Rwandan Folk Tales

Over the past weekend our team spent a lot of time with Welcome, a Rwandan BMET who came along with us to Kibuye Hospital and Lake Kivu. He explained a few Rwandan legends to us which I thought were pretty cool.

On our first night at the hostel on Lake Kivu, there was a thunderstorm. We sat listening to the storm while Welcome told us about how he grew up believing that thunder was caused by a huge rooster in the sky flapping its wings. He said that the legend is mostly for children, but some adults still believe it and when Welcome first became a technician, he installed a lightning rod at his hospital and some people thought its purpose was to catch the giant rooster.


The following day after interviewing Normand at Kibuye Hospital, we ate lunch at a restaurant next to a building with a thatched roof. Apparently lizards love thatched rooves, because we saw a bunch of them crawling over it. One type of lizard was called “icyugu” and was bright blue with a yellow tail. The one we saw (above) looked like a small iguana, maybe six inches from head to the tip of tail. According to Welcome, it is bad luck to stand under trees with icyugu in them during thunderstorms because the lightning will strike that tree. He also said that parents scare their children away from touching the icyugu by saying that if you touch them the only cure is to have your auntie come to your house and dance naked.

Welcome told us of another legend about a man who tried to cheat death. Death came to his house in the form of a cow (in Rwanda, it is common to personify death as a cow with branches and leaves in its horns). Instead of trying to run from Death, the man treated Death as an honored guest and gave him food and much to drink. Death became drunk, and while Death wasn’t looking, the man took Death’s list of names and moved his from first on the list to last. The next morning, when Death had sobered up, he thanked the man for his hospitality and said that in appreciation he would start from the bottom of the list and work his way back so that the man would have more time to live. Although a bit morbid, we all shared a good laugh over this story. It was interesting to see that the theme of not being able to cheat death was carried across cultures.


We had a great time with Welcome and his friends and are sad to part ways today. He also was an expert at posing for photos and was kind enough to teach me his secret knee-bending technique.

Greetings from Kibuye!

Brittany & Team


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