The Dog, the Cat, the Goat and the Real Girl

Here is a story:

There once was a large village where many people lived. Among them lived a woman who had no husband. This woman had a beautiful daughter. Eventually, a young man from another village came to the girl and they got engaged. After a few days another young man came. He also got engaged to the same girl. Then a third came, and then a fourth and it was the same. In this way she agreed to marry four boys. She liked all of the young men and agreed to marry them all.

A few days passed and the young men wanted to marry the girl. The mother of the girl was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Then she went to see the one-buttocked Ant to consult the spirits in order to know what to do. The one-buttocked Ant told her she shouldtake one goat, one dog, and one cat. Then it said: Leave these animals in the same room as your daughter. It gave her medicine which should be buried in the house where she placed the animals and her daughter to sleep. So the woman did as she was told and buried the medicine in the house. Then she brought the goat, dog and also the cat to where her daughter was.

When the sun came up, she went to her daughter’s room and found four girls so identical to each other in the room that she could not recognise which one was her child. This made her happy and she said: Now, I can solve my problem. The woman gave up all of her children, and each one of the young men married one of the daughters.

After all this, the woman wondered: How can I tell the difference between the other girls and my real daughter if they are all identical? Then she said: Well, I will go to their houses to visit them so I will be able to tell the difference between them. From their behaviour I will know that this one is a goat, that one a dog, this one a cat, and that one my real child. And this is what she did.

She went on her way to the first (daughter’s) house. In fact, they greeted her very sincerely and showed her great hospitality. In the evening she asked the son-in-law: So, how do you like living with my daughter? The son-in-law replied: We are very happy and we enjoy living together. However, there is one thing that I just can’t understand. The people of the village are always complaining because when somebody spreads out germinated grain to dry in the sun for making beer, my wife goes there and eats it. So mother, as you can see, I have a little problem with my wife. This very moment the mother-in-law knew that the “daughter” in this house was really the goat. They, then, went to sleep.

Early in the morning, they all said their “good byes” and the mother went off on her way to the other (daughter’s house). When she got there, they greeted her very courteously and showed her great hospitality. In the same way, the mother asked her son-in-law how he lived with his wife. The son-in-law told her: We are very happy but the only problem is that she only eats the bones of animals. Even when I hunt down something big, she only wants the bones. The mother was certain now that this one was the dog! Then they went to sleep.

Early that morning, she went off to the third daughter’s house. Once again she was taken in very sincerely. Then later that day, in the evening, she began questioning the son-in-law how he is living with his wife. The young man replied: There is no problem but one: when it is dark, my wife climbs on the roof and chases mice. At this moment she knew that this was the cat. Then they went to sleep.

Then, early the next morning, she said goodbye and made her way to her last child. When she arrived they all greeted her courteously. As usual, as the evening came, she asked her son-in-law how he enjoyed living with his wife. The son-in-law answered that they lived very well together, that his wife was very special and full of joy and appreciated for her hospitality. Besides that, she had great respect for people and was very kind to them. The people in the village praised her a lot. The woman realised right away that this was her real daughter. When evening came about, they all went to sleep.

After making sure and knowing the truth about her children by what she was told and what she could see herself from their behaviour, the next morning she said goodbye and went. She had recognised her real daughter by her good deeds.

If the deeds of a person are good, he is recognised as a good person. The bad person is known by his bad deeds.

And that is the end of our story.


Written by Geoffrey Sinyangwe, the of September 1994. It is a second version of a folk-tale (101) The Girl that Got Engaged to Five Men told by Bernard Kungula.