Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Stepmother

 A folk tale
Translated by Fateh kassab

        It was told that a man married a woman and she bore him a daughter and died. He named the girl Tamatheel. He loved his daughter very much. Days passed and the man married again. His new wife bore him a daughter. But he did not love her, like Tamatheel, because she was less intelligent and discerning than her. As the two girls had grown, Tamatheel became more beautiful, and had better manners than her sister. Her stepmother envied and hated her.
One day, an apple seller passed by. He claimed that if any woman eats from his apples she will get pregnant and give birth to a male child. The stepmother bought an apple from him and gave it to Tamatheel. But she did not buy one for her daughter. Poor Tamatheel got pregnant, and when three months passed, her stepmother told the father that his daughter, Tamatheel, was pregnant. He did not believe what he heard. But when he checked out the words of his wife and knew she was not lying, he wanted to get rid of Tamatheel; because having a child from a man who is not her husband meant a big shame and disgrace for him and his family. He ordered his wife to fill small sacks with, lentils, rice, ghee and oil..... He decided to take Tamatheel away and leave her in a desolate place. But his wife put small stones, sheep dung and dirt in the sacks instead of rice, lentils, flour, and urine instead of oil.
He took his daughter and walked out till he reached a cave in a desolate place. And left, after he told her he would return after a little while. After he had left an old man with a white beard came to the cave. She welcomed him and put her head scarf on the ground for him to sit. He asked her about what she has got in the sacks. She said: rice, lentils, flour ...etc. After hearing every word from Tamatheel, he said by God will. The dirt in the sacks actually turned out to be what she said.
He told her about her story and the reason which her father brought her to this place because she did not know anything. He also told her that this cave is the home of a group of eagles which comes here every evening, carrying an old eagle. That old one had a nail in one of his feet, so it was no longer able to fly. He asked her to pull the nail out of the eagle's foot as soon as they arrive and wrap it with a piece of her head scarf.
When the eagles arrived, she pulled the nail out of the old eagle's foot and wrapped it with a piece of her head scarf. The other eagles were glad. They left it with her and went to hunt food for themselves and for 
the old eagle.
 Months passed and Tamatheel gave birth to a child from her armpit. The hole from which the child came out was patched with a piece of gold, by the power of all mighty God. The eagles brought her beautiful clothes for the baby and a bag full of gold.
         Then the eagles flew over Tamatheel's father's house, and saw his wife garble the wheat. They landed down to eat. She raised her hand to evict them; but they said:
Oh hard hearted one
          we won't fly away
          Tamatheel got pregnant by the bird's fat
The girl of the cave bore a child from her armpit
And was patched with a piece of gold
Her father heard what the eagles said, and he went to see his daughter. She welcomed him. He took her back home, and also took the gold that he found with her. On their way back she kept telling him that she forgot something and she wants to return to collect it. She returned to breastfeed her son and kiss him and then leave. When she did that many times, her father told her that he knew her story, and asked her to bring her son without fear. When they arrived home and her stepmother saw how happy they were, she asked her husband to send her daughter to the place where Tamatheel was. She equipped her with rice, lentils, flour and oil ...etc. Her father took her to the same cave and left her there and went away.
The same old man came but she did not welcome him. When he asked her about her bags she answered that they are full of dirt and sheep dung. After hearing every word from her he said: by God will. The things in the bags turned out to be what she said. He told her that this cave is the home of a group of eagles which comes here every evening, carrying an old eagle. That old one had a nail in one of his feet, so it was no longer able to fly. When they return hit the old one on the head. She did what the old man told her. The eagles attacked and ate her.  After a while her mother sent her father to bring her back. But he only found her bones.

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