There is this thing about African proverbs and animals that I had struggled to understand. You see, I grew up caught up between two generations: the one who believed in tortoise stories, and the one who challenged that a tortoise cannot talk.
That notwithstanding, I learnt from the lessons the stories were meant to teach us. Proverbs are however more concentrated. In proverbs, even sounds of animals are said to mean something. They are translated.
Take for example the lifelong battle between the hawk and the fowl. I saw a lot of that growing up, long before fowls found solace in living lives of caged freedoms.
We had a hen we gave a name. I may have forgotten her name, but not her courage. She lived for so long and had the reputation of flying even up to a tall tree to wrestle her chick from a kite or hawk. She bred generations of fowls and fought on even when she lost a leg to an infection associated with old age…maybe ‘chicken athritis’
Now, a few of you reading this will have the luxury of seeing a full fowl family fighting The Enemy. Cocks are sadly like some men who think parenthood is just about procreation. A few cocks though take responsibility. They join the hen to scratch the ground to feed the chick.
There are however instances when a combined fowl-family effort is not enough to save a chick, but it is the way the wails of the hen and cock are interpreted that baffles me.
Granted, the wails of the hen are extended but that of the cock are calculated and brief. I grew up learning that the wails are usually as follows;
Hen: the hawk keeps making me offend God everyday… (repeatedly)
Cock: I have offended God just a bit (once in a while)
Perhaps, the lesson here is that we should stop blaming God when bad things happen.
Another Ibibio animal-proverb that is more clear is:
“The snake had proclaimed: fear the one called Human”.
I do not need to ask if the snake could speak to see the truth in what it is alluded to saying.
Maybe, our forefathers said that animals spoke to make us rise to the challenge of living by the wisdom in those proverbs, after all, we are wiser than animals.
Sometimes I wonder if we really show that we are.