Lumbi and Mulenga: Children in a Polygamous Marriage

Here is a story:

There once was a man who had two wives. He had two children, one with each wife: the first child was a boy named Lumbi and the second child was named Mulenga. This man had a lot of goats. One day, Lumbi’s mother died and he had to be raised by Mulenga’s mother. The father went on a trip to far away lands to find work. After a year, Mulenga’s mother stopped feeding Lumbi so that he would die of hunger.

His sister, Mulenga, secretly brought him mush to the place where he grazed the goats. One day during this troublesome time when the children were grazing the goats, the mother dug a huge hole in the house and placed branches across the hole, covering it with a mat. When the children returned, she called Lumbi and said: Go and get the mush. When Lumbi went to get the mush and crossed the mat, he fell into the hole dug by the mother but did not die; he sat in the hole unharmed. Mulenga had no idea what had happened to his brother, so went looking for him but could not find him. When his mother finally prepared food, she said: Come and eat. The child refused and said: I cannot eat alone unless I am together with Lumbi. Then suddenly, he began to sing a song:

Our Lumbi, are you far away, you child?
Come back, and let us graze the goats, you child.

Lumbi, who was in the hole, heard her and began to sing:

Graze, I could graze the goats, you child!
But is it not your mother with partiality, you child.
She dug me a hole as a trap for me, you child,
And I cannot take (the mush), you child.

She replied:

Lumbi come and take, and I cannot take, you child,
I fell in and I am broken, you child,
Then the Father is very far, you child;
There’s a huge mountain which must be crossed, you child,
Where the people smoke hemp, you child,
Where the people fall back on their necks (die), you child.

As Mulenga heard the other one singing out of the hole, she sank into a deep sadness and stopped eating altogether and stopped grazing the goats.

The father then returned from the place he had gone to. When he arrived at the village, he found that his child was terribly thin and asked what had happened. The child told him everything that had occurred, and she showed him the hole where her brother was thrown. The father went into the hole and pulled Lumbi out who was very thin and close to death by this time. He cast his wife out of the house and the marriage was at an end.

And that is the end of our story.


Written by an unknown author. It is a second version of a folk-tale (53) The old Lumbi and the young Lumbi written by Vera Mwimbe.