The Respect That Caused the Mush to Come Down the Tree

Here is a story:

There were people who lived well in the bush; food was plentiful and they were all very happy. One year, a great hunger struck these people and took hold of their whole land. My dear, the people had no food at all and there wasn’t the slightest morsel of food left! They began to eat the fruit of the musuku tree and the fruit of another tree, the mbula tree. Everything that the people ate quickly disappeared, and it got to the point that they were eating grass. Therefore, the people of this land began to disappear; they all began to die off in masses!

In the end, there was only one man left together with his wife and his children. One day, this man went out for a walk in the bush and, before leaving he said: Maybe I will find some honey. Unfortunately, he found nothing, but he noticed a vast nest on top of a tree. That tree grew very high up off the ground, and in that nest there was a bird sitting there in the nest. When the man reached the top of the tree, he said to himself: Well, there is a bird sitting here, which is a good omen! Then he asked and begged the bird: Is there anything to eat here? The man then knelt in front of the bird with great respect. But having heard the man’s begging, the bird spread its wings and flew down from the tree. Then the bird came towards the ground and landed suddenly with a fluttering sound. It sat down on the ground, and stood up and said to the man: Sit here, and the man sat where he was told. The bird made him sit in front of him and said: Listen, watch what I do very closely. The bird pulled out one of its feathers and let it fall down, saying: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! As the bird said: do not follow the advice of women, a great amount of mush and meat appeared. How he eat, and eat, and eat!

Since it was early morning, the bird told him: Sit down! Wait till the evening. And, it left and sat where it used to sit. The man sat not very far from there, resting in the shade of the bushes. When evening came about, the man saw the bird doing the same thing he had done in the morning: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Well, everything happened just as it had done in the morning, and so the man ate well. The bird flew away, up the tree, to where it always rested. The man picked up the leftovers of the food, and carried them to the village where his family was. When they saw him, they said: Wow, you did very well. They rejoiced tremendously; however, the food was eaten by them in hiding so nobody in the village would get to know about it. They began to eat and they ate and ate and ate until they were completely satisfied.

The next morning, the man returned and addressed the bird with as much respect as he could and the bird said the same words as before: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! The same thing happened again. The man ate in the morning and in the evening too. He did not really understand the words of the bird, which foretold: Your wife will trick you and bring about misfortune.

This routine was followed by the man for a whole week and he gained weight. His cheeks became round and full – which was a good thing. His wife asked him: What are we going to do? What do you say about this? The man replied: Things will stay the way they are now and I will continue to go to the bush and ask for food. The man did a very stupid thing by telling his wife what the bird does and where the food comes from. As the wife heard all of this, she said to her husband: You are stupid! All we have to do is kill the bird.

The next morning, the man went to get the food as he had done before but his wife kept on telling him the same thing: You understand nothing! This is our luck. Are you not going to pick it up? You know well how the bird does it! Why can’t you just kill it? When it is killed, you take all its feathers, and we can do as it has been doing; and in this way we will be able to save ourselves from hunger. As the man and his wife were making their plan, the bird overheard it all.

The next morning, when the man came, the bird did as he had always done. The bird made the man sit in front of it and acting as though he knew nothing, playing a fool, started saying: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! In fact, the bird warned him: If you listen to your wife’s advice, misfortune will fall upon you.

The bird was clever even though he seemed very stupid. But when it was saying that the man pulled out an axe and killed the bird with one stroke. After the man killed the bird, he plucked every single feather off the bird’s body. All the feathers were plucked out so the bird was left naked and the man walked away leaving the bird behind, taking the feathers to the village. Of course, before he left he ate and he also took the leftovers of the food the bird had given him. These he took together with the feathers. At the very moment the man turned his back and was leaving, the bird rose to its feet and went back to the place where it used to sit. New feathers grew back instantly. At this time the man was going back very quickly. When the man arrived in the village, he ate all of the leftovers he brought with him in the evening.

In the morning, the next day, the man tried hard to do as the bird had always done. He took a feather and let it fall to the ground saying: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! The man was surprised to find that nothing happened. He tried again, saying: Do not follow the advice of women, but nothing happened. The man thought: Maybe I can make water? The man brought a jar, poured some water in it, took a feather and said: Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Do not follow the advice of women! Nothing. The sun was going to set and it was passing down to the horizon. Quickly it disappeared in its hidings, but no food appeared. The same was true for the next day and rest of the week. So the whole family started loosing weight and soon became very thin.

One day, the man went back to the bird and asked the bird as he used to do in the past. The bird said: Didn’t I tell you a long time ago not to follow the advice of women? Therefore, your insolence has brought about a great misfortune for you. Go away! He chased him away and so all of his family died.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: it is not a good thing to deceive others. If you have a family, you should love each other because selfishness and greed can break up families. It also does not pay in the long run. You as a husband together with your wife and child: that is how a good family is composed. Egoism, therefore, is not a good thing, but what is good is to help each other within the family.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Anyone who wants to be cleverer than his companion is stupid (Ukucenjela apa yacenjele yauzo, ukutumpa); Step step (‘tinti tinti’), a paddle and a pot go together (Tinti tinti, umuzwa ni ngaliko vitintikine); (Monsi ciyelecela, waleka ivilezu vyapya). English equivalent: “Charity begins at home”; “Near is my coat, but nearer is my shirt”; “Near is my kirdle, but nearer is my smock”; “Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin”.

Subjects: cheating – punishment – egoism – family – selfishness – greed – dangers


Told by Mr Daniel Daudi Simungala from Nsindano (Kasakalawe) village (recorded).