The Smart Young Man, who Marries the Chief’s Daughter

Here is a story:

There was once a chief with a vast farm, and he hired three workers, who worked very well for him. There was also a child, a girl, a beautiful girl, whom all the workers longed to marry. The chief went through much trouble to find a smart worker who would work much harder if he were to give him his daughter.

After much contemplation, he thought of a way to make long furrows – at least the length of one river to another. So, he took them out to the field where other workers were uprooting trees and told them not to look back while ploughing. He then gave each one of the men two oxen for ploughing and said to them: Listen, in order to keep working straight make a sign in front of you that will help you drive your plough straight so the furrows will not be crooked.

The first man started ploughing. In his plough he had goats that were a sign at the end of the field. So he went ploughing and finally he reached the end of the field. But you know how goats behave. He was ploughing towards the place where a goat was grazing but the furrows were crooked because he followed the goats as a sign. That man did not succeed in making straight furrows so the chief got rid of him.

The second man followed. He also was given a plough and oxen. He decided to use cows as a sign at the end of the field. Being led by cows, his furrows were also crooked. So he failed as well because as cows graze they also move around though they do so less than goats.

The third man followed. Since he was smart, he decided to use a huge tree to mark his way because trees do not move from the spot where they are planted. He ploughed straight furrows because he chose a good signpost. The chief praised the man for choosing a good sign and gave the man his daughter.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: obedience is always good. In our actions we should be led by a set point of references, by the stable advice of elders (symbolised by the huge tree) rather than a passing whim. The young men must rely on elders as they have more wisdom and experience. Thus, let us not run from (or disobey) our parents, because the disobedient child comes to grief. Sometimes in their pride people ask for trouble by not following advise or God’s commandments.

The Mambwe proverbs say: What fills up the small basket does not fill up the winnowing basket (Apakazuli citundu, pasizulu lupe); Where it was thatched (badly), it will keep on leaking (Na pavimbwe, apanyeke); People, like fish, follow the water (Antu inswi, zikalondela manzi); He who pays no attention to the advice of elders grows a beard on his back (Cintuvwa vya yakulu, wamelili vilezu kwitundu); The child who does not listen is taken by an earache by surprise (‘Mwana wamukana kuvwa, aliucilu mulembu mw’ikutwi); The servant is never above the master (Muomvi, atalusile pali sikulu wakwe); In fording a river, one calls upon someone who knows (Pilambwa, yakaama akumanyile). 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 – obedience – success – pride – God’s commandments – wisdom – experience


Written by Stanislaus Sinyangwe, 07th of September 1994.