Mtego Wa Panya

Mtego wa panya huingia waliomo na wasiokuwemo (The trap for rats enters who are inside and who are not inside).

When I was younger, I read a story that sought to explain the proverb above. To this day, I am not really sure if the story was derived from the proverb or if it was the other way round. I also have a niggling suspicion that that story might have been translated from somewhere. But I digress.

The story goes this way: There was once a rat that lived in a store on a farm somewhere. Let us call this place Mudete. This rat liked to eat the maize in that store, and caused so much damage that the farmer, Waf (short for Wafula) became annoyed and bought a trap to catch it and kill it. The design of this trap is the one you know; a flat piece of metal with teeth on one end and a spike to hold a bit of food then when the rat touches that food, it releases a wire that gwabaaa! swagas that rat like nobody's business. Then he set the trap and put a nice-smelling piece of mutura on the spike to lure the rat. The rat heard that smell and went to eat, only to find the trap. "So you think you are clever? We know these things," he thought to himself. He thought about what to do and finally decided to approach Wafula's chicken.

"Hey, Chicken," he said, "si you come and kick this trap for me so that it fyatukas and becomes harmless?" "Go away," the chicken answered, "that trap is for thieves like you, not me. Besides, you need to die because you keep on eating my food and leaving saliva all over." "The trap for rats enters who are inside and who are not inside," said the rat and went on his way. The rat saw the goat and asked him to do the same favour. Goat said, "Do I look like I can be caught in a measly trap for a rat like you? Gerrarahia." and continued browsing like nothing had happened. "The trap for rats enters who are inside and who are not inside," said the rat as he went over to try and talk to Wafu's (also Wafula) bull over there to kick the trap for him. The bull said, "Mooo! Not my problem." and continued chewing the cud.

So Rat was frustrated and decided to munch Wafu's dry, tasteless maize for supper and go to sleep. Kumbe during the day when Rat was looking for customers to kick the trap for him a snake had come to look for kitoweo and also smelt the delicious mutura Waf had placed on the trap and decided to celebrate with a nice appetiser before hunting down the rat, and gwabaaa! The trap sprang and caught him.

Remember the trap had teeth, so it really hurt this snake but did not kill him.

The snake at this point decided it was a good time to start writhing around in pain. He danced around a good one. Kumbe while he was doing that, Wafu heard him making noise in the store and came very fast with a fat stick to teach the rat a lesson only to find it was a big, angry snake trying to break free of the trap and because the trap was not anchored to anything, the snake managed to reach Waf and bite him a good one. Wafu died bana. I don't know if he managed to kill the snake, too, but I know he died.

Now when he died, Wafu's family decided to hold matanga as they prepared to bury him, and relatives started streaming in one by one.

As they did so, Wafu's wife decided to slaughter the chicken since the guests were few. On the day of the fundraising, many more people came and they decided to slaughter the goat because he was big and fat and free. On the day of the funeral, people were many bana, so they had to slaughter the bull which was huge, and fat, and also free to feed all the villagers and relatives who had come to bury their person Waf.

So there you have it. The trap for rats enters those who are inside and who are not inside. In better English, the rat trap catches those for whom it was meant and those for whom it was not intended.


This is obviously not my story.