Part 4: On perseverance, industry, resilience, self-confidence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, daring, fortitude, and invulnerability
A hán ìkokò lọ́wọ́ ọ̀tún, a hán ìkokò lẹ́sẹ̀ òsì; ó ku ẹni tí yó kò ó lójú.
We lop off the hyena's right fore limb; we lop off the hyena's left hind limb; the question is, who will face it now?
(Inflicting such injuries on the hyena is no victory; it only makes the animal more dangerous.)
A kì í dá ẹ̀rù okó ńlá ba arúgbó.
One should not attempt to scare an old “woman” with a huge penis.
(A person who has seen everything is not easily frightened.)
Compare Ojú tó ti rókun ò lè rọsà kó bẹ̀rù.
A kì í dùbúlẹ̀ ṣubú.
One does not fall from a prone position.
(Hunger cannot make one faint and fall if one goes to sleep.)
A kì í fi ojoojúmọ́ rí olè jà kó dà bí-i tọwọ́ ẹni.
One is never so fortunate at daily thievery that it matches owning one's own things.
(Self-sufficiency is far better than fortunate opportunism.)
A kì í fi ojú olójú ṣòwò ká jèrè.
One never trades with other people's eyes and profit.
(There is nothing like attending oneself to one's own business.)
A kì í fi ojúbọ́rọ́ gba ọmọ lọ́wọ́ èkùrọ́.
One does not easily or casually take the child from the palm-nut.
(It takes effort to accomplish a good end.)
A kì í gbọ́ “gbì” ìràwé.
One does not hear the thud of a falling leaf.
(Incantatory assertion that an accident will not befall the subject.)
A kì í mọ ibi tí à ńlọ kí ọrùn ó wọ ẹni.
One does not, despite knowing where one is going, suffer a constricted neck from one's heavy load.
(If one knows the size of the task, one should regulate one's effort accordingly.
A kì í sọ pé ọjà-á nígbà; bó bá nígbà, kíníṣe tí wọ́n tún ńná a?
One does not say there is a time for the market; if it were so, why would people continuously patronize it?
(Any time is a good time to trade.)
A kì í ṣe ọ̀jẹ̀ ṣe ojú tì mí; konko lojú alágbe.
One does not carry the ọ̀jẹ̀ masquerade and yet affect bashfulness; the mendicant's eyes must always be like flint.
(One must assume the attitude one's trade demands.)
A kì í ṣe ọ̀tẹ̀ eranko gán-ń-gán; bí a bá he ìgbín àdá là ńnà á.
One does not conduct one's feud with an animal in a half-hearted manner; if one finds a snail one hits it with a matchet.
(Give your all to every enterprise you embark upon.)
A kì í walẹ̀ fún adìẹ jẹ.
One does not scratch the ground for the chicken to find food.
(Each person is responsible for his/her own welfare.)
À ńpa ẹ̀kukù, ẹ̀kukù ńrúwé; à ńyan nínú aṣẹro, aṣẹro ńdàgbà; à ńkébòsí Ògún, ara Ògún ńle.
The more one weeds ẹ̀kukù the more it sprouts leaves; the more one tramples aṣẹro the more it grows; the more one rails against Ògún the more he thrives.
(The two plants are hardy and virtually indestructible, while Ògún is the formidable god of metals and war. The proverb bespeaks resilience and invulnerability.)
Compare the following entry.
À ńpòyì ká apá, apá ò ká apá; à ńpòyì ká oṣè, apá ò ká oṣè; à ńpòyì ká kànga, kò ṣé bínú kó sí.
We make circles round the mahogany bean tree, but it is too much to handle; we make circles around the baobab tree, but it is too much to handle; we makes circles around the well, but it is nothing to jump into in anger.
(The three items listed are formidable in their different ways, and have nothing to fear from people.)
See the previous entry.
“A ò mọ̀yí Ọlọ́run yó ṣe” kò jẹ́ ká bínú kú.
“We know not what God will do” keeps one from committing suicide.
(Often it is hope that keeps people going.)
A pa ẹmọ́ lóko ilá, a jù ú sí ọ̀kẹ́ ìlasa; ilé ẹmọ́ lẹmọ́ lọ.
A giant rat is killed on an okra farm and thrown it into a sack containing okra leaves; the giant rat has arrived at its home.
(The resourceful person will find a way to adapt to any situation.)
Abẹ́rẹ́ á lọ kí ọ̀nà okùn tó dí.
The needle will pass before the way of the thread is blocked.
(Unlike the thread's, the passage of the needle through the cloth is ever smooth.)
Abẹ̀wẹ̀ ńwá ọ̀tá fúnra ẹ̀.
He who summons others to render him communal help seeks enemies.
(It is best to be self-sufficient.)
Abiyamọ ọ̀tá àgàn; ẹní ńṣiṣẹ́ ọ̀tá ọ̀lẹ.
Nursing mother, enemy of the barren woman; working person, enemy of the idler.
(The mother incurs the envy of barren woman; the hard worker incurs the hatred of the idler.)
Aboyún bí, ìhá tù ú.
The pregnant woman delivered; her sides are much eased.
(Relief comes in time to the persevering sufferer.)
Àdán tó sùn sídìí ọsàn ò rí he, áḿbọ̀sì oódẹ tó ní òún jí dé.
Bat, who slept by the orange tree, found no orange to pick, let alone parrot who said it came over very early at dawn.
(The more persistent person will surely be rewarded before the less persistent.)
Adékànḿbí ò du oyè; ó bèèrè ni.
Adékànḿbí is not contesting a title; he is merely asking a question.
(One should not be coy in demanding one's rights.)
Adùn ní ńgbẹ̀hìn ewúro.
The aftertaste of the bitterleaf is sweet.
(Sweetness and pleasure come after bitter exertions.)
Adùn-ún tán lára aṣọ ogóje; a nà án han ẹni méje; a bẹ̀ ẹ́ wò a rí iná méje; ó di ọjọ́ keje ó fàya.
One's delight in a cloth costing a hundred and forty cowries is over; one spreads it out to show to seven people, one finds seven lice, and on the seventh day it is torn.
(One gets what one pays for.)
A-fàkàrà-jẹ̀kọ́ ò mọ iyì ọbẹ̀.
He-who-eats-corn-meal-with-bean-fritters does not know the virtues of stew.
(Whoever leads a sheltered life misses out on some great experiences.)
Afẹ́fẹ́ kì í fẹ́ kí omi inú àgbọn dànù.
The wind does not blow against the liquid inside a coconut and cause it to spill.
(Certain people are not susceptible to certain disasters.)
Àfẹjútoto ò mọ ọkùnrin.
Glaring wildly does not bespeak manliness.
(Action is more persuasive than appearance.)
Àfẹ́ká là ńfẹ́ iná.
Blowing from all directions is how one blows at a fire “to kindle it”.
One should apply one's best effort to any task.
Agẹmọ ò ṣé-é jẹ lẹ́nu.
The chameleon is not a thing to eat in one's mouth.
(Certain propositions are beyond the pale.)
Àgùdà ò jẹ lábẹ̀-ẹ Gẹ̀ẹ́sì.
The Catholic missionary is not in the pay of the British administration.
(An assertion of non-dependence on a supposedly higher authority.)
Compare Ẹni tó ńjẹ lábẹ́ẹ Jẹ́gẹ́dẹ́...
Àgbà tí kò tó ọmọdé-é rán níṣẹ́ ní ńsọ pé kó bu omi wá ká jo mú.
It is an elder who lacks the authority to send a child on an errand who tells the child to go fetch water so they could drink it together.
(If one was sure of one's authority one would not need to sweeten one's orders with incentives.)
Compare Fọ́ ẹ̀kọ ká jọ mú . . .
Àgbàbọ́ ò di tẹni.
A foster child does not become one's own child.
(There is nothing like having one's own.)
Compare Àgbàtọ́ ò jọ obí . . .
Àgbàbọ̀-ọ ṣòkòtò, bí kò fúnni lẹ́sẹ̀ a ṣoni; rẹ́mú-rẹ́mú ni ohun ẹni ḿbani mu.
Borrowed trousers, if they are not too tight around the legs, they will be too loose; one's own things fit one exactly.
(Borrowed articles are never like one's own.)
Àgbàká lèéfí ńgba igbó.
It is completely that smoke fills the forest.
(Whatever is worth doing is worth doing diligently and thoroughly.)
Compare Àgbàtán ni gẹ̀gẹ̀ńgba ọ̀fun and Àgbàká lẹsẹ̀ ńgba ọ̀nà.
Àgbàká lẹsẹ̀ ńgba ọ̀na.
It is completely that the feet take over a path.
(Indulge not in half measures.)
Compare Àgbàká lèéfí ńgba igbó and Àgbàtán ni gẹ̀gẹ̀ńgba ọ̀fun.
Àgbaǹgbá ṣe bẹ́ẹ̀, ó làwo lórí san-san.
Despite all difficulties, the animal àgbaǹgbá sprouts prominent horns on its head.
(Perseverance overcomes all difficulties.)
Àgbàrá kọ́ ni yó gbèé omi lọ.
It is not the flood that will make away with the river.
(The upstart cannot prevail against the well-established person.)
Àgbàtán ni gẹ̀gẹ̀ńgba ọ̀fun.
It is completely that goitre takes over the neck.
(One cannot stop matters from running their course.)
Compare Àgbàká lèéfí ńgba igbó and Àgbàká lẹsẹ̀ ńgba ọ̀nà.
Àgbẹ̀ gbóko róṣù.
A farmer remains on the farm and sees the moon.
(The conscientious farmer spends long periods on the farm; persistence in the key to success.)
Àgbinsínú legbin ńgbin; àkùnsínú lẹkùn ńkùn; hùn hùn hùn ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ inú ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ ní ńgbé.
Groaning-internally is how an antelope groans; rumbling-internally is how a leopard rumbles, the grunts of a pig stay inside the pig.
(People may grumble, but they dare not voice their complaints openly.)
Agbójúlógún fi ara-a rẹ̀ fóṣì ta.
He-who-places-his-hopes-on-inheritance delivers himself to destitution.
(One should secure one's own living.)
Àgbólà ni tàgbọ̀nrín; ọjọ́ tí àgbọ̀nrín bá gbó ni ọjọ́ ikú-u rẹ̀ ńyẹ̀.
Baying-and-surviving is the fate of the deer; whenever a deer bays, on that day its death is averted.
(Every reverse portends good fortune in the end.)
Àìdúró là ńpè níjó.
Not standing still is what is described as dancing.
(Continuous striving deserves praise, whatever the outcome.)
Àìtó ehín-ín ká ni à ńfọwọ́ bò ó.
It is not-having-attained-the-age-for-losing-one's-teeth that makes one cover (the mouth) with one's hand.
(One should not be reticent in asserting oneself.)
Ajá ilé ò mọdẹ-ẹ́ ṣe.
A domesticated dog does not know how to hunt.
(Pampering kills initiative.)
Àjà kì í jìn mọ́ ológbò lẹ́sẹ̀.
The snare does not snare a cat's paw.
(Some people are immune to certain perils.)
Ajá tó máa rún ọkà á láyà; ológbò to máa jẹ àkèré á ki ojú bọ omi.
A dog that will chew dried corn must be brave; a cat that will eat a frog will dip its face in water.
(It takes a great effort to accomplish a great feat.)
Ajá wéré-wéré ní ńpa ikún.
It is an agile dog that kills a squirrel.
(The world belongs to the quick.)
Ajá wo ẹyẹ láwòmọ́jú.
The dog looks at birds with eyes full of disdain.
(Against adversaries beyond one's powers, one must be satisfied with futile gestures.)
Ajé sọ ọmọ nù bí òkò.
Wealth throws a person away like a stone.
(The search for wealth takes one into distant lands.)
Àjẹgbé nigún ńjẹbọ.
Eating without adverse effects is the vulture's way of consuming sacrificial offerings.
(Some people can engage in daring and dangerous behavior with impunity.)
Ajìnfìn, má ta ojú ilé; ọ̀pọ̀lọ́ jìnfìn má ta ojú àtijáde.
You who have fallen into the dungeon, do not be impatient to arrive home; when the toad drops into a pit it cannot be impatient to get out.
(Certain predicaments one does not get out of in a hurry.)
A-jókò-ó-kunkun ò jẹ́ kí a-jókòó-jẹ́jẹ́ ó jókòo.
The sit-tight person denies the tentative sitter a place.
(The meek will not inherit the earth.)
Àjùmọ̀bí ò kan ti àrùn;kí alápá mú apá-a rẹ̀ kó le.
Familial obligations do not extend to diseases; let each person look well to his or her arms.
(Relatives will not bear one's disease for one.)
A-ká-ìgbá-tà-á náwó ikú.
He-who-plucks-the-African-locustbean-tree-seeds-to-sell spends death's money.
(Whoever engages in a dangerous venture more than earns his/her pay.)
Àkànṣe lọfà ìmàdò; jagan oró ò ran èse.
The arrow for a warthog is a major project; an ordinary poison has no effect on the cat.
(Certain tasks call for deliberate and extraordinary efforts.)
Àkèekèé ní òún kúrò ní kòkòrò-o kí nìyí?
Scorpion says that its status transcends what-type-of-insect-is-this?
(Stature and importance are not always commensurate; some people should not be under-estimated.)
Àkèekèé rìn tapó-tapó.
The scorpion travels accompanied by venom.
(The stalwart is never unprepared to answer a call.)
Akíkanjú-kankan, ogun ní ńlọ;abùwàwà, ọjà ní ńná; àkànní òbúkọ, bó bá tòṣì a máa rí jẹ.
For the exceptionally brave person the proper profession is warring; for the gregarious person, trading; the illustrious he-goat, even when it is poor, finds enough to eat.
(Proper application of one's talent makes one prosper.)
Àkótán ni gẹ̀gẹ̀ ńkó ọ̀fun.
It is completely that goitre takes over the throat.
(Calamities give no quarter.)
This is the same as Àgbàtán ni gẹ̀gẹ̀ ńgbọ̀fun.
Àkùkọ-ọ́ kọ, ọ̀lẹ-ẹ́ pòṣé.
The cock crows, and the lazy person hisses.
(The coming of the morning is an annoyance to the lazy person.)
Alágẹmọ-ọ́ ti bímọ-ọ rẹ̀ ná; àìmọ̀-ọ́jó kù sọ́wọ́-ọ rẹ̀.
The chameleon has given birth to its young; inability to dance is the responsibility of the child.
(A parent has done his/her part by having a child; the child's fortunes are the child's responsibility.)
Alágbàró ò yege; aláṣọ á gbà á bó dọ̀la.
She who borrows a wrapper-skirt to wear is not home free; the owner of the cloth will take it back come tomorrow.
(There is nothing like having one's own.)
Alákatam̀pò ojú ò lè ta ẹran pa.
A person with cross-bows in his eyes cannot kill an animal.
(The most vicious of looks cannot kill.)
Aláǹgbá tó já látorí ìrókò tí kò fẹsẹ̀ ṣẹ́, ó ní bẹ́nìkan ò yìn un òun ó yinra òun.
The lizard that fell from atop the ìrókò tree without breaking its limbs says if no one admires his feat, he will do the admiring himself.
(One should be self-confident enough not to have to rely on validation by others.)
Alára ní ńgbára-á ga;bádíẹ́ bá máa wọ̀ọ̀dẹ̀ a bẹ̀rẹ̀.
It is the owner of the body that elevates the body; when a chicken wishes to enter the porch it stoops.
(One should sound one's own trumpet and not be unduly humble.)
A-lèjà-má-lè-jà-pẹ́, ẹlẹgbẹ́ ojo.
He-who-can-fight-but-cannot-fight-for-long, the equal of a coward.
(Ability to start a fight is nothing like the ability to see it through.)
Àlejò orí ni kókó.
The lump is only the head's visitor.
(One should learn to live with afflictions.)
Apá lará; ìgbọ̀nwọ́ niyèkan.
One's arms are one's relatives; one's elbows are one's siblings by the same mother.
(Even more reliable than one's relatives and siblings are one's own resources.)
Àpáàdì-í gbóko kò rà.
The potsherd lives on the farm but does not decay.
(Resilience is a fortunate quality to have.)
Àpagbé lOrò ńpagi.
Killing-without-recourse is Orò's way of killing trees.
(When unanswerable disaster befalls a person, there is neither recourse nor response.)
Apárí ní ńfojú di abẹ.
It is a bald person that may be disdainful of the razor.
(The bald person has no use for razors.)
Compare Àpáàdì ló tó ko iná lójú.
Apẹ́ẹ́jẹ kì í jẹ ìbàjẹ́.
A person who waits patiently for a long time before eating will not eat unwholesome food.
(Those who are patient will have the best of things.)
Àpọntán kò wí pé kí odò má sun.
Scooping a spring dry does not stop more water from collecting.
(If one's resources are limitless, some use will not exhaust them.)
Ara kì í wúwo kí alára má lè gbe.
A body cannot be too heavy for the owner to lift.
(Whatever others might feel, a person is never put off by himself or his own habits.)
Ara-à mí gba òtútù, ó gba ọ̀nini.
My body can endure chills, and can endure coldness.
(I am long-suffering.)
Àràbà ńlá fojú di àáké.
The huge sik-cotton tree belittles the axe.
(It takes a mighty person to defy a powerful force.)
Ààrẹ àgòrò tó bá gbójú, tòun tolúwa rẹ̀ lẹgbẹ́ra.
A subordinate military officer who is audacious is the equal of his superior.
(Audaciousness will get one one's way.)
Having an opportunity to act is also having an opportunity to tell stories.
(Whoever accomplishes something worthwhile has a story to tell.)
Ariwo àjìjà ní ńdọ́run.
It is only the noise of the whirlwind that reaches heaven.
(One's enemies may be clamorous, but all they are capable of is noise.)
Àro-ó pẹ́ lóko, kò tún mọ ìlù-ú lù.
Àro stayed so long on the farm that he forgot how to beat the drum.
(If one neglects one's specialty long enough, one becomes incompetent at it.)
Asúrétete ní ńwojú ọjọ́.
It is the person in a hurry who studies the complexion of the day.
(When one has important tasks in hand one pays particular attention to impinging conditions.)
Àṣá ò gbádìẹ níkọ̀kọ̀; gbangba làṣá ńgbádìẹ.
The kite does not snatch chicks in secret, it snatches them openly.
(What one dare do, one does openly.)
Compare Àìtóehínká là ńfọwọ́ bò ó . . .
Àṣá ò lè balẹ̀ kó gbéwúrẹ́.
The kite cannot swoop down and carry off a goat.
(Whoever attempts the impossible deceives him/herself.)
Àṣá wo ahun títí; àwòdí wo ahun títí; idì baba àṣá, kí ló lè fi ahun ṣe?
The kite looks long at the tortoise; the eagle looks long at the tortoise; what can the hawk, father of the kite, do to the tortoise?
(When the prey's defences are impenetrable, the predator can only glare.)
See the next entry.
Àṣá wo ìgbín kọ̀rọ̀; ìkaraun-un rẹ̀ ò jẹ́ kó gbé e.
The kite looks slyly at the snail, but its shell stops the bird from snatching it.
(This is a more mundane version of the previous entry.)
See also Àwòdì òkè tó wòkaraun kọ̀rọ̀ . . .
Àṣá wọ̀bọ kò rọ́wọ́ gbé e.
The kite watches the monkey but has no hands to carry it off.
(A monkey is no prey to a kite.)
Àṣírí ìkokò, ajá kọ́ ni yó tùú u.
The secrets of the hyena's being will not be revealed through the actions of the dog.
(The stalwart's comeuppance will not come at the hands of a no-account person.)
Àtẹ́lẹwọ́ ẹni kì í tanni.
One's palm does not deceive one.
(One's trust is best placed in one's own resources.)
Àyè kì í há adìẹ kó má dèé ìdí àba-a rẹ̀.
The space is never so tight that a chicken will not be able to reach its incubating nest.
(No obstacle should keep one from one's duty.)
1. The child in this case is the soft nut in the shell.
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2. It is not in the nature of leaves to crash.
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3. The ọ̀jẹ̀ masquerader engages mainly in begging for gifts.
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4. There is a play on the word apá, which is the name of a tree, Afzelia Africana (Ceasalpinaceae) (See Abraham, 57), and the word for “arm.” The expression, apá ká a, meaning, “the arms can enfold it,” means that one can deal with it. Both apá (the tree) and oṣè are reputed to be inhabited by powerful spirits, and to be favored as venues for witches' covens.
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5. Ọ"wẹ̀ was a traditional means of assuring a large work force for large projects; people pooled their resources to help a colleague in need on his farm. The custom is to provide such help when asked, but that does not obviate secret grumblings.
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6. The proverb is based on a deliberate misinterpretation of the name. It is the contraction of the sentence, Adé kàn mí bí, meaning, “It is my turn to give birth to a person destined to wear a crown.” The proverb takes the name to be a contraction of the sentence, Adé kàn mí bí? in which the word “bí” is taken not to be the verb “to give birth to,” but the interrogatory, “is it that?” In many instances, succession to Yorùbá chieftaincies is contested by many aspirants.
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7. Ewúro, bitterleaf, is one of the most popular stew vegetables. It is very bitter to the taste, and all of its juice must be squeezed out before it is cooked. Although it is bitter at first taste, its aftertaste is quite pleasant.
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8. The proverb plays on the number seven. Ogóje is a contraction of Ogún méje, seven twenties, i. e., a hundred and forty; that many cowries represent an inconsiderable amount in traditional monetary terms.
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9. Dogs' teeth are not made for chewing corn; a dog that will chew corn must, therefore, have fortitude. Likewise, a cat with a taste for frogs must pay the price.
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10. Orò is one of the traditional mysteries of the Yoruba.
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11. Àro is one of the titles of the secret order of Ògbóni; the proverb suggests that the member, from lack of practice, has forgotten the funerary rites of the order.
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