Jealousy of the Village Headman

Here is a story:

There was a very big village where were many people lived. In that village, there was a young man who enjoyed hunting in the bush more than anything else and was very good at it. But the headman of the village began to notice that this young man never came home from hunting empty handed; therefore, the headman began to feel jealous of the young man.

The headman of the village decided to forbid the young man from hunting in the bush. One day, in defiance of the headman, the young man went for a walk in the bush. As he was walking, he saw an antelope, Cisongo, caught in a wire trap. The young man realised he could not take the animal home because he remembered the headman warning him against going hunting: If you ever return to my village with a killed animal, you will be harshly punished.

The young man tried very hard to think of a way out of this situation: If that animal just stays there, it’ll just get ruined. So, he decided to see the Cipungu Buzzard and ask him for advice because the Buzzard saw everything. He would often fly high up above the trees so the young man thought that he would be able to give him some advice. The Buzzard told him: If you find an animal somewhere in the bush, bring it to your headman as a tribute. So he took the animal to give to the village headman. When he arrived, he greeted the headman by clapping his hands and threw the antelope, Cisongo in front of the headman, saying: Master, I have found this animal in the bush. Since I cannot take it home with me because you have forbidden it, I would like to give it to you, Master. The headman of the village liked this idea of having the young man hunt for him and said: This is what I want.

The next day, the young man killed a Hare and he took it to the headman of the village. He killed a grey Squirrel and took it to the headman; he killed the antelope, Mpombo, and took it to his headman without taking a single piece of it for himself.

One day, he went hunting with the lukoka trap (it consisted of a log that fell on the animal when it releases the trigger) and was not discouraged to take it as he used to do because he remembered what the Buzzard told him: Whatever you kill, do not it eat it yourself but go and offer it to the one who has rights to it. On that day he met an enormous black mamba Snake, Ngosye, which had been sitting on top of a trap. In the trap there was a small plain Rat, and when he saw this he began to leave. The enormous Snake said: My friend, come back. I can see you are suffering. Take the Rat that I have found; I was just looking after it so no one would steal it. The young man came closer and closer, and pulled the plain Rat out of the trap in great fear of the Snake. As this was happening, the Snake spoke: Do you always eat the animals you kill by yourself? The young man answered the Snake’s question honestly. The Snake replied: Well then! Come here and pull out all of the spikes which are in my body and stab the Rat with them. Then take the Rat to your headman. He did as the Snake told him. The headman of the village was very happy when he saw the young man carrying the plain Rat. He called his wives and advisors as well. Then he said: Since there isn’t much of this animal, let us eat all of this meat because he will certainly bring more. When they ate the meat they could not stay alive – and it was the end of them all.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: obedience is due to elders, but elders should not abuse their power because this can turn against them. Somebody can be very vicious when angered and may take his revenge in one way or another.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Where the foreleg steps, there the hind leg steps also (Muno yalyasil’ikasa, ni kulu kwene);The spitting cobra spits on the unfortunate: if it does not bite, it spits on you (Nalwiko puta asyame, akula atalumile, akuputa). 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; The fly has its spleen, and the ant its gall.

Subjects: abusing one’s power  – punishment – obedience – elders – revenge – make somebody angry


Written by Stanislaus Sinyangwe, 07th of September 1994.