The Obedient Child that Broke the Tree

Here is a story:

There was once a king named Kalafye. This king had a child, a beautiful daughter. When the girl grew up and attained the age of marriage, the king gathered his people and said: All those who want to marry my daughter must do more to prove their worth than just bring riches to me. Not far from the village there was a tree, and it was a strong tree that would not break. So he said: The man who wants to marry my daughter must cut the tree down with one blow. If he does so my daughter will be his.

Hearing this, the young men gathered and got so excited that they insisted on starting immediately but the king refused and said: First go and prepare yourselves. The next day, three boys showed up and they went to the king’s advisor to tell him they have come to marry the king’s daughter. Among the three, one went to his father to seek some advice on how to win this competition, but the other two did not ask their fathers for advice. The two that did not ask their fathers for advice on the matter were the first ones whom the king sent to the advisors in order to try them. Neither of the two could fell the tree with one blow.

The third one, the one that asked his father for advice, came and buried the bark beetles under the tree. His father told him to bring bark beetles and bury them under the tree the night before (his attempt to chop it). The beetles ate the tree all night. That morning the king’s advisor came to get the third young man so he could try to knock the tree down. When they got there, he was given an axe and swung at the tree and the tree collapsed with one blow. Everyone there began to clap and utter shrill cries of joy and it was very loud in the palace. The boy took the king’s daughter to be his wife. An old Cimambwe proverb says: Stick your white feathers in your hair wherever you come from , and also do so wherever you go to.. (In other words, behave yourself well wherever you go). Or another proverb: Child, see the moon; it sees only a finger (said about a short-sighted child who ignores warnings made by elders).

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: always ask parents or elders for advice, especially when we have anything important to achieve. A short-sighted child ignores warnings made by elders and asks for trouble. But the one who asks does not go wrong.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Where you have come from stick your white feathers (in your hair), and where you go to stick your white feathers (in your hair)(Kuno wafuma, usomi ngala ntiswe, na kuno waya, usomi ngala ntiswe); Child, see the moon and it sees only a finger (Mwana, lolu mwezi; alolu munwe); He who asks does not get poisoned by mushrooms (Kuuzya, atakoliku wowa). English equivalent: Better to ask the way than go astray; He that has a tongue in his head may find his way anywhere; He that will not be counselled, cannot be helped.

Subjects: advice – elders – shortsightedness – dangers – wisdom – experience


Written by William Nyondanyonda, 07th of September 1994.