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Part 4: On perseverance, industry, resilience, self-confidence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, daring, fortitude, and invulnerability


b jj k pa ign.
The consumption of sacrificial offerings will not kill the vulture.
(One's natural calling will not hurt one.)

gbrn er l gb g; wn kn t y i k lsn ni.
A thousand ants cannot lift a cube of sugar; they can only mill around it in vain.
(Some tasks are beyond certain people.)

gbrn ja l dr pa od.
A thousand fishes will not overload a river.
(It is futile to attempt to overwhelm an invincible person.)

hn olgb k bal.
A cat's back never touches the ground.
(One's opponent in a fight will never succeed in throwing one.) [19]

j lj, ly r , btor j ara-a r.
The lawyer argues other people's cases, much more his own.
(If one is conscientious on behalf of others, one can be expected to be even more conscientious on one's own behalf.)

lmn-n m egn.
An apprehender does not apprehend a masquerader.
(Certain people are beyond anyone's control.)

ll n kk k un m dun b, un rnw rns s i.
The larkheeled Cuckoo vows that rather than not being delicious in the stew, it will crush its arms and legs in pursuit of that end.
(One vows that even up to the cost of one's life, one will give everything one has to achieve an end.)

luk t k n l lgb- r pa.
It is the luk masquerader without a matchete that is hacked to death by its colleagues.
(Whoever goes into a contest less prepared than his or her adversary is in for trouble.) [20]

n b i k l; br b tnnie a k t br.
Whoever has a job should not malinger; if Providence smiles on one one can hardly fail.
(Diligence in one's pursuit will certainly result in prosperity.)
Compare ni t a b b i . . .

n b j bk t gbj, y j gtn t ywo.
Whoever is used to eating full-grown he-goats will eat lambs that have sprouted horns.
(A person known for daring deeds can always be expected to defy custom; one cannot cure people of ingrained habits.)

n b y n jb t ni y y tn.
The same person who weeds the road to jb without carrying off the weeds will eventually remove them.
(The shirker will sooner or later be forced to do his or her duty; if one has to do a thing, one should do it efficiently, not half-heartedly.) [21]

n gbani lya n kr ni m r.
The person who takes one's wife cannot stop one's locust bean seeds from fermenting.
(A person who injures one cannot stop one from pursuing one's destiny.) [22]

n ma jun kunkun a tlkn kunkun.
Whoever wishes to eat heartily must lock his door firmly.
(If one wants no intrusion into one's affairs, one should keep them well guarded.)

n ma r tisn akn p lt is.
Whoever wishes to see a crab go to sleep will stay long by its hole.
(Whoever seeks the impossible will wait for ever.) [23]
See n ma r tisn-un ppy . . . also.

n ma j oyin in pta k wo nu k.
Whoever will eat the honey in a rock does not worry about the edge of the axe.
(One should be prepared to bear the sacrifices necessary to achieve a worthy goal.)

n ma r tisn-un ppy j gbs dn.
Whoever wishes to see ducks go to sleep will go into debt paying for (fuel) oil.
(Whoever awaits the impossible will wait for ever.) [24]
Compare n ma r tisn akn . . .

n yra lgn gb.
gn is on the side of the swift.
(The swift is justified in taking advantage of the tardy.)

ni yn k k y; ni lrun k k ra.
Whoever is shunned by people should rejoice; whoever is shunned by God should look out.
(God's favor is preferable to people's.)

ni l pa- re run ; ni i pa- re run y.
Whoever dies from poverty dies a miserable death; whoever dies from work dies a noble death.
(Better to die on one's feet than to give in to reverses.)

ni t gbin rn b t p ngba, t b j grn-n tt tn, w j grn-n ir.
The person who plants a hundred yam seedlings and says he planted two hundred, after he has eaten a hundred truths, he will come to eat a hundred lies.
(A person who overstates his investment will not for all that earn more than the investment can generate.)

ni t gbl ni il m fn.
It is for the person who sweeps the floor that the floor is clean.
(Those who exert themselves are the ones who reap rewards.) [25]

ni t b n tara l n ttb.
It is the industrious person that wins the spoils.
(Industry ensures success.) [26]

ni t egn l k ma rj; b ti r ar ay, b n r ar run.
The person being chased by a masquerader should persevere; just as an earthling tires, so does the being from heaven.
(Perseverance solves all problems.) [27]

ni t for sl- gbynj ik.
Whoever dives head first to the ground has made a creditable attempt at suicide.
(One should acknowledge people's sincere efforts.)

ni t b m p yn-n m.
A person fed by others is never aware that there is famine.
(A person who has no responsibilities does not appreciate the efforts of those who have.)

ni t f sk- b ij lr.
Whoever leaps up decapitates dance.
(Nothing more can be expected from a person who has given the ultimate effort.) [28]

ni t i pa- y ju ni t pa.
A person dying from overwork is better than a person dying of destitution.
(Better to succumb to overwork or occupational hazards than to succumb to poverty.)

ni t b p lhn ni y omi b d.
Those who arrive late are the ones who find the watery residue of the stew awaiting them.
(Timeliness earns one the best choice, tardiness the worst.)

ni t pa mf lgun la: wn n H, h, h! n k wn gb pn ay w, tn pa mf; n b oj k t tgi, oj k t til?
The man who claimed to have killed six people during the la war: people exclaimed in disbelief, Ha, ha, ha! He asked them to bring an ay board, and he won six games. He said, if there were no witnesses for what happened in the secluded forest, aren't there witnesses for what happens in the house?
(One may not believe what one was not witness to, but that which one sees one must believe; seeing is believing.) [29]

ni t gbl n snk; ni t sunkn ariwo l pa.
The person digging a grave is the one performing his or her funerary duties; the person crying is merely making a noise.
(Tangible help is better than useless sympathetic gestures.)

ni t b wo oj yw n m p yw sunkn.
Only a person who looks at the bride's face knows that the bride is crying.
(It is futile to seek sympathy when no one is paying attention.) [30]

ni t b w k w; ni aj yal-e r l gbn.
Whoever likes fineries should engage in a trade; it is the person blessed by riches that is wise.
(Good things come only to the industrious.)

ni t b j lb- Jgd n p ngi rb.
Only those whose livelihood depends on Jgd call him a silk cotton tree.
(Only those beholding to a person are compelled to flatter him or her.) [31]

ni t b g db n, ara-a r l b; g db n j, bni k n k.
Whoever assigns a task to g db assigns it to himself or herself; g db will neither agree to do the task nor will he refuse.
(One should expect little from a spoiled child.) [32]

ni t kk-i r yni, k-i r l pani lbi.
A person whose greetings do not fill one's stomach cannot cause one to starve by withholding the greetings.
(A person whose benevolence has little effect on one's fortune cannot affect one with his/her malevolence.)
Compare Igi t a fhnt t k gbani dro, b; w luni k l pani.

nu i ni ni a ti m ni ll.
It is at one's occupation that one proves oneself an idler.
(One reveals one's mettle at one's place of employment.)

nu ffo k dn ynm-ynm.
Empty mouths do not make chewing noises.
(If one has not filled others' mouths with food, one cannot expect them to be full of one's praise.)

n dn-n rf; agada w dn-n nko.
The mouth cooks vegetable stew most expertly; the hand emulating a machete cuts a field most effortlessly.
(A person's mouth may boast of anything, and his hand may claim to be able to do anything, until he is put to the test.)

r k ba igb, bni k ba od; r k ba l lj ata.
The forest knows no fear, and neither does the river know fear; the grind-stone never shows fear in the face of pepper.
(A worthy person should not give way to fear.)

r k ba or k s wn.
The head is never so frightened that it disappears into the shoulder.
(One should be brave enough to meet one's fate.)

r ogun k ba jagun-jagun.
Fear of battle never afflicts a warrior.
(One should be bold in pursuing one's goals.)

s k wwo k ls m l gb e.
The feet are never so heavy that the owner cannot lift them.
(Each person must live with his or her own peculiarities.)
Compare Ara k wwo . . .

s s ni gbn fi gb gun igi.
Slowly slowly is the way a snail climbs a tree.
(With dogged persistence, one accomplishes the most difficult of tasks.)

in k dani k m tn gn n.
One does not refrain from mounting a horse that has thrown one.
(A failure should not stop one from making further attempts.)

in k j k j kej-i r.
A horse does not get loose and stop to free its companion.
(Each person must look to his or her own salvation.)

t b l.
Disgrace comes upon the shiftless.
(Disgrace attends shiftlessness.)

y s fn y p k b.
A bird does not tell a bird that a stone is on its way.
(Each person looks out for his or her own safety.)


19. This is a reference to the cat's ability to always right itself and land on its feet however much one tries to drop it on its back. The saying is most often used by wrestlers as an incantation to prevent their opponents from throwing them.  [Back to text]


20. luk or luk is a fearsome masquerader, one of whose props is a matchet supposedly used indiscriminately as a weapon.  [Back to text]


21. The proverb is probably based on the commercial importance of the route, which ensures the keen interest of the authorities (of bdn presumably) in seeing that whoever is responsible for keeping it open and clean does so efficiently.  [Back to text]


22. Ir is the fermented condiment derived from the seeds of the locustbean tree. The suggestion seems to be that the man deprived of a wife can still cook his stew, since his ir can still ferment even in the absence of a wife (who would normally cook the stew).  [Back to text]


23. The proverb is based on the fact that crabs' eyes never close, since they have no lids.  [Back to text]


24. This proverb is based on the supposition that ducks never sleep. dn is oil made from palm kernels, used to fuel lamps, and as a body lotion.  [Back to text]


25. The expression Il- m means both the floor is clean and morning has broken. The proverb thus also carries the suggestion that a new day, supposedly an auspicious day, dawns for those who sweep the floor, especially since sweeping is one of the first orders of duty for conscientious housekeepers every morning.  [Back to text]


26. tara (industry or sharpness) is equated here with ttb, a charm ensuring that the user will be the first to come upon a valuable thing.  [Back to text]


27. Egn (masqueraders) are believed to be reincarnated dead ancestors, hence ar run heavenly beings. Some chase people and belabor them with whips.  [Back to text]


28. A dancing leap is regarded as the supreme figure in dance.  [Back to text]


29. The humor, even the wit, of the proverb resides more than in anything else, in the play on pa, which in the context of an ay game means to win, but in the context of a war means to kill. The stalwart in question settles the argument about whether he could have killed six people in a war by winning six ay games.  [Back to text]


30. Traditionally brides cried, as a matter of form, on their departure for their future homes. Onlookers make light of their tears, which are supposedly crocodile tears.  [Back to text]


31. rb, the silk cotton tree-Ceiba Pentandra (Bombaceae)-is the largest African tree (see Abraham: 61-62), while the sound of the name Jgd suggests someone of insubstantial physical stature.  [Back to text]


32. g is the name usually given to a child born feet first, and db means someone everyone would like to have given birth to. The suggestion is that the child so named is excessively pampered, and can therefore get away with anything.  [Back to text]