Bones & Runes: Translations and Proverbs

Below are various key passages from Bones & Runes containing either !Orakobab (Haiseb's dialogue), isiZulu or isiZulu Proverbs (Ulwazi), with their guide translations.

“I keep getting this error message: Senqaba ukuhlonipha isicelo sakho. Lo mlayezo ubonakala iselelesi, noma labo abazama ukuthola imithombo evinjelwe ngaphandle kokugunyazwa. [We decline to honor your request. This message is seen by intruders, or those trying to access a restricted resource without authorization.] Seriously?”


Mamlambo’s Foretelling:
"Kunengxabano. There is a fight.
"Umhlobo uhlangana nomunye. One friend meets another."
"Abahlobo bayaxabana. The friends are fighting."
"Nabaphansi bona bayaxabana. And the spirits below, they too are quarrelling."
"Abahlobo ababili bahlangana nomunye. Two friends meet another."
"Bese badelana bonke, omunye nomunye ahambe ngokwakhe, Then they abandon each other, each one going on their own."
"Ukuhamba wedwa ngukubona. To travel alone is to see."
"Omunye unikezwa umhwebo olingayo. Someone is given a tempting trade."
"Uwela wedwa ukufika phesheya, omunye nomunye ngokwakhe. You cross alone to that side, each one on their own."
"Abahlobo ababili bahamba bayofuna umhlobo wabo. Two friends go to find the third friend."
"Abahlobo abathathu baphuma kude babonke. The three friends come from a long way together. Kube ukuthi babe munye. Such that they became one."
"Bangene babonke empini. They entered all together into the war."


Haiseb (!Ora/!Orakobab):

The chaos in the water was momentarily disturbed by a command from Mamlambo, out over the river, “ǂXãib ǃna khãi re, Haisetse!” [Awake in peace, Haiseb!]
The movement around the boat began to subside, just as the river, a few metres from where the two men stood rigid with anticipation, exploded in a spray.
A dark figure landed lightly with a slosh on the jetty, river water streaming from his patchy hair, beard and clothing.
Hōxa-e! Hamti kx’ontsēbe hã, Tarase? [How are you, Woman] the figure addressed Mamlambo, with a nod to his right.


“Your transport,” Mamlambo gestured with the sweep of an arm. “And your boatman.” Haiseb Haiseb promptly turned and bowed flamboyantly to the woman. “A hā-ts hē khoekhara mũǃnamãsi!.” [May you these men look after]
“A a!Î,“ [Yes] He said nodded and turned back to the two men, arm behind his back, legs what would have been set in a wide stance but gave an unnaturally suspended body in space.

“Ĩsa !ũ, dao!ũsikx’aosab,[Fine journey, travel-maker master!] 
 she waved over her shoulder. 

He looked back at the men. “ǀÃmas?” [Boat?]
Mlilo nodded to Dan. “Mhm.” Then turning back to Haiseb, ”The name of the boat is The Evening Reed Boat.” He looked at Dan.
“Uh, The Evening Reed Boat?” he said tentatively.
Haiseb grunted his irritation and swung around towards the boat.
“What did I say?”
“Nothing,” whispered Mlilo. “We have to watch this one. He wants us to slip up.”
What they assumed would have been his right leg, Haiseb looked as if he had stepped onto the side of the boat and paused, leaning on no visible knee to observe the deck below, without affecting the delicate balance of the vessel on the water. Seemingly satisfied he stood and brought his visible leg over into the boat, causing it to rock and splatter as he made his way to the bow.
Mlilo tapped Dan on his shoulder and indicated to proceed. After a wobbly and awkward boarding, they both stood opposite each other, holding the railing and with all eyes on the poking and prodding man fussing about the boat.
Haiseb gripped the railing on the side that Dan stood with both hands, twisting and testing the woven reed-work; he edged closer to Dan, half a metre at a time until he was within reach of the startled druid. Dan could hear the give of the reeds under the strain of Haiseb’s wiry hands; he got a glimpse of the true power within them and the force needed to squeeze, to any degree, the taut materials making up the same railing he felt rock hard in his grip.
“Hē !arib,” [This river,] Haiseb whispered, almost inaudible alongside the lapping waters, “Taeb ka?” [What is it?]
“This is The River of Hatred,” said Mlilo, raising his voice to get the figure’s attention, but rather causing Haiseb to slide up to Dan with his wide grin oozing a liquid stench.
“The R-River Hatred,” repeated Dan taking a step back but not losing his grip.
The figure thrust his left arm out over the river, hand wide, palm down. In a second, a dark wooden pole grew straight up, bumping his hand as it grew a metre above their heads. He grabbed at the stem just as it began to slow its rise from the water; still submerged at the bottom. He gave the pole a quick twist and pull, snapping it off somewhere below the surface with a muffled crack.
“Hamǀxĩ?” [Where to?] He flipped the pole out the water and into his invisible palm, testing the weight between both hands.
“We travel to the Field of Rushes,” replied Mlilo, eyes fixed on the pole and what it might do.
In a swift motion, Haiseb slammed the one end of the pole down centimeters from Dan’s feet; the entire boat vibrated with the force.
“Field. Of. Rushes.” Dan repeated forcefully. His eyes narrowed as he considered the other man’s body language, and then fixed on the other man’s visible eye. Malice dripped from the being before him, like the water still falling from Haiseb’s coat and chin.
Flicking the pole up, missing Dan’s face by a hair, he manoeuvered around as it arced back and up over his head. The air whistled as he caught it fluidly with one hand and effortlessly put it into a spin, first in front and then just above his head; finally coming to an abrupt stop under his unseen right arm. He stepped into the middle of the vessel and faced front.
Dan looked to Mlilo with a shrug.
Mlilo raised a hand for Dan to be patient.
Haiseb looked to his left, in the direction the water was flowing from, and took a deep breath.
“Ti dīb. Taeb ka?”[My duty. What is it?]
“We shall not touch what you oversee, your duty to Mamlambo,” said Mlilo.
Dan repeated Mlilo’s line.
“Ti dīb?” Haiseb repeated with more force.
Mlilo thought for a second, then replied, “The river. Your duty is the river.”
Dan looked around at the smooth beige liquid surrounding the boat. “The river,” he said.
Haiseb faced front once again and the pole passed from being suspended by nothing on his right into his left hand and slammed it into the deck with another boom.
“Hē ǀaib. Taeb ka?” [This power. What is it?]
“Water. Ngamacam–“ [Hlonipha term for water] Mlilo stopped himself. “I mean, ǁAmma ke a,” [It is Water] Mlilo turned and deliberately enunciated for Dan.
Dan’s eyes widened and then he attempted the sounds, “Kammageia.”
Both men jerked backwards as the boat began moving along the water.

Mlilo smiled and nodded at his friend. “I am fire. Umlilo.” He held his hand out cupping the air, a subtle haze began to shimmer around his fingers. “But my true power resides in amathambo ami.”
“Ats ǂxōkua. ǁAmmākua,” [Your bones. Your ancestors/The Givers of Water] Haiseb emphasized the last word.
“Yes,” replied Mlilo and lowered his hand. “My bones and ancestors. Amadlozi.”
“ǀNũgaǂnũsas.” [Hyena Queen]
“What is he saying?” asked Dan.
“Something about a hyena.”
“ǀNũgan di ǂNũsas!” [Queen of the Hyenas] Haiseb shouted.
Both men jumped to their feet, startled by the force of the word uttered.
“He can’t be talking about the impisi. uNosithwalangcengce?”
“Ā!“ confirmed Haiseb. “ǀNũgan di ǂNũsas.”
Stunned, Mlilo slowly sat back down, now deep in thought. Dan followed suit.
“Who is uNosithwalangcengce?”
Haiseb tensed his grip on his staff as the sound of a thousand wings crackled in the sky above. All three shot a glance at the black cloud of birds, now undoubtably closer.
The ferryman turned to face both men.
ǃOra’aris tama tje a. [It is not a !Ora Hunting Bitch.] ǀNũgas tama tje a.  [It is not a Spotted Hyena Bitch.] ǀNũgan di ǂNũsas tje a. [It is the Queen of the Hyenas.] 
“The Queen of the Hyenas,” whispered Mlilo.
Haiseb stepped closer and placed the staff directly in front of himself. A low hum resonated through the wood of the deck, reverberating up through their feet and legs. His narrowed eyes flitted between Mlilo and Dan as he murmured.
Mlilo said, “I am you. You are me. Imagine my mind. And you will see.”


“uDadewethu omkhulu,” [Big sister] he said as they embraced. A warmth grew between their two bodies, moving over Mlilo’s chest and down his arms. Along with it came a welling up of emotion he had not felt in a long time.
“uMfowethu omncane,” [Little brother] she said then whispered, “uKhanyisa.” [Bringer of Light] Chills ran along his neck and head. His big sister always held him a bit longer than he wanted to, but right now it felt good.

Ulwazi’s Proverbs:

Mlilo felt the arm of his sister around his waist pull him closer to her. “Interesting friend. Akahlalwa mpukane.”
“You have no idea,” he said.
Belying his frame, Ganesha hefted the two containers out the car, and headed to the stairs. He gave a nod to the two lion statues and stepped into the house.

*figure of speech/proverb – “He is not sat on by a fly“: This proverb describes a person who is very particular about his appearance, a person of clean habits. This proverb describes a person who is very particular about his appearance, a person of clean habits.


“Lalela: ukhasela eziko. That is you, Mlilo. **He crawls to the fire.
“More teaching, proverbs, uKhethiwe,” [chosen one] he snapped.
“Language is everything, Mlilo. It is how we tell the world who we are.”
“Fine, tell me if you’ve heard this one, nkosazana Qwabe: ***akuxoxo lingalunguzi esizibeni.”
“I have no need to venture into this outside world you look to. It’s like looking outside of yourself for the answers when it is here all the time. I have gone where I was needed, and where things needed to be imparted to me for a purpose. I sought out answers away from this place and returned.
**proverb – ”He crawls to the fire“: When a child has reached a crawling stage he/she will inevitably crawl everywhere, even to a dangerous place like the fire-place. In short: Someone who acts in a blind and dangerous way, which may bring danger upon him.

***proverb – “Even a frog ventures out of the water/a frog looks beyond the pond”: a person must be prepared to move out of their comfort zone and take risks. A frog is born in water and lives in water all its infancy. The time comes for it to leave the water.


“uMlilo. Shisa, umlilo,” [Fire. Burn, fire] murmured Mlilo, almost inaudible to Dan under the din of the crackling quills. His left hand was turning back and forth over his cupped right palm to the reverse, like turning a ball in a hand. “Bashise phansi. [Burn down] Bashise othulini. [Burn to dust]” A dull vortex of orange light grew around both hands, the occasional spark spat outward.


Her head turned slightly as she replied, “Tír nAil [The Other Land]. Tír na nÓg [Land of Youth] lies in another direction,” her hand gestured to the right, ”along with Tír Tairngire [Promised Land], and Tír inna mBan [Land of the Women].”

Dan looked over the side of the boat and whispered, “And Tír fo Thuinn [Land Under the Wave].“


"Nemhain." [wrath, frenzy] 


Devi-Lalitha [“The Girl With Two Bodies” – Stephen Embleton short story],” 


Ogham Script: uKuhlangana / United

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