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20 Fascinating Proverbs from Chinua Achebe’s Works

One of the fascinating things about reading Prof. Chinua Achebe’s novels as a non-Igbo youngster was the way he peppered the book with proverbs – the palm oil with which words are eaten, according to him.

Here are just 20 of the many proverbs his books presented to the world:

1. “Whatever tune you play in the compound of a great man there is always someone to dance to it.”

2. “If the lizard of the homestead should neglect to do the things for which its kind is known, it will be mistaken for the lizard of the farmland.”

3. “When we see a little bird dancing in the middle of the pathway, we must know that its drummer is in the near-by bush.”

4. “The very thing which kills mother rat prevents its little ones from opening their eyes.”

5. When we see an old woman stop in her dance to point again and again in the same direction we can be sure that somewhere there something happened long ago which touched the roots of her life.”

6. “When an adult is in the house the she-goat is not left to suffer the pains of parturition on its tether.”

7. “Wisdom is like a goatskin bag; every man carries his own.”

8. “When the handshake goes beyond the elbow we know it has turned to another thing.”

9. “When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.”

10. “The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.”

11. “When mother-cow is eating, its younger ones watch its mouth.”

12. “Unless the wind blows we do not see the fowl’s rump.”

13. “The man who sends a child to catch a shrew will also give him water to wash his hand.”

14. “An old woman is never old when it comes to the dance she knows.”

15.“A man who knows that his anus is small does not swallow an udala seed.”

16. “A boy who tries to wrestle with his father gets blinded by the old man’s loincloth.”

17. “A man who brings home ant-infested faggots should not complain if he is visited by lizards.”

18. “A woman who began cooking before another must have more broken utensils.”

19. “Those whose palm kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble.”

20. “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving.”

Remember any others that stood out for you? Do leave a comment.

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Adebayo Osesusi

    14th April 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Eneke the bird says since men have learnt to shoot without missing their mark, he has also learnt to fly without perching

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