E. A. (Edward Algernon) Ruskin.

Mongo proverbs and fables; online

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'f^'EHHATIOMAL l;t!^'t|llJTF OF

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This little book of proverbs and fables is printed in
compliance with the repeated request of several of our
missionary colleagues. Stress of work has, perforce,
caused delay in its publication.

Like the Eastern sages, the Lomongo speaking people
are particularly fond of epitomising the results of their
observations of human actions in the form of a proverb.
Many of their proverbs briefly and forcibly express some
practical truth ascertained by experience or observation,
and convey some useful lesson of prudence and morality
according to the primitive standard of the native.
Others throw light upon their customs, thoughts and
aspirations ; and are suggestive of their forest surround-

We have in our possession a large number of proverbs;
but as some of them have only a limited application, and
may require much explanation to make them intelligible
to those unacquainted with them, we have made a very
careful selection. We hope that this collection of pro-
verbs and proverbial sayings will be helpful to those who
are learning the Lomongo Language. By the study of
these they will become familiar with the idiomatic
expressions, and the various uses of words. The help


thus obtained will enable them to acquire a better
knowledge of the language which is is to be their medium
of approach to the natives whom they seek to edify and
and influence for good. Those engaged in School work
will find the proverbs useful for black board lessons.

Some thirty or forty proverbs have been contributed
by Rev. J. Skerritt, and about the same number by
Rev. J. Carpenter, four were received from Mrs. Rankin,
and a large number from my wife. To these, with
Rev. H. S. and Mrs. Gamman and others who have helped
me in the the production of this book, I desire to
express my heartiest thanks.

Our chief aim in sending them forth is that the

proverbs may be used by preachers to illustrate or

emphasise the truths of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus

Christ, Who alone has the power to make men morally

and spiritually fit for fellowship with God, and to enable

them to do His will.


Congo Beige.

August 1921.




MONGO Fables 59

Subject Index 94

List of Fables 100

**A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;
and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise
counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation:
the words of the wise, and their dark sayings/'



X Otomb'isungi, ocik'ifo.

You carry the burning stick, but leave the tinder,
(a material which is taken on a journey for producing
fire by friction).

Punctilious about the lesser, and neglectful about
the greater.

Careful about non-essentials, and careless about

2 Bonenge okoikyaki la nzala, nda lisala, ntokote.

The bonenge ( a large forest fruit tree ) which saved
you from starvation in time of famine, when clearing
your garden, do not fell it.

One good turn deserves another.

3 Ntakundak*inkuni okoka'okoli.

You do not strike a child who gives you a piece of
creeper (used as string)— and thus assists you.
It is bad policy to ill-use your assistants.

4 Bolemo lofoso, okamba la we afea.

Much noisy talking in the work, the one working
with you does not know his part.

5 Ikendo tokiki, jonge j 'ambi.

Brisk firm walking (with the noise *^ ki ki "), the
body is there.

A simile of good health.

6 Ecim*eki nyango owak'a njwa, wuta nk*eko ?

The pond in which your mother was killed by a
snake, do you return there ?

Profit by the experience of others.

" Avoid the ford in which your friend was drowned."

"Que de gens que Texperience avertit sans les

How many people (there are) that experience warns
without correcting the^n.

7 Loexnbele ntokaka nkang*oonju iiei.

A mosquito feels no pity for an emaciated
An oppressor has no pity for the poor.


8 Ecukantemalakand'oongalak'ite.

The ants nest cannot stand in the elephants' track
without the support of a bush to which it adheres.
Support is necessary in dangerous places

9 Okutid^ond'iki'ofalanganza.

You strike the person who is holding the antelope
with a stick.

Instead of killing the antelope, you strike the per-
son who is holding it for you, and he lets it escape.

You spoil your chance by offending your benefactor.

10 Mbwa ntainelaka ofa nkolo, ainela nkolo ekae.

A dog does not fawn upon a person who is not its
master, it fawns upon its master.
Even a dog knows its benefactor.

iz If aka nteaka nkolo.

A knife does not know its master (it will cut him
as readily as it will anyone else.)


12 Bona oki'okala nk*akwela tsa ; ok'afeka oek'ekela.

The first child fell on the fire (and died); for the
next one you make a fire screen to protect it.

Experience teaches wisdom.

A fence at the top of the cliff is better than an
ambulance at the bottom.

"It is useless to lock the stable door after the steed
is stolen."

13 Bote nk'asi ntacweka nkasa.

A tree without sap does not bear leaves.
A sapless tree is a leafless tree.

14 Ntetaka mbwa ♦sila', Toambo a lo.

It is useless to call a dog to come to you while you
have a stick in your hand.

No one is attracted to a person who is in a fighting

"A man that hath friends must shew himself

15 Bacwaka likila ntabutaka la mbela.

Those who go to the grave do not return by calling
"Ni largesses, ni pleurs ne reveillent les morts."
Neither bounty, 7ior tears awaken the dead.

16 Namba ntalembwaka wembo*okae^

An elephant does not become weary of its trunk.
''Charge utile devient legere."
A useful burden becomes light.

17 Ntasesaka namba ikunga ng'ofala.

A dead elephant cannot be cut up with the same
secrecy as the antelope can.

Little things may be hidden, great things cannot be.


z8 Ntafendaka ntando la mposa e'ola.

A longing for home cannot take you over the river.
Assistance, means, and instruments are indispens-

19 Botema ekolo, likata engulu, wolelaka befaxnbe bi'anto; we

Your stomach is a basket, your hand a closed fist,
you cr5^ for other peoples* food ; but you do not give away

A reproof to the stingy.

Nothing gets into the closed fist: "Nor out of it,"
said^the scrub.

20 Bosulu ntacwaka ntuta.

A vicious treacherous person does not go away
fliever to return.

He will return " like a bad penny."

2Z Engambe nk*ondooaba^

An old man has no one to care for him.
An aged person is not wanted.

22 Boseka nk'tfofi I'omwa.

Friendship only when a morsel (of food) is in the

Friendship for the sake of gain — cupboard love.

23 Nteuombaka wato wini.

It is imprudent to buy a canoe which is submerged.
Don't buy a " pig in a poke."

24 Ondoka mpoke isei nk'osombe.

The only one who feels pity for the pot (which
someone has broken) is the one who bought it.

25 Ondoka mpoke isel nk*onema, or okengaki.

The only one who foels pity for the pot is the one
who made it.

26 Ekelanto ntak«Iak*ont'omoko.

A doer (of evil deeds) to people does not behave thus
to one person only.

" He that can deceive in one matter can deceive in
many." (Norse)

27 Oongola eciki ea nkoi, ekemba okola, ekoute.

You nourish an orphan leopard; when his claws
become strong he springs upon you.

" Nourish a wolf in the winter that he may devour
you in the summer." Greek.

Evil for good.

28 Tambyake iangu— batafoyokokita.

Don't stop running— they have not yet laid hold of

" Don't die till death comes." Indian.

29 Ntabezaka nyango ronto.

A mother is not to be compared with another
person — she is incomparable.
'•' A mother is a mother still
The holiest thing alive." Coleridge.

30 Bokolongo w'osongo I wengela, nko joko.

What a splendid sugar cane ! examine it, it is full of

" Ne jugeons pas toujours sur un dehors trompeur."

Judge not always by the outside {you may be)

" Things are not what they seem."


31 Lolanga j*ona lim*ele nyango.

Love for a child is from the mother.

32 Ise akolanga nk'aiki nyango.

Your father only loves you while your mother is

3S Jefa ntalikyeka likiada.

The sun does not rise once only.
There may be another chance.

34 Bakoliela, wena, otungama — bosa wae ?

They came upon you, and you saw (them), now you
are bound — why the groanings ?

"He who will not take advice, gets knowledge when
trouble overtakes him."

35 Nganza eom'iyo loambi wande eom'iyo lokekele.

The same stick with which they kill a deaf lizard
they also kill a large monitor lizard.

A simile of death which shews no favour.

36 Okenza liswa, wokoza bonkoma lae ?

You disposed of the axe, why listen for the sound of
it chopping?

A reproof to those who regret having given a

37 (z) Bengozaka lolaka, ntabengozaka elongi.

38 (2) or Ntabengoza elongi, ondengoz'iyo wae lolaka.

39 (3) or Ntabonyolak 'elongi, bonyolaka nk*aoyi.

(1) They change the voice, they do not change the

(2) They change not the face, they change the voice.

(3) They cannot turn the face round (to the back of
the head), they can change (their) conduct.


Reformation and degeneration are possibloj a
change of pbygignomy is not.

40 Bon'owampontofelak'il«nge,

The young rat does not forget the grass, (its
birthplace and home.)

" Every ericket knows its own hearth/* Russian

4Z Esi ntasilakai^iangu.

Distance is not diminished by speed.

42 Iwa ntftlangemaka.

Death is not to be desired.

43 Bie, bie, la bu, ntalenak'esi,

Bie bie the noise made by a wild beast treading on
dry leaves or dead twigs while stalking its prey,

B7i, (from buta to spring upon) the noise caused by
the beast springing upon its victim.

The noise caused by stalking is not remote from the
noise caused by springing upon the victim,

A warning to pay heed to' ominous signs,

" And coming events cast their shadows before."


44 Tolena ngoki nta rokeli.

We separate like the goat and the stream.
A goat may drink water in the village : but is never
found drinking in a stream,
Absolute separation.

45 Bona owa wanya, lilako limoko.

An intelligent child, needs but one lesson,

46 Ntalembwak'ecuku lilako.

They do not stop (tire of) teaching a foolish person.


47 Hulu ntafondaka nd'aliko, ifondtka nd'ase«

A bird does not decompoge in the air, it decomposes
on the ground.

A person may go far and stay long, but he will
ultimately reach his destiny.

48 Mpamb'emoko ntasasgolaka bokoka.

A fallen tree cannot be raised by the strength of one

49 Ntakendska la nkang*osuIu boseka.

It is not good policy to cultivate the friendship of a
vicious treacherous person.

Take care what friendships you form; for "evil
company doth corrupt good manners."

"Voulez Youg rester bons? Fuyez, fuyez les
mauvais compagnons."

Will you remain good 9 Flee from, flee from bad

50 Ntabemelak^esasa, bemelaka nk'ola.

People are not enraptured with a temporary fishing
encampment, they are only enraptured with home.

51 Itoko ik'iy'otongelaka ecumbt baokund'okolongo.

The mat which was made for the burial of an
invalid was used for burying the corpse of a strong
person (who pre-deceased the invalid).

A reminder of the uncertainty of life.

52 Ntabaunaka etumba Toala wa likonga, komba la ngua ; nyango

They do not fight in battle with a spear shaft only,
cover yourself with a shield ; lest you be wounded.

To go to war inadequately armed is to court defeat.
Cf. Ephesians 0. 11.


53 Ompampa, la wafi a Jala?

Nothing, or the (little food) which is on the embers?
**Half a loaf is better than no bread."
"On est pins malheureux sans pieds que sans

One is more unfortunate without feet than without


54 Otutsi I'okunga (or Tokunza, or la bonta owa nganji) aongaj
nsombi lak'olo.

He who is near a gererous rich man is well circum-
stanced ; for he finds it easy to borrow.

When you have the patronage of one able and
willing to help, there is no diffiulty in securing what you

55 Bombito ntenaka lilenga likae.

The African cobra does not see its white spot
(which is under its neck).

A self-righteous person does not see himself as
others do.

56 Bona aokwela tsa, ofonga ntange nd*afeka.

After the child has fallen on the fire, you repair the


Wise after the event.

" When the house is burnt it is too late to throw
water on the cinders." (Danish).

57 Olit'asi nd'ifole.

You are curing water in a basket.
You are engaged on a fruitless task.

58 Okoya we, oya ende.

Be kind to him who is kind to you.
" One good turn deserves another."

59 Ondiyak'ofambe nfambyakaloangans.

He who stole the food does not cease denying the

60 Ntawea lisala I ko ntawea Hkota 1 1 Ondea we nko Hla (or ndala.)

You know not how to work 1 you know not how to
fell trees ! I You only know how to eat.
A reproof to the lazy.

61 Ndec'a nkangi, oten'ekokalae?

I am down with sickness, why out sticks for carry-
ing me to my burial ?

A reproof to thpse who desire your death.

63 Engamb'ek'etumbantafikaka.

A great warrior does not honour himself ; i.e. does
not presume upon his past prowess>

63 Etumb*ek*olongo efoune la jelo.

A battle in the street must not be fought half-

A great undertaking requires whole-hearted

64 Nko liongo, lokclp ntatunama.

But for the knee, the leg could not bend.
Cf. 1 Cor, 12. 22, 27.

65 Mposa e'asi ntaongaka mmeela.

Thirst cannot be quenched by proxy.
Cf. Psalm. 49. 7,

66 Onenakt ntambyaka lisula.

The one who saw (the animal go into the hole)
ceases not to poke a stick into the hole (in order to
drive it into a net). Cf. Acts 4, 20.


67 Mbaala nko mbimbi.

Gazing does not satisfy with £ood.

68 Mpafala nko mt»mbi.

Waiting does not satisfy with food.

69 Ntaleke Utaya |'ombocw*atoi.

You cannot share yonr meal witii one who has gone
to earth; i.e. one who is dead.

70 Liate Ufa rofombo ntakitaka lomela mboloko.

A guileless snake (slime thrower) will not live to
swallow an antelope; i.e. it will not reach maturity:
but will soon be killed.

The canning snake hides^ and thus evades those
who might kill it.

This illiistration may be used when wise strategy
is required.

71 Bolo boka Ungwele nko nd'eonga.

The strength of the wood-peckers is only on the
dead tree.

Said of a bully who fears one of his own age, but
does not hesitate to strike one younger and w eaker than

72 Ntacumyak'eto nkasa.

Do not shew caterpillars leaves — their own food.
To induce an evil-doer to commit further evil is
bad policy.

73 Nkang'itatukanteanaka engambe.

A beautiful person is not known to be an elder ; i.e.
does not shew age,

74 Ukongank'aki bomende.

The spear stuck in the ground where the antelope
had been.

A missed opportunity.

75 Bonolu ntayaka ntaf eza lotomo.

A child does not continue without sometimes refus-
ing to go on an errand.

A child is not always obedient.

76 W'eci a mboka, lokai nga w'okita.

You sleep on the road, and dreaming, think you have
reached your destination.
Said of a deluded person.

77 Bofaya nteak'ekundi e'asi nk*onto ondolokola.

A stranger knows not where the hidden water is, if
no one tells.

Cf . Romans 10. 14.

78 Bosekantaongaka wil'omoko.

One-sided friendship is not possible.

** Friendship canna aye stand on one side."

79 Imeezo nd'omwa, bofezand'otema.

Assent (or confession) in the mouth, refusal in the

" A mouth that prays, a hand that slays." Arabian.
Cf. Luke 6. 46.

80 Liki litoi ooke, wambosambe 1 'orawa ; Hki liso oene, ^ambosa-

mbe Tomwa.

That which the ear has heard, and the eye has seen,
it is useless for your mouth to deny.


8x Imola ntondo, tumbe tokamba.

Take away the smaller nets, let us spread the
stronger ones. (The ntondo are hunting nets which
small antelopes are caught in : pigs, bucks and large
antelopes are caught in the tokamba nets.)

Let us nerve ourselves for greater endeavdur and
better results.

82 Bonto ntaotiwaka nk'ise nko nyango.

A person cannot be born without parents.

** How can a plant grow without seed ? " Ceylon.

83 Liswa j *isisi umbaka bote w'onene.

A small axe fells a great tree.
Cf. James 3. 5.

84 Tsa ntasanemaka.
Tsa ntaongak'isano.

Fire is not to be played with.

85 Efoti e'ona efolene la nyango.

A clinging child never parts from its mother.

86 Boseka, mbela nk'a wamba.

Friendship, calling only to fight; i.e. You call me
only to fight your battles; when you have food you
never call me.

A reproof to those who only make a convenience of
a friend.

87 Bona asolika tsa ntutelaka.

A child who has been burnt does not return to the

"No wise man strikes twice against the same stone."


88 Ntambaka j it *a nkusa.

You do not go hunting porcupines and collecting
bark for making string at the same time.

*' No man can serve two masters." Matt. 6. 24.

**If you puLSue two hares, both will escape from
you." Greece.

89 Esampote alengola bote wa libwa.

The toad (with its warty skin) mocks those who are
suffering from ' libiva ' (an incurable warty skin disease)
by offering medicine for its cure.

" Physician heal thyself." Luke 4. 23.

** Among wonderful things is a sore-eyed person
who is an oculist.'* Burmah.

90 Nkanga liongi acwa esela.

The prosperous man may become an invalid.
Prosperity may give place to adversity.

91 Mpo ondiya toma, boseka ; boselenketa, ilanga.

The rat which steals food, a friend ; the lizard, an

On friendly terms with, a plunderer, at enmity
with the harmless.

92 Boseka w'esato ntaongaka.

The friendship of three is not possible.
" Two's company, three's none."

93 Bokolongo w*osongo ntasambaka joko.

A piece of good sugar-cane is not without holes.
Even a good person has his faults and blemishes.

94 Lembola lokiki, tokend'oseka.

Stop frowning, and let us b^ friends.

95 Eembe emo ntasekak'emo.

One corpse cannot laugh at another,


96 Bomong'ola aikaka !*ofaya.

The host is benefited by the guest.

97 Basal'afe nko nzala.

Two gardens, no hunger.

He who has made provision for the future will not


98 Wambokende, bolembo bokofotsi.

Pursue your course, the bird-lime is sticking to you.

or Wambofengola, faolembo bokofotsi.

Continue to avoid it, the bird-lime is sticking to
you, i.e. you are as good as caught; your case is hopeless.

99 Lolango ntaongaka bokal'omoko (or wij *omoko.)

Love on one side only is a failure, or is destined to

100 Wengi bonkondo, wengi iiieko.

Every deserted Tillage site has a 'iiieko' tree grow-
ing on it.

A figure of speech used of anything that is uni-
versal, e.g. death, etc.

zoz Bon to ntayaka ntawa.

A person doeSv not continue for ever without dying.
Death coraes to all.

X02 Likoli ntumbak'c^ma.

Argument or contradiction cannoti overcome a fault.

103 Etuk*eambx I'ite efokwa (or ntakweka.)

An ant's nest which is attached to a bush does

not fall.

Supported, therefore safe-


104 Wis*, wena.

He who hides can find.

105 Oyokende, likambo liyokole.

While you pursue your course, the palaver devours

106 Lokosu ntaangaka bofifa.

A cough does not fear the great forest.

X07 Mbwa end'okuo (or Mbwa eyoku'okuo) endaselaka nkolo

A dog which wanders ahout gets its master into

108 Ntafengol&ka nyango eke raongo ole nd'as'okoka.

You will not go round (i.e. go by another road to
avoid) your own mother who lives under a fallen tree.

You will not despise your mother, even if she is
living in adverse circumstances.

X09 Lomoso ntaongaka nda lokolo, loongaka nda lo.

Left-handedness does not pertain to the foot, but
only to the hand.

There is a fitness in all things.

zzo Bona ntaongaka nsako.

A child cannot be common property.

XXX Wembi (or Webi) akofengoza bombilo, ofenz'ende ntando.

If your friend takes you round by another way to
avoid a plot of garden on fire, you take him over the

** One good turn deserves another."


112 Eciki a ntomo, bona mongo Tefomba.

The orphan goes on errands, whereas the child of
the household is provided with a portion of food.

While the child is pampered, the orphan is treated
as a drudge.

113 Mpo jombo nd*ase ba ntange.

Others may speak of the rat's hole under the bed
as a place of bondage; (but the rat regards it as home).

Notwithstanding what others may say about an
abode, it is home to him who lives there.

1 14 Wane boyaka, wenamaka Tefekele.

When the heat of the sun is great, stand by the
stump of a tree (in the shade).

Seek refuge in time of trouble.

X15 Ofotumbole palo otoka nzala.

You would not take off a portion of uncooked food
from the fire and eat it, unless you were hungry.

Necessity may dictate strange and extreme

X16 Bona ntaongaka nsombi.

A child is not loaned or borrowed.

X17 Loola ntaongak'okele.

Heaven cannot be reached by means of a ' bokele,'
i.e., a creeper hoop which is used for climbing trees.

X18 Lomako ntaongaka juka nkongi.

The River Lomako cannot be dammed.


1X9 Nking*anjoku ntaongak'olefo.

An elephant's neck does not suit a bell (such as
is fixed to the neck of a hunting dog, that it may be
known when it is chasing an animal).

This and 117 and 118 are used in the same way,
and mean, Why attempt the impossible ?

120 Ntando nko liyombo, limoci nk'esiko.

The river gives no compensation, earth receives
no ransom.

Death by water or land is irrevocable.

X2Z Wambokende, likambo likolokola.

Pursue your course, the palaver is on your track.

122 Boseka wa mpulu, booto wa nengola.

Feigned friendship is a relationship of mockery.

123 Nyango ea ncikela, befambe benkuma ntekoka.

With a step- mother there is never a sufficiency of
food. She only provides for her own.

124 Tosambolake mboka eko, nyango bafokoomba itsa nkokolo.

Don't go by that road, lest they bind up your head
in the large leaves (used for cooking).

A warning to avoid something which may lead to
your death.

125 Lokusa aofenda mboka — alanga batene nsonge.

The creeper (from which string is made J grows
across a path — it desires that they will cut off its head ;
i.e. it is in quest of death.

A figure of speech used to condemn conduct which
will inevitably lead to disaster.



126 Boselenketa bole nsamba, bole nsamba, wasa nk*owa.

The lizard which goes from roof to roof is in quest
of death.

127 Botumba bonda liombo bonda wucu Tetongo : baolota botu-

mba wa baoyi*obe.

One house has a good floor, another is dusty and
much noise is heard in it; but people flee from the house
of evil words or deeds.

Appearance is not always a safe guide — evil deeds
may be done in a clean house.

128 Bomongo ntafombaka jonge likae.

A person does not deceive his own body.

129 Bomongo ntalengolaka.

A person does not mock himself.

130 lango y'okulu — botai bocwaka nk'esembe.

In the beginning, string— the net subsequently
becomes a large coil.

Small beginnings may have great endings.
Cf. 187 & 190.

131 Baki'amato baocwa baende.

Those who were women have become men.
The weak have become strong.

132 Baki baende baocwa bamato.

Those who were men have become women.
The strong have become weak.

133 Nkombo eki fafa, "Ompime, mpaolela ; *' bofambe ntatongak*i-
lombe nda lingongo.

My father's adage was, "Refuse to give it me, I
shall not cry ;" food does not build a house in the throat.
A reproof to the miserly who give nothing away.


134 Warn bene oyayeka, tofelake botooma.

Although now you have plenty, do not forget the
masticating of one thing only ; i.e. you may have to eat
dry bread

In the day of prosperity, remember adversity.

A reproof to the extravagant and selfish.

135 Okund*ona, nyango oka nkele.

Strike a child, and its mother becomes angry.

136 Kitaka nk'ona, wena nyango.

Only lay hold of a child, and you will see its mother.
Cf. 1 Kings. 3.

137 Bokakaza wa mponye, jefa jokya.

The thought of a lazy person is, The sun is risen.

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Online LibraryE. A. (Edward Algernon) RuskinMongo proverbs and fables; → online text (page 1 of 6)