from a book by Charlotte & Wolf Leslau
Leone, Rwanda, and Burundi
Proverbs are daughters of experience.
Yoruba and Niger
A proverb is
the horse of conversation: when the conversation lags, a proverb will revive
A wise man
who knows proverbs, can reconcile differences.
a leopard’s skin but it does not wash out the spots.
Only when you have crossed the river,
can you say the crocodile has a lump on his snout.
It’s the bad child who does not
Wood already touched by fire is not hard to set alight.
It is a wife
who knows her husband.
If you are in hiding, don’t light a fire.
falsehood spoils a thousand truths.
When a man is wealthy, he may wear an old cloth.
not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.
Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by
The moon moves slowly, but it crosses the town.
The ruin of
a nation begins in the homes of its people.
When the cock is drunk, he forgets about the hawk.
is no medicine to cure hatred.
When a man is coming toward you, you need not say: “Come here”.
poor man and the rich man do not play together.
One cannot both feast and become rich.
is no shame to work for money.
It is Mr Old-Man Monkey who marries Mrs. Old-Woman Monkey.
though the old man is strong & hearty, he will not live forever.
When a king has good counselors,
his reign is peaceful.
By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.
is the calm & silent water that drowns a man.
When you follow in the path of your father,
you learn to walk like him.
When a woman is hungry, she says, “Roast something for the children
that they may eat:.
What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another.
the fool is told a proverb, it’s meaning has to be explained to him.
He who cannot dance will say,
“The drum is bad”.
Money is sharper than a sword.
It is the
fool’s sheep that break loose twice.
When you are rich, you are hated,; when you are
poor, you are despised.
Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.
the depth of a river with both feet.
Two small antelopes can beat a big one.
not try to cook the goat’s young in the goat’s milk.
The humble pay for the mistakes
of their betters.
You are beautiful because of your possessions.
man with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace.
It is best
to bind up the finger before it is cut.
If the palm of the hand itches, it symbolizes the coming of great luck.
accompanies a waning moon; a new moon cures disease.
When the moon
is not full, the stars shine more brightly.
He who hunts two rats catches none.
you burn a house, can you conceal the smoke?
A strawberry blossom will not sweeten dry bread.
the master is absent, the frogs hop into the house.
He who is bitten by a snake fears a lizard.
you do not step on the dogs tail, he will not bite you.
When the vine entwines your roof, it is
time to cut it down.
He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers.
flood takes him in, and the ebb takes him out.
She is like a road…pretty, but crooked.
trying often, the monkey learns how to jump from the tree.
The heart of the wise man lies quiet like
The cricket cries, the year changes.
Thought breaks the heart.
is better than riches.
Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
will reach to the roof of the house.
A man’s wealth may be superior to him.
your head modestly while passing and you will harvest bananas.
What is said over the dead lion’s
body could not be said to him alive.
Children are the reward of life.
dressed does not prevent one from being poor.
Little by little grow the bananas.
pretty basket does not prevent worries.
No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow.
not dispose of the monkey’s tail before it is dead.
Love is like a baby, it needs to be treated
The teeth are smiling, but is the heart?
may stem from words of no importance.
You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla.
little subtleness is better than a lot of force.
Two birds disputed about a kernel, when a third
swooped down and carried it off.
The son shoots a leopard, the father is proud.
is like palm wine: when young, sweet but without strength; in old age, strong but
are hard of hearing.
If you tell people to live together, you tell them to quarrel.
friends of our friends are our friends.
Wood may remain ten years in the water, but it will never become a crocodile.
does not sound a trumpet.
Let him speak who has seen with his eyes.
When the bee
comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s
matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.
He who is free of faults will never die.
single bracelet does not jingle.
To love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make dew
Sleep is the cousin of death.
The flesh of a young animal
Those who are absent are always wrong.
one who does not know, a small garden is a forest.
When one is in love, a cliff becomes a
A fool looks for dung where the cow never browsed.
is as good as the pasture in which it grazes.
Evil enters like a needle and spreads like an
A close friend can become a close enemy.
What is inflated
too much, will burst into fragments.
Restless feet may walk into a snake pit.
A coward sweats
Snake at your feet…a stick in your hand!
of a rat is another rat.
He who learns, teaches.
A fool will pair an ox with
One who runs alone cannot be outrun by another.
bitter only to one who tastes of it.
The frog wanted to be as big as the elephant and burst.
who recovers from sickness forgets about God.
Termites live underground.
without man is like a field without seed.
If a friend hurts you, run for your wife.
the heart is sad, tears will flow.
Unless you call out, who will open the door?
are not too heavy for the cow.
There is noone who became rich because he broke a holiday, and noone who
because he broke a fast.
When the heart overflows, it
comes out thru the mouth.
You cannot build a house for last year’s summer.
partner in the business will not put an obstacle to it.
When spider webs unite, they can tie up
He who digs too deep for fish may come up with a snake.
a secret to an unworthy person is like carrying grain in a bagwith a hole.
A loose tooth will not rest
until it’s pulled.
The dog I bought bit me; the fire I kindled burnt me.
blade won’t cut another blade; a cheat won’t cheat another cheat.
If one is
not in a hurry, even an egg will start walking.
If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt
A home without a woman is like a barn without cattle.
The fool speaks, the wise man listens.
A cat may go to a monastery,
but she still remains a cat.
I have a cow in the sky, but cannot drink her milk.
with a stranger, but save your love for your family.
A too modest man goes hungry.
you offend, ask for pardon; if offended, forgive.
He who conceals his disease cannot expect
to be cured.
A fool and water will go the way they are diverted.
is shame, there is no honor.
A silly daughter teaches her mother how to bear children.
and counsel him; if he does not listen, let adversity teach him.
Anticipate the good so that
you may enjoy it.
Clothes put on while running come off while running.
cow gave birth to a fire. She wanted to lick it, but it burned. She wanted to leave it,
but she could
not because it was her own child.
One scoops with a scoop.
Living is worthless for one
without a home.
When one sets a portion for oneself, usually it is not too small.
who wants to barter, usually knows what is best for him.
She who does not yet know how to walk,
cannot climb a ladder.
When a fool is cursed, he thinks he’s being praised.
is easy to become a monk in one’s old age.
Singing “Hallelula” everywhere does
not prove piety.
Saying that it is for her child, she gets a loaf of bread.
What has been blown away cannot be found again.
The fool is
thirsty in the midst of water.
Even over cold pudding, the coward says, “It will burn my mouth”.
one hopes for is always better than what one has.
A single stick may smoke, but it will
As the wound inflames the finger, so thought inflames the mind.
who lives with an ass, makes noises like an ass.
If a man comes, a quarrel comes.
your neck according to the music.
One is born, one dies; the land increases.
there were no elephant in the jungle, the buffalo would be a great animal.
A crab does not beget a bird.
you find no fish, you have to eat bread.
One camel does not make fun of the other
The man on his feet carries off the share of the man sitting down.
a flowering tree, one finds many insects.
To make preparations does not spoil the trip.
who has done evil, expects evil.
A good deed is something one returns.
He who does
not cultivate his field, will die of hunger.
A cow that has no tail should not try to chase
The toad likes water, but not when it’s boiling.
is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
When a needle falls into a deep
well,many people will look into the well, but few will be
ready to go down after it.
have two eyes is cause for pride; but to have one eye is better than to have none.
your fowl before it stops flapping.
Too much discussion means a quarrel.
gives each it’s share.
Mutual gifts cement friendship.
It takes two
to make a quarrel.
Two flavors confuse the palate,.
He who talks
incessantly, talks nonsense
A little leaven smooths away the whole lump.
won’t bite me.
A bad son gives a bad name to his mother.
a foolish deed comes remorse.
A man who has once been tossed by a buffalo, when he sees a black ox, thinks
He who receives a gift does not measure.
that does not know one thing knows another.
Do not say the first thing that comes to your
A white dog does not bite another white dog.
Try this bracelet.
If it fits you, wear it; but if it hurts you, throw it away, no matter how
you take a knife away from a child, give him a piece of wood instead.
He who is unable to dance says
that the yard is stony.
One finger alone cannot kill even a louse.
man has injured your goat, do not go out and kill his bull.
A man who continually laments
is not heeded.
Talking with one another is loving one another.
the heart forget.
If a dead tree falls, it carries with it a live one.
is better than wealth.
There is no phrase without a double meaning.
not meet one another like roads.
One does not slaughter a calf before it’s mother’s eyes.
is no cure that does not cost.
Seeing is different from being told.
It is the
duty of children to wait on elders, and not the elders on children.
Thunder is not yet rain.
found soon lost.
Home affairs are not talked about on the public square.
millet is known at the harvest.
A little rain each day will fill the rivers
Do not measure the timbers for your house in the forest.
palm tree in the jungle is big, who knows how big it’s yield will be?
is like the stepchild. If he doesn’t wash his hands, he is called dirty; if he
does, he is
The end of an ox is beef, and the end of a lie is grief.
kick a sleeping dog.
Don’t be so in love that you can’t tell when the rain comes.
is like a precious treasure, shown only to friends.
Love is like young rice, transplanted,
still it grows.
An eel that was not caught is as big as your thigh.
bark is not might, but fright.
Marriage is not a fast knot, but a slip knot.
is a shadow and a mist; it passes quickly by, and is no more.
Don’t take another mouthful
before you have swallowed what is in your mouth.
Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t
Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly, but flooding the river.
you try to cleanse others, like soap, you will waste away in the process.
is only water that is spilt, the calabash is not broken.
He who wears too fine clothes, shall go
about in rags.
Before eating, open thy mouth.
Too large a morsel, chokes the
One must talk little, and listen much.
Not all the flowers of a tree
Two eyes see better than one.
He who loves money must labor.
you watch your pot, your food will not burn.
Before one cooks, one must have the meat.
cutting word is worse than a bowstring. A cut may heal, but the cut of the tongue does
who begins a conversation does not foresee the end.
He who marries
a beauty, marries trouble.
Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them.
who does not mend his clothes will soon have none.
There is no medicine against old age.
who boasts much can do little.
You cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.
egg becomes a cock.
Familiarity breeds contempt; distance breeds respect.
rat cannot call the cat to account.
He who wishes to barter does not like
his own property.
Seeing is better than hearing.
where evil sleeps.
He who is sick will not refuse medicine.
man will always have followers.
The dying man is not saved by medicine.
avoid the water, ducks seek it.
The day on which one starts out is not the time to start one’s preparation.
house roof fights the rain, but he who is sheltered ignores it.
Since he has no eyes, he says
that eyes smell bad.
He who is being carried does not realize how far the town is.
who runs from the white ant may stumble upon the stinging ant.
The stone in the water does
not know how hot the hill is, parched by the sun.
The one-eyed man thanks God only when
he sees a man who is totally blind.
Someone else’s legs do you no good in traveling.
words do not produce food.
If the bull would throw you, lie down.
The bird flies
high, but always returns to earth.
If you rise too early, the dew will wet you.
When the mouse
laughs at the cat, there is a hole nearby.
Children of the same mother do not always agree.
the child says, he has heard at home.
If you fill your mouth with a razor, you will spit blood.
to know is bad. Not to wish to know is worse.
Before shooting, one must aim.
who has goods can sell them.
When one is in trouble, one remembers God.
not eat meat.
Before healing others, heal thyself.
A shepherd does not strike his
A bird can drink much, but an elephant drinks more.
Horns do not
grow before the head.
If the stomach-ache were in the legs, one would go lame.
destroys all things.
Earth is the queen of beds.
better than nothing.
One little arrow does not kill a serpent.
not be like the mosquito that bites the owner of the house.
Wisdom is like mushrooms that
come after you have finished eating (too late).
If your mouth
turns into a knife, it will cut off your lips.
A borrowed fiddle does not finish a tune.
monkey does not see his own hind parts; he sees his neighbor’s.
Rwanda and Burundi
the leopard is away, his cubs are eaten.
In a court of fowls, a cockroach never wins his case.
you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building, or do you change the
set the trap after the rat has passed.
Spilled water is better than a broken
Nobody tells all he knows.
The cow steps on the calf, but
she does not hate it.
It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion.
kinds of people die poor: those who divorce, those who incur debts, and those
who move around
The heart is not a knee that can be bent.
If you speak,
speak to him who understands you.
He may say that he loves you. Wait and see what he does for you.
opportunity that God sends does not wake up him who is asleep.
To spend the night in anger
is better than to spend it in repentance.
When you know who his friend is, you know who
The truth is like gold. Keep it locked up and you will find it exactly as you first
A healthy ear can stand hearing sick words.
a centipede loses a leg, it does not prevent him from walking.
If your son laughs when you
scold him, you ought to cry, for you have lost him. If he
cries, you may laugh, for you have a worthy
If a little tree grows in the shade of a larger tree, it will die small.
intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend.
Don’t try to make someone hate the
person he loves, for he will still go on loving, but he
will hate you.
is better to be loved than feared.
A paddle here, a paddle there,
the canoe stands still.
However full the house, the hen finds a corner to lay in.
a monkey understands a monkey.
If you climb up a tree, you must climb down the same tree.
big fish is caught with big bait.
He who refuses a gift will not fill his barn.
end, but words once spoken, never die.
If a single hair hair fallen from your head, you are not yet bald.
who upsets a thing should know how to rearrange it.
A cow must graze where she is tied.
orange never bears a lime.
Invite some people into your parlor and they will come into your bedroom.
sweet rice is eaten quickly.
An elephant’s head is no load for a child.
not tell the man that is carrying you that he stinks.
It is the wandering dog that finds the
To try and to fail is not laziness.
the ocean, one does not need to sow water.
He that does not shave you does not cut you.
thief is always under suspicion.
To be without a friend is to be poor indeed.
A coward is
full of precaution.
Poverty is slavery.
Wisdom does not come overnight.
not walk into a snake-pit with your eyes open.
Water and milk do not mix.
cannot count on riches.
A brother is like one’s shoulder.
Where I make
a living, there is my home.
A termite can do nothing to a stone save
A little shrub may grow into a tree.
Let rats shoot arrows at eachother.
not mend your neighbor’s fence before looking into your own.
A sheep cannot bleat in two
places at the same time.
Events follow eachother like the days of the week.
the night has ears.
Everything has an end.
We start as fools and become
wise through experience.
Even flies have ears.
Do not make a dress for the
baby before the child is born.
In the world all things are two and two.
roaring lion kills no game.
Only a fool tries to jump fire.
one wins a woman.
Do not leave your host’s house throwing
mud in his well.
A word uttered cannot be taken back.
When the man
is away the monkey eats up the maize and enters the hut.
A half loaf is better than no bread.
not call to a dog with a whip in your hand.
The horse who arrives early gets good drinking
A fault confessed is half redressed.
One does not cross a river without
Darkness conceals the hippopotamus.
A horse has four legs, yet it
The most beautiful fig may contain a worm.
there is nothing.
Follow the customs or flee the country.
The rich are
Even an ant may harm an elephant.
else all the time, the monkey one day cut his throat.