Here is a story:
There once was a woman who gave birth to a boy, and this boy turned out to be a fool. One day, when he was grown up, the other boys in the village his age said: We are old enough so let’s go and find wives for ourselves. The fool went back to his mother and father and said: Father, I am going to go with my friends to find myself a wife. As the boys were on their way, they said to him: Oh man, how can you come with us if you are an idiot. The fool heard this and went off on his own in another direction which led to a village. On his way, he came across some goats’ shepherds. He greeted them three times, but they said nothing and didn’t even acknowledge him so he said to himself: Really, my stupidity is so great (that they won’t even speak to me). So he went and found the shepherds of cows and greeted them, but they too did not respond. So he repeated to himself what he had said earlier about his stupidity.
He went on even further and saw a woman collecting water and greeted her but she didn’t say anything. Again he complained in the same manner. When he got to the village, there was a dead man who was refused a funeral. He was only put in his house and barricaded in by a wall and laid to rest there. The fool met a woman and greeted her and to his surprise she replied to him. He then tried to speak to the corpse, but the corpse remained silent. He then said to the woman: Everywhere I go, and everyone I meet, no one greets me back when I say ‘hello’. The woman replied: This person is dead and cannot reply. The people have refused to bury him. The woman went on and prepared him some mush to eat.
When it became dark, at night fall, he began to dream about a man who put a fish-hook in his hand. This man said: When you arrive at the river, catch with the fish-hook five eggs, and from those five eggs a girl you can marry will come out. And then the man in the dream told him: When you break an egg, the woman will come out begging: ‘Master give me some water, Master give me some water’, and you must give it to her right away.
The fool started to break the eggs one after another, and from the first egg came a girl. As he was on the hills and water was far away, each time when he broke an egg and a girl came out begging for water: Master, give me some water, Master, give me some water, the fool could not find any. But with the fifth egg, he took that egg to the riverside and broke it there. This time a girl came out of it and the fool gave her water and she drank it.
The girl told the boy: Let’s get to know each other. She asked him: How intelligent are you? The boy replied: I have an intelligence of five. The girl said: I have an intelligence of seven. So the person of an intelligence of seven said to the person of five: What are you thinking of right now? He said: Honestly, I’m not thinking of anything. The person of an intelligence of seven said: I can see what will happen today and tomorrow.
The fool and the girl both got married, and out of their wedding rings came a car and many other things for the house. The father of the fool heard that his son had married and when the son and girl went to the place where the boy was from, the father already knew they were coming. His father yearned to steal his son’s wife. The fool’s father hired five men to dig a huge, deep hole in the road so that when his foolish son came, he would fall in and die and then the father of the foolish son would marry his daughter-in-law.
The fool took his car which came from the ring and began to drive home without his wife. As he was driving home, he fell in the hole but he did not die. The wife followed him because she knew that he fell in. The wife pulled him out of the hole, saying: Now you can see what I told you about seeing the future. Then he went back home and the husband said: When we arrive, I will hide. This he did .
When the fool arrived, his father said to his five friends: Let’s go and get my wife as she is my daughter-in-law. They found the daughter-in-law and asked: May we come in? and she replied: Of course, father, please come in. The father-in-law then said to the daughter-in-law: I have come in the name of my foolish son to claim the right of succession in marriage as he has died in a hole. The wife responded to him: But you are my father-in-law, how can that be? And the daughter-in-law continued: My father, I will summon the fool so he can hear for himself as he is here. When the father saw his son come out of hiding, he lost face in front of everyone there because he tried to commit incest.
And that is the end of our story.
The moral of the story: never ignore people who might seem unimportant or poor as the last will become first and the first will be last. They are also God’s creatures. Do not judge on appearances only because you may underestimate his abilities.
The Mambwe proverbs say: When you see a leafless tree, do not say: “It is dead” (Utalola umuti ukupululuka, uti: uma);English equivalent: “All that glitters is not gold”; “Appearances are deceptive/deceitful/deceiving”; “Beauty is but/only skin-deep”; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; “Never judge a book by its cover”; “Never judge from appearances”; “Things are not always what they seem”; “You cannot judge of a tree by its bark”; “You can’t tell a book by its cover”.
Subjects: appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – first – last – underestimating – dangers
Written by William Nyondanyonda, 07th of September 1994.