There was once a woman who lived with her husband next to the Hlimbitwa River. Every day she left their home and went to the forest to chop wood. Every day her husband would give her a bottle of water and some food so that she had something to drink and eat while she was deep in the forest. One day she went out and chose a big tree to chop down. “This one will be good,” she said. “It is very big, and I will get a lot of wood out of it.” She took her axe into her hands and swung it up ready to chop. Just as she was about to she heard a voice pleading with her to stop. “Who said that?” she asked. “Look down here,” said the voice, “and whatever you do, please, please do not chop down this tree.” The woman was shocked at what she heard, but when she saw where the voice was coming from she did not know what to say! Down on the ground, near the roots of the tree, was the tiniest man the woman had ever seen. Her jaw dropped open for she could not believe what she was seeing. Eventually, she got over her shock. “I beg you, please don’t hurt this tree,” said the tiny man. “Well… well of course,” she said. “I can do what you ask. I can search for another tree if this one is so important to you.” “Thank you, you have done something that has made me very happy,” said the tiny man. “You have a kind heart, and because of this I will grant you three wishes, no matter what.” And then the little man disappeared. No matter where the woman searched in the forest he was nowhere to be found. Eventually, she gave up the search and headed home. All the way there she shook her head and mumbled to herself, still surprised by what had happened. When she reached home she sat down outside to rest, still wondering if someone had played a trick on her. All that thinking made her hungry. “Is our supper ready yet?” she asked her husband who had come to sit next to her. “Oh, no,” he answered, “not yet. It will be ready only in a few hours.” The woman groaned. “I’m so hungry, I wish I had a piece of meat to eat.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth when – swisssh – a piece of meat appeared on the empty plate on the ground next to her. She stared at it and so did her husband. “What is this?” he asked surprised by what had happened. The woman told him everything that had happened in the forest that morning. Her husband stared at her and she could see that he was becoming angry. When she stopped talking he shouted at her, “WHATTT? You should have thought before you said that you wished for some meat. You are so silly that I wish that piece of meat was stuck to your nose.” Before the woman could say hayibo! the piece of meat was stuck to her nose. She grabbed it and pulled, but it wouldn’t come off. Her husband tried pulling. They both pulled and pulled, but it was no good. The piece of meat was stuck to the end of her nose. “Oh, no,” said the woman. “Now what?” “I don’t know, but it has to come off,” said the man. Then the woman realised that she had better do something in a hurry before her husband said another word. “I wish this meat was off my nose!” she shouted. And in a second the meat lay on the plate again. And there they sat, the woman and her husband, staring at each other. There would be no wishes for money, or clothes, or a bigger house, or happiness. There would be no wishes at all, but … at least they had a good piece of meat for their dinner! Kwaye kukho inkosikazi eyayihlala nomyeni wayo kufuphi noMlambo iHlimbitwa. Yonke imihla le nkosikazi yayilishiya ikhaya labo, ihambe iye ehlathini ukuya kutheza iinkuni. Yonke imihla umyeni wayo wayeyinika ibhotile yamanzi nokutya ukuze ibe nento yokusela neyokutya xa ingene phakathi ehlathini. Ngenye imini yayiphumile le nkosikazi, iye kutheza yaze yakhetha umthi omkhulu ukuba iwugawule uwe. “Lo uya kukulungela kakuhle kakhulu ukugawulwa,” yatsho. “Mkhulu kakhulu kwaye ndiya kufumana iinkuni ezininzi kuwo.” Yakhupha izembe layo, yalibamba ngazo zozibini izandla zayo, yalijiwuzisela phezulu sele ilungele ukuqalisa ukugawula. Ithe xa kanye iza kugawula yeva ilizwi liyicenga ukuba iyeke. “Ngubani lowo utshoyo?” yabuza njalo. “Jonga phantsi apha,” latsho eli lizwi, “kwaye nantoni na oyenzayo, uze uncede, nceda ungawugawuli, uwuwise phantsi loo mthi.” Le nkosikazi yothuswa kakhulu koko ikuvileyo, kodwa yathi xa ibona apho lalivela khona eli lizwi, ayakwazi nokuba mayithini! Phantsi emhlabeni, ecaleni kweengcambu zomthi, kwakukho eyona ndoda incinane eyakhe yabonwa yile nkosikazi. Yasuka yathi nkebe umlomo ikhamisile, ingakukholelwa eyayikubona. Ekugqibeleni kwaphela ukothuka. “Ndiyakubongoza torho, nceda ungawutshabalalisi lo mthi,” yatsho le ndoda encinane. “Ee … ndiyavuma xa usitsho,” watsho. “Ndiyasamkela isicelo sakho. Ndingazingela omnye umthi xa lo ubaluleke kangaka kuwe.” Ndiyabulela. Wenze eyona nto indivuyisa kakhulu,” yatsho indoda encinane. “Unentliziyo entle kakhulu kwaye ngenxa yesi senzo sihle kangaka usenzileyo, ndiza kuphumeza iminqweno yakho emithathu, nokuba iyintoni na.” Emva koko, yanyamalala indoda encinane. Le nkosikazi yaba ngayizingela kuzo zonke iindawo ehlathini, zange iyifumane le ndoda ingaqhelekanga. Ekugqibeleni yakuncama le nkosikazi ukuzingela le ndoda, yagoduka. Kuyo yonke loo ndlela igodukayo yayihlunguzela intloko, imbombozela imane ikhuza yodwa ngenxa yokumangaliswa kokwenzekileyo. Yakuba ifikile ekhaya yahlala phantsi ecaleni kwendlu ukuze iphumle, isazibuza ukuba ingaba kukho umntu obedlala ngayo kusini na. Zonke ezo ngcinga zayilambisa nangakumbi. “Ingaba sesilungile isidlo sethu sangokuhlwa?” yabuza umyeni wayo owayesuke waza kuhlala ecaleni kwayo. “Owu, hayi,” waphendula umyeni, “asikalungi. Kusasele nje iiyure ezimbalwa phambi kokuba silunge.” Le nkosikazi yancwina. “Andilambe ngako, akwaba bekukho nokuba liqathana nje lenyama endinokulitya.”Kungekudala ewathethile loo mazwi – thaxa – inyama epleyitini eyayithe tshitshilili apha kanye phambi kwakhe. Wakhupha amehlo aziingqanda kwanomyeni wakhe ngokunjalo. “Yintoni le?” wabuza umyeni emangaliswe yiloo nto yayisenzeka. Le nkosikazi yamxelela yonke into eyayenzeke ehlathini kuloo ntsasa. Umyeni wayo wayijamela yaze nayo le nkosikazi yabona ukuba umyeni uthe fixi ngumsindo. Yathi yakugqiba ukuthetha le nkosikazi, umyeni wayo wangxola ngelizwi elingqwabalala wathi, “INTONIII? Kaloku ubufanele ukuba uye wacinga phambi kokuba uxele ukuba unqwenela ukufumana inyama. Ugeza kakhulu, akwaba loo nyama ibinokuncamathela kuloo mpumlo yakho.” Le nkosikazi yathi ingekatsho nokuthi hayi-bo! labe iqatha lenyama selincamathele empumlweni yayo. Yalibamba ilitsala, kodwa alasuka tu elo qatha lenyama. Umyeni naye wazama ukuyisusa. Bobabini bancedisana, batsala, batsala, kodwa zange baphumelele ukulisusa. Inyama yayincamathele nca elungqamekweni lwempumlo yale nkosikazi.“Owu, hayi,” yatsho le nkosikazi. “Kuza kuthiwani ngoku?” “Andazi, kodwa ifanele ukusuka,” yatsho indoda. Le nkosikazi yaqonda ukuba kufanele ukuba nento eyenzayo kwamsinyane phambi kokuba umyeni wayo akhuphe elinye ilizwi. “Ndinqwenela ukuba le nyama isuke empumlweni yam!” yakhwaza ngelo le nkosikazi. Ngomzuzwana nje inyama yaphinda yaba sepleyitini kwakhona. Bahlala apho, le nkosikazi nomyeni wayo, bejamelene. Kwakungekho minqweno yimbi abanokuyisebenzisa ukuze bafumane imali, okanye iimpahla, okanye indlu enkulu, okanye ulonwabo. Kwakungasayi kuphinda kubekho minqweno yanto kwaphela, kodwa … okungenani babenenyama emnandi yesidlo sangokuhlwa! This story was provided courtesy of the Nal’ibali national reading-for- enjoyment campaign which works with schools, partners, and community members to nurture a love for reading among children in the Western Cape and across the country. To read the story in another South African language, or for literacy activities, reading tips and more stories to enjoy with your children, visit www.nalibali.org or nalibali.mobi. You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA.