The Gods Are Not To Blame “Proverbs”

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I had the privilege of reading the gods are not to blame, and African drama by Ola Rotimi when I was in the secondary school.

The drama has a lot of rich African proverbs that will get you thinking and excited for days. This article will explain the meaning of some of my favourite proverbs and the context with which they were used.

The Gods are not to blame proverbs and explanation

1. “Not to do something is to be crippled fast” and “to lie down resigned to fate is madness”: This proverb states that it is not wise to sit idle when things are going wrong in one’s life.

This was said by Odewale to the people of Kutuje to get up and fight against the people of the Ikolu tribe.

2. The one who pelts another with pebbles asks for rocks in return: This means if one does evil to his/her neighbour, he/she should expect to be met with even greater evil. A statement made by Odewale.

3. It is not changing into the lion that is hard, it is getting the tail of a lion: It means that everyone can claim to be brave but it takes a real king to demonstrate what it takes to be a leader. This proverb was used by the people of Kutuje to praise king Odewale.

4. Kola nuts last longer in the mouths of them who love it: It means people keep things that are of value to them. The people of Kutuje said this to show how much they valued Odewale as their leader.

5. When the Chameleon brings forth a child, is not that child expected to dance?: It means one who is given greater power is expected to fulfil his/her expectations. This was when one citizens told Odewale to act as a king since they were dying of sickness.

5. When rain falls on the leopard, does it wash off its spots?: This was a question to Odewale if kingly life and riches had made him made him lose his love for his people.

6. Only a madman would go to sleep with his roof on fire: It explains that, it is only a fool who sits unconcerned while there is chaos everywhere. Odewale used this proverb to claim that he was not unconcerned about the plight of his people, and that he was plagued by the same sickness.

7. The moon moves slowly but by daybreak, it crosses the sky: This was said by Odewale to encourage the people of Kutuje to continue to drink their medicines and with patience, they would feel better.

8. By trying often, the monkey moves from tree to tree without falling: This means if one wants to become exceptional in any endeavour, one must persist and practice often. When one of the citizens complained that her children were not taking the medicines, this was Odewale’s response to her.

9. It is said that the secrets of the home should be known first by the head of the home: This is to say that the head of the family is the first to know issues in the house. This was used by Aderopo to convince Odewale to receive the message from Ile Ife in secret before the elders.

10. A cooking pot for the chameleon is a cooking pot for the lizard: This proverb is used to explain equality among people. It was used by Odewale to shut down Aderopo’s claim that Odewale had to hear the news from Ile Ife before anyone else.

11. The horns cannot be too heavy for the the head of the cow that must bear them: Queen Ojuola used this proverb to compel her son Aderopo to tell what the oracle of Ifa said about the ongoing sickness in the land claiming that whatever the news was, they could bear.

12. Until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must chew with caution: It means some words are better said with patience. The proverb was used by Aderopo to defend why he was careful in telling the news from Ifa.

13. When the frog Infront falls in a pit, others behind take caution: This proverbs explains the need to learn from the mistakes of others so that one does not fall into the same temptation. This was said by Odewale to claim that he could be the next to die as a king if he refused to take caution.

14. When crocodiles eat their own eggs, what would they not do to the flesh of the frog?: This means if one can do evil to his/her own people, how does a foreigner stand a chance? These were Odewale’s words when he learnt about the the mysterious death of King Adetusa.

15. All lizards lie prostrate: how can a man tell which lizard suffers from bellyache: Meaning is difficult to distinguish between a good person and a bad person when all options look the same. This was said by Odewale to demonstrate that it wasn’t easy to point out the killer of king Adetusa.

16. Is it not ignorance that makes the rat attack the cat?: Meaning it is unwise to temper with things that can cause havoc to you. This statement was made by Baba Fakunle when Odewale’s guards rushed on him.

17. He who drums for a sick man is himself a sick man: Meaning anyone who argues with a fool is also considered a fool. This was said by the second chief when Baba Fakunle revealed king Odewale was the murderer amongst them.

18. The hyena flirts with the hen, the hen is happy, not knowing that her death has come: Meaning it is dangerous to mingle with individuals who are not of your kind. This proverb was used by Odewale to explain the fact that people were plotting against his kingship because he was a foreigner.

19. Two rams cannot drink from the same bucket at the same time! They will lock horns: Meaning two leaders cannot live together in harmony at one location. Odewale said this claiming that he and Aderopo could not live together in peace knowing that Aderopo was not in support of his kingship.

20. If you rise too early the dew of life will soak you: These words were directed at Aderopo as caution from Odewale. Meaning it was unwise for Aderopo to overestimate his abilities and ambition to be king.

21. The lion’s liver is vain wish for dogs: This was an appellation to king Odewale by the Royal Bard which meant that it was an impossible task to bring down a leader as brave as King Odewale.

22. Meat that has fat will prove it by the heat of fire: Meaning one can only claim greatness only when one is tried, tested and proven him/herself. This was by the Royal Bards ushering in king Odewale.

23. An eagle does not go to the market place unless there is something there: Meaning there is a reason behind the actions of a high value individual. This was a word of praise from the royal bard to Odewale when he went out to visit the sick people of Kutuje.

24. Ignorance makes the rat call a cat to a fight: This was said by Alaka when the bodyguards tried to stop him from seeing the king. It means it is ignorance that makes an less powerful person to stand against a more powerful person.

25. Because the farm-owner is slow to catch the thief, the thief calls the farm-owner thief!: Meaning one may accuse an innocent man because the innocent one was slow to accuse them first. These were Odewale’s words to King Adetusa in the build up to their fight.

26. Venom of a viper does nothing to the back of tortoise: Meaning it is Impossible for a less dominant individual to have any significant on a more dominant person. This was king Adetusa’s response to Odewale’s charm.

27. The monkey and gorilla may claim oneness but the monkey is monkey and the gorilla, gorilla: Meaning that one may say they are part of a particular tribe of people but that is just a mere claim since one can never be truly accepted by another tribe member as their own. Odewale said this to Ojuola that he could never be truly part of their tribe.

28. The mangrove tree dwells in the river, but does that make it a crocodile?: it means the mere fact that you are living amongst a group of people does not mean you are truly a part of them; again, a proverb from Odewale to queen Ojuola.

29. Can the cockroach be innocent in the gathering of fowls?: This means that nobody speaks for a stranger when evil is being done to the stranger. This is due to the fact that the stranger is not part of the tribe. Odewale said this to his chiefs claiming they were being biased towards him.

30. The butterfly thinks himself a bird: These are words used to mock an individual who overestimates their ability or one who does not deserve their position. It was said by a man to Odewale on his farm.

31. A bush does not sway this way or that way, unless there is wind: Meaning nothing happens without a cause. It was said by Odewale trying to explain why he went to the priest of Ifa to ask about his destiny.

32. The toad likes water but not when the water is boiling: Meaning it is not wise to be in one’s comfort zone if it poses danger to one’s life; A proverb said by Odewale on why he left his home.

33. Secrets of the owl must not must not be known in daylight: Meaning not all words are supposed to be said in public. This was directed towards Alaka when he was refusing to disclose the secret behind the real parents of Odewale.


When it comes to wise sayings and proverbs, African writers are the best. These are 33 interesting proverbs that can be used to enrich one’s speaking and writing.

The drama, the Gods are not to blame is a mouthwatering suspenseful story of a man who was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Attempts to escape his destiny proved to be futile as the twists and turns of the world geared him towards his dangerous fate.


George is interested in self-education, knowledge building and self expression through writing!

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