Central African Fables (Excerpts from David Livingstone's Notebook, [March 1866-March 1870])

Please turn your mobile device to landscape or widen your browser window for optimal viewing of this archival document.

[         ]

Hare & chief.

Fable African - A chief offered ten goats to
anyone who could sleep in a Lake - Hare did
lie in water all night & his mother made a
fire beside Lake to warm him on coming out
Chief refused goats because of this - Hare
made a feast putting meat in one pot -
Pombe in another & flour mixed with
Pombe in a third - made a fire in the midst
& invited all the chief men to feast - chief
heard of strange feast uncooked & came to
ask the meaning - Hare told him that the
feast was being cooked in the same fashion
as he was warmed by his mothers fire
chief acknowledged Justice of simile &
gave him his goats -

Hare is supposed to have been a man
and for some crime was transformed
into a hare - Retains some of his
human wisdom -   great cunning
is ascribed to him &     Jackall

[         ]

Fable African.   Hare & Hyaena made
friendship - lived on opposite sides of
a stream - Hare in time of great hunger
proposed to eat their mothers & wash off
the blood in river - Hyaenas mother was
first devoured Then Hare stole a goat &
passed meat off for his mother - Famine
continued - Hare went to foot of large tree
with a dwelling on it called & his mother gave
him food -   Nyane told Hyaena Hare had
his mother there - tried to call her, but his
voice was harsh - charm was to let the
biting driver ants ^ bite [            ] his tongue till his
voice became like Hare's were captured
took Hyaena to Beehive - Matupa
or nyuki - stung him all over -
bound Hare with Muale &
Fisi with thongs of pigs ox^ skin
Sung - easily cut the wi[  ]d date
bands Melala -^ stole a goat -
* hid ma & brothers

[         ]

Mokolea bag unloosed & run
bees & serpent & Leopard enter it
went to buy & bee sting him
no mosquito that -   You said
there were people in bag
(pige = scorpion -) Fisi told on
him - He is a story teller bind
him fast - Hyaena said catch
him but Sungura fled - Hare
loosed him but he caught the
tail & it broke -   put bones
down to Fisi & slept = shewed
his theft to owner of goat – &
he was killed = has no power
to kill but eats meat killed

Hare cheated Hyaena by taking out his m[     ] & [            ] & [      ]
bees & scorpion - which Hyaena went to sell those in the bag out came the
bees & stung men – then followed the apparent theft


Fable African

Lion & = Lion went to visit the pig and
Pig - calling for a boat caught & eat
the pig - This he did 3 often but Hyaena
said how foolish ye pigs are - We have
no power said they - but I will give you
a charm - Cover yourselves all over with
mud & call yourselves "mud" - Induced the
lion to go to a stone building in time of
rain & held stone up - Then by excuse
got lion to take his place in holding it
and fled - Lion afraid that house would
fall held for many days - then came
Hyaena –     Kayele     Nyalitope
then Bara Bushbud It wont fall - hold
            what will give - for a charm
with one hand & see - if it does not
fall I wont eat you – does not eat
Bara even now – It was pig who
cheated you – saw nyane

        Rain washed off pig's mud
& lion eat him - Men came to eat
what flesh he left - & Fisi took skin
Sungura said you have stolen the food
of men - so he left skin at door -
Sungura eat & fled - Lion came caught Fisi his
tail & it came off into his hand
so he wants the tail always -

- Fisi is inside - went to Nyane
& parted - Fisi mistook & they

kalamula to judge


Man & his brother = Bisa
one went far to country
Mehera one foot one leg
& one eye one arm &
long hair - carried Mehera came to land
of big bees - big bird - passed
fire went around - bera
went to fight & when
the people saw one-eye
all died - came to a
big serpent & serpent
said come on my
back - which had
fire inside - Kimbi
or buffaloes & all fled
& Elephants fled from
serpent - stones also
were melted - came to
one man & all women
of village brought forth - made
snake of hot fountain
All came to visit serpent


& gave food - stones
became food
asked children from
each - Cyhere & they
Leaned on hill as
a pillow - Kituku
& golakqwa -
Gong tortoise
Mache friend of his
Mchere was caught
by trap mtegoa
frozen - would
not cut off finge[r]
& died then Gong
became sultan
on serpents back
& is so till this


            go iba e be nane?

        of Moero or Waiyau
        Gaňgano - ^ a hunter killed all
animals for many years but
once when he had stalked & got
near an elephant and was
taking aim it said Lalalala!   
                    we are your ancestors
dont kill us - He left it but killed
a child & took a piece to cook in his
house which took fire & destroyed
all the houses of the village too
All the inhabitants fled to the hills
            having no hoes
& they ^ became monkeys - and
when they saw a man pass they
said Oh that is a man with two
legs while we now have four
How we should like to be like
        with two legs only
him - but began to steal in his
plantations corn cassava - &c

The wild hog was a friend of
man and bore two sons -
and sent them to him to beg
seed as the father wished to
cultivate - but man replied
if the Hog is going to plant who
will steal now?     He gave
seed of corn rice &c and
when they returned to their father
told him   what had been said
"who will steal now if pig
plants"     Yes let us eat
all the seed then - they con-
to steal and said
It is the fault of men who


scorned our intention to cultivate

Bweha = Fisi & Sungura of Urori
were friends - Hare said let us
kill fox - Hare Fox went to Lion the
chief & said let Hyaena be killed
Fox said also to chief let us kill
Fisi     Why? said chief - because
Fisi is a thief = It is his work
to steal skins & goats by night
Chief said to Fisi go lie in the
water a whole night & I will
give you an ox     He did so
lying in the water - His brother
made a fire near it - Fisi said
why not bring the fire into the
water in my house there -
To get the ox you can take the
fire into the water - went to the
chief give the ox said they
      chief said to Bweha go to
dig pitfall the well & I will placeget elephants
in it for you Bweha said to
his friend ^ Anteater make a pitfall
for elephant to fall in -       Hare
went & said to chief I go to get a
charm - came to tree with big
birds on it who asked where
he was going - take a feather

Hatindekwa         Hulu
    mikia -

[         ]

The Monster Zimwe = Nyassa fable

100 cubits high 50 broad & 7 round
foot -     killed every animal, men -
buffaloes Elephants & swallowed
them all - came to serpent of 7 heads
which killed many too & lived on
upper part of Lake - Had hair on top
of head like a horn - Its name
Kitahongwa of seven heads -
Zimwe   tried to kill Kitahongwa
but serpent lay across his
mouth and could not be swallowed
Zimwe struck out with his feat &
men arose - and fire - pumpkins
calabashes - & men passed & said
now calabashes bear - they spoke
& men fled in fear - genii enter
into house Maize out of ears
from his cough came corn (Mabele
His tears rain - Bees from
his toes - armpits ^tobacco - beans -
from teeth - nose - pennisetum
pumpkins     from beard
From his mane = brass &c

[         ]

A great chief had no child - but got medicine and his
wife and a slave got each a son -     They were
exactly alike in every way and the slave having
nursed both one day forgot which was which
The best doctors could not decide but when the boys
were grown an old doctoress told father to take the
two into a room & suddenly expose his person
He who was ashamed was the son - and this lad
went into the forest & took a piece of wood out of
swollen foot of an elephant & relieved its
agony -   saw   Nondo a big bird on a tall tree
and a serpent ^ of seven heads - ^ with panga killed & & bird
came down to eat its flesh –     Elephant
carried him hence & bird was above him as
he travelled a shade from sun and shelter
from rain -     Reached a beautiful land
by night and sat beside a well built coith
stone - a serpent came each year & the people of
the adjoining town had to give a beautiful
woman to it for food - This year the chiefs
daughter was the victim -   son sat by well
at night & when serpent came to seize woman
he struck it with sword on one head - other head said "Ha I dont die"
but died & woman went home & told & she became his wife

      Nondo       or                         Hongo                  tale

Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): [Unnamed African Informants]; David Livingstone

Date(s): [c.1868-70]

Place(s) of creation: [Central Africa]

Form & transmission history: Original stories, as translated (possibly with the help of an intermediary), edited, and written down in a notebook by a British explorer.

Object description: Beige eight-page journal excerpt with printed header; some vertical text, with one hand in brown ink.

Repository: David Livingstone Centre (Blantyre, United Kingdom)

Shelfmark / Identifier: 807

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2021

Critical editing & encoding: Heather F. Ball, Anne M. Martin, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Cite this digital edition (MLA): [Unnamed African Informants]; David Livingstone. “Central African Fables (Excerpts from David Livingstone's Notebook, [March 1866-March 1870])” ([c.1868-70]). Heather F. Ball, Anne M. Martin, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, new dawn edition, 2021, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020042_TEI.html.

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Explore complete/original item: Livingstone Online

Accessibility: One More Voice digital facsimiles approximate the textual, structural, and material features of original documents. However, because such features may reduce accessibility, each facsimile allows users to toggle such features on and off as needed.

Production note: The editors produced this edition through a rigorous process that involved transcribing and encoding the text directly from images of the original document using the One More Voice coding guidelines (PDF). Users, however, are encouraged to consult the original document if possible.