A Libyan folk tale
Translated by: Fateh Kassab
© 2011 by THE BIRD(http://www.thebirdali.com/)
Fatoom was a beautiful, smart girl. But she was very poor. Her father died, and her mother started begging, wandering and asking people for alms.
One day her mother brought her a little bit of rice, lentils and some meat, and asked her to cook while wandering around in the market, hoping to get more food or some money.
Fatoom started cooking. She stood in front of the pot till the food ripped. As soon as she finished cooking the door was knocked. When she opened the door she saw an old woman asking for some food. Fatoom invited her in and poured her a bowl of food. The old woman thanked her and ate all the food. Then she asked for another and another until the pot was empty. Fatoom did not show dissatisfaction. Then she wished the old woman good luck when she left.
Fatoom was puzzled. What can she do? She poured some water in the pot and brought it over the fire, and left water to boil with what remained in the bottom of the pot.
When her mother returned in the evening, her daughter gave her a bowl of water, and some grains of rice, lentils. The mother got angry and screamed at her daughter: "Where is the food?" The girl did not know what to say, rising the mother's anger, so she attacked the girl to hit her but she opened the door of the house and ran away.
Fortunately her feet led to the king's palace. She sat down the fence. The king was in the balcony, he saw her. He ordered the servants to bring her and then ordered them to take her to the bathroom, and dress her well.
When Fatoom came out of the bathroom she looked like a princess in silk clothes. As soon as the King saw her he was amazed by her beauty, and immediately announced his desire to marry her. Joy and happiness spread all over the country. And the wedding ceremonies lasted for "seven days and eight nights in the city. All people were invited to eat and drink from the King's palace.
Fatoom was happy in her new life, and so was the king.
One day Fatoom stood in her balcony, she saw her mother at the bottom of the wall of the palace begging. She sent the servants to get her. When they brought her, Fatoom told her mother who she is and asked her to leave the life of begging and live with her in the palace. But the mother got angry, and yelled out "What did you do with the food I asked you to cook that day you daughter of beggars? Fatoom tried to comfort, and persuade her to keep silent. She promised to give her jewels and pearls instead, but the screams of the mother were becoming increasingly louder. The girl had to use deception. She told her mother that the dish of food is in courtyard of the palace at the bottom of the window. She led her to the window to see it. When the mother looked, she pushed her and fell down dead. Then the girl rushed to the courtyard of the palace, dug a hole at the bottom of the window, and buried her mother.
After that Fatoom forgot what she did and lived happily with her husband the king. But one day she looked down from her window and saw that a plant emerged in the courtyard of the palace where she had buried her mother. She did not care for it. But day after day, the plant raised and grew, until it became a tree. One day while the girl was looking at the twigs and branches extending in front of the window, the breeze blew. It moved the leaves. The sound was like someone saying: "What did you do with the food I asked you to cook that day you daughter of beggars?
One night while Fatoom was sitting with her husband talking about different issues with the window of the room open, soft breezes blew and she heard the leaves saying "What did you do with the food I asked you to cook that day you daughter of beggars?
She ran to the window, and closed it with great fear and confusion. When she returned to the table, the King noticed her pale face and the changes in her expressions. He also saw tears in her eyes. He asked her about what happened to cause all that. She tried to evade the answer, but he insisted. She told him that she did not like the palace because the toilet in her father's house is bigger and more beautiful than the palace.
The King was shocked when he had heard that. He decided to see the toilet of her father's house and if it was not as she said he would kill her. Fatoom did not believe that she had said that, and regretted it.
She had to walk with her husband the king, to guide him to her father's house. She was walking like the one who got lost, did not know where to go and the king kept on asking her: "Where is your father's house? When will we reach?" She kept walking and spinning, until they reached a barren land. The king said to her: "You are no doubt a liar and you must be killed". He drew his sword, but she begged him for a permission to empty behind the hill; he gave her.
Fatoom intend to run away, but when she reached behind the hill she saw a large turtle. The turtle suddenly said: "What is the error that you did Fatoom?", Fatoom was astonished, and then said to her: "Please help me," It asked her to go immediately and bring King, and promised her to find in the place where the turtle itself stood a tile with a ring on it. All she has to do is to lift it and lower, to see what will surprise the king. Fatoom was about to speed to the king, when the tortoise warned her not to stay at the bottom more than seven days, or else things will turn against her.
Fatoom returned to her husband the king, with signs of pleasure on her face, while he was still angry, and the sword is in his hand. She told him that they had reached the house of her father, and then led him to where the tortoise was behind the hill. She saw a tile with a ring on it. She lifted it and saw a crypt. She descended with the king to find a palace that they had not seen one like it before. It had high domes, wide doors, with alabaster stairs, and coral lamps, as if made by elves.
The King stayed with his wife Fatoom in the palace for days, enjoying every thing they do until the seventh day. Fatoom remembered what the turtle said to her. So she said to her husband: "I long for your palace, and I miss it, I will not mention my father's palace anymore" the King forgave her.
They came out of the crypt, and again they found themselves in the barren land. After walking a few steps, Fatoom said to the king, "Excuse me, I want to go behind the hill to empty" and she returned back to the hill. She saw the turtle, where it was seven days ago. She thanked her and asked her who she really is. The turtle told her that she is the old woman that Fatoom welcomed and fed long ago. The king and his wife, Fatoom, the daughter of the beggars, returned home to spend the rest of their lives together happily.