Should One Eat the Fruit of the Umucakaili Tree?

Here is a story:

The Hare and a bunch of other animals all lived together in a big village. Living together in such a large number; however, caused them to eventually run out of food. All of the things growing in the bush dried out. One day, they found a massive tree on which there grew some fruit called manonongwe. It looked very good, but they did not know if they could safely eat the fruit. They wondered: What can we do to find out if we can eat the fruit of this tree? So the animals called a meeting. The Hare told the other animals: Let’s send one animal after the other to the person who takes care of the tree to find out if the fruit can be eaten. All the animals said: There is a saying: He who reminds about the small drum will carry it”, so off you go, Hare. The Hare said: Oh no, I am too small. You, the big ones, you should go first.

The animals went to the tree’s guard to find out if the fruit on the tree was edible. The Elephant went as the first to the guard of the tree and asked: What kind of a tree is this? He replied: The tree is umucakaili. The Elephant asked: Is it edible? He said: Yes! Instantly, the Elephant ran to tell the other animals, screaming: Umucakaili, Umucakaili, Umucakaili. After reaching them he fell down and forgot the name of the tree. When he went to see the other animals he was unable to remember the name of the tree, he told them: I forgot half-way back.

Next the animal sent was the Eland antelope who ran to the guard of the tree and asked him what the tree was called. He replied: Umucakaili. The Eland asked: Can you eat it? He said: Yes! The Eland ran back to the other animals. Half-wayback to the village he fell down and forgot everything. The same happened with all the other animals.

The only animal left was the Hare. So they said: You are the one who has to go! The Hare began to run for the tree. When he got there, he asked: What kind of a tree is this? The guard said: Umucakaili. The Hare asked: Can you eat it? He said: Yes! The Hare began his way back singing:

Father says: come and eat it, umucakaili, come and eat it,

Father says: come and eat it, umucakaili, come and eat it,

Nkombwa* says: come and eat it, umucakaili, come and eat it.

When he got just there, he fell, but then he got back up and said: Umucakaili, without forgetting. And again he began singing:

Father says: come and eat it, umucakaili, come and eat it.

When he got to another place, he fell and said: It’s not true, Umucakaili, Umucakaili, Umucakaili, Umucakaili. It became almost a song ‘Umucakaili’ sung until he reached the other animals. When he came to the other animals, they asked: What did they say about the tree? He said: They say: mucakaili.The animals all began to run for the tree, to eat the fruit of the Umucakaili tree. What a feast it was. The Elephants, the Elands, the Roan antelope… they all ran together to the tree. The Hare said to himself: I will go and eat there. The other animals slapped and chased him, saying: Get lost! The Hare said: Really, so that’s the way you do? So they stayed there, eating and feeding on Mucakaili, but the Hare quietly went back to the place where they lived. Finally, they finished eating this Umucakaili and the Elephant and other animals were satisfied.

What happened afterwards? They became very thirsty. There was no water. The water everywhere had dried up. All of the rivers were dry and wherever they went they found there was no water. Everywhere they went, they searched like birds. They said: Look, there was a puddle there once; it probably still has water. When they got there, they discovered there was no water. So they began asking each other: What shall we do then? The Hare paid no attention to it. Finally, all of the animals met together in order to decide what to do. The Hare said to them: O.K., I’ll will show you what to do. He took them all to the river, knowing water may appear at any time, and told them: You must do the following! First listen to me and you will see that the water will come, then you will drink. And then he added: Begin to dig here. Since you are big, Elephant, you start digging the hole. Then each one of you must go after him and dig, one after the other. While digging you must say: kick so the water comes out, kick so the water comes out. We want to see an animal with no horns, fyoli fyoli fyo. He then kicked the riverbed. The Elephant was the first one to start. They said: You great Elephant, kick so the water comes out, kick so the water comes out. We want to see an animal with no horns, fyoli fyoli fyo. The Elephant kicked the river and broke his foot. They said: Now you Roan Antelope, you great Roan Antelope, kick so the water comes out. We want to see a small animal with no horns, fyoli fyoli fyo. It also broke its foot.

All of the animals broke their feet and no water came out of the river. So the animals all turned towards the Hare and said: Now it’s your turn. The Hare replied: Since none of you could do it, how would I? He told them to start singing. So they started to sing this song: Great Hare, kick so the water comes out, kick so the water comes out, we want to see an animal with no horns fyoli fyoli fyo. When the Hare kicked the river, the water began to come downstream, and they bent their heads and began to drink. The Hare was just sitting, he was not thirsty as he had not eaten anything. When the animals finished drinking, they grabbed the Hare in order to kill him. He said: What do you want to do with me? If you want to kill me, fine, but listen first, do not smash me against the rocks. Smash me over the turf. If you smash me against the rocks, I will just get up and run away. I will be saved. The animals smashed him over the turf. So look, that’s him! He got up and ran away. The animals were lame and their lips were dry.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: elders can also learn or benefit from the sayings of children; so we must not judge anyone by their appearance because the small ones may sometimes be the ones that save us. Do not think you alone have brains, because there are many things one can learn from others. Also: we should help each other. But in order to achieve anything we must be attentive to what needs to be done.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Brains (intelligence) came out of a small anthill (nacisoswa) and entered a large anthill (cilenga)(Amano yakafumu muli nacisoswa, yaya umu cilenga; Amano yakafumu mwisoswa, yayu mu cilenga; Ilango likafuma mwisoswa, liyu mu cilenga); The brain (is like) the meadows (Amano, manyika).

Subjects: appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – learn from children – success – attentiveness


* Nkombwa – it is a name of a person in the folk-tale which can be translated: the one who eats well.

Told by Mr Daniel Daudi Simungala from Nsindano (Kasakalawe) village (recorded). Cf. in second version 8 (The Hare and the Mucakaili Tree) written by an unknown author.