Much Searching Disturbs Things Lying Still

A Tswana Moralizing Tale

A man went out to cut wood; he tried the trees as he passed along, but they were all bad; so he climbed up a rock, and rolled it down from under the tree; the rock rolled down, and went into a bush, and disturbed a duiker. The duiker ran, and got into a bush. A buffalo happened to be lying in the bush. The buffalo ran away for it was afraid of the duiker. The buffalo met a man who was hunting, and it killed him. But when people saw the vultures, they ran, and found the man dead. They did not know what had killed him. So then they stood and asked one another,” What was this man killed by?”

Photo by Hans Veth

They saw a hoofprint. “A fine hoofprint of a buffalo! When the buffalo went out to kill the man, where did it come from?” They followed it by hoofprint; they found it came out of the bush. They said, “When the buffalo came out of the bush what disturbed it?” They saw the hoofprint of a duiker. They asked one another, “When the duiker went to disturb the buffalo, where did it come from?” And they followed it also by the hoofprint; they said: “The duiker came out of the bush. But when the duiker went to come out of this bush, what disturbed it?”

Photo by Hans Veth

They saw the rock; they said, “This rock when it went to disturb the duiker, where did it come from?” They said, “This rock came from those rocks.” They followed it up, and said, “What pushed this rock?” They found the rock had come from under a tree. They said, “Oh! It was a man who moved the rock, in cutting down this tree.” And so then they went, and said: “Whatever did that man want? There we plenty of trees; he went and disturbed things that were lying still.”

So this is how the saying came to be; “The man went out to cut wood, and disturbed things that were lying still. Much searching disturbs things that were lying still!”