the little creature because he was used to eating everything he caught.

In the morning, he received a portion of mush but he did not get the little Rat Solo. He began to worry. He went off to do his chores and then he went to check the rest of his traps. When he got home in the evening, he thought to himself: Now they will bring me the mush and little Solo to eat. He discovered that was not to happen.

The next day, the same thing happened, they brought him a different relish, but not little Solo. It was left behind. They didn’t eat Solo, it was simply left untouched. On the third day, he decided not to go anywhere and his in-laws went to the fields. So he stayed behind alone in the village and thought: Why can’t I just go and eat my animal? That’s it! He went to his in-law’s home. He sneaked in with no problem. These old homes are not like ours now with locks; these homes only had a slide-lock. Therefore it was easy to get in. As soon as he entered the house, he looked around the house, he looked around and he found a container: This must be the container with little Solo inside, this is my lucky day! Then he said: I will take this animal and eat it, but something caught his hand. He picked up the container and tried to leave, but for some reason the container would not let him pass through the door. He tried to go backwards out of the house. He then tried breaking the container against the wall, against the ground, but the container would not break. He said: What can I do? He twisted and turned in every direction, but the container would not let him go.

He began to hear the bells of the dogs that were returning from the fields. He said to himself: Oh gosh! When my in-laws return there will be very big trouble. He wanted to yell and go to the washroom for he had not been since morning and all day long he was fighting with the container. So he relieved himself in the house because he could not do it anywhere else. He saw his wife approaching and when she saw him, she said: What is going on here? What is it? Cangala could not explain himself because he felt so guilt ridden, and his wife said: This will bring you great shame! This will be a terrible thing! His wife tried to help him out of the container so the in-laws would not find out. Then she said: I will put my hand in there! It caught her too. They did everything they could but they could not get out of the trap: they could do nothing.

A short while later his mother-in-law came back home and said: What have you done? I will try to free you before my husband comes back because this could bring shame on you. Let me do that! She was then also trapped. Few seconds later the father-in-law came back, he asked: What have you done, my son? I will try with my hand inside. And he also got caught . Everyone was desperately trying to do something with the container, but there was nothing to do. When little Solo shamed them, it said to the son-in-law Cangala: My friend, I asked you for mercy but you gave me none. You know that stealing is not a good thing. You caught me in the act of theft and now you are stealing from your in-laws. But I will show you mercy. The Rat slid off of their hands and went on his way. And it said: As you shamed me because I was stealing, I shamed you because of the theft you had tried to do.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: if you show no mercy to your neighbours, they too will have no mercy for you.

The Mambwe proverbs say: (An animal) steps (walks) where (another animal) stepped (walked)(Ikalyata, muno yalyasile); Where the foreleg steps, there the hind leg steps also (Muno yalyasil’ikasa, ni kulu kwene);The swenya says: “help me over the path (Swenya ati: ncizyi nzila); The swenya (says): help me over the path, men help each other to jump over (Swenya ncizyi nzila, aonsi amacizyanya). English equivalent: “He may freely receive courtesies who knows how to return them”; “One bad turn deserves another”; “One good turn deserves another”; “Tit for tat is fair play”.

Subjects: forgiveness – cruelty – neighbours – mercy – revenge – mercilessness


Told by Mr Daniel Daudi Simungala from Nsindano (Kasakalawe) village (recorded).