I am an old woman and know about things, because whenever I hear people talking, I listen.

This quotation comes at the beginning of Nisa’s section of Chapter 4, “Discovering Sex.” The beguilingly incantatory tone is indicative both of Nisa’s particular brand of storytelling and of the patterns of the !Kung oral tradition, in which fables and morality tales are handed down from the older members of the tribe to the younger. Many of the elder speakers in Nisa’s stories preface their words by emphasizing their age and sagacity. Nisa, too, frequently begins her interviews with a direct address. One of the intriguing messages of this particular quote is its idea that wisdom comes from listening to others, not only from firsthand experience. !Kung society is very verbal, and the !Kung do not have a written system of communication. Given the significance of speech, it makes sense that lessons are expressed in the form of conversation or lecture, as anecdotes or fables. Nisa herself actively participates in this tradition, teaching her own wisdom to Shostak using the traditional oral medium. This passage also emphasizes the value of the tribe’s elder members. Though they may not be able to hunt or gather very much, they contribute in other ways, including the communication of traditional wisdoms.