The Man and the Woman of the River

Here is a story:

Once upon a time there lived a young man in a village, and this young man and his wife lived well together. But, one day the young man went for a walk along the edge of a river. As he was walking, he noticed a beautiful girl, and he said: What a beautiful girl! He called to the girl and greeted her with: Good morning, beautiful girl! The girl replied: Good morning!

The young man began to talk to the girl and said: Beautiful girl, I love you very much. The girl replied: I love you too. The girl said to the young man: I really love you, but if you want to marry me, first you must kill your wife. The young man went off and thought to himself: To kill my wife would be wrong. I can’t go that far; I think I will just trick her by saying: ‘I have killed her’. He took a spear and stabbed the mulombwa tree (which has red sap), and then he went to the river woman and said: I have killed my wife. The woman said: You have not killed your wife, you are lying, and I have known about your treachery for a long time.

This young man loved the woman of the river very much and went home and killed his wife. Then he said to himself: Now I will marry the real woman of the river. When he got to the river, he saw the woman was waiting for him. He saw her and said: Come here. She replied: I know that you have killed your wife, so now I can leave the river. The man went to the girl and picked her up and to his surprise he saw that she lacked everything a woman had beneath her waist. She was just breasts and a head. The man was dumbfounded: I have killed my wife and now what am I going to do? The woman replied: This is justice, you are being punished for your crime.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: lustful desire can bring down misfortune. Do not be misled by somebody’s beautiful appearance: it may end in committing adultery and you may find yourself in trouble.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Beauty is like a thin, uncooked gruel (Usuma, uli munya); Beauty is in the calabash (Usuma, uli nu ku nkolo). 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”; “Beauty will buy no beef”; “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 – misleading – beauty – adultery – lustful desire – misfortune


Written by Joseph Kafunda, 07th of September 1994.