The Old Lumbi and the Young Lumbi

Here is a story:

There once was a man who had two wives and with these two wives he had two children, one with each wife. He had one child with the first wife and one child with the second wife also, and they were both boys. They were both named in the same way, the older one Lumbi and the younger one Lumbi.

The mother of the older Lumbi died when her son was 12 years old. These two children were raised together, they lived with the man and his wife and were very happy together: when one of the Lumbi’s was present, the other was always there too.

The father raised goats which the two boys cared for. One day, when the children came home, the father told the boys he had a long journey ahead of him to find a medicine which could cure people because he was a herbalist. In the morning, he woke and began his way to a country called Mpwanyi (Tanzania at the Indian Ocean).

The mother stayed with her children, looking after them with joy and love. One day, as the proverbs say: It is not rain that destroys, but a man who irritates the wind, a certain woman showed up to spend her free time with the mother of the two boys while they were tending the goats. Seeing that there was no one there to argue against what she had to offer, she tried to talk the wife into killing the child of the dead woman, saying: You won’t have to worry yourself about taking care of him. The wife replied she could not do it because the two boys always ate, washed themselves and slept together. What one does not want, the other will not want either.

The woman persuaded her so insistently that the mother finally agreed. Thus, the woman told her to dig a deep trench, put thorns in it and cover it with something so no one would notice what was in it. Then she said: Put something to eat on it, and then send him to go and fetch it.

So the woman who had these children finally did as the evil spirit tempted her to do. She dug a deep trench, about three meters deep, and threw the dirt from the trench away. She put a mat on top of the trench to cover it and left roasted groundnuts on it to tempt the boy. As she was doing this, the boys were tending the goats. When everything was ready she put some water on a fire to boil. When it started to boil she went to get the boys from the field where they were tending their goats in order to call them and tell them that one of the two should go to get the groundnuts so they could eat them.

The boys were shocked seeing that the mother was doing something she had never done before since they started tending the goats. They began to argue with the mother, until she persuaded the older one to go back to the village.

When they arrived back at the village, she told him to go and get the nuts from the mat and bring them to the house. She hurried behind to watch him fall into the trench along with the groundnuts and the mats. When she got there, everything went according to plan, and after he was in the trench she went back to get the water she was cooking in order to pour it over him and thus kill him. Since God watches over us all, the water only burned his side and the rest was untouched. He also had some wounds from the thorns which were in the trench. The mother went to get some branches, covered the trench with them and put a mat on top of the trench and covered it with a layer of clay.

The boy’s brother waited for him until he decided too much time had passed. So he took the goats back home and put them in their pen. Then he asked his mother about his brother. She answered: He took the nuts and ran back to the goats. They started arguing and finally she said to him: I think he followed you and hid somewhere. He went off looking earnestly for his lost brother before their father returned home.

He began to cry and wouldn’t eat. No matter what his mother tried to give him, he wouldn’t eat or drink, he just cried and called out for his brother: Lumbi, our Lumbi, where are you then?

His brother heard him and answered:

(My mother told me:)
our Lumbi go and graze the animals, you child,
our Lumbi go and graze the animals, you child,
Is it not your mother with partiality, you child,
She dug a game pit for me, you child,
She dug a game pit for me, you child,
She said: go and fetch it, you child,
but I did not take it, you child,
I fell in and I am broken, you child,
I fell in and I am broken, you child.
My father is far from here, you child,
he is with the smokers of hemp, you child,
he is with the smokers of hemp, you child,
huge rocky mountains separate us,
huge rocky mountains separate us,

As he was singing this, his brother heard it, and tracing the singing finally he found where the voice was coming from. All he did for three days was to cry and he didn’t go to graze the goats. On the fourth day, the father returned and noticed that one of his sons was crying about his brother. His eyes were swollen, and he could hardly see anything. He ran out of words and only yelled out: Haaaaa!

He explained to his father what had happened from the very beginning of the story. It was beyond his understanding and he only asked to show him where his child was. His son showed him, and when he got there he pulled his trapped son out. He looked at him and noticed he had rotting wounds from the burns and scratches from the thorns.

He got some water and cleaned the wounds and then he took some of the medicine he brought and pound it up. He spread it over the wound so it would heal.

The wounds healed and the husband told their king the story of what his wife had done. After explanation was given, she was mocked and chased away from her husband. The man lived with his sons until he died. The children are grown now and have their own homes and families.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: we should take orphans in with undiscriminating love. When an adopted child is well brought up he is as good as your own child. God does not favour discrimination and neglect of the unfortunate.

The Mambwe proverb says: Beans resemble meat (Cilemba, mweleula nyama).

Subjects: God – Divine Providence – orphans – indiscrimination


Written by Vera Mwimbe, 07th of September 1994. Cf. in second version 7 (Lumbi and Mulenga: Children in a Polygamous Marriage), written by an unknown author.