Why Wasp Will Not Live on the Ground

A man who lived on the edge of a forest decided to break new ground and make a farm. His family helped him to clear land and plant yams. The rains came, the crop grew; but when the time for harvesting drew near the farmer resolved to take the whole crop for himself. He was a greedy man beyond the common greed of men.

He pretended to die, and in accordance with his dying wish his family buried him in a certain manner. He was placed in a hole in the center of the yam farm, together with a knife, a cooking pot, a gourd of palm oil and two stones for making fire.

As is customary in that place his wife stayed in her house for forty days and mourned him; no one went to the farm, and every night for forty nights the farmer came out of his grave, dug as many yams as he could eat, and cooked and ate them.

He must have been very fond of yams.

After forty days his wife came to the farm and was surprised to find that much of the crop had disappeared. She saw no tracks to mark the coming and going of any thief, and marveled that this thing could have happened; her brother promised he would watch by night. He hid at the edge of the farm at dusk, and after several hours he saw a figure moving about the field. He suspected someone was there, and drew close — and behold his brother-in-law, who had died, digging yams. He watched him build a fire and cook the yams, and then he crept quietly up behind him and seized him by the arm.

“Who is holding me on my own farm?” cried the farmer.

“You are dead,” the brother said. “And you have no right to steal food from the living, and must be punished. Or you are not dead, and therefore a liar as well as a thief, and must still be punished.”

He sounded the alarm, shouting in a loud voice, and everybody came. The farmer’s family came, and many neighbors, first to stare and then to scold and mock him: and he was mightily ashamed. He was so filled with shame he turned into a wasp by singing a song:

“Baba lade coyambo klubayo.”

“Greediness turns a man to a wasp.”

He is still a wasp, a greedy animal who builds a house of earth and stuffs it with more creatures than he can ever hope to eat. As he builds he sings his song,“Baba la e coyambo klubayo.”

And because of his shame he will never live on the ground.