Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Dorothea Lehmann

Translated into English
  by Dorothea Lehmann

Source: Folktales from Zambia: Texts in six African languages and in English (nr. 7)

Original title (Bemba):
Umwana na mbulu

Country of origin: Zambia


English - aligned

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The young man and the monitor lizard

Dorothea Lehmann

Once upon a time this happened. People lived in a village. They had only one child. Then the father said: "O, how can we go on living like this? I will always take care of your mother. But you yourself should go to some big villages, you'll find some 'cooked food'. You should have your own house while I, your father, am still alive, I should get you married."

The son was not one to refuse, no, he went off and to the chief's village. When he arrived in the capital he found there a lot of girls. When he came to the rest but some people said:"All those you see, unfortunately, many of them are married. But there is one daughter of the chief whom they locked up in that house: They said: "He who wants to marry her must first make a monitor lizard come down from the top of the tree: And then the young man who had been sent said: "Oho! Let me return to my father and ask his advice." And he told the people at the rest hut:"Sir, I'll come back in two days:' And he returned to his father.

He returned to his father. When he arrived he said:"Father, listen to this. It is said over there that a man should make a monitor lizard come down from a tree. Really should I climb such a tall palm tree? Who can climb such a palm tree, Father?"The father said:"No, don't worry, that's no problem. I know the monitor lizard stays on the palm tree:' Then he showed him a way out of the difficulty:"You take this goat and also this dog with you. When you come to the meadow pull out some grass, tie it together with the food which your mother cooked for you. Go and give the grass to the dog, and the food you give to the goat, Do you understand?" He said:'Yes, Sir."

He went again. He came to the village, he greeted at the chief's, he said:"Sir, I have heard here the ruling about the man who wants to marry your daughter. And I would like a try because I heard that many have failed to make that monitor lizard come down from the tree, that palm tree."

Then this young man got up and went and he arrived at the foot of the palm tree. And the monitor lizard was right up on the highest branch where he lived. Then he took the dog and he tied it to the tree. He took the goat, he tied her on. Then he took the food, he gave it to the goat, he said: "Eat!" He took the grass, gave it to the dog and said: "Eat!"

And the monitor lizard on the top of the tree said: "This is the first time I see this, you fellow. There must be something wrong with you." But the man did not mind, he first stooped down to his animals and said: "Eat! All right," he said: "Eat!" But the monitor lizard in the tree said: "No, no, you got it muddled. Take the food and give it to the dog; take the grass and give it to the goat."

But then when the man did not listen to that the monitor lizard started to climb down. Be said: "You Man, you are wrong. If you take the food , give it to the dog, the dog eats food. If you take the grass, give it to the goat."

Then in the end the monitor lizard came to the bottom of the tree. When he arrived there the man took the weapon he had and knocked the monitor lizard down. Twe! He was dead. Then he carried him to claim his reward at the chief's. He answered him and said: "Truely, you are now the chief's son-in-law because this is really what I wanted." And he took his daughter and married them.

This is what it means: Elders do not miss the mark with a small word, but one small stone may miss another. It is the wise men who give us wisdom. Everybody should always listen to the counsel a wise man gives him. So the story ends.