The Girl that Got Engaged to Five Men

Here is a story:

There once was a king named Kasanda who ruled a village and in this village there lived many people. Among the people, there lived a woman whose husband had died a long time ago and left her a daughter named Wangoca who was very beautiful. Wangoca’s mother’s name was Ndulole.

From a far away land, a young man came to the village looking for a girl that would be his wife. He saw the girl and said to himself: I have found her. Then he added: Wow! What a beautiful girl! The young man offered the girl engagement presents. The girl accepted the presents and brought them to her mother, saying: I am engaged to be married. The mother accepted the presents and after agreeing the young man returned to his village. The next day, a different young man appeared searching for a girl, and he, too, said to himself: Wow! What a beautiful girl! Immediately, he enticed her into conversation so she agreed to marry him as well. He gave her some engagement presents and she took them to her mother. Her mother said: How can the same girl be engaged to more than one man? The girl replied: Please don’t deny me this, this is what I want. The mother said: Wangoca, you will die because of this. The girl said: This is what I want. When the young man left, a third young man came to see her. He, too, got engaged to her and gave her engagement presents. It continued like this until she had five husbands-to-be. Each one of the five – as they hadn’t seen each other – said to himself: I left her engaged to me.

One day, the young men came to see her, one after the other, in the same manner as when they brought the engagement presents. When each one met her, she asked him to bring a dowry trinket which according to custom is necessary for the preparation of the beer for the wedding. And it was agreed. So finally, five trinkets were demanded for one girl! The mother pondered in her mind: Oh my! What am I going to do? I have one daughter, but five men who have brought engagement presents and wedding trinkets for the preparation of wedding beer. This is really beginning to worry me. The mother went to the king and said: King Kasanda! Listen to what your grandchild has done. She told him the story. Kasanda said: I know, I know that very well. When you arrive back at your home in the evening, go and catch a goat, a sheep, a cat, and a dog. On the day the young men come to get their bride, put these four animals in the same place as your daughter sleeps. Do you understand? She said: Yes, my Lord. Then she bowed and clapped her hands out of respect. She was still worried as she said to herself: A dog bites, so can a cat, a sheep can step on my child, and a goat might kick my child. There is no reason why I cannot do as my King has told me, so I shall follow his orders.

The bridegrooms are coming! They are approaching! Oh my goodness! The bridegrooms are coming. What am I going to do? In the early evening, she took the four animals and put them in the room where her daughter was sleeping and said to her: In the morning there will be a wedding ceremony. In the morning, she found five girls who all looked so similar she couldn’t even recognise her daughter. At first she said: This is wonderful! Then she looked carefully and added: Which one of you is Wangoca? Maybe this one! She could not tell the difference.

The marriage festivities began and each bridegroom brought beer for the people invited to celebrate his wedding. Afterwards, each one took his bride to his house. And the mother started to rock backwards and forwards crying: Oh dear! Oh dear! What shall I do to recognise my real daughter?

Then the mother went to see the King Kasanda and again he said to her: If you want to know where your Wangoca lives, you must visit the villages to which they took your daughter and eventually you will discover your child. So the mother prepared a great amount of flour for each one of her daughters and went on her journey. In the morning, she went to the first village and the daughter, seeing her coming, came out from the house and started running romping around. The mother said to herself: This one must be my child. She is very pretty and full of energy. Straight away, the daughter took her mother to her house. She gave her some food and vegetables as relish. The son-in-law came back from work and said: Oh, mother, you have come to visit us! She answered: Yes, of course! He asked: How are you? She replied: We’re fine. Then they went inside and the man said: Your daughter is very beautiful, but she is as stubborn as a goat. The mother knew immediately that the girl was the goat, but she said nothing. So they went to bed. The mother thought in her heart: This girl is not my daughter. This girl is the goat. In the morning, the mother said: This is not the only daughter I have, you know well that there were five weddings, so I have to be on my way.

She bid them farewell and went to the next village. Then she said: This must be the place. The child approached her tenderly and treated her with great courtesy and escorted her gently, so she said to herself: This one is surely my child. She noticed that her daughter was very calm. They prepared some mush and vegetables and she ate it. When the son-in-law came back from work, he said: Good morning! She answered: Good morning! He asked: How are you? The mother replied: I’m fine! The man said: Mother, your child is very good to me; however, when she goes outside and stays there until sundown. But, the most annoying thing about her behaviour is that even if I put great pressure on her, she won’t move and lays there just like a sheep. Still, she is very good to me. The mother thought in her heart: It is the sheep. This is not my daughter.

In the morning on the third day, she went to the third village to visit her third daughter. The mother noticed that this daughter would not go out in the sun and would often hide from it. The mother was convinced that this daughter had some kind of problem, but she said: In any event, this is my daughter. When she went to the daughter’s house, the daughter went out to catch her mother some rats and some small mice with long snouts which she then cooked. The mother ate it and liked it very much so she said: This is my child. When the son-in-law came home, he said: Mother, your daughter is very beautiful and never goes out during the day. She is very calm and is always close to the house. But at night her eyes begin to shine like that of a cat and she wanders around every house in the village. It became apparent to the mother that this was the cat.

Now there were only two daughters left to visit. So in the morning the mother went to the fourth village. As the mother approached the village, the daughter was quick to notice her and bolted out of the house to greet her mother very warmly. The mother said to herself: This child is well built with a strong body. And she added: No matter what, this is the one. The work in the village has made her strong. The daughter went and killed big animals: a king rat, a rusty-spotted genet, and others. The mother said: Very well, I will get used to eating this. When the son-in-law came back home, he said to the mother: Mother, your child you gave me is very beautiful and works very hard; however, there is one bad thing, she doesn’t distinguish between a poor house and a rich house. She will go into any house and look for relish, just as if she were a dog. The mother said to herself: This is the dog. Now she knew the behaviour of four of her daughters.

In the morning, the mother woke up and went to the fifth village, and when the child saw her mother she said to her neighbours: I am lucky, my mother stayed home all alone and now she has come to visit me. The daughter took some of her friends and said: Come and meet my mother. The daughter helped her mother carry some of the things she had with her. The mother said: All of the other girls did not treat me like this and now I know that this is my daughter Wangoca. The daughter took her mother to her home and opened the door for her mother. She gave her mother a towel, soap, and some water. The mother thoroughly enjoyed washing herself. Then the mother said to herself: In time, she may show her true colours, but it gave her great pleasure just watching her at work. The mother was given something to drink and mush to eat which was prepared by her daughter and took a lot of pleasure in eating. The daughter laid out a mat for her mother.

When the son-in-law came home, he said: Mother, I couldn’t have picked a better wife. I don’t know how the other married couples are getting on, but we don’t fight, we don’t argue, it’s just pure joy. The mother thought: I have gone to every village, but no one has said anything like this to me before. This is truly my child. The son-in-law said: Mother, the daughter you have given me knows what I want before I even say it. I don’t know if the other daughters that my friends married are as good as mine, but if they are then they, too, are very lucky. But with this one: Don’t argue. Because you have taught her so well, in the morning to my surprise, she has already done that which I was about to ask her to do. Even the courtyard is a joy to look at. The mother then thought to herself: Maybe he will now tell me something, which will hurt me? But he said nothing of the kind. The mother stayed with them for a week. Then she said goodbye and set off for home, saying: Now I can carry all my things back home, now I know where I can go and stay.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: first of all the girl was too rash in agreeing to proposals fielded by others without getting to know the person she was to marry. The mother, however, was clever enough to know who would take care of her when in need: she knew what road would lead her to her salvation. As Christians we too are judged on our good deeds when we distinguish between good and bad. In the same way, Christ visits our homes to see which of us is his real child. “By your good deeds they will know that you are my people.” This story reminds us also that if a woman and a man are to be happy together, they must get to know each other very well.

The Mambwe proverbs say: The first thing to be seen is the boat; the man (in the boat) comes after (Kamukolele ukulolwa uwato, nu muntu mwenemo). 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”. “Time is the father of truth”; “Truth and oil are ever above”; “Truth will come to light”.

Subjects: Christians – judging – happiness – knowledge – Jesus Christ – visiting – preparation – marriage – prudence – choice – wisdom – salvation


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded). Cf. in second version 3 (The Dog, the Cat, the Goat and the Real Girl) written by Geoffrey Sinyangwe.