Preferred Citation: Muhawi, Ibrahim, and Sharif Kanaana. Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.





The Old Woman Ghouleh

TELLER: We are blessed with plenty!
AUDIENCE: Blessings abound, Allah willing!

The son of the king took the daughter of one of his father's viziers for his wife. As the girl was sitting in the bridal seat receiving congratulations, an old woman came in and said, "Niece, may your wedding be blessed!"

"And may Allah bless you too, aunty!" responded the bride.

"I'm sorry, my dear," the old woman said, "but I don't have any money to give you as a wedding present.[1] Would you accept these glass bracelets?"

The old woman then went home, waited until midnight, and returned. "Little bracelets, little bracelets!" she said, tapping on the door, "Open the door!"

The bracelets fell from the girl's wrists as she slept, and they opened the door. The old woman came into the house and woke up the bride. "Hush," she whispered, "don't let your husband know what's going on. Your father has just died." Immediately, the bride jumped out of bed and went with the old woman. If, you might say, their house was on the south side of town, the old woman took her in an easterly direction, until they arrived at a cave. When she came into the cave, the girl was met by a small ghouleh and a big ghoul, who took away her clothes and her jewelry and devoured her.

Now we return to the king's son. When he awoke in the morning, he found his bride missing. He told his father, and they started arguing with the vizier, accusing him of having taken his daughter back in secret. Another minister happened to be there, and he said, "I swear by Allah, O king! Your son can have my daughter.[2] Please don't get upset!" They sent for the cadi and drew up the marriage contract.

[1] Traditionally, relatives and friends of the newlyweds offer money to the bride or groom as part of the wedding ritual known as nqut . See Granqvist, Marriage 1:128-130.

[2] On giving away a daughter, see Tale 17, n. 17.


Instead of wearing white like the last time, this time the old woman wore green.[3] Bringing a green bead with her, she said to the bride, "You must forgive me, niece, but I don't have any money as a wedding present. Please keep this bead to protect you from the evil eye."[14] Believing what the old woman said, the girl took the bead and hid it in her dress. When all the guests had left, she brought it out and put it on the table by her bed, along with her golden bracelets.

Just before dawn the old woman came back to the bride's house. "Open the door, beadling!" she said, "Beadling, open the door!" The bead came down and opened the door, and the woman came in and woke up the girl. "Don't let your husband know," she whispered, "but your mother is on her deathbed." The girl rose up to go with her. "Wear all your gold things," suggested the old woman. "The people expecting you know you're a bride."

In the morning the husband awoke to find that his wife had disappeared. He had a fight with her father, accusing him of having taken his daughter back. A third minister offered his daughter. This time, however, they decided to patrol all the roads leading out of town. They also stationed watchmen in all the streets. That evening the groom went in to his bride.

The old woman came wearing a blue dress and carrying a citron. "My dear," said she to the bride, "I don't have any money to give you as a present. Take this citron instead."

[3] White is the color of purity; green the color of islam. Both colors are worn by pious older women, especially after they have completed the religious duty of the hajj. See Kanaana et al., Al-Malabis : 44-45.

[4] According to popular belief, all charms to ward off the evil eye, whether decorations on houses, beads worn by children, or beads hanging from cars' rearview mirrors or the necks of domestic animals, must be blue.

The belief that people can cause injury or damage to others or to objects they envy or desire simply by looking at them, although common worldwide, is particularly prominent in the Middle East. Protection from the evil eye is especially necessary on such a joyous occasion as a wedding, when the bride is exposed to the gaze (and therefore possibly the envy) of others. Songs against the evil eye are sung to the bride while she rides the camel, mule, or mare during the wedding procession (see Granqvist, Marriage II:62). In addition, the rice, salt, raisins or sweets, and other objects thrown at the bride or the newly-weds, aside from being emblematic of fertility, apparently serve to ward off the evil eye (see Granqvist, Marriage II:79n. 2). For a discussion of Palestinian beliefs and practices concerning the evil eye, see Canaan, Aberglaube : 28-32; Einsler, "Das böse Auge"; see also the definitive article by Alan Dundes, "Wet and Dry, the Evil Eye," in Interpreting : 93-133 (with bibliography, pp. 265-276).


This gift was cleverer than the others, who did not say anything to their husbands.

"Keep this citron for me," she said to her husband.

"Who gave it to you?" he asked.

"It was the woman in the blue dress."

"Ah, yes!" he exclaimed. "This woman is a ghouleh."[5]

He stuck a knife in the citron, and they went to sleep. In the middle of the night the old woman returned and knocked on the door.

"Little citron! Little citron!" she called out, "Open the door for me!"

"And how can I open with a knife stuck in my heart?" answered the citron.

The newlyweds woke up. The bridegroom removed the knife from the citron, and it came down and opened the door. When the ghouleh came in, they pretended to be sleeping.

"My dear niece," said the old woman to the bride, "you'd better get up. Your only brother has just died."

Signaling her husband, the bride got up and went with the woman. A little later he, too, rose from bed and blew the whistle to alert the watchmen, who followed the old woman the moment they saw her. She started running, with the bride right behind her and the guards following, until they caught up with her just before she reached her cave. With a dagger they rent open her dress, and what did they find but that she had a goat's tail and donkey's hooves? From the tail down she had the shape of a donkey, with hair like a donkey's. And from the tail up she looked exactly like a human being. When she entered her cave, her eyes contracted and sparkled like flames.[6] The small ghouleh and the big ghoul started to bray. The guards entered the cave on the heels of the ghouleh, along with the bridegroom and the ministers who had lost their daughters. They killed all three ghouls and split their bellies open with their daggers.

Then, gathering up their daughters' clothes and the gold heaped in the cave, they went home.

And there we left them and came back.

[5] The ghouleh in this tale is distinguished by her cleverness (cf. Tale 16, n. 5). Using tricks to gain her ends, she immediately secures the trust of the first two brides; indeed, they trust her to such an extent that they wear jewelry to their parents' deathbeds, something cultural norms do not allow.

[6] On flames and ghouls, cf. Tale 33, n. 7. Although ghouls can take any shape, they usually appear as in this tale—half human and half animal; see Footnote Index, s.v. "Ghouls and Jinn." For further references, see Granqvist, Marriage II:169n. 1; for more on the physical features of ghouls, see Canaan, "Dâmenonglaube": 17-19.


Lady Tatar[1]

There were three sisters, and each of them had a hen.[2] The eldest killed her hen and ate it. The second one did the same. After a while they started pestering the young one: "Why don't you kill your hen too? How long are you going to stay without meat?"[3]

"How am I going to slaughter it?" she responded. "And how much [meat] will there be to eat? This way, she'll lay an egg every day, and I'll eat the egg."

Becoming envious, the sisters took the hen and dropped it into the well of the ghoul while the young one was away.[4] When she came back and asked about her hen, she could not find it, and her sisters kept their secret. Searching for her hen, the young one discovered it in the well of the ghoul. When she went down into the well to bring back her hen, she found the ghoul's house inside the well dirty and his laundry piled up. She swept and mopped the floor, did the laundry and the dishes, and left the house sparkling clean.

As she was about to climb back out with her hen, the ghoul arrived. She hid under the stairs. Looking around, the ghoul found his house clean and everything in order.

"Who's been cleaning my house?" asked the ghoul. "I smell a human being!"

She was afraid to come out, so she stayed in her hiding place.

[1] "Lady Tatar" is not a woman's name. The word Tatar means "Tartar" or "Turk" and is associated in people's minds with beggars and gypsies. Ya tatari, ya gajari ("You Tartar! You gypsy!") is a form of name—calling.

[2] In Palestinian villages families ordinarily raised animals in the yard. The mothers would designate a hen or two for each of her marriageable daughters so that they could sell their eggs to buy beads, thread, and other embroidery items in preparation for marriage. Because the hens were left to roam freely in the fields, when one was lost the girls would first search the abandoned wells for them. The villagers searched the wells for other lost animals and children too. See Tale 3, n. 4.

[3] In another version of the tale collected from a different part of the country the opening sequence is more logical: upon slaughtering their chickens in turn, the first and second sisters offer their younger sister a thigh, then demand their share from the sister's hen. A similar sequence, involving babies, occurs in Tale 30.

[4] On jealousy among sisters, see Tale 12, n. 6.


"Whoever cleaned my house like this," the ghoul said, "you may come out safely. Just come out"

When the girl heard this, she emerged from her hiding place.

"You are my daughter," swore the ghoul. "I swear by Allah, and may He betray me if I betray this oath!"[5]

The maiden lived in his house, comfortable and happy. Every day she would sit in the sun by the mouth of the well and comb her hair. The king's geese would come to visit, and they taunted her: "Hey! Ghoul's daughter! Your father's fattening you up to make a feast of you!"

From that day on the girl grew thinner. Noticing her condition, the ghoul hid himself and found out what the story was.[6]

"The next time those geese come around," he said, "say to them, 'To— morrow the sultan is going to slaughter you, pluck your feathers, have you cooked, and eat you.'"

When she said that to them, all their feathers dropped off. Having seen that, the sultan followed them the next day to find out what their story was, why their feathers had fallen out in a night and a day. Following them, he came upon the ghoul's daughter, and he found her appealing.[7] He asked her to marry him, but she said, "Ask for my hand from my father, the ghoul."[8]

The sultan came and asked for her hand from the ghoul, and he gave his consent. Before his daughter left his house for the sultan's palace, the ghoul said to her, "Don't speak to him, not even one word, until he says to you, 'O Lady Tatar, O Lady Tatar—her father the sun, and the moon her mother!'"

She went to live in her husband's palace. He would speak with her, but she did not answer because he did not know the words taught her by her father, the ghoul. When he saw that she was like that, the sultan married another woman, thinking his wife was mute.

[5] B-`ahd alla, w-il-xayin y-xuno alla —literally, "I promise to Allah, and may Allah betray him who betrays this oath!" See Tale 13, n. 7; Tale 42, n. 7.

Ghouls are not always harmful creatures. in Tales 10 and 22, the ghouls are donor figures who, by giving the heroes advice, help them in attaining their goals. In Tale 28, as in this one, a ghoul acts as a father figure to a girl who has no one else.

[6] In Palestinian culture weight loss indicates that something is seriously wrong with a person or an animal (as in Tale 13).

[7] When the king sees the girl combing her hair, he is exposed to more of her charms and beauty than would ordinarily be permitted. See afterword to Group I, "The Quest for the Spouse."

[8] The girl here is insisting on the proper form; see Tale 15, n. 14.


"By Allah," said the second wife one day, "I want to go visit my co-wife, the one who the sultan says is mute."

She went, and the ghoul's daughter received her and welcomed her. It turned out she could talk after all.

"What shall I make for you?" she asked. "I'd like to make you cheese pastry."[9]

She then commanded, "Get ready, oven!" and the oven set itself up. "Come here, flour, water!" and they came. Then she said, "Let the pastry become ready!" and it was done. Taking the tray full of pastry, she carried it into the oven. When she came back out again, the pastry in the tray was baked to a golden brown, and she and her co-wife ate of it.

Her co-wife became jealous, and when she went back home she said to her husband, "Your other wife's not mute at all. She can talk!" She related to him what had happened and said, "I'd like to make for you what she made for me."

"Come here, oven!" she commanded, but the oven did not obey. "Come here, flour!" but the flour did not come. She then went and set up the oven, brought the flour and the water herself. After she made the pastry, she took hold of the tray and went into the oven to do as her co-wife had done. She was burned in the oven, along with her pastry, and died.

Meanwhile, the king went back to the ghoul's daughter and talked with her, but she would not speak with him. He then decided to marry another woman, and this one too said, "I'd like to go visit my mute co-wife."

"What shall I make for you?" wondered the ghoul's daughter. "Let me prepare some fried fish." "Come here, kerosene stove!" she commanded, and it came. "Come here, frying pan!" and it came. Waiting until the oil in the pan was boiling hot, she put her hands in the oil, palm to palm, saying, "Palm over my palm, let the fried fish come!" The pan filled with frying fish, brown and crispy. She ate of it with her co—wife. But when her co-wife tried to imitate her, her hands were burned, the frying pan fell over on her, and she died.[10]

[9] Mtabbaq is a pastry made from flour, water, and cheese. The cheese is placed inside thin layers of dough, and after baking a sugar syrup is poured over the pastry.

[10] The sequence of events in this tale, in which the second and third wives lose their lives through no fault of their own, reflects women's genuine concern about polygyny. Granqvist (Marriage II: 186-217) discusses the question of polygyny in Palestinian culture, offering many examples of proverbs, folk ditties, and songs, all centering on the bitterness of having a co-wife—for example, "A co-wife is bitter, even if she is honey in ajar" (izzurra murra, lannha `asal fi jarra ; p. 186). See Tale 30, n. 3.


Once more the sultan came back to the ghoul's daughter after having deserted her.[11] This time, however, he hid himself to learn if she was actually mute or if she could speak as his wives who had died had claimed. Hiding himself, he found her bored with her situation.

"I'm thirsty," she said. "Come give me some water!" The pitcher and the water jug started arguing over which of them was to bring the water for her. "If only," she sighed, "if only your master were to say to me, 'O Lady Tatar—her father the sun, and the moon her mother!' he would relieve us all."

As soon as he heard this, the sultan called out, "O Lady Tatar—her father the sun, and the moon her mother!"[12]

"Yes," she replied, "and two yesses."[13]

They lived happily, and there we leave them and come back here.

Šoqak Boqak!

There was in the old days a king, Ta'ir by name, who had no children except an only son whose name was `Ala'iddin.[1] When he became of marriageable age, his parents urged him once, twice, and three times to let them find him a wife, but he always refused.[2] One snowy day he took his servant and went hunting. A doe sprang in front of them, and he aimed and shot her. The servant slaughtered her, and as her blood flowed to the ground, he said, "O master! May you find a bride who's like this blood on the snow."[3]

[11] On husbands' desertion of their wives, see Tale 10, n. 8.

[12] Ordinarily a couple do not call each other by their first names; a woman who does so in public, for example, would be considered overly familiar. See Tale 27, n. 1.

[13] The girl's response here—"and two yesses" (na`amen )—indicates that she is pleased and willing to cooperate with her husband. The custom of using the dual form to indicate a friendly and receptive attitude applies to all greeting terms; thus the most popular response to "thank you" (šukran ) is ahlen ("two welcomes"), to "hello" (marhaba), marhabten ("two hellos").

[1] The cultural emphasis on having many children shines through the telling syntax of the first sentence, which also sets the stage for the son being spoiled and his parents not being able to deny any of his demands (see n. 4, below). Cf. the opening sentences of Tales 14, 15, 18, 22, 27, 32.

[2] Parents start putting pressure on a son—especially an only son—to get married quite early, soon after he reaches puberty, or from age fourteen or fifteen.

[3] A striking image for the ideal standard of beauty in a woman: a fair complexion with rosy cheeks. Cf. Tale 2, n. 1.


Now, `Ala'iddin had seven cousins, and his parents had been wanting to marry him to one of them. But when he came home from the hunt, he said to his mother, "Mother, take away the bed of happiness and bring in the bed of sorrow.[4] Your son `Ala'iddin is sick, and there's no medicine or cure for him."

"O my son, my darling!" exclaimed the mother. "If your kingdom lacks something, we'll gladly provide it. And if your army's too small, we'll give you more soldiers."

"Impossible!" he replied. "If you fulfill my request, I'm well; and if not, I'm going to stay sick."

"All right, son. What is your request?"

"You must look for a bride for me whose face is like blood on the snow."

The city they lived in was the biggest in the whole kingdom. The mother went searching in the city, hoping to find a girl who fit the description, but she could find none. Finally she spied a hut on the side of Mount Mqallis, you might say.[5] "I still have to look in that hut over there," she thought to herself, "and, by Allah, I'm going to climb up to it." Mounted on a horse, she went up the mountain with her servants. When the owners of the hut saw them coming, they said, "This must be the king's wife. Let's go out and receive her."

"No one in the world will please my son like this one," thought the king's wife when she saw their daughter. Rushing home, she said to him, "Son, what a bride I've found for you! In all my life I've never seen anyone like her."

"Good!" he said.

So, they went asking for the girl's hand from her family.

"We are honored," they responded. "Is it possible we should find anyone better than you?" They accepted readily.

`Ala'iddin's family then went and made all the formal arrangements. They asked for the girl's hand, signed the marriage contract, and set out to bring the bride home, but her father put a condition on them. "My daughter," said he, "will not leave this house except riding on a dapple

[4] The phrasing here—qimi fraš il-hana , w-hutti fraš il-huzun —indicates that the son is spoiled. if the family had four or five children, the sons sickness would not have been put in terms of death and condolences, as here. See n. 1, above.

[5] Mount Mqallis is the name of a mountain in the Galilee, south of the village of `Arrabe, where the tale was collected.


gray mule and escorted by a regiment of Turkish soldiers marching to the sultan's royal band." His wish was granted, and the bride was brought to her new home.

Now the seven cousins stationed themselves by a doorway in the path of the wedding procession, where they knew the bridegroom would be passing.

"May Allah forgive our uncle's wife for having done such a thing to our cousin!" exclaimed the first one. "If only his wife weren't bald!" Another one jumped in with, "If only she weren't insane!" And another with, "If only she weren't blind in one eye!" "If only she weren't so rude!" said a fourth, and so on.

Hearing this, `Ala'iddin thought, "Alas! Because I've given her so much trouble, my mother has found me a girl with all these deformities."[6] Turning right around, he ran away. He did not go home.

In the same city the family had an orchard in which there was a palace, where he went and stayed by himself. They waited for him. Today he'll come. Tomorrow the bridegroom will arrive. A week went by, then a month, then forty days.[7] When forty days had gone by and the bride had still not seen her husband, she went to her mother-in-law.

"Do you really have a son, or don't you?" she asked.

"My dearest," answered the mother-in-law, "`Ala'iddin's my son. There's no one like my son. He's like this and like that."

"I believe you. Where is he?"

"Let me tell you, my daughter. Your husband has seven cousins. Such and such is their story, and we don't know how to bring him back, to convince him to come back home."

"In that case," said the bride, "ask my uncle[8] if he would fulfill my request, and I'll bring him back." The mother went and spoke with her husband, and he said, "Whatever she asks for, I'll have it made for her, so long as she brings him back."

"O uncle," said the bride, "I want you to have a tunnel dug for me, from my palace here to the one where he's keeping himself."

[6] True to life, in the tale `Ala'iddin is kept from seeing his bride throughout the process leading up to his marriage; see Tale 35, n. 17.

[7] In an article on the significance of the number forty (cf. Tale 10, n. 11), Stephan says, "Forty days after marriage the bride must visit her parents" ("The Number Forty": 217). It is also said that "he who has been with people forty days ... knows their secrets and has become one of them" (Granqvist, Birth : 80).

[8] "Uncle" (`ammi ) here means "father-in-law".


The king had a tunnel made right up to the steps of the palace where his son was. The bride then went into her husband's orchard, wandering around and laying waste to everything, ripping up plants here and breaking them there. She then came to a fountain. How beautiful was the scenery there! [Soon] the shrubbery around there was quite a sight. Turning her back, she went down into the tunnel and headed for home.

When the bridegroom came by later, what did he find but that the orchard, the fountain, and the beautiful scenery were all in ruin, broken and torn up?

Calling his gardener over, he said, "Come here and tell me who's been doing this to the orchard?"

"Please, master!" begged the gardener. "A houri came,[9] and I didn't know whether she was an earthling or a creature from the sky. In all my life I've never seen anyone like her. Her beauty could not be described by comparing her with anything—not the sun or the moon. She comes, my lord, and says to me, 'Gardener! Šoqak boqak![10] Your head is down and your feet are up!' As soon as she says that, I lose all sense of myself, or even where I am, until she's ready to leave again, when she says, 'Gardener! Šoqak boqak! Your feet are down and your head is up!' I have no way of knowing from where she comes or how she goes."

"About what time does she usually come?" asked the young man, and the gardener said she came at such and such time. "Fine!" said the king's son, deciding to keep a watch out for her. He waited and waited, until he caught her.

"Come here!" he said when he had caught her. "I'm tired. Let's go sit by the fountain and relax. Who are you?"

"I'm from the country of 'The Spoons and Ladles Are Where?'" she answered. "I'm the daughter of the king of that country."

"Very well, O king's daughter!" he said. "Let's sit and enjoy ourselves here by the fountain.

Now there was a beautiful gourd vine planted all around tile fountain. "What's this?" she asked, and he replied it was a gourd planted for decoration. She recited:

[9] A houri (huriyye ) is a beautiful nymph of the Islamic paradise; hence here, a woman of unearthly beauty.

[10] The nonsense syllables "šoqak boqak!" like "abracadabra," are meant to invoke a mood of unreality, which is reinforced later when the bride identifies herself as being from the country of "Spoons and Ladles." The translation of the magic phrase does not reflect the power of the original (šqaak boqak! rasak tihtak w-ijrek foqak! ), with its rhyme and repetitive staccato rhythm.


"O Turkish gourd!
Around the fountain trailing
West of you,
I saw my darling
Sitting to take his ease
His hair he has given
As a net to catch the breeze

Let him moan and weep forever
Who took from my sight my lover!"[11]

But he did not understand her.

In a while he led her to a violet. "What's this, O son of the king?" she asked.

"It's a violet," he answered.

She recited:

"You can hear the violet sing:
'Of all flowers, I am king.
With my sword in hand,
I conquered the land.
Though for a month I'm here,
And away the rest of the year,
Yet my essence in a vial's
A cure for all life's trials.'"

But he did not understand her intention.

"Come," he said, "let's sit here and relax. Take this cigarette and smoke it." Lighting a cigarette, he offered it to her, and she said:

"What is the tobacco's fault
That in reeds you should roll it
And with fire burn it
To force out the smoke?

Let him be sad forever,
Who took from my sight my lover!"

[11] For the sake of preserving the rhyme some minor liberties were taken in the translation of this and some of the following poems.


Yet he did not understand her.

They walked a little further and came upon a mulberry tree. "What's this, O son of the king?" she asked, and he said it was a mulberry. She called out:

"O you mulberries!
O mulberries![12]
Dangling from the boughs,
Spreading by the leaves!

May his sin haunt him forever,
Who took from my sight my lover!"

And he still did not see her meaning.

"Let's go up to my palace," he suggested. "I want to show you my palace."

"I can't walk," she said. "My legs hurt."

"Impossible!" he said. "You'll not walk, you'll ride on my shoulders."

Carrying her on his shoulders, he was taking her up to his palace when she saw, O so many roses and flowers creeping along the walls of the palace. "What are these, O son of the king?" she asked, and he said they were roses and flowers. She then said to him:

"O flowers climbing up our walls!
If true what I fear,
That you who are here
To your seven cousins
Have given ear,
How helpless you are,
And to me, how far!"

But he did not understand.

As he was taking her up, she rubbed her foot against a thorn on a rose bush. Blood flowed from the scratch, and she cried out, "Ouch! You wounded my foot!"

"Would that my hand and foot were both broken," he answered, "rather than your foot scratched!" Pulling out the royal handkerchief, he bandaged her foot with it.

[12] On the use of fruit to symbolize sexuality, see Tale 12, n. 1.


"If my father were to go asking for your hand from your father," he said, "would he give you to me?"[13]

"Yes," she answered.

When he had brought her up to the palace, he said, "For the sake of Allah, let me sleep a while on your knee."

She let him put his head in her lap, and he fell asleep. Stealing away by the bottom of the stairs, she went straight home.

"Uncle's wife!" she said, "Tomorrow, he'll be back."

"O, my daughter!" said the other, "May Allah hear you and let my son come back!"

Now, the household of the king had been wearing black in mourning. "Take off these black things," said the bride to her mother-in-law, "and put on beautiful clothes! Decorate the house! It's certain. He's coming home tomorrow." She then went up to the king.

"Uncle," she said, "send out a party to receive `Ala'iddin. He's coming back home."

"How can I send anybody out?" asked the king. "What if he should refuse?"

"He won't refuse," she answered. "He's going to come."

The king sent members of his court, and they went to bring `Ala'iddin back. As for him, he came straight with them. On their way up the stairs, the king's son of course went ahead of the others. Meanwhile, his bride had called a servant over, given her a plate, and said, "As soon as the king's son comes up, throw this plate in front of him." The servant stood behind the door and threw down the plate as soon as he came up. He cried out:

"Pox upon her
Who hurled to the floor
The plate that came crashing!"

His bride answered him:

"And pox upon him
Who pulled out the scarf—

[13] Customarily it is the mother who finds the bride and makes the preliminary arrangements (as in the tale), and the father who makes the official request. See Tale 15, n. 14; cf. Tale 42, n. 11.


The scarf of the kingdom put,
As bandage to my foot!"

"Were you the one then whose foot I bandaged?" he cried out, and came running over to her.

They lived happily ever after, and may Allah make life sweet for all my listeners!

Clever Hasan[1]

TELLER: Once upon a time—but first a prayer of peace for the Virgin!
AUDIENCE: Peace be to her!

Once upon a time there was a king Who had an only son and no other. One day the father died. Taking his mother with him, the son said, "Mother, let's go traveling around these lands. We ought to have some fun."

With her on one mare and him on another, they went out and traveled, traveled, traveled. They came upon a man sitting at the crossing of three roads.

"Hey, uncle!" called out the boy.

"What do you want?" the man answered.

"What road is this?" asked the boy.

"This one's the Road of Safety," the man replied. "That one's the Road of Regret, and the other's a road that sends but does not bring back."

"I'm taking the Road of No Return," announced Clever Hasan.

"O Clever Hasan! For the sake of Allah! For the sake of the Prophet! For the sake of Jesus and Moses!"[2]

"Never!" said the youth. "I must take this road."

"But you will surely did"

"Let that be as it may!" declared the boy. "When my life span has run out, let me die."[3]

[1] On the name "Clever Hasan," see Tale 5, n. 4.

[2] This is probably the order of holiness as perceived by the Muslim folk in Palestine. It is interesting to note, however, that the teller is a Christian woman, as the opening invocation indicates.

[3] 'Ana w-`umri —literally, "I and my life span [are in the hands of Allah]!"


Setting out on that road, he came upon a giant with his head in the sky and his feet on the ground.

"Peace to you!"

"Welcome!" said the giant. "But, Clever Hasan, who's given you permission to pass this way?"

"I want to pass? insisted the lad.

"This means war!"

"So be it!"

Drawing his sword, Clever Hasan struck him a blow which cut off his legs and threw him to the ground.

"Ouch!" roared the giant. "No one has ever been able to defeat me before. Here, take the keys to my palace! You and your mother can stay in it."

They stayed in the palace. Of course, what does a king have to do but go out hunting and shooting? One day, he went out to take the air, and his mother took pity on the black giant. Every day she would bring some cotton and wash his legs, dressing them with iodine until they healed. They fell in love and married,[4] without Clever Hasan knowing what was going on behind his back. She became pregnant and gave birth, to a boy the first time. Becoming pregnant again, she gave birth to a boy the second time.

"What am I going to do?" she asked. "If Clever Hasan finds out, he's going to cut off my head."

"Come," said the giant, "Do you see that orchard full of pomegranate trees? No one has ever gone into that orchard without being torn to pieces."

"It's a simple matter then," said the mother. Taking some turmeric, she dyed her face yellow.[5]

"May you be well again, mother!" said Clever Hasan when he came home. "What's the matter, mother? What happened to you?"

"Nothing's really the matter, son," she answered. "I just want to taste the pomegranates from that orchard over there before I die."[6]

[4] The reference to marriage here is a euphemism for an illicit sexual relationship. Legal marriage, as we have seen, follows a form prescribed by social and religious traditions. See afterword to Group I, "Sexual Awakening and Courtship."

[5] The mother colors her face yellow to look sick. Compare the behavior of the woman in Tale 7 (see n. 2) and the fourth wife in Tale 30.

[6] For pomegranates, see Tale 35, n. 1.; for craving, see Footnote Index, s.v. "Pregnancy and Childbirth."


"That's easy, mother," he said. "Supply me with enough provisions to take care of my needs there and back."

Mounting his horse, he traveled. Arriving, he came upon a sheikh sitting there.

"Peace to you!" the lad hailed him.

"Welcome!" replied the sheikh.[7] "Had your salaam not come first, I would have gobbled you up and licked the flesh off your bones! Where are you going, Clever Hasan?"

"By Allah, most venerable sheikh, I'm on my way to get some pomegranates for my mother."

"Ho! Ho!" laughed the sheikh. "I've been sitting here for the last twenty years, and I'm still waiting to taste those pomegranates. But until now, no one has ever gone into that orchard and come out alive."

"Allah will deliver. me," replied Hasan.

"Now, O Clever Hasan," said the sheikh, "what you must do is go straight in, without looking left or right. If you turn this way or that, you're dead! Pick the pomegranates, put them in the saddlebags, and come right out!"

"Yes, sir!" said Clever Hasan, and he went straight in. He filled the saddlebags, adding three extra pomegranates for the sheikh, and came out. He gave the pomegranates to his mother, and she said to the giant, "You said he would die, but here he is back, just like a monkey!"

"I don't know how he could have done it," he replied. "No one has ever gone in there and come out alive."

"You've done well, son," she said to the lad. "You can go now. Allah bless you!"

The following day, the giant said, "Look here! There's a melon patch, and no one who goes into it ever comes out alive."

She did the same thing, dyeing her face with turmeric and lying in bed. "O my head!" she moaned.

"What's the matter, mother?"

[7] "Sheikh" has several meanings in Arabic, not all of which have carried over into English. In the Palestinian dialect the word refers most frequently to the religious teacher or leader (xatib ) who calls the faithful to prayer ('adan ) and leads them in performing it (cf. Tale 6, n. 3). Yet the word is also commonly used as a respectful form of address for or reference to an older man, the implication being that age confers knowledge and wisdom.

The use of this word in the present context is at once ambiguous and revealing, since the sheikh's response to Hasan's salaam is the formula uttered by ghouls after the initial greeting by the young hero. it will be noted that the ghoul in Tale 35 (see n. 3) is also introduced as a sheikh; the ghouls here, however, are helpful figures, whereas the one in Tale 35 is not.


"By Allah, son, I have a yearning for watermelons."

"That's easy, mother," he said. "Give me enough provisions to get there and back."

She gave him the provisions, and he ran, ran, until he arrived. Again he came upon a sheikh at the gate. "Peace to you, O uncle sheikh!"

"Had your salaam not come first," responded the sheikh, "I would have gobbled you up and licked the flesh off your bones! What do you want?"

"I want a watermelon from this patch," the lad announced.

"I've been sitting here for the last ten years, and I've never seen anyone who was able to bring out even one melon. Those who go in never come out."

"Allah's the final judge, for me as well as for them," said Hasan.

The sheikh said to him the same as the other had, "Go straight in. If you turn this way or that, you're dead!"

Going right in, the youth filled a sack with watermelons, taking three extra melons for the aged sheikh. Pulling himself together, he came out of there fast. A thousand followed him (In the name of Allah!) but they were not able to catch him.[8] Carrying the melons with him, he brought them to his mother, thinking she would be happy.

"Yee!" complained the mother to the giant, "You said he would die, but here he is, back with melons just like a monkey!"

"What can I do?" asked the giant. "I don't know how he does it."

Taking the melons, the mother ate some and said to Hasan, "Thank you, son! May Allah reward you with Plenty!"

"Your last resort is to ask for the water of life," the giant said. "He'll never be able to bring the water of life! It'll take him at least seven days and seven nights just to get there."

"O my son, my darling! My finger is burned and it needs the water of life to make it well."

"Mother," he said, "prepare enough provisions to get me there and back."

Taking his provisions with him, Clever Hasan started on his way. He carried with him a razor, a pair of scissors, some cologne, scented soap, and clean clothes. When he reached the land of the ghoul, he greeted him, "Peace to you, uncle ghoul!"

[8] A thousand devils is meant, but the teller avoids mentioning them explicitly because that is supposed to gather them, whereas mention of the name of Allah drives them away (see Tale 29, n. 6; cf. Tale 17, n. 6).


"Welcome, Clever Hasan!" replied the ghoul. "Had your salaam not come first, I would have gobbled you up and licked the flesh off your bones!"

Coming down from his horse, the lad trimmed the ghoul's eyebrows, his beard, mustache, and hair; washed him with the scented soap; splashed him with cologne; and gave him fresh clothes to wear.[9]

"May Allah give you pleasure, as you gave me," exclaimed the ghoul. "What can I do for you, Clever Hasan?"

"I want to fetch the water of life for my mother."

"Listen," said the ghoul, "I'm going to send you to my sister. She's a month older than me, but a whole age wiser. If you find her grinding sugar, with her breasts thrown back, approach her and suck at her right breast and then at her left. But if you find her grinding salt, with her eyes sparkling red, take care not to go near her!"

"Yes, sir? said Clever Hasan, and he went straight ahead. He found the ghouleh grinding sugar, with her breasts thrown back over her shoulders. When he had sucked at her right breast, she called out, "Who was it that sucked at my right breast? He's now dearer than my son 'Abd ir-Rahim." When he had sucked at her left breast, she asked, "Who was it that sucked at my left breast? He's become dearer than my son `Abd ir-Rahman." She then said to him, "You've sucked at my breasts, so I can't possibly harm you. But my children are eleven ghouls, and if they see you, what're they going to do to you? What am I to do with you?"

Soon her children came home, and when she heard their voices she blew on him, turning him into a needle which she stuck into her dress. Her sons arrived.

"We smell a human being!" they announced.

"The human smell's in you and your trails," she answered.

"Impossible!" they insisted. "There's a human smell here!"

"Guarantee his safety!" she said.

"He's our brother in God's promise, and may Allah betray him who betrays this oath!"

She brought Hasan back as he was. "Welcome!" they said, hugging and kissing him. (Of course, he had 'now become their brother.)

"Who among you will take Clever Hasan to bring the water of life?"

[9] The ghoul's wild appearance is evident here from the context. Ghoulishness is equated with wildness and the absence of the marks of civilization; hence, by calling the ghoul "uncle," by trimming his mustache and beard, and by giving him fresh clothes to wear, the boy civilizes him. See Tale 6, n. 4.


One of them said he needed ten days for the journey, and another said nine days, but the youngest said he could take him there and bring him back in seven minutes. Carrying Clever Hasan on his back, the ghoul flew with him.

"How big does the world look to you?" he asked.

"As big as a wheat sieve," replied Hasan.

"How big does the world look to you now?"

"As big as a flour sieve."

"And now?"

"As big as a piaster."[10]

"That's it!" announced the ghoul," "We're there. Come down now. See that gate over there? You'll find the door leaning to the side. Set it back in place. Then you'll see dogs and horses. Take the meat away from the horses and put it in front of the dogs, and take the barley away from the dogs and give it to the horses. Take this empty pitcher with you and put it at the edge of the fountain. Bring back a full pitcher, and don't turn left or right. Come straight out and slam the door quickly when you leave!"

Clever Hasan went right in, and did as the ghoul had told him. He fixed the door, switched the meat and the barley, put the empty pitcher down, picked up the full one, turned his back, and came straight out.

"Trap him, O gate!" shouted the devils.

"It's been forty years since I've been opened!" came the answer.

"Catch him, O hounds!"

"It's been forty years since we've tasted meat!"

"Hold him, O horses!"

"It's been forty years since we've tasted barley!"

Meanwhile, Hasan ran until he reached the ghoul, who put him on his shoulders and flew off.

"Welcome!" said the ghouleh when they arrived. "Allah be praised for your safety!"[11]

"Who's going to take him back to his uncle?"[12] they asked among themselves.

[10] The progression here from the large wheat sieve (gurbal ) to the flour sieve (munxul ) to the small piaster (qirš ; see Tale 5, n. 16) indicates that the ghoul is flying higher and higher with Hasan.

[11] The common expression (l-hamdilla `a-salamtak ) is a form of congratulations for a safe return from a journey or recovery from an illness.

[12] "Uncle" (here, xal —literally, "maternal uncle") refers to the ghoul who sent Hasan on to his sister, the ghouleh who adopted him.


"I'll complete the favor I did him," volunteered the youngest, "by taking him back to his uncle."

Taking him on his shoulders, the ghoul flew back with him to his uncle.

"Here's your horse back? said the big ghoul.

"Yes," said Hasan, bidding him good-bye. He then mounted his horse and moved on.

On his way back to his mother, the king's daughter saw him from her balcony.

"Clever Hasan!" she called out. "Stop here awhile?

"No," he said, "I don't want to stop."

"By my father's head," she swore, "and by Allah, who gives him power over other people's heads, if you don't stop by I'll have yours cut off!."

Hasan came over to see her. Now, she was clever and took away the pitcher with the water of life, giving him one full of ordinary water in its place. She then fed him lunch and sent him on his way. He went straight to his mother and knocked on the door.

"O despair!"[13] the mother cried out when he knocked. "Here he is, still alive, O Slave of Blessing!"

"By Allah," the giant exclaimed, "I have no idea how he could have come back."

"Welcome back, son!" she said. "Allah be praised for your safety?

She kissed him, taking away the pitcher. "And now," they said to each other, "What are we going to do?"

"Ask him where his strength lies," suggested the giant.

"O Clever Hasan, my son," she asked him one day, "where does your strength lie?"

"On my head are seven hairs," he answered. "If you cut them, all my power will be gone,"[14]

"Come here," she said, "and let me remove the lice from your hair."

She sat down to delouse him and pulled the seven hairs from his head. When she gave him a bit of thread, he did not have the strength to break it.

"O Slave of Blessing!" she called out. "Come over and cut off his head!"

[13] Yi, ya xayti —literally, "Alas! O my sister!"

[14] On hair, see Tale 16, n. 5.


"No, mother? begged Hasan. "I'm your son!"

"Never!" said the mother. "Cut off his head!"

They chopped off his head, gouged out his eyes, and cut his body into four pieces, which they put in a box that they threw into the sea. The following day some fishermen found a box that had been washed ashore by the waves. "By Allah," they said, "this will make a good present for the king's daughter. We're going to present it to her."

Taking the box with them, they came to the daughter of the king, and the moment she saw them, she knew. "Alas!" cried she, "Oh! What a loss, Clever Hasan!" She took him from the fishermen, giving them ten dinars and sending them on their way. "So! Your mother did you in!" she said to him, opening the box. "How much did I advise you, but you didn't listen!"

With the water of life at hand, she connected the foot to the leg and rubbed them with the water, and (Allah granting the power) it healed. She then connected the arms, the back, and the shoulders. Lastly, she placed the head in place and rubbed it with the water, and behold! he sneezed.[15]

"Where am I?" he asked.

"You're with me, O Clever Hasan," she answered. "Where are your eyes?"

"They gouged them out before they slaughtered me. My little brother has them."

"Don't worry!" she said, and set about feeding him broth of squab and chicken every day.[16] She fed him these nutritious broths daily until he grew as strong as a camel.

"I'm going back to kill the giant," he announced.

"And how are you going to kill him?" she asked. "First you must get your eyes back. Take some trinkets with you and call out, 'Bracelets, O girls! Rings, O girls!'[17] Your brothers will come out and ask how

[15] His sneezing shows that the operation has been successful, for immediately afterward he asks, "Where am I?" According to folk belief, if a sick person sneezes, he or she will get well. One can also call down a curse upon somebody, "May you not sneeze!" (retak ma b-ti'tas )—meaning, "May you die!" Folk expressions also use sneezing to convey the same meaning, for example, "Someone hit him over the head, and behold! he never sneezed afterward" (darabo `a-raso, yam ma `itsiš ).

[16] These broths are believed to be very nutritious and also easy to digest (xafif`a-l-mi`de —literally, "light on the stomach").

[17] 'Asawir ya banat, xawatim ya banat is a common traveling salesman's cry.


much you want for them. Say you don't want money, you want eyes. What's in your left hand for the left eye."

Hasan did as she advised him. "Ah! Yes!" his little brother piped up. "By Allah, my brother's eyes are on the window sill. Wait till I get them for you." Taking the eyes with him, Hasan threw down all his trinkets, saying, "On your way now!"

When he had come back, the king's daughter put his eyes back in place and he became better than before, even more youthful than he had been. Having got his eyesight and his strength back, he said to the king's daughter, "I'm going over to kill them one by one."

"O my sweetheart, my soul!" she pleaded with him. She nearly died begging him to stay. "Never!" he said, mounting his horse. Taking his sword with him, he headed straight for the door and knocked.

"Who is it?"

"I'm Clever Hasan!" he announced.

"Yee!" she screamed, "It's the death of me!"[18]

"You didn't say that when you had me slaughtered," said her son. "You had me quartered. But by Allah, I'm going to tear you to pieces—you and your Slave of Blessing? First he cut the giant's throat over her knee, then he slaughtered the two boys and the girl[19] and tore them to pieces in front of her. "As for you," he said, "I'm not only going to kill you, I'm going to tear you to shreds. I bring you here whole and hearty, and you betray me by marrying the slave whose legs I cut off!"

He tore her apart and threw the pieces away. Then he demolished the palace and took all the giant's treasure, sending it to the king's daughter.

One day the king asked his daughter, "Don't you want to get married?"

"Yes, father, I do," she answered. "Let it be known in town that I want to get married."

It was made public that the king's daughter was ready to marry, and the notables—the viziers, the pashas, and the beys—came passing under her window, expecting her to choose one of them by tossing an apple over his head, but it was no use.[20]

Meanwhile, Clever Hasan put on a tattered sackcloth. He had also got

[18] Same as in n. 13, above.

[19] The girl was not previously mentioned. On the ratio of two males to one female, see Tale 42, n. 12.

[20] Pashas and beys were high civil or military officials in the Ottoman Empire; they also represent honorary tides conferred by the Ottoman rulers on selected notables from leading Palestinian families.

The practice portrayed here, wherein the girl chooses her mate by throwing an apple (or, in some versions, a handkerchief) over his head, derives from the Indian tradition (in Sanskrit, swayamvara —literally, "self-choice"), the most prominent example being the Nala and Damayanti episode in the Mahabharata . For an extensive discussion of this institution in the "occidental" folktale, see Cosquin, Les contes indiens : 317-346.


hold of a sheep's stomach, which he had ripped open and put on his head. He then came and walked under the window of the king's daughter's palace. Recognizing him, she threw the apple down over his head.

"Yee! What shame!" some exclaimed. "What a disaster!" said others. Each had her own words, and the father refused. He did not want to give her to him.

"Never!" she insisted. "I won't take another!"

"If you must marry him," he said, "you'll marry him in the house of desertion."[21]

"Fine," she said. "I accept."

They were married and lived together in isolation. Time passed, and her father was at war. Clever Hasan had an old, worn-out mule, and when the war started he rode it into battle. "Ha! Ha!" he egged his mule on, and people abused him, spitting on him and cursing: "Damn your father and his father who took you for a son-in-law by giving you his daughter!"

When he had left these people behind and there was no one around to see him, he brought out his magic ring.

"Magic ring!" he called out.

"Your servant at your command!" came the answer.

"I want a green mare the like of which has never been seen, and I want a gold-plated sword."

Immediately, a green mare appeared, a green suit of armor, and a golden sword. He went down to battle, and—slit! slit—he slit throats till sunset. A third of the enemy was destroyed. On his way back to town, riding his mule and wearing his tattered clothes, whoever saw him spat on him.

The next day he went to battle, and again people were cursing him and spitting on him as he passed through. When he had gone some distance and there was no one around to say "There is no god but God!"[22] he dismounted from his mule.

[21] The reference here to the "house of desertion" (bet il-hijran ) is mistaken, since "desertion" is an institutionalized status applicable to wives rather than daughters. See Tale 10, n. 8; cf. Tale 35, n. 12.

[22] This is an interesting way of saying that there were no other people around, the assumption being that if anyone were around, that person would be a Muslim.


"Magic ring? he called out.

"Your fortune's at your fingertips!" came the answer.

"I want a red mare, a red suit, and a gold-plated sword."

Down to battle he went, and—slit! slit!—he cut throats until another third of the enemy was gone. Pulling himself together, he went home as people spat on him.

On the third day he mounted his mule and came down, and when he reached a deserted spot, out came the ring.

"Magic ring!"

"Your fortune's at your fingertips?

"I want a white suit, a white mare, and a sword that will give me the upper hand in battle."

"Fine. Right away!"

Clever Hasan came down to the field of battle. Meanwhile, the king, hearing about the knight who came and killed a third of the enemy every day, said, "By Allah, I want to go and see the knight about whom the people have been talking."

Clever Hasan came down to the battleground, killed the remaining third, and went back home riding the white mare. When people saw him and realized who it was they had been spitting on, they thought something strange was going on and went to speak to the king about it. When the king saw Hasan, he was overwhelmed.

"Your husband," he asked his daughter," what's his name?"

"His name," she answered, "is Clever Hasan, the son of King So-and-So."

"You married the son of King So-and-So!"


The king came forward and embraced Hasan, saying, "I'm really sorry, dear son-in-law?

He had it announced in town that there was to be a feast of seven days and seven nights to celebrate the marriage of Clever Hasan to his daughter. The townspeople were invited to feast for the whole week at the king's expense, in celebration of Clever Hasan's wedding.

And may every year find you in good health!


The Cricket[1]

TELLER: Testify that God is One!
AUDIENCE: There is no god but God.

Once there was a woman who could not get pregnant and have children. One day she cried out, "O Lord, would you grant me a little girl, even if she's nothing more than a cricket!" It so happened that Allah heard her plea, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a cricket. A day went and a day came, and the cricket grew up. Once upon a day she wanted to get married.

"Mama," she said, going to her mother, "I want to get married."

"What can I do for you?" asked the mother. "You must look for a bridegroom as small as you are."

The cricket went away, and came upon a camel.

"Ba`! Ba`!" said he. "Will you marry me?"

She answered:

"Cricket, cricket, your mother!
And you are cousin to the whore.
I'll put the gold in my sleeve,
And talk to my mother some more."[2]

"O mama!" she said to her mother. "His eyes are very big, his head is very big, and his ears are very big. All of him is very big."

"No!" said the mother. "This one's not your size. Don't marry him."

Back to the camel the cricket went, and said, "I don't want to marry you."

[1] The chirp of the cricket (xunufse ) is the most pervasive summer sound in the country. Stephan says that xunufse (which he translates as "scarabee") is a "term given to unimportant, ugly people who, notwithstanding their inferiority in beauty, have a high opinion of themselves" ("Palestinian Animal Stories": 181). Although xunufse may also mean "scarab" or "beetle," the imitative sound ("tzee, tzee, tzee") used later in the tale makes it clear that the teller intended it to refer to the cricket.

[2] "Gold" in this ditty refers to bridewealth (see Tale 16, n. 2); "cousin" most likely signifies "husband" (Tale 27, n. 1).

Traditional Palestinian women's dress has long, flowing sleeves in which small objects can be placed.

Although the meaning of the cricket's ditty is obscure in the present version of the tale, other versions shed some light. In a Palestinian version recorded by Stephan (see n. 8, below), the cricket's suitors at first insult her by calling her a xunufse (see n. 1, above) and telling her to get out of the way. When she responds with the first half of the ditty recorded here, they propose marriage, whereupon she asks them to place the gold in her sleeve.


She wandered around some more, and met a bull.

"Ba`! Ba`!" said he. "Will you marry me?"

She answered:

"Cricket, cricket, your mother!
And you are cousin to the whore.
I'll put the gold in my sleeve,
And talk to my mother some more."

She went to her mother and said, "O mama! His eyes are large, his head is large, and his ears are large. All of him is large."

"Better not marry him," said the mother.

Back to the bull went the cricket. "I don't want to marry you," she said.

She went away, and walked and walked until a little mouse found her wandering about and chirping, "Tzee, tzee, tzee."

"What're you looking for?" he asked.

"I'm wandering around looking for a bridegroom."

"Will you marry me?" he proposed.

She answered:

"Cricket, cricket, your mother!
And you are cousin to the whore.
I'll put the gold in my sleeve,
And talk to my mother some more."

"O mama!" she said to her mother. "His eyes are wee, his head is wee, and his ears are wee. All of him is very small."

"Yes," said the mother, "this one's your size. Marry him."

So back to the mouse the cricket went. "Yes," she said, "I'll marry you." And she went to live with him in his house.[3]

One day (it is said) their clothes became dirty, and they wanted to go somewhere to wash them. "Well," they said, "let's go look for water. Where shall we go?" They wandered about, with her walking behind him, and both of them going "Tzee, tzee, tzee," until you might say they reached the Sea of Acre.[4] Looking over this sea, they said, "Well, how

[3] The behavior of the cricket up to this point and her mother's approval of it are not conventional. The girl's bold request for a husband, the mother's telling her to go out and find one on her own, and her direct confrontation of suitors would all be unacceptable forms of behavior in the society.

[4] The "Sea of Acre" refers to the shores of the Mediterranean around the city of Acre (see Tale 24, n. 2). Commonly, when a married couple goes somewhere, especially in the villages, the wife walks behind her husband.


is this going to be enough? There's barely enough water here to get our clothes wet." They turned around and went down to the Sea of Tiberias.[5] They searched everywhere, up and down, but found no water. "There isn't enough water for us anywhere!" they exclaimed.

As they wandered, they saw a donkey's hoofprint with a little water in it. Calling her husband over, she said, "These waters will be enough for us to wash ourselves and our clothes, with some left over."

"Fine," he answered. "Let me go and get some soap."

He went over to Acre to bring the soap, and she sat at the edge of the hole.

"By Allah," she said to herself as she sat waiting, "I might as well wash myself until he gets back." Down into the water she went, and washed herself, but she could not climb back out. She tried and tried, but she failed.

As it happened, a man on a horse passed by. Hearing the pounding of his horse's hooves, she called out to him:

"O uncle, riding your horse
And jingling your bell!
Say to the mouse,
'The Flower of the House
In the treacherous water fell.'"

The horseman cocked his ear to listen. "Eh!" he thought, "Who is this talking?" Meanwhile, she was saying:

"O uncle, riding your horse
And jingling your bell!
Say to the mouse,
'The Flower of the House
In the treacherous water fell.'"

"And if you don't tell him," she added, "may your bottom get stuck to your horse?

The rider went his way, and by the time he reached Acre he had forgotten what the cricket had said to him. When he had finished his business in the city, he went home and tried to get down from his horse, but he could not. Again and again he tried, without success. He called his wife and children to help him, and they pushed and pulled, but they failed. Then he remembered what the cricket had bid him do. "Eh!" he

[5] Palestinians use the name "Sea of Tiberias" for the Sea of Galilee.


exclaimed, "It seems as if Allah has heard the call of the one who put this spell on me. I might as well go look for the mouse. But how am I ever going to find him?"

He went back to Acre and searched around the shops, asking their owners, "O uncle, did the mouse come in here? O uncle, did the mouse come in here?" The people in the marketplace looked at him in wonder. "What's this?" they asked among themselves, laughing. "Who is this man, riding around looking for a mouse? What's the matter with him? Is he crazy?"

As he was asking about, however, the mouse heard him. The rider, having searched and searched without success, went back home and dismounted easily. He was no longer stuck to his horse.

Now the mouse ran about his business. He stole a piece of meat from the butcher and a bar of soap from the grocer, and he ran back—"tzee, tzee, tzee"—until he arrived. When he discovered his wife had fallen in the water, he went crazy with fear for her. Putting the things he was carrying down on the edge of the hole, he lowered his head into the hole, but he could not reach her. He put his ear in the hole, his paw, then all parts of his body, and still he could not reach her. What was he going to do? He turned his back and dangled his tail in the water.[6] Taking hold of it, she was able to climb out.

"See what you've done!" she started blaming him. "You went away and left me, and I fell into the sea."

"How could I have helped it?" he answered. "Come, make us some kubbe[7] and let's have lunch."

She set to it, my little darlings, and prepared the food. They ate lunch, washed themselves and their clothes, and hung them out on the bushes till they were dry. Then they folded their clothes, and—"tzee, tzee, tzee—went home to the mouse's hole.[8]

This is my tale, I've told it, and in your hands I leave it.

[6] Because it is impolite to turn one's back on other people, the teller apologizes for the mouse ahead of time ("What was he going to do?"). In other versions of this tale, the mouse dangles his penis in the water. In either case the apology is appropriate.

[7] Kubbe is a meal consisting of bulgur (burgul ) that has been soaked in water and mixed with lean ground lamb and diced onions. It may be eaten raw, although more usually it is baked.

[8] "The Cricket" is one of the most popular children's tales in Palestine and occurs very frequently in collections of Palestinian folktales. Two versions recorded by Stephan H. Stephan are included among the nineteen tales set down in his "Palestinian Animal Stories and Fables"; another version ("Little Beetle") appears in Crowfoot, "Folktales": 165-167.



This group of tales deals with the marriage relationship, focusing on the newlyweds themselves and the pressures they experience regarding their choice of mate and their sexuality. Because (despite the emphasis on endogamy) none of the couples are cousins but rather are strangers to each other, they must learn to establish patterns of communication and to adapt to each other's needs and observe each other's limits. The tales explore ways in which success may be achieved in marriage, especially in the initial phases of the relationship, immediately following the wedding.

"The Old Woman Ghouleh" shows us some of the confusion a young bride must feel in her new environment. She has had little choice in the matter of her marriage, her role having been passive throughout the whole process, and everyone, including her husband, is a stranger to her. She does not know who is a friend and who is an enemy. In this situation the bride is quite vulnerable, and the tale shows that a marriage can get off to a bad start when she does not immediately place her trust in her husband to protect her from the potential evil around her. When, however, as in the case of the third bride, this trust and the communication that automatically goes with it are present from the beginning of the relationship, the couple can cooperate to overcome obstacles.

In "Lady Tatar," in contrast, the burden of communication is thrown on the husband rather than the wife. Here the husband learns that if he communicates with his wife by treating her as she desires, she is more than willing to cooperate with him and share his life. At the beginning of the tale the lack of communication leads to frustration and multiple marriages; at the end, however, mutual understanding and harmony prevail. This tale also focuses on the bride, who, having been mistreated at home and then adopted by a stranger, is shown to need a good marriage relationship.

Whereas the first two tales in the group focus on the problems facing the women in a marriage relationship, the second two, "Clever Hasan" and "Šoqak Boqak!" shed light on the pressures faced by the men. "Clever Hasan" is a composite of two tales that are rarely brought together as here. The first half, the story of Hasan and his mother, could have been


classified under Group I, "Children and Parents," for, like Šweš, Šweš!" it depicts a conflict between mother and son that centers on the mother's sexuality. The second half is usually narrated separately as the adventure story of a young hero who defeats the enemies of his potential father-in-law. By juxtaposing these two disparate tales, using the figure of Clever Hasan as a unifying device, the teller spotlights one of the major conflicts a young man faces upon marriage: being caught between his mother and his wife. No less important, the tale also shows a corresponding conflict for the bride: being caught between husband and father. The juxtaposition of the two tales, then, demonstrates that husband and wife can achieve a harmonious relationship only when, through cooperation and by having sufficient strength of character to be independent, they have been able to overcome the negative influence of their parents. In "Šoqak Boqak!" parental pressure is felt in yet another way. Anxious for their only son to have offspring, the parents urge him to marry before he is ready. His fears about his manhood and what his bride might look like drive him from home, and it then becomes the task of his sexually more mature wife to bring him back.

Of course, the mutual suitability of the partners is essential for a harmonious marriage relationship, and, given the dynamics of the Palestinian social system, the question of mate choice is of utmost importance in the lives of the newlyweds (see also afterword to Group I, "The Quest for the Spouse"). Naturally, both bride and groom have much to worry about when their families choose their mates. Conversely, the family becomes anxious when the children make their own choices. The ideal balance is achieved when the mate selected is suitable to both parties. In this light, the last three tales in the group reveal an interesting pattern. In "Šoqak Boqak!" the son discovers that the mate chosen by his family is the one he would have chosen for himself, and in "Clever Hasan" the father realizes that his daughter's choice of husband is the one he would have made for her. A perfect compromise between individual desire and family requirements is struck in "Cricket," which explores the very dynamics of mate choice. Although the tale does not outwardly conform to the norms of the culture (young maidens simply do not go out looking for husbands, nor would their mothers allow them to), it nevertheless does present the criteria essential for the ideal mate. The daughter's anxiety about finding a husband is moderated by her mother's concern that he


be a proper match for her physically, economically, and socially. Thus the daughter chooses the ideal mate, but only on the advice and approval of the mother. Under these conditions, husband and wife solve the problems they encounter in daily life through a combination of mutual affection, cooperation, and proper behavior based on each mate fulfilling her or his culturally prescribed role.



The Seven Leavenings[1]

TELLER: Testify that God is One!
AUDIENCE: There is no god but God.

There was once in times past an old woman who lived in a hut all by herself. She had no one at all. One day when the weather was beautiful she said, "Ah, yes! By Allah, today it's sunny and beautiful, and I'm going to take the air by the seashore.[2] But let me first knead this dough."

When she had finished kneading the dough, having added the yeast, she put on her best clothes, saying, "By Allah, I just have to go take the air by the seashore." Arriving at the seashore, she sat down to rest, and lo! there was a boat, and it was already filling with people.

"Hey, uncle!" she said to the man, the owner of the boat. "Where in Allah's safekeeping might you be going?"

"By Allah, we're heading for Beirut."

"All right, brother. Take me with you."

"Leave me alone, old woman," he said. "The boat's already full, and there's no place for you."

"Fine," she said. "Go. But if you don't take me with you, may your boat get stuck and sink!"[3]

No one paid her any attention, and they set off. But their boat had not gone twenty meters when it started to sink. "Eh!" they exclaimed, "It looks as if that old woman's curse has been heard." Turning back, they called the old woman over and took her with them.

[1] The tale's title probably derives from a cycle of tales revolving around a single theme. Here only two episodes were narrated.

[2] The storyteller had the seashore by the city of Acre in mind. For a discussion of the significance of the city of Acre (`Akka) in the history of Palestine, see "Topographical Researches in the Galilee" by Aapeli Saarisalo, which opens thus: "There is hardly any city in Palestine or in the whole world which has seen more history than Acre, Jerusalem perhaps excepted." Cf. Tale 43, n. 8.

[3] For a discussion of the curse, see T. Canaan, "The Curse in Palestinian Folklore."


In Beirut, she did not know anybody or anything. It was just before sunset.' The passengers went ashore, and she too came down and sat awhile, leaning against a wall. What else could she have done? People were passing by, coming and going, and it was getting very late. In a while a man passed by. Everyone was already at home, and here was this woman sitting against the wall.

"What are you doing here, sister?" he asked.

"By Allah, brother," she answered, "I'm not doing anything. I'm a stranger in town, with no one to turn to. I kneaded my dough and leavened it, and came out for pleasure until it rises, when I'll have to go back."

"Fine," he said. "Come home with me then."

He took her home with him. There was no one there except him and his wife. They brought food, laughed, and played—you should have seen them enjoying themselves. After they had finished, lo! the man brought a bundle of sticks this big and set to it—Where's the side that hurts most?— until he had broken them on his wife's sides.

"Why are you doing this, grandson?"[4] the old woman asked, approaching in order to block his way.

"Get back!" he said. "You don't know what her sin is. Better stay out of the way? He kept beating his wife until he had broken the whole bundle.[5]

"You poor woman!"[6] exclaimed the old lady when the man had stopped. "What's your sin, you sad one?"

"By Allah," replied the wife, "I've done nothing, and it hadn't even occurred to me. He says it's because I can't get pregnant and have children."[7]

"Is that all?" asked the old woman. "This one's easy. Listen, and let me tell you. Tomorrow, when he comes to beat you, tell him you're pregnant."

[4] "Grandson" here (sitti ) is literally "O Grandmother!"; see Tale 7, n. 3.

[5] Although hitting a wife is frowned upon, it is nevertheless accepted and entails no guilt or secretiveness. The behavior described here, however, is highly improbable.

When wife beating does occur, the society usually assumes that the woman is at fault; and in cases of sterility or lack of offspring, it is the woman who seeks treatment. Indeed, if there are no children a man is generally expected to turn against his wife and to seek another. His relatives might encourage him to divorce the first wife, inciting him against her and finding faults with her. A man is more easily forgiven if he hits a wife who does not have children.

[6] Y a xaybe —literally, "O you who have failed!"

[7] Inability to get pregnant and have children is the most common theme in all the folktales in this collection. See Tale 1, n. 3.


The next day, as usual, the husband came home, bringing with him the needed household goods and a bundle of sticks. After dinner, he came to beat his wife, but he had not hit her with the first stick when she cried out, "Hold your hand! I'm pregnant!"

"Is it true?"

"Yes, by Allah!"

From that day on, he stopped beating her. She was pampered, her husband not letting her get up to do any of the housework. Whatever she desired was brought to her side.

Every day after that the wife came to the old woman and said, "What am I going to do, grandmother? What if he should find out?"

"No matter," the old woman would answer. "Sleep easy. The burning coals of evening turn to ashes in the morning." Daily the old woman stuffed the wife's belly with rags to make it look bigger and said, "Just keep on telling him you're pregnant, and leave it to me. The evening's embers are the morning's ashes."[8]

Now, this man happened to be the sultan, and people heard what was said: "The sultan's wife is pregnant! The sultans wife is pregnant!" When her time to deliver had come, the wife went to the baker and said, "I want you to bake me a doll in the shape of a baby boy."

"All fight," he agreed, and baked her a doll which she wrapped and brought home without her husband seeing her. Then people said, "The sultan's wife is in labor, she's ready to deliver." The old woman came forth. "Back in my country, I'm a midwife," she said. "She got pregnant as a result of my efforts, and I should be the one to deliver her. I don't want anyone but me to be around."[9]

"Fine," people agreed. In a while, word went out: "She gave birth! She gave birth!"

"And what did she give birth to?"

"She gave birth to a boy."

Wrapping the doll up, the wife placed it in the crib. People were saying, "She gave birth to a boy!" They went up to the sultan and said she

[8] This popular proverb—jamrit il-lel bit-sabbih ramad —signifies that passions will cool with the passage of time.

[9] The old woman's desire to have no one else at the birth is contrary to the practice in the culture. Granqvist (Birth : 58) says, "As many [women] as possible like to come. When ... related that when she gave birth to her son she had ten women round her all the time, it may have been no exaggeration. If only they have time all the woman neighbors come."


had given birth to a boy.[10] The crier made his rounds, announcing to the townspeople that it was forbidden to eat or drink except at the sultan's house for the next week.[11]

Now, the old woman made it known that no one was permitted to see the baby until seven days had passed. On the seventh day it was announced that the sultans wife and the baby were going to the public baths.[12] Meanwhile, every day the wife asked the old woman, "What am I going to do, grandmother? What if my husband should find out?" And the old woman would reply, "Rest easy, my dear! The evening's coals are the morning's ashes."

On the seventh day the baths were reserved for the sultan's wife. Taking fresh clothes with them, the women went, accompanied by a servant. The sultan's wife went into the bath, and the women set the servant in front of the doll, saying to her, "Take care of the boy! Watch out that some dog doesn't stray in and snatch him away!"

In a while the servant's attention wandered, and a dog came, grabbed the doll, and ran away with it. After him ran the servant, shouting, "Shame on you! Leave the son of my master alone!" But the dog just kept running, munching on the doll.

It is said that there was a man in that city who was suffering from extreme depression. He had been that way for seven years, and no one could cure him. Now, the moment he saw a dog running with a servant fast behind him shouting, "Leave the son of my master alone!" he started to laugh. And he laughed and laughed till his heartsickness melted away and he was well again. Rushing out, he asked her, "What's your story? I see you running behind a dog who has snatched away a doll, and you're shouting at him to leave the son of your master alone. What's going on?"

"Such and such is the story," she answered.

This man had a sister who had just given birth to twin boys seven days

[10] "In Palestine of today, it is the women who announce the birth of a child" (ibid.: 80). See Tale 32, n. 5.

[11] See the section entitled "Feast for Boy" in ibid.: 78-80.

[12] Granqvist notes that "after the birth the midwife comes every day, morning and evening. For seven days the child is rubbed with oil; salt and oil mixed together" (ibid.: 98) In the section entitled "Child's First Dress and Bath" she notes further that when "he is seven days old they wash him. After seven days and after fifteen days. Then after forty days. [One of her informants] says in the same connection that the seventh day is called 'the day of the bathing,' and adds, 'at his bathing the neighbors are given something to eat'" (p. 101). On the custom of going to the baths, see Tale 25, n. 1.


before. Sending for her, he said, "Sister, won't you put one of your boys at my disposal?"

"Yes," she said, giving him one of her babies.

The sultans wife took him and went home. People came to congratulate her. How happy she was!

After some time the old woman said, "You know, grandchildren, I think my dough must have risen, and I want to go home and bake the bread."

"Why don't you stay?" they begged her. "You brought blessings with you." I don't know what else they said, but she answered, "No. The land is longing for its people. I want to go home."

They put her on a boat, filling it with gifts, and said, "Go in Allah's safekeeping!"

When she came home, she put her gifts away and rested for a day or two. Then she checked her dough. "Yee, by Allah!" she exclaimed. "My dough hasn't risen yet. I'm going to the seashore for a good time." At the shore she sat for a while, and lo! there was a boat.

"Where are you going, uncle?"

"By Allah, we're going to Aleppo," they answered.[13]

"Take me with you."

"Leave me alone, old woman. The boat's full and there's no room."

"If you don't take me with you, may your boat get stuck and sink in the sea!"

They set out, but in a while the boat was about to sink. They returned and called the old lady over, taking her with them. Being a stranger, where was she to go? She sat down by a wall, with people coming and going until late in the evening. After everybody had gone home for the night, a man passed by.

"What are you doing here?"

"By Allah, I'm a stranger in town. I don't know anyone, and here I am, sitting by this wall."

"Is it right you should be sitting here in the street? Come, get up and go home with me."

Getting up, she went with him. Again, there was only he and his wife. They had no children or anybody else. They ate and enjoyed themselves, and everything was fine, but when time came for sleep he fetched a

[13] Aleppo (Halab) is a major city in Northern Syria. It is inland, with no direct access by sea from Acre.


bundle of sticks and beat his wife until he had broken the sticks on her sides. The second day the same thing happened. On the third day the old woman said, "By Allah, I want to find out why this man beats his wife like this." She asked her, and the wife replied, "By Allah, there's nothing the matter with me, except that once my husband brought home a bunch of black grapes. I put them on a bone-white platter and brought them in. 'Yee!' I said, 'How beautiful is the black on the white!' Then he sprang up and said, 'So! May so-and-so of yours be damned! You've been keeping a black slave for a lover behind my back!' I protested that I had only meant the grapes, but he wouldn't believe me. Every day he brings a bundle of sticks and beats me."

"I'll save you," said the old woman. "Go buy some black grapes and put them on a bone-white platter."

In the evening, after he had had his dinner, the wife brought the grapes and served them. The old woman then jumped in and said, "Yee! You see, son. By Allah, there's nothing more beautiful than the black on the white!"

"So!" he exclaimed, shaking his head. "It's not only my wife who says this! You're an old lady and say the same thing.[14] It turns out my wife hasn't done anything, and I've been treating her like this!"

"Don't tell me you've been beating her just for that!" exclaimed the old woman. "What! Have you lost your mind? Look here! Don't you see how beautiful are these black grapes on this white plate?"

It is said they became good friends, and the husband stopped beating his wife. Having stayed with them a few more months, the old woman said, "The land has been longing for its people. Maybe my dough has risen by now. I want to go home."

"Stay, old lady!" they said. "You brought us blessings."

"No," she answered. "I want to go home."

They prepared a boat for her and filled it with food and other provisions. She gathered herself together and went home. There, in her own house, after she had sat down, rested, and put her things away, she checked the dough. "By Allah," she said, "it has just begun to rise, and I might as well take it to the baker," She took it to the baker, who baked her bread.

This is my. tale, I've told it, and in your hands I leave it.

[14] As noted in the Introduction ("The Tales and Authority in Society"), older women are thought to be asexual; the husband is therefore more ready to believe in his wife's innocence after the old woman confirms her interpretation of "black on white." Cf. Tale 8, n. 5.


The Golden Rod in the Valley of Vermilion

Once, long ago, there was a merchant. An important merchant. Every Friday the wives of the other merchants came to visit his wife, and they would go out to take the air, enjoying themselves at the public baths and then returning home.[1] Days went and nights came. One day the wives of the merchants came calling on her, and she went out with them. One of them happened to be wearing a beautiful black velvet dress, and the wife of the big merchant liked it very much. Home she went, and how angry she was! Who was that wearing such a dress but the wife of a merchant lesser than her husband, while she herself didn't have one? When her husband came home, he found her scowling.

"What's the matter, dear wife?"

"How could it be that the wife of Merchant So-and-So should wear a dress like that while I go without?"

"Well," he answered, "is it such a big matter?"

He went and cut for her a piece of cloth from the same material, and she had it made into a dress and wore it. She stood in front of the mirror. Now, she was a good-looking woman with fair skin, and the dress was black. She thought she was very beautiful. What did she say?

"Oh! How beautiful is the black on the white? she exclaimed.[2]

"What? said her husband. "You so and so! You've taken the black slave for a lover behind my back!"

"No, husband, no!" she answered. "I only meant my black dress." "

I don't believe you. You're in love with the black man."

O black, O white! she tried to reason with him, but it was no use. Taking hold of her, he started beating her. Then he tied her up by her hair to a hook hanging from the ceiling, and every day after that he would bring a bundle of sticks, beat her until he had broken them all on her sides, and then hang her back up.

[1] Public baths do not exist in the villages. In the old days well-to-do city folk did not bathe at home but rather went to the public baths. The women would make a picnic out of the trip; they took food and musical instruments with them and would dance and sing and generally enjoy themselves. Cf. the trip to the public bath in Tale 24; see also Jaussen, Naplouse : 67-69.

[2] In many regions of Palestine women's dress, before embroidery has been added, is black. Because velvet is considered one of the most luxurious of cloths and whiteness of skin a mark of beauty (cf. Tale 13, n. 2), it is understandable why the merchant's wife would find herself attractive. The sequence of events here is similar to that in the second episode of Tale 24.


On Friday, at the appointed hour, the wives of the merchants came to visit her. Entering, they called to her, and her servant came out to receive them. "She's bathing," said the servant. "Wait awhile." Later she said, "She's getting dressed, she's putting on makeup, she's decorating her eyelids with kohl"—and so on.

"But the day's nearly gone!" they murmured. "Let's go in and see what's going on." Her servant started to cry, but she let them in, and behold! their friend was hanging from the ceiling. Untying her, they sat her down. "What happened?" they asked. "What's the story?"

"Such and such is what happened," she said, relating her story.

Now, every day, while her husband was beating her, he would ask, "Is there anyone richer than me?"


"Is there anyone handsomer than me?"


"Is there anyone more manly than me?"


Whatever he asked, she always answered, "No." When she told her friends that her husband asked her these questions every day, one of them—a sly one—said, "Why don't you say to him, `Yes, there is,' and if he asks who, tell him, 'The Golden Rod in the Valley of Vermilion.' He'll go looking and will be away a month or two. Meanwhile, you'll take a rest from all this beating until he comes back. And when he does come back, Allah will take care of it." Tying her up again, they left.

When he came home in the evening, he set about beating her.

"Is there anyone richer than me? More handsome than me?"

"Yes, there is."


"The Golden Rod in the Valley of Vermilion."

"By Allah," he swore, leaving her untied, "I'm going to have to go look for him. If I really do find him, then Allah will have forgiven you; but if I don't find him richer, handsomer, and more manly than me, may the Lord help you!"

Leaving her, he turned around and headed straight out. He traveled the first day, the second, and the third. Then on his way he was surprised to see a creature on the road. She was half bitch and half human. He asked her about the Golden Rod and she said, "Straight ahead!" Moving on, he met another creature, half fish and half human. He asked her, and she too said, "Straight ahead!" He went on until he reached a city, where


he asked and people gave him directions. When he had got the directions, he went to the Golden Rod's house.

"Welcome! Welcome!" the Golden Rod received the merchant. "So, you've finally come!"

"Yes, I've come."

"You've accused your wife falsely," he said. "Your wife didn't do anything wrong. She did in fact have her dress in mind, but you accused her of [loving] the black slave and have come here to see if there's anyone richer, handsomer, or more manly than you. Isn't it so? Well, listen and let me tell you my story."

"Tell it to me," said the merchant.

"Allah knows," began the Golden Rod, "I too was once a married man. The first wife I had was my cousin. She used to bring me a cup every evening, and after I drank it I would roll over, not feeling a thing. 'By Allah,' I said to myself one day, 'this cup she gives me—I'm going to dump it down my collar and turn over as if drunk, then I'll see what she's up to.'

"She brought me the cup, and I did like this, spilling it down my neck, then I rolled over. No sooner did she see me in that condition than she went straight to the kitchen, ladled food onto a platter, and carried it, along with a pitcher full of water and a lantern, out of the house.

"I followed her, keeping well behind. By Allah, I followed her, and she kept moving till she reached a cave. She went into the cave, and lo! there was a black slave. No sooner did she go in than he set to abusing her. 'Damn your father and your mother!' he cursed. 'You've taken so long, I'm nearly dying from hunger.'

"'Well, I had to wait until I'd put him to sleep, until I'd finished my house work ...'

"So, she served him the food and he ate.[3] When he had finished eating and drinking, she asked, 'What do you have for me to eat and drink?' He said there was a scrap of moldy bread and a bit of wormy smoked fish. She took them and ate, and then she embraced him and slept by his side. I stayed outside till they had gone to sleep. When they were fast asleep, I came in to them, cut off his nose, wrapped it in a handkerchief, and left. Waking up, she nudged him like this and found him dead. She rent her dress, beat her breast, and then headed home.[4] Waiting until she had gone

[3] On the association of food with love and courtship, cf. Tale 15, n. 3.

[4] For a discussion of dress, see Tale 12, n. 3. Granqvist gives the following description of the "demonstration of grief": "As soon as the last breath is drawn, the women present give vent to unrestrained sorrow. Each time a new woman enters, she beats her breast. ... The women loosen their hair and tear at it.... Women tear their dresses. They blacken their faces and their hands with soot, and sometimes they even put dust and ashes on their heads" (Muslim Death : 53). Cf. Tale 12, n. 9.


ahead, I followed her, keeping well behind, but when we were close to home I struck out on a different path and got here ahead of her. I went back to bed and pretended to be fast asleep, just as I was before she went out. She came in, made her bed, wrapped a bandage around her head and fell asleep.[5] When I woke up in the morning, I saw that she had bandaged her head.

"'What's the matter, dear wife?' I asked.

"'I just got news my cousin's dead,' she answered.

"'And how long are you going to mourn for him?'[6]

"'A whole year,' she said.

"'No!' I objected. 'Four months will be enough.'

"She mourned four months," continued the Golden Rod, "and when she came out of mourning she said she wanted to go to the baths. I brought her a bouquet of flowers, perfumes, and toilet articles.[7] You should have seen the basket! It was full to the brim, except that I had put her cousin's nose among the articles. Taking the basket with her, she went to the baths, bathed, and came back home. She stood in front of the mirror to put on makeup and adorn herself, and, as she was searching among the things in the basket, her lover's nose came into her hand. She sprang up in anger, wanting to tear me to pieces.

"'Stop where you are!' I commanded. 'Let half of you stay human, and the other half turn bitch!'

"Tell me, merchant, did she or didn't she meet you on the way? And your poor wife who had meant only her new dress—what wrong did she do?

"Now," continued the Golden Rod, "having put a spell on her, I left her to guard such and such a place. Then I asked for the hand of my other

[5] Women, but not men, wrap a bandage around their heads when ill.

[6] "The wife of a man who has died mourns for a year. The mourning consists in the following: not to wash her head kerchief, not to bathe, not to make herself beautiful, not to wear her best clothes, colored clothes, and not to blacken her eyes.... Hamdiye: 'According to [religious] law, the period of mourning is forty days, but the dead man's wife may mourn for a year, his sister for a year, and his mother all her life, if she wishes to do so" (Granqvist, Muslim Death : 107).

[7] This is an accurate description of the preparations for going to the baths. Toiletries, towels, and a change of clothes were put in baskets, which were carried by the servants. Cf. Tale 24.


cousin and married her. Before long she, too, started to do the same thing as the other one. One day I spilled the cup and pretended to be drunk, while she went straight to the kitchen, ladled the food, and headed out. I followed her from a distance, and she too came to a cave, where a black slave shouted at her the same things. Then they ate, embraced, and slept. Waiting until they were fast asleep, I went in to them and cut out his tongue. He died. When she came to bid him good-bye, she found him dead. She beat her breast until she had had enough; then, pulling herself together, she left. No sooner did she leave than I followed, taking a different path when we were close to home. Having gotten there before her, I went to sleep. In the morning she had a bandage around her head.

"'What's the matter, dear wife?'

"'By Allah, I just got news my cousin's dead.'

"'How long are you going to mourn for him?'

"'I want to mourn six months,' she said.

"'No,' I said. 'Four's enough.'

"Four months she mourned, and when her mourning was over I brought her a bouquet like the other one and all the other things, putting them in a basket, her cousin's tongue among them. She went to the baths, and when she came home she stood in front of the mirror to beautify herself, and her cousin's tongue came into her hand. She rushed at me, screaming and wanting to tear me up.

"'Stop where you are!' I commanded. 'Half of you is human, let the other half turn fish!'

"I left her under a spell in such and such a place. Tell me, did she or didn't she meet you on the way?"

"Yes," the merchant answered. "She did."

"And your wife," asked the Golden Rod, "whose mind was only on her dress, what did she do?

"Anyway," he continued, "I asked for the hand of my third cousin and married her. Before long she, too, started to behave like the others. I did the same thing, spilling the cup down my collar and rolling over. When she saw me in that condition, she opened the wardrobe and took out a copy of the Qur'an. Putting it under her arm, she took a candle with her and set out. I followed, walking behind her. She walked till she was out of the city and had come to the seashore.

"'Open up, O sea!' she called out. 'Let the lover see his beloved!'

"With the power of the Almighty," he said, "the sea parted and she walked in.


"'For you and for the one with you,' said the sea in parting. Not realizing she was being followed, she thought the Qur'an was intended. I went in fight behind her. When she came to an arched doorway, she said, 'Open, arched door! Let the lover see his beloved!'

"'For you and for the one with you?' he asked.

"'For me and the one with. me,' she answered.

"Coming into a room she knocked on a door. He opened, and behold! he was a youth—handsome like a sweet basil plant.

"'Welcome, welcome!' he said. 'Did you finally get here, sister?'

"'By Allah,' she answered. 'Yes, I did.'

"'And what kept you so long?'

"'You know,' she answered, 'a woman's destiny's not in her own hands.'

"By Allah, she went inside with him. Setting the Qur'an down, they read until they had their fill. Then they talked, and he put the sword between him and her. They lay down and went to sleep.

"'By Allah,' I said to myself, 'he didn't do anything, and she didn't do anything. So, I'm going to bring back for her a small token that would cause him no harm.'

"Waiting until they were asleep, I went inside. Since he had long hair, I approached and cut a small lock from the top of his head and tied it up in a handkerchief. As fate would have it, his soul was in that lock of hair, and he died.[8] When she woke up, she wanted to bid farewell to her brother. 'Brother, brother!' she called out, but she found him dead. She beat her breast, tore her clothes, and left, taking the candle and the Qur'an with her.

"I stood aside until she had passed, then followed her.

"'Open, arched door!' she said, when she reached it. 'The lover will see his beloved no more!'

"When she reached the sea, the same thing took place. Once we were past the sea and had arrived in the city, I struck out on a different path and got home before her. I went to sleep just as she had left me. Meanwhile, she came in, wrapped a bandage around her head, lay down, and went to

[8] For hair as a source of strength, see afterword to Group I. "The Quest for the Spouse"; for other references, see Footnote Index, s.v. "Hair."

We cannot help observing the sexually oriented symbolic reference not only in the name of the tale and its hero, but also in the three items he removes from his wives' lovers (nose, tongue, and lock of hair)—all lend themselves comfortably to psychoanalytic interpretation.


sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I found she'd put a bandage around her head.

"'What's the matter, dear wife?' I asked.

"'By Allah, I just got news my brother's dead.'

"'And how long are you going to mourn for him?'

"'I want to mourn six months,' she answered.

"'No,' I said. 'A year.'

"She mourned a year, and when she was out of mourning she did the same as the others had done, going to the baths and coming back to put on her best and make herself up. When she found the lock of hair among the toilet articles, she sprang up. She wanted to tear me into pieces. 'Stop where you are,' I commanded, 'and turn into a cat!' And here she is! You see her always sitting in my lap. And your poor wife—what wrong did she do? Her mind was only on the dress. As for me, I'm not going to marry another one. It's all over."

When the Golden Rod had finished his story, the merchant regretted how he had treated his wife. He was now anxious to go home and was about to excuse himself and leave, when his host said, "Wait a moment. I'm going to give you a present for your wife. She's a good woman and worthy of respect, and her mind was only on her dress."

The merchant went home very happy. He was now eager to please his wife. As soon as he reached his town, he went to his house. "Dear wife," he said, "I did you wrong. By Allah, he's richer and better than me in all respects. And here, he's sent you a present with me." Pulling out the present, he gave it to her, then went and sat down some distance away from her. She opened the package to see what kind of present it was and found a mirror in it. No sooner did she look in the mirror than she disappeared. The Golden Rod had snatched her away and married her.

This is my tale, I've told it, and in your hands I leave it.


Once upon a time there was a woman. She had for a neighbor a charming rogue who knew how to enjoy life. "By Allah," said he one day, "I'm going to play a trick on her and take away one of the family's yoke of oxen." Waiting until the husband had gone to the fields to plow (they had another team of oxen which he did not take with him) the neighbor dis-


guised himself and called out, "Ho! I have names for sale! Who wants a beautiful name? I sell names!" The woman was baking bread outdoors in her clay oven.[1] "Hey, uncle!" she cried out, "Come, come! Let me see! What are you selling?"

"I sell names," he answered. "What's your name, uncle? Let me see if it's beautiful or not."

"By Allah," she replied, "my name's Minjal."[3]

"What!" exclaimed the salesman. "What's this Minjal? Is that a name fit for a woman? Why, that's nothing more than a piece of iron. Are you crazy enough to accept a name like that?"

"Very well, uncle," declared the woman. "Come, sell me a name. How much does one cost?"

"By Allah, cousin," he replied, "a beautiful name—I'll sell it to you for a yoke of oxen."

"Fine," she agreed. "Come, let me see what kind of a name you're going to sell me."

"By Allah," he said. "I'm going to call you, 'Mistress of All and Flower of the House.' Go in and take a bath. Then wear some nice clothes, pile up whatever mattresses you have, and make a bridal seat for yourself. Lock the door and sit on the mattresses. If your husband should come to the door, calling, 'Hey, Minjal! Hey, Minjal!' don't pay him any attention, even if he stands out there all day. Not until he calls you, 'Mistress of All and Flower of the House.'"[4]

"Fine, uncle," she said. "May Allah reward you! What do you want for payment?"

"I want that team of oxen."

[1] The "clay oven" (tabun ) is a small structure housing an earthen oven used for baking bread and for some cooking. Villagers usually build the oven at some distance from their living quarters in order to avoid its smoke, most commonly at the edge of the road closest to the house. The tabun is a circular structure a yard high and with a diameter of about a yard; its smooth clay walls house two compartments, the lower for the fire and the upper (usually lined with pebbles over a metal sheet) for baking the bread. See Tale 6, n. 8; Tale 39, nn. 3, 4.

[2] She addresses him as "uncle" (see Tale 14, n. 7), and he returns the same form of address. Had he initiated the dialogue, he would have addressed her as "sister" (yaxti ) if they were of the same age or as "maternal aunt" (xalti ) if she were older.

[3] Minjal means "scythe" or "sickle" in Arabic. it is not used as a girl's name in Palestine.

[4] Sitt il-kul u-zent id-dar —literally, "Mistress of All and the Beautiful One of the House." Like "Minjal," this name is not ordinarily used. Here, combined with changing clothes, bathing, and acting like a bride, the new name is a harbinger of the new relationship to be established between the wife and her husband.


"Go ahead and untie it," she agreed.

The salesman went ahead, untied the oxen, and took them. The woman then went in, combed her hair, put on her best clothes, and if they had a couple of old mattresses she piled them up and sat on them like a bride. Locking the door from the inside with the key, she sat waiting on the bridal seat.[5]

It was raining, and her husband was plowing.[6] It had rained on him and on the team. Poor man! He came home from the field dripping with water. Knocking on the door, he called out, "Minjal! Minjal!" No answer. He pounded on the door and banged against it shouting, "O Minjal! O Minjal!" until he was exhausted. Meanwhile, his wife was sitting inside, feeling frustrated.

"You can say 'Minjal' till you rot!"[7] she finally said. "I've bought a new name."

"Who did you buy it from?"

"From a traveling salesman."

"And how much did he sell it to you for?"

"I paid with the team of oxen."

"What is this name that you've bought?" he asked.

"My name is now Mistress of All and Flower of the House," she answered.

"By Allah, O Mistress of All and Flower of the House," he swore, "I don't even want to go into the house you're in. If I find others as crazy as you, I'll be back. But if I can't find anyone so crazy, I'm not coming back. You can keep your name, and you can keep the house." Leaving the team in the lower part of the house,[8] the man then turned and left.

[5] For the bridal seat, or masmade , see Tale 11, n. 4.

[6] "The plough," says Frances Newton, "is a very simple wooden affair with one handle. The ploughing season begins with the 'early rains,' due about the middle of October. The peasant takes his plough down ... [and] sharpens the triangular iron share in the blacksmith's forge. He makes any repairs to the wooden part, and the yoke, that may be necessary. Then, driving the pair of oxen before him, and riding on a donkey with the plough, he sets off for the 'field' or portion of the village lands allotted to him. These communal lands are apportioned by the drawing of lots each year at the beginning of the ploughing season" (Fifty, Years : 39).

[7] Y-manjil halak u-yijdib balak —literally, "May you be scythed and your attention scattered!"

[8] The "lower part of the house" is qa` il-bet . Traditional Palestinian village homes usually consisted of one large room with a two-level floor, two-thirds of it being higher than the other third. "This larger portion is called the 'Mastaba,' and is occupied by the human element of the family. The lower half is used for the non-human element. Cows and camels, horses, donkeys, cocks and hens, even pigeons, are all part of the family, and are housed under the one roof.... Along the edge of the raised part of the floor a line of shallow depressions, or mud troughs, form the mangers for the cattle standing on the lower level. This does not result in any unpleasant conditions for the household, as the lower part is swept daily, and in most cases is kept spotlessly clean. The animals are all turned out to pasture or to work, during the day" (Newton, Fifty Years : 33). See Tale 3, n. 6; Tale 15, n. 5; and Canaan, "Palestinian Arab House," esp. XIII: 33-39 ("House of the Peasant"). See also Jàger, Das Bauernhaus in Palästina .


It was pouring rain. He went, you might say, to the cemetery of the Christians[9] and took shelter by the side of a big rock. Taking off his clothes, he sat under this rock by the cemetery of the Christians. In the morning some Christian women came to visit. One like Hanne—her children died in their youth; another, like Badi`a—her brother died a young man.[10] This one had lost a son, that one a daughter, and another a father or a mother. Anyway, they came to visit the graves and found this naked man.

"Brrr! he shivered. "Allah protect you, sisters! Please give me something to cover my nakedness."

"What sort of creature are you, uncle?" they asked.

"I came back from the grave," he answered, "and I'm bringing good news. The dwellers of these graves are all going to be coming back home, and they're all naked. Go bring some clothes, and tomorrow you'll find your loved ones here. They're all going to be coming back."

"By Allah, is it true what you're saying, uncle?"

"Yes, it's true."

The women went running back to their houses. She who had lost a daughter brought her her jewelry, and she who had lost a young son brought him his suits. Oh! What clothes they were! Each one had prepared a bundle. You should have seen what these Christian women brought together—the bundles and the jewelry! They went and gave it all to the man in the cemetery.

"When will the dead be coming back, uncle?" they asked.

[9] There actually is a small Christian community in the village of `Arrabe, in the Galilee, where this tale was collected. Perhaps the storyteller is hinting that the character in the tale might have gotten away with tricking just the small Christian group but not the whole village community.

[10] Hanne and Badi`a are women in the village's Christian community; the men mentioned below (Šibli, Xalil, and Salih) are related to these women, as husbands, sons, or brothers.


"Come back tomorrow at this time," he answered, "and you'll find them dressed and waiting for you. But take care not to talk in front of anyone about this! Come by yourselves, because only the Christians will be coming back."

After the women had gone home, he took the bundles, tied them together, and ran away. The next morning the Christian women came back to the graveyard—nothing had changed. "Yee!" they cried out, "By Allah, that man must have tricked us." Back home they rushed and told their men what had happened. He who had a donkey Or a nag mounted it and set out. Šibli, Xalil, Salih—whoever had lost a bundle of clothes mounted his animal and set out to search for the man. Meanwhile, he had found a place, a cave, where he deposited the big bundle and left. As they were searching, they came by him.

"O uncle," they asked, "didn't you happen to see a man with such and such a description carrying some bundles?"

"Yes, uncles," he answered, "he just passed this way. But on your animals, you can't follow him since it's so muddy. Better take off your shoes and leave your animals here. You'll catch up with him in a moment."

"Is that true, uncle?" they asked.

"Yes, it's true."

Dropping their shoes from their feet, they left the animals behind. "Leave them with me," he reassured them. "I'll take care of them." But no sooner did they turn their backs than he gathered the shoes and sandals, tied the animals together, and, dragging them behind him, set off. The men ran and ran till they were tired. They could barely breathe, but, not finding anyone, they came back. And see! Where was he? He was already far away. Pulling themselves together, they went home.

The man, you might say, left his town behind and traveled until he came to a village like Il-I`zer, Rummane, and Id-Der, where the farmland is below the village.[11] As he approached he saw a farmer plowing. Waiting until he was even with him, he said out loud, talking to the nag he was riding, "Easy! Easy! May Allah damn your owner's father! If someone were to offer me a meal, even if it's nothing more than lentil soup, I'd give you to him in exchange."[12]

[11] Il-I`zer, Rummane, and Id-Der (Der Hanna) are all villages in the upper Galilee, north of Nazareth, close to `Arrabe, and fit the description of the setting in the story—that is, a hillside village with agricultural lands in a valley at the foot of the hill. Cf. Tale 17, n. 7; Tale 44, n. 11.

[12] By asking for lentil soup, the man makes the deal more appealing to the farmer. Because Palestinian fellahin usually produce and store a year's supply of lentils, they are always available and soup can be easily and quickly prepared. Cf. Tale 36, n. 8; Tale 44, n. 14.


When the farmer heard this, he cried, "O uncle, what did I just hear you say?"

"By Allah," answered the other, "I was just saying that if anyone were to offer me a meal of lentil soup I'd give him this horse in exchange."

"Wait, wait, uncle!" shouted the farmer, "I'll bring you something in a moment."

Off he went, running to his wife. "Come, come!" he said, "Right away, boil some water and make a little lentil soup."

"What's the story, my man?" she asked.

"You won't believe this," he replied, "but we're getting a draft horse for a dish of lentil soup."

She went ahead, ground some lentils, and placed the water over the fire.

"Prepare a feeding trough, woman," he said.[13] "Plant a stake here, and tie one end of a rope to it and the other end to my foot, and let me check if there's enough room for people to pass behind the horse without getting kicked."

When she had prepared the trough, driven in the stake, and tied the rope to his foot, he said, "Pass behind me, wife, and let me see if the nag could reach you if you passed behind her and she kicked." Turning around, she walked behind him. He kicked, throwing her down. And lo! blood all over and she had miscarried. "Die and to hell with you! Right now I want to go after the blue nag, which is more valuable to me than anything. And when I come back, I'll deal with the situation here."

Meanwhile, by the time they had prepared the feeding trough and the soup and had tested how she would pass behind the horse—by that time the other man had untied the farmer's yoked team and (begging the listeners' pardon!), having crapped on the tip of the ox goad, stuck it in the ground and made off with the animals. Coming back down, our brother in Allah did not find the horse, his own team, or anything else. And when he saw the goad, he said, "By Allah, this man has tricked me. And even if my wife has miscarried, what bothers me most, by Allah, is how he could have managed to climb up the goad and shit. How could he have

[13] The feeding troughs are located on the raised part of the floor of the house. Some homes were designed such that people coming into the house had to walk between the animals to get to the mastaba . See n. 8, above, where reference is made to "mud troughs."


done it? How could he possibly have sat on the tip of the goad and shat?"[14]

Having collected the Christian women's clothes, the horses, and the draft animals, the man came back home, only to find his wife still sitting like a new bride on the piled-up mattresses. "O Mistress of All and Flower of the House!" he cried out. "By Allah, many other crazy people like you have I found." And he lived with her, accepting her with her faults.

This is my tale, I've told it, and in your hands I leave it.


TELLER: Testify that God is One!
AUDIENCE: There is no god but God.

Once there was a man, and he had a daughter. He and his wife had no other children except this daughter, and her name was `Eše. One day people from another town came to ask for `Eše's hand. They asked for her hand, took her for a bride, and departed.

The days passed. `Eše became pregnant and gave birth; she had a boy.

"Abu `Eše!"[1] said the mother.

"Yes. What do you want?" he replied.

"Our daughter has given birth to a boy," she answered, "and we ought to go visit her. What are we going to take her?"[2]

They took her a bolt of cloth, they took her a pitcher of oil.

Later the mother said, "O Abu `Eše! We want to take `Eše a sheep, maybe a ewe."

They traveled and came upon a shepherd with some ewes.

"O uncle!" Abu `Eše said to him, "We ask in Allah's name that you sell

[14] It should be noted that the ox goad has a nail sticking out of its tip.

[1] Customarily, husbands and wives do not call each other by their first names (cf. Tale 20, n. 12). Until the birth of their first child, the newly married couple call each other "cousin"; thereafter they address each other, and are addressed by others, as "Abu ... " ("Father of ...") and "Im ..." ("Mother of ..."). A man is generally named after a son, even if he has many daughters and no sons. Thus Abu `Eše's name prefigures his emasculation later in the tale (see n. 6, below). `Eše is a common girl's name in Palestinian and Arab society.

[2] It is a social imperative to visit a daughter who has given birth, especially if she is married outside the village and it is her first child, and particularly if it is a son. The parents bring presents, usually consisting of clothes for the baby and nourishing food for the mother.


us a ewe good for slaughter. But it has to be a good one; fat must be dripping from its nose."[3]

The shepherd brought out the first ewe, but Im `Eše said to him, "No! We want the fat to be dripping from its nose!" He went and brought back a ewe with snot dripping from its nose—and what a state she was in! She was tottering. And there was Im `Eše saying, "Yes. This is the one we want."

"That's fine," said the shepherd.

They took their ewe and walked on. As they approached `Eše's town, they looked and, behold! the surface of the earth was cracked. The ground had cracks in it.

"Abu `Eše!" the mother called out.


"By Allah, this land of `Eše's is thirsty. Let's pour out the pitcher of oil and water it." They poured it out.

Before they arrived, look! there was a tree shaking like this in the wind.

"Abu `Eše!"


"By Allah, this olive tree of `Eše's is shivering from the cold. Let's wrap this cloth around it." They wrapped it around.

When they came close to town, they found a watchdog whining.

"Abu `Eše!"


"By Allah, this dog of `Eše's is hungry. Let's feed him these provisions." They fed him what they had brought.

They arrived, came in, and she said to her daughter, "By Allah, daughter,[4] we brought you oil, cloth, and meat. But we found your land thirsty and watered it with the oil; we found your olive tree cold and wrapped it with the cloth; and we found your bitch hungry and fed her the meat."

"Never mind, mother!" `Eše said. "But take care not to tell anyone! Those who ask you, tell them 'we brought what we brought,' and don't let anyone know what you did!"

In two or three days Im `Eše said to her husband, "You go home, Abu `Eše, look after the chickens and the house, and I'll stay a few more days to help `Eše, since she's an only child and now has a baby."

After the father had left for home, `Eše said to her mother, "Mother,

[3] Generally, the fatter the meat, the more nourishing and the tastier it is thought to be.

[4] "Daughter" here (yamma ) is literally "O mother!"; see Tale 7, n. 3.


you stay with the baby and look after him, and let me go out and gather a few pieces of wood." She left the baby with her mother and went to the countryside in search of wood.

The baby started crying. "Poor boy!" thought Im `Eše. "By Allah, maybe his head's itching from lice." She went and heated water in a cauldron until it boiled. She then dropped the baby in it, lifted him out, and put him back to bed.

When `Eše came home, her mother said, "You see, your son was crying from the lice and the dirt. Here I've washed him and put him to sleep, and from the time I put him in bed he's had his head down and he's been sleeping."

`Eše waited. Now the baby will wake up. In a little while he'll wake up. She went to check on the boy and found him dead.

"O you daughter of a cursed father!" she said. "This baby's dead! Soon my husband will be coming home from Hebron, and he'll kill you. You had better go home!"

Im `Eše went home, and found that her husband had locked himself in.

"O Abu `Eše! Open!"

"No. You'll kill me!"


"No. You'll kill me!"

"What did you do?"

"I slaughtered the chickens."

"That's all right! Open up!"

"I spilled the jar of oil."

"To hell with it! Just open!"

"No. You'll kill me!"

"What did you do?"

"I said to the cow, 'Give me some food!' but she wouldn't. So I slaughtered her."

"Let it be a sacrifice! You're worth everything. Just open!"

"You'll slaughter me!"

"Why? What did you do?"

"The camel was chewing his cud. I said to him, 'Give me some food!' but he wouldn't. He came at me, and I covered my pecker with a cauliflower leaf. He goes and bites me, eats the leaf, and eats my pecker too!"[5]

[5] "Pecker" here is zuburti , the feminine form of the more common zubri . The use of the feminine form—or, in effect, the diminutive, as if to say "my little pecker"—is actually part of the overall gender pattern of the tale: we note, for example, that the tale is named after `Eše's mother and not her father; that the parents take their daughter a ewe (for which two separate words of feminine gender—ša and na`je —are used); that the dog they encounter is a bitch (kalbe ); and that `Eše loses her son and Abu `Eše his masculinity.


"Alas! Alas!" cried Im `Eše. "Nothing in the world mattered like your balls, and now you're a gelding!"[6]

The bird of this tale has flow—and a good evening to all!


The issues addressed in these tales can touch on any established marriage relationship. We find sexuality, which was a central theme in the "Brides and Bridegrooms" group, a vital issue here as well. It is clearly articulated in the last tale, "Im `Eše," in which the couple are willing to tolerate each other's mutual follies and even the loss of their material possessions. The one loss the marriage cannot sustain, that of the husband's virility, poses a problem for both husband and wife. For the husband it represents a source of anxiety and fear about himself. We have already come across this anxiety in "Soqak Boqak!" (Tale 21), where the young man, married before he is ready, runs away in fear and must be seduced back by his more mature wife. Here we see it again in the second half of "The Seven Leavenings" and in "The Golden Rod in the Valley of Vermilion," where the husband asks, "Is there anyone handsomer than me? ... more manly than me?"

With regard to what these tales reveal about sexuality, we find that the attitudes applicable to women are different from those applicable to men. Cultural practice dictates that women should be modest and not express their sexuality openly, yet women are not presented as being anxious about their sexuality. On the contrary, as we saw from earlier tales (e.g., "Sahin" and "Soqak Boqak!") and from "Im `Eše" here, they are open in their approach to this question and honest in their feelings. The dark side of sexuality emerges from "The Seven Leavenings" and "The Golden Rod," where the men's fear or anxiety about their virility is projected as the women's sexual voraciousness, as we see from the behavior of the Golden Rod's three wives. This projection is condoned by the society. If the husband is sexually unsure of himself, the wife is assumed to be at

[6] Kul ši fdak, fdak, ger bezatak w-ixsak —literally, "Let everything be a sacrifice, a sacrifice, except your testicles and your emasculation!"


fault; she must, as in "The Seven Leavenings" and "The Golden Rod," be having an affair with the black servant. (It is interesting that the literalized metaphor of "black on white" is used as a central image in both tales.)

Equally as important as sexuality in a marriage relationship, and integral to it, is the question of offspring. A complex of problems for men and women alike arises out of the association of sexuality with virility and fertility. A man feels more manly and powerful when he has fathered many children, particularly sons, and society confirms this feeling by offering repeated congratulations and favorable comments on his manliness. The absence of male offspring makes a man vulnerable to social criticism, and he would be urged to marry another woman. Feeling inadequate when the marriage is infertile, he starts to question his manliness and vents his frustration by beating his wife ("The Seven Leavenings"). Lack of offspring is even more problematic for the woman. If for the husband male children represent manliness and virility, for the wife they are an essential part of her identity; indeed, a woman without a son has practically no identity, and no security in life. "The Seven Leavenings" is a case in point: before pregnancy the wife is guilty of a great sin, but once she claims to have conceived, her husband dotes on her and treats her with utmost respect.

Although it is mentioned explicitly only in "The Seven Leavenings," absence of offspring (of sons in "Im `Eše") is at the core of the couple's problem in each of these tales. This point is made dearly in the case of Minjal, who, alone among all the married women in the tales, is called by her first name—a name that denotes an ordinary tool—rather than "Im So-and-So." As her clever neighbor says of her name, "What! That's nothing more than a piece of iron!" In the other tales as well, there is a certain degree of tension between husband and wife. With time on their hands and no children, the males become dissatisfied with their wives and start finding fault with them.

The tales in this group focus on the relationship between husband and wife at a certain stage in the marriage. Several open with a stagnating relationship, often caused by the absence of children, and end with a transformation. Fulfillment may be brought about through children ("The Seven Leavenings"), by finding the right partner ("The Golden Rod"), or by a change in character. "Minjal" is a pivotal tale, in this respect, for it shows the possibility of renewal. In "Minjal"—as in "Lady Tatar" (Tale 20), but at a later date in the marriage relationship—the


woman insists on being addressed in a certain way, thereby guaranteeing respect for herself. But now two marriage relationships are portrayed: the one between Minjal and her husband, the second between the gulled farmer and his wife. The contrast between the two women could not be any clearer. In the second relationship the teller emphasizes the greed and cruelty of the husband, whose wife, though pregnant, is less important to him than a workhorse—merely another useful tool, though admittedly more precious than a scythe.



Chick Eggs

TELLER: Once upon a time, O my listeners ... but not until you bear witness that God is One.
AUDIENCE: There is no god but God!

Once there was a girl, the daughter of a co-wife.[1] And, as everybody knows, a co-wife's daughter usually turns out meaner than her own mother. Her stepmother hated her, always saying to her "Come here" and "Go there" and giving her endless work to do.

The stepmother had a daughter of her own about the same age. One day she said to her mother, "Mother, I want to go to the countryside with my sister to gather wood." "Go ahead," said the mother.

After the girls had left, lo! a salesman was crying his wares:

"Chick eggs, chick eggs for sale!
Will get a girl pregnant without a male!"

Now, the woman had been wanting to do away with her co-wife's daughter. She called the salesman over, bought two eggs from him, and cracked them in a pan. For her own daughter she fried two ordinary eggs in a separate pan. When the girl came from gathering wood, her stepmother fed her the chick eggs.

A day came and a day went, and the girl was sitting in the sun. The woman said to her, "O girl, come remove lice from my hair." The girl kept shifting her position and wriggling like this from the heat.[2] One moment she'd say, "O my father's wife, I want to move into the shade," and the next moment she'd say, "O my father's wife, I want to move back into the sun."

[1] The entire tale is told from the point of view of the stepmother; hence the "good" girl in the tale is initially seen as "mean"—meaner than her own mother. Even though the first wife is presumably dead, from the perspective of the second wife her undesirable influence in the house is still felt through her daughter.

[2] Sensitivity to heat is a sign that a woman is pregnant.


The woman went to her husband. "Look here, my man!" she said. "Your daughter's pregnant."

"Speak again," he exclaimed, "and say it's not so!"

"No, by Allah," replied the wife, "she's pregnant. And if she isn't, you can have whatever you want."

A day went and a day came, and the girl's pregnancy began to show. The woman said to her husband, "O man, get rid of her!"[3]

"I will," he answered. "Prepare some provisions, and I'll take her and do away with her."

The wife brought together a cow pie (she said it was bread), a donkey turd (she said it was stuffed cabbage), and ass's urine (she said it was ghee). She put these things for her in a basket and waited.

The man took his daughter to a place where there was no one coming or going, then said, "Daughter, wait for me here! I'm going for a walk and I'll be right back."

The sun set and it was getting dark. The place was rough, rocks everywhere! with no one coming or going. What was she to do? She said:

"Father, you're taking so long to crap
The thyme has started to sprout!"[4]

In a while, look! an old man on a white mare was approaching.

"O girl," he said, "what are you doing here?"

"It's my fate," she answered. "I came here."

"And what are these things you're carrying?"

She answered, "This is bread," and he said, "May it be so, God willing!"[5]

"This is stuffed cabbage."

[3] The society generally accepts that illicit pregnancy is a crime punishable by death, although all such sins are not automatically so punished. See afterword to Group. l, "Siblings," and the section on sexuality in the Introduction ("The Tales and Authority in the Society").

[4] Thyme is a component of za`tar , which may be considered the Palestinian national dish. The herb, together with other herbs as well as solid ingredients such as roasted wheat and garbanzo beans, is ground into a fine powder. Bread is dipped in olive oil and then into the za`tar , all being accompanied by fresh green vegetables. Although this meal is usually eaten for breakfast, it forms part of the staple diet in the Palestinian household. See Granqvist, Marriage II: 176; Crowfoot and Baldensperger, Cedar : 71ff.; Dalman, Arbeit I: 342, 454, 543.

[5] In the original the stranger's response consists of only one word, inšalla ("Allah willing!"), for which see Tale 6, n. 1.


"May it be so, God willing!"

"This is ghee."

"May it be so, God willing!"

Then he said, "Look here, do you see that cave?"

"Yes," she answered.

"You must go sleep in it," he continued. "Three or four ghouls will arrive. One of them will come limping, and right away you must remove the thorn and bandage his foot."

She gathered herself and went up to the cave, and before long the ghoul with the limp arrived, just as the man had said. She went over to him and removed the thorn from his foot and bandaged it. "No one is to devour her!" he announced. After that they would bring some of what they had caught for her to eat. By Allah, a day went and a day came, and she gave birth.

She was absent ten, maybe twelve months or more. Her father said to his wife, "By Allah, I want to go back to the place I left my daughter. I want to find out what became of her." He went back to the place he had left her. Looking in the distance, he spied a cave with smoke rising from it.

"If you're my mother," said the girl, "come in. If you're my uncle's daughter, come in; if you're my sister, come in; and if you're one of my relatives, come in. But if you're my father, keep out!"

He begged so much to be forgiven that she opened for him. When he entered, she felt shy in front of him and went to hide her child.[6]

"Daughter, it's enough!" he said. "You must come home now."

"No, father," she answered. "Not only do I not want to go back, it didn't even cross my mind. I'm alive and comfortable. Allah's looking lifter me."

"You can't stay by yourself in this rocky wilderness," he insisted. "You must come home with me!" He swore divorce and forced her.[7] She prepared herself, and they set out.

As she was leaving, she said by the door of the cave, "Father, I forgot my kohl pencil." She went back for it. Then again she would get as far as

[6] Such is the father's authority that the girl still feels shame in front of him even though he has abandoned her.

[7] Swearing divorce is a serious oath, made to exert moral pressure on someone to do something. If the condition of the oath is not fulfilled, the swearer is legally bound to divorce his wife, although a fatwa (legal way out) is usually found for him. See n. 9, below.


from here to there and she'd say, "I forgot my little bottle of kohl." She could not find it in her heart to go back home and leave her baby behind.

They had not been on their way for long when again she said, "Father, I've forgotten such and such a thing."

"Why are you taking the long way around this, daughter?" the father finally asked. "If you have a son, bring him along!"[8] Lifting the baby, she wrapped him and brought him with her.

Now, the ghouls used to bring her everything—money, gold, jewelry, and clothes. They would carry it with them and bring it to her. She took a little of everything, wrapping it in a bundle and loading it on the donkey. They set out on their journey, the grandfather placing the child in front of him.

When his wife saw them, she said, "You didn't leave your daughter in the wilderness. You put her in the lap of luxury! Exactly where you took your daughter, you must take mine!" "Fine," he said. "Let's go."

She went and prepared real bread and stuffed grape leaves for her daughter. Her father took her and left her in the same place he had left his first daughter.

"Daughter," he said, "I want to go take a crap." In a while the same old man appeared. "What's this?" he asked. Red with anger because her father had abandoned her, she answered (Far be it from my listeners!), "Shit!"

"And this?"


"And that?"

"Shit also!"

He would say "God willing" every time, and all her food turned into that which she had named.

"Do you see that cave?" he asked. "Go up to it. Three or four ghouls will arrive. One of them is huge and will be limping from a thorn in his foot. Take hold of his foot and twist it like this to increase his pain."

The girl made her way up to the cave. The ghouls came, and she did as the man had told her. "Cut her up and devour her!" said the big ghoul. They ate her all up, leaving only the liver and lungs, which they hung by the entrance to the cave.

[8] The father's gesture here indicates acceptance of his daughter's trespass and his forgiveness of her, in spite of the social pressure he will face. In fact, a little later on, when the man places the child in front of him on the donkey, he shows a hint of pride in his grandson.


Now, by Allah, the mother did not wait long for her daughter. "Go bring her? she said to her husband. "It's been long enough. Just right." He went. In the meantime she gathered the daughters of their relatives and neighbors, and she said to them, "Sing! When my husband returns in a while, he'll give you all gold and necklaces. Sing!"

Reaching the cave, the father found nothing of his daughter, only the liver and lungs hanging by the door.

Meanwhile the girls were singing, and the mother was dancing in their midst.

The father, however, was cursing her, "O you daughter of damned parents! Nothing did I find but this liver and lungs hanging by the door of the cave. Hey, you! Your parents be damned! I found nothing but this liver and lungs hanging by the door of the cave."

She, on the other hand, was saying to the girls, "Sing! Sing! Do you hear my husband calling? He's saying, 'Sing! Sing!'"

When he arrived, the husband said to her, "Get out of here! You are divorced! If people usually swear divorce three times,[9] I hereby swear a hundred times." He divorced her, and his daughter stayed with him.[10]

The bird of this tale has flown; one of you owes another one.

The Ghouleh of Trans-Jordan

Once there was a poor man. One day he said to his family, "Let's cross over to Trans-Jordan. Maybe we can find a better life there than we have here."[1] They had (May Allah preserve your worth!)[2] a beast of burden.

Crossing eastward, they came upon some deserted ruins.[3] When they found an empty house in the ruins, they wanted to move into it. A

[9] According to Islamic law, the divorce becomes legally binding after the third time a man says "I divorce you," since he is not permitted to remarry the same woman more than three times.

[10] Cf. the ending of Tale 9. The behavior of the co-wives in both these tales confirms the observation of Joseph Jacobs that "the envious step-mother of folktales was originally an envious co-wife" (Indian Fairy Tales : 248).

[1] Traditionally, nomadic and seminomadic tribes crossed the River Jordan back and forth to graze their herds, often making use of ruins and caves for their camps.

[2] 'Ajallak allah —literally, "May Allah exalt you!" See Tale 15, n. 8.

[3] From the description in the tale, the "deserted ruins" (xirbe ) apparently occupy an area the size of a whole village.


woman came upon them. "Welcome!" she said to the man. "Welcome to my nephew![4] Since my brother died, you haven't dropped in on me, nor have you visited me."

"By Allah," he answered, "my father never mentioned you to me. And in any case, we came here only by chance."

"Welcome!" she replied. "Welcome! Go ahead and stay in this house."

Now, the house was well stocked with food, and they settled in. The man had only his wife and a daughter. They would cook meals, and in the evening the daughter took the woman her dinner. She lived in the southern part of the ruined town, and they lived in the north, with some distance between them.

One evening the girl went to bring the woman her dinner. She came up to the door, and 1o! the woman had thrown to the ground a young man with braids like those of a girl gone astray, and she was devouring him.[5] Stepping back, the girl moved some distance away and called out, "Hey, Aunty! Aunty!" The ghouleh shook herself, taking the shape of a woman again, and came to the terrified girl.

"The name of Allah protect you, niece!" exclaimed the ghouleh.[6]

"A black shape crossed my path," the girl explained, "and I became frightened."

Taking the dinner from the girl, the ghouleh said, "Don't worry! I'll wait here until you get inside the house." But she followed her to the door of the house to find out what the girl was going to say to her mother.

"How's your aunt?" asked the mother.

Now the girl was a clever one, and she answered, "When I got there, I found her sitting quietly with her head in her lap, like this."

After the ghouleh had gone back to her house to finish what she was eating, the girl said to her mother, "Mother, it turns out our aunt is a ghouleh."

"How do you know she's a ghouleh?" asked the mother.

[4] On the ghouleh's calling the man "nephew," see Tale 6, n. 11.

[5] The description here derives from earlier standards of male beauty. Men used to grow and braid their hair, with long braids considered a standard of handsomeness and not (as it would be today) a sign of effeminacy.

[6] Ismalla `aleki —literally, "May the name of Allah be upon you!" The name of Allah protects from all evil, which is thought to be lurking everywhere. In situations where there may be danger, when a child falls or cries out in fear, or when a baby wakes up from sleep, the name of Allah is invoked. Cf. Tale 17, n. 6; Tale 22, n. 8; see Hanauer, Folklore : 141-157.


"I saw her eating a lad with locks like those of a seductive girl," said the girl.

Her husband was sleeping. "Get up, get up!" she said. "It turns out your aunt is a ghouleh."

"What! My aunt a ghouleh! You're a ghouleh?

"All right," the wife replied. "Sleep, sleep! We were only joking with you."

When he had gone back to sleep, they went and filled a sack with flour. They brought a tin can full of olive oil and (May it be far from the listeners!) the beast of burden. Loading the provisions on it, they called upon the Everlasting to watch over their journey.[7]

Meanwhile, the man slept till morning, and when he woke he found neither wife nor daughter. "So," he thought, "it seems what they said is true." He mounted to the top of the flour bin and lowered himself in.[8]

After sunrise the ghouleh showed up, but when she went into the house, there was no one there. Turning herself back into a ghouleh, she started dancing and singing:

"My oil and my flour, O what a loss!
Gone are the masters of the house!"

When he heard her singing and prancing about, the man was so scared

he farted, scattering flour dust into the air. She saw him.

"Ah!" she cried out. "You're still here!"

"Yes, Aunty!" he answered.

"Well, come down here," she said. "Where shall I start eating you?"

"Eat my little hand," he answered, "that did not listen to my little daughter."

After eating his hand, she asked again, "Where shall I eat you now?"

"Eat my beard," he answered, "that did not listen to my wife."[9]

And so on, until she had devoured him all.

[7] Qalin ya dayim —literally, "They said, 'O Everlasting One!'" Note that the teller does not actually say the women started out on their journey. The custom of calling upon Allah at the start of any journey is so deeply ingrained in the Palestinian people that merely saying "Ya alla" (O Allah!) is equivalent to saying "Let's go!"

[8] Large bins (xawabi ; sing., xabye ) in which provisions such as lentils, wheat, and dried figs were stored from one year to the next were part of the structure of older Palestinian houses.

[9] Kulini min ilhayti, illi ma smi`t min imrayti —literally, "Eat me from my little beard, because I did not listen to my wife."


Now we go back to the girl and her mother. When they had reached home, the mother said to her daughter, "She's bound to follow us and turn herself (God save your honors!)[10] into a bitch. She'll scratch against the door. I'll boil a pot full of olive oil, and you open for her. When she comes in, I'll pour the oil over her head."

In a while the ghouleh came and scratched at the door, and the girl opened for her. No sooner had she gone in the door than the woman poured the oil onto her head. She exploded, and behold! she was dead. There was no moisture in her eye.[11]

In the morning the woman filled the town with her shouts, and people rushed to her rescue.

"What's the matter?" they asked.

"Listen," she said. "There's a ruin, and it's full of provisions. It was protected by a ghouleh, and here! I've killed the ghouleh. Any one who has strength can go load up on wheat, flour, and oil. As for me, I'll be satisfied with the food in the house where we stayed."

Bear-Cub of the Kitchen

Once there was a king who had three wives.[1] One day a mosquito crept into his nose.[2] Try as he would, he could find no doctor or medicine, east or west, that could cure him. It did not come out, and soon his nose had swollen up, like this. "It's all over," they said. "The king is going to die."[3] One day, as he sat contemplating his condition, the mosquito said

[10] B`id min is-sam`in —literally, "May it be far from the listeners!" Cf. n. 2, above.

[11] The emphatic proverbial expression ma fi b`enha l-balle is used, as here, to confirm that someone is really dead. See Dundes, "Wet and Dry, the Evil Eye," in Interpreting : 108-110 and passim.

[1] As there is no mention of offspring in the first sentence, the audience would assume that the king married more than once to beget children.

[2] The mosquito is the symbolic equivalent of possession by an idea the man is unable to get rid of. Coupled with the striking symbol of the swollen nose, the entire image may be profitably interpreted in sexual terms.

[3] A man who is about to die without offspring has sufficient justification to marry again. As we have seen (Tale 20, n. 10), public pressure against polygyny is strong. A man with a wife and male children has no justification for taking another woman; indeed, his action might be interpreted as a desire for sex, a shameful motive. Considering the absolute importance accorded to male children, however, social pressure itself might in fact cause a man without offspring to become sick unto death—for in a way, such a man is already dead before his physical demise. People say, "What a shame! He's going to die without having left children behind" (ya haram, biddo y-mut bala ma y-xallif ).


to him, "Look here, I'll come out of your nose, and you will get well. But will you take me for your wife? I'm from the jinn (In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful!), and I must be free to do with your wives as I see fit."[4] He wanted to be cured, and thinking he could manage just as well without his other wives, he said, "All right, just come out!"

Out the mosquito jumped, and behold! it was a girl (Praise be to her Creator!) so beautiful she took one's mind away. "These wives of yours," she said, "where am I going to send them?"

"You're free," he answered.

"I want to pluck their eyes out, and you will put them in a well and send them only a pitcher of water and a loaf of bread every day."

"So be it!" he said.

She gouged out their eyes and put them in a bottle which she sent to her jinn family for safekeeping, then she had the women thrown into a well. The king married her.

By Allah, it turned out (so our tale comes out right)[5] that his three wives were all pregnant.[6] The first gave birth, and by Allah, she delivered a boy. "Are we going to let him live like this?" asked the others. "Let's eat him." His mother divided him, giving a piece to each of them and eating two-thirds of him herself. One of the women found she did not have the heart to eat her piece, and since it would not have filled her anyway, she saved it. When the second gave birth, they did the same thing. When the third gave birth, she said, "Why for Allah's sake don't we save this boy? He might be helpful to us."

"Impossible!" objected the others. "We divided up our children, and yours is to remain alive?"

"Give me back the leg I gave you!" demanded one.

[4] In giving the new wife a jinn origin, the tale further excuses the man by transferring the guilt he would feel at marrying again from himself to her. When a man takes a new wife, people frequently talk about how unfair (zulum ) it is to the old wife, who had served and taken care of him. Anticipating the inevitable conflict with her co-wives, then, the wife here protects herself ahead of time.

[5] On the storyteller's interjections, Tale 5, n. 8.

[6] Palestinian folk strongly believe that if a woman cannot bear children and the husband takes a new wife, they will get pregnant at the same time. A popular proverb says, "If not for jealousy, the princess wouldn't have gotten pregnant" (lolo l-gire ma hiblit il-'amire ).


"Give me back the shoulder!" said the other.

"Here!" she said to them. "You take back the leg, and you the shoulder. As for me, I want to keep my son. Who knows but Allah? He might be useful to us."[7]

A day went and a day came, and the boy grew up, his three mothers nursing him. What else would you expect from the child of a tale? He grew up in no time at all. And no sooner did he start crawling than he began to dig a hole at the bottom of the well. As he grew bigger, the hole became larger. One day he looked, and lo! the hole he had made led to his father's kitchen. He would then go into the kitchen and take meat, rice, and whatever else he could find, tying it all in a bundle and stealing away to feed his mothers. After that, he would take a handful or two of salt, dump it into the pot, and turn his back.[8]

Now, the king would fire one cook and hire another, but it was no use. Then they said, "Let's keep watch. Maybe somebody sneaks into the kitchen and puts salt in the food." One day the cook caught him red-handed. "All right," he said. "You're taking the food. But what makes you do this?" Word was sent to the king, and he said, "Bring him to me!"

"Why did you do that?" the king asked when the boy was brought in.

"Why not?" answered the boy. "Why did you have their eyes plucked out and then have them dropped into the well? I'm their son."

"So!" they all exclaimed. "The king has a son!" They called him Bear-Cub of the Kitchen, and from then on it was, "Here comes Bear-Cub of the Kitchen!" and "There goes Bear-Cub of the Kitchen!" After that he took food and water to his mothers, and looked after all their needs.

His father's wife became jealous of him.

"O my head!" she complained. "O my arms! O my legs!"

"What do you need?" asked the king, and she answered, "I want pomegranates from Wadi is-Sib." (Whoever goes to this wadi never comes back alive.)[9]

"And who would dare go to Wadi is-Sib?" asked the king.

"Send Bear-Cub of the Kitchen," she answered.

[7] Although the teller does not specify which wife says this, the social context would indicate it was the eldest. By saving her son to serve them, she gains an advantage over them. On the utilitarian view of children, cf. Tale to, n. 7; see Tale 40, n. 5.

[8] Putting salt in the food creates conflict between a husband and his new wife, for it gives the man the impression that his wife cannot cook.

[9] Wadi is-Sib, the name of an imaginary location, may be translated as the "Valley of Oblivion." Cf. Tale 36, n. 2.


Bear-Cub of the Kitchen went, and somehow came back and brought pomegranates. And what! All hell broke loose. "Bear-Cub of the Kitchen has gone to Wadi is-Sib and come back safely!" they all shouted.

Now, his father's wife—how frustrated she felt! She was ready to crack. "What am I going to do?" she asked herself. "This time I want to send him to the region where my people live. They'll kill him for sure, and he won't come back."

"O my heart!" she moaned. "O my this, O my that!" and I don't know what else.

"What's the matter?" asked her husband.

"I want Bear-Cub of the Kitchen to bring me medicine from such and such a place."

"Go, son," said the father.

Bear-Cub of the Kitchen gathered himself together and went. Allah helping him from above, he found her entire family—her mother, father, and brothers—gone. There was no one left in the palace except a little girl with a mass of disheveled hair as big as this.

"Where's your family?" he asked.

"They've gone out," she answered.

Looking this way and that, he spied some bottles on the shelf.

"Well," he said, "what's in these bottles?"

"In this one," she answered, "is my mother's soul, and in that one is my father's. This one here contains the soul of my brother So-and-So, and that one there has the soul of my sister who lives in such and such a place."

"And these that sparkle," he asked, "what are they?"

"These," she answered, "are the eyes of my sister's co-wives, who live in such and such a place."[10]

"And what will cure these eyes?"

"The medicine in this bottle," she replied. "If the eyes are rubbed with some of this medicine, they'll stay in place and will be cured."

"Fine," he said. "And what are these ropes here for?"

"Whoever takes hold of these ropes can take the palace and the orchard with him wherever he wants."

"And this small bottle over here," he continued, "what's in it?"

"This is my soul," she answered.

[10] Although the English word co-wife is connotationally neutral, the Arabic zurra (pl. zarayir ) is derived from the root darra , meaning, "to harm." See Tale 20, n. 10.


"Good," he said. "Wait a moment and let me show you."

First he cracked her soul, then the souls of her brother, mother, and father. Then, taking hold of the ropes, he headed home from the direction of Bab il-Hawa.[11] What clouds of dust he raised! You might have thought two or three hundred horsemen were on their way. The whole town rushed out, and what a commotion there was! When he came closer, they exclaimed, "But this is Bear-Cub of the Kitchen, and he's brought the palace, the orchard, and everything else with him!"

His father's wife looked out her window, and behold! there was her family's palace. You couldn't mistake it. And how her eyes sparkled! Her soul was in his hand.

"Come here!" he said. "Just like you plucked out my mothers' eyes and then left them in the well, right now I'm going to crack your neck."

He cracked her neck. Then, bringing his mothers out of the well, he took them down to the bath and put their eyes back in place. They were cured. He took his place by his father's side, and the wives came back just as they had been before.

Its bird has flown, and now for another one!

The Woman Whose Hands Were Cut Off

TELLER: May Allah bless the Prophet!
AUDIENCE: Allah bless him!

There was a man whose wife had given birth to a daughter and a son and then died. One day the man himself died, and the children remained alone.

They had a hen that laid an egg every day. They would eat the egg for breakfast and wait till the following day. It so happened one day that the hen stopped laying. "I must go check inside the coop," said the girl to herself. She went down into the coop to search the straw, and behold! she found a pile of eggs, and under it was all her father's money. Her father, it turned out, had been saving his money under the straw in the chicken coop. "Here, brother," she said when he came home, "I've found the

[11] Bab il-Hawa is literally "Gate of the Wind." in the hilly regions of Palestine, where most villages and towns are located on hilltops (as is the village of Turmus`ayya, district of Ramallah, where this tale was collected), the approach to the town is always through the valley. The western breeze blows up these valleys from the Mediterranean. Cf. the first poem in Tale 21; see Tale 5, n. 5; Footnote Index, s.v. "Geography."


new place where the hens been laying eggs." She did not tell him about the money. They brought the eggs out and ate one every day.

One day, when the boy had grown up a little, she asked him, "If someone were to show you the money saved by your mother and father, what would you do with it?"

"I'd buy sheep and cattle," he answered.

"Brother," she said to herself, "you're still too young."

Time passed, and she asked again, "If someone were to show you the money saved by your mother and father, what would you do with it?"

"I'd get married," he answered.

"Now you're older and wiser," she said, "and I want to get you married.[1] Such and such is the story."

She took her brother with her, and they went searching in this world to find a bride. Before long they came upon a girl living in a house all by herself.[2] The lad married her, and she became pregnant and gave birth first to a girl. In the middle of the night, the woman got up, devoured her daughter, and smeared the lips of her sleeping sister-in-law with blood. When they woke up in the morning, she said to her husband, "Your sister's a ghouleh, and she has eaten our daughter. Come take a look at her lips."

"Why did you eat the girl?" he went and asked his sister.

"By Allah, brother," she answered, "I didn't eat her."

The young man did not say anything. He just waited.

The following year, his wife gave birth to a boy, and she got up in the middle of the night and ate him, again smearing her sister-in-law's lips with blood. Becoming suspicious of his sister, the brother did not say anything to her. "I must kill her," he said in his mind.

In a few days he said to her, "Come, let's you and I go into the countryside." When they had gone some distance, he sat her down under a tree by a well and said, "So, this is how you treat me, eating my children!"

"By Allah, brother," she answered, "I didn't eat them."

Drawing his sword, he cut off her hands and her feet, and she called down a curse upon him: "Brother, may a thorn get stuck in your foot that no one can pull out." Allah heard her prayer, and a thorn got stuck in his foot on his way home. As he approached the house, he found his wife

[1] For a discussion of the motherly role of the sister, see Tale 7, n. 4.

[2] We have here an indication that something very unusual is going on, for, although old women may live by themselves, girls in village society are simply not permitted to do so. Cf. Tale 42, n. 3.


chasing after a rooster and realized she was a ghouleh.[3] Not daring to go in, he ran back the way he had come.

Now we go back to his sister. As she was sitting by the mouth of the well, lo! a female snake came up to her panting and puffing with fear. "Hide me," she begged, and the girl hid her under her dress. In a while a he-snake showed up puffing and asked her, "Have you seen a she-snake?"

"Yes," she answered. "There, she's fallen into the well."

The male dropped himself into the well, and the female, coming out from under the girl, called after him, "Explode! Here I am!" The male burst and died. The female, meanwhile, rubbed like this on the girl's stumps, and her hands came back as before. She then rubbed the girl's legs, and her feet came back as they had been. Then the girl went her way. She found a husband, got married, and had children.

One day her brother, who had been wandering around looking for someone to pull the thorn from his foot, but without success, came to his sister's doorstep. He did not realize it was his sister's house, but the moment she saw him she recognized him, while he had not recognized her. She had in the meantime said to her children, "When a man who limps comes by here, keep asking me, 'Mother, tell us the story of the man who cut off his sister's hands and feet.'"

"What's your problem, uncle?" she asked, calling him over.

"There's a thorn in my foot," he answered, "and nobody's been able to pull it out."

"Come here and let me see," she said, and doing with the pin like this, behold! the thorn jumped over there. Rising to his feet, he kissed her hands.

"Stay and have dinner with us," she said.[4]

He sat down to eat, and the children said again and again, "Mother, tell us the story of the man who cut off the hands and feet of his sister." The mother began to tell the tale, and at the end she said to them, "I'm the one whose hands and feet were cut off, and this man here's your uncle."

The moment he heard this, they all got up and hugged each other.[5]

The bird has flown, and a good night to all!

[3] For a similar situation involving a ghouleh chasing a rooster, see Tale 6, nn. 7, 8.

[4] For "dinner" (gada ), see Tale 14, n. 10.

[5] The sister forgives her brother, even though he does her harm. Cf. afterword to Group I, "Siblings"; see the section on brother/sister relationships in the Introduction, "The Tales and the Culture."


N`ayyis (Little Sleepy One)[1]

TELLER: Once there was a king—and Allah's the only true King. Let him who has sinned say, "I beg Allah for forgiveness!"
AUDIENCE: May God grant us remission from our sins!

Once there was a king who had an only son and no other. His name was N`ayyis, Little Sleepy One, and his father loved him very much and indulged him. One day the daughter of the king of the jinn fell in love with him and stole him away from his father.[2] There was no place left in the world where the king did not ask about his son, but he could not find him.

In that country there were three girls who were spinners. They used to spin their wool, sell it, and eat from what they earned. When they grew sleepy while spinning at night, they would sing:

"O N`ayyis[3]
Go away from here!
To us you're no cousin
Or a brother dear.
Go to the princess instead
She will clothe and indulge you
And keep you well fed."

Now, there were scouts in the town searching for the son of the king, and they heard the song of the spinners. To the king they rushed and said, "O Ruler of the Age, we've found your son!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, we've found him!" they answered. "We heard a gift sing:

'O N`ayyis
Go away from here!

[1] The name N`ayyis, the diminutive form of na`s ("sleepiness"), is not used for children. Here the use of the word is deliberately ambiguous (see n. 3, below).

[2] in the Palestinian patrilineal family system, the children belong to the father. This tale was used as an example in the Introduction to elucidate the relationship between father-in-law and son's wife. For lore concerning the jinn, see Hanauer, Folklore : 140-157, esp. 140-143, where a story of a similar disappearance is offered. For other references, see Tale 36, n. 3.

[3] Here "N`ayyis" means "Little Sandman." The double meaning of this word (as a child's name, "Little Sleepy One," and as "Little Sandman") creates the basic semantic confusion on which the tale is based.


To us you're no cousin
Or a brother dear.
Go to the princess instead
She will clothe and indulge you
And keep you well fed.'"

"Ah, yes!" exclaimed the king. "This must be my son."

"Go, bring the girls!" The order was given, and the guards went and brought the first one.

"Young woman," said the king, "do you know N`ayyis?"

"Yes, my lord," she answered. "He comes to me every night."

"Good," they said to her and brought her to live in the palace, where servants and attendants waited on her. She ate and drank her fill, doing no work and feeling no fatigue, and stopped feeling sleepy. When two or three nights had gone by, they asked her, "Young woman, have you seen N'ayyis?"

"No, by Allah," she answered, "I haven't seen him in a couple of nights."

The king married her to his cook and sent after the second one.

"Young woman," he asked, "do you know N'ayyis?"

"Yes, my lord. Day and night he's with us."

They bathed and clothed her and put her in the palace where she lived in bliss and comfort. When she had rested and slept enough, she stopped feeling sleepy.

"Have you seen N`ayyis, young lady?" the king asked.

"No, by Allah, my Lord," she answered, "I haven't seen him in two or three days."

The king married her to the baker.

"Have you been seeing N`ayyis, young woman?" the king asked the third girl when they had brought her.

"Yes, my lord. Every night I see him."

They did with her as they had done with her sisters, settling her in the palace. She turned out to be more clever than her sisters. Every time they asked her, "Did you see N`ayyis, young woman?" she would answer, "Yes, my lord. Every night I see him."

For a month, two, three, four, she said she had seen him every night. Finally the king said to his wife, "Take this pair of bracelets. Give them to her, and ask her to pay for them. If she can come up with the money, then she really has been seeing N`ayyis. If not, then she's a liar."


"Here, young woman," the wife said, "take this pair of bracelets and bring me their price from N`ayyis."

"Yes, my lady," replied the girl.

That night, she sat up in bed, crying and calling out:

"O N`ayyis
Go away from here!
To us you're no cousin
Or a brother dear.
Your father has given me
This pair of bracelets
How am I to pay the treasury
The price of this jewelry?"[4]

And how she cried! When she had called out three times, lo! a voice said, "The key's in the wardrobe, and the wardrobe's full of treasure. Reach in and take what you want." Opening the wardrobe, she took out the price of the bracelets, laughing happily.

"Here, uncle," she said, "take the price of the bracelets."

"So," thought the king, "it's true, my son's still alive."

She had stayed another three, four months (Allah knows how long!) when the king brought her a ting.

"Bring me the price of this ring from N`ayyis," he said.

"Right away, my lord," she answered and went back to her bed, crying and calling out:

"O N`ayyis
Go away from here!
To us you're no cousin
Or a brother dear.
Your father has given me
This ring
And how am I to pay the king
The price of this precious thing?"

Again the voice said, "The key's in the wardrobe, and the wardrobe's full of treasure. Reach in and take what you want!" Taking out the price of the ring, she gave it to her uncle.

[4] Some liberty was taken with the song's last line in order to preserve the rhyme. Rendered literally, it would read: "And where am I going to reach for its price?" (u-haqqo mnen atul ).


One day N`ayyis himself came up to see her and said, "Young woman, my wife's pregnant, and you must stuff your dress with rags and pretend you're pregnant until nine months are up."

Wrapping a bandage around her head, she made a point of going to see her uncle every once in a while.

"Uncle, I'm pregnant."[5]

"Yes, daughter. What do you want?"

She said she wanted a piece of liver, and he brought her three.[6]

"O uncle, I want squabs. O uncle, I want this, and I want that," she kept asking. Whatever N`ayyis's wife down below craved, the girl would ask the king for. Then N`ayyis would come and take it to his wife below.

Her pregnancy over, the jinn wife gave birth first to a boy.

"Here, young lady," said N`ayyis. "Take this baby and hide it inside your underwear. Then cry out, 'Mother, I've given birth!'"

Putting the baby in her undergarments, the girl came to the top of the stairs.

"Master!" she cried out. "I've had the baby."

"In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful!" exclaimed the king.

Bringing the baby out, they washed and dressed him. Then they looked after her, wrapping a bandage around her head and putting her to bed.

She brought the boy up, and how handsome he was—the son of royalty! The king was crazy about him.

The jinn wife became pregnant again, and the girl did as before. The wife gave birth to a boy, and the girl took him and hid him in her underwear.

"Uncle, I've given birth!" she cried out. "Mistress, I've given birth!"

They spoiled her more and more, giving her four wet nurses to help her. What can you say? She was now a queen!

The wife became pregnant and delivered a third time, giving birth to a

[5] A wife normally addresses her father-in-law as "uncle" (`ammi).. Here, however, the woman's situation in the king's household is ambiguous. She calls the king "uncle" when announcing her pregnancy, but at other times she addresses him as sidi ("sir" or "master").

The tale here abridges the process of announcing the pregnancy to the king. Normally, a pregnant woman would first tell her mother-in-law or sister-in-law, and they in turn would make sure the news reached the father or father-in-law. Cf. Tale 24, n. 10

[6] Pregnant women are accorded special treatment. They are offered what is considered to be heavy and nourishing food, mostly meat, especially the internal organs of lamb (cf. Tale 2, n. 2). See Footnote Index, s.v. "Pregnancy And Childbirth."


girl. And the same thing that had happened with the two boys also happened with the girl.

One day N`ayyis came up, bringing her three candles, and said, "During the call to prayer on Thursday evening, light these candles." On Thursday evening, she did just as he had said, putting one boy on this side of her, the other on the other side, with the girl in the middle, and lit the three candles.[7] When the jinn wife saw her, she cried out, "Alas! Alas! The human woman has done me in!" And she exploded and died.

"May you never rise again!" N`ayyis cursed her, tearing down the palace over her and coming back up again.

"Master, come see N`ayyis!" shouted the spinner girl. "Mistress, come see N`ayyis! Hurry! Hurry!"

When they rushed down to see their son, he said, "I was married to a jinn woman, and these children of mine are from her. But if it weren't for this girl here, by Allah, I would never have come back. I want to marry her."

They had a wedding celebration that lasted seven days and seven nights. Music was playing and people were dancing. Our master married our mistress—and may every year find you in good health!

AUDIENCE : And may Allah save your tongue!


The general theme that unites the tales in this group is that of conflicting · loyalties. The conflict usually centers on the male and arises out of his responsibilities as the head of his own household or as a member of an

[7] Thursday evening (lelt il-jim`a )—literally, "The night of Friday"—extends from sunset Thursday to sunrise Friday. Because Friday is the Muslim holy day, its onset the night before is considered a propitious time for the performance of religious duties and the granting of wishes and prayers. Actually, candles are not lit in any Islamic rites; it is therefore interesting to note that the narrator of this tale is a Christian woman from Gaza.

Exorcism is frequently practiced among Palestinian folk for the cure of minor illnesses, especially those affecting children that are thought to have been caused by the evil eye. One common method of driving out the evil spirit causing the illness would be for the child's mother or grandmother to put a piece of alum on the fire and, as it bubbles and smokes, to pass her hand over it and then over the affected part of the body while reciting a precise formula. Cf. Tale 35, nn. 18, 19.


extended family. In the last tale in the group, "N`ayyis," the source of the conflict is not so much the responsibility a mature man must shoulder but rather the duty a young son owes his parents by remaining within the fold of the extended family.

"Chick Eggs" and "Bear-Cub of the Kitchen" demonstrate the potential for divided loyalties in a polygynous situation. In the first the man must attend both to his present wife and to his daughter, who represents her own mother in the household. In the second the aging king's loyalty is divided between his older wives, who unite to fight the beautiful new wife; she in turn protects herself by taking revenge ahead of time. In both tales the husband is emotionally manipulated by the wife, either through the children ("Chick Eggs") or by pretended sickness ("Bear-Cub"). And here again, as in all the other tales embodying a polygynous situation (Tales 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 20, and 35), the first wife, either directly or through her children, is vindicated against those who follow her.

In "The Ghouleh of Trans-Jordan" and "The Woman Whose Hands Were Cut Off" the source of the conflict is the extended family. The man in the first tale is caught between his conjugal family (his wife) and his natal family (his supposed aunt), and he chooses at his peril to align himself with the latter against the former. In "The Woman Whose Hands Were Cut Off," somewhat the reverse situation obtains, with the man choosing to believe his wife over his sister. In either case the male is in a difficult situation vis-à-vis the females for whom he is responsible. Predictably, however (cf. Tales 7, 8, 9), the sister in the latter tale is honest and kind to her brother, forgiving him even before he asks for forgiveness and welcoming him into her own family.

Despite the supernatural machinery, the conflict in "N`ayyis" is also between natal and conjugal families. In this tale, as in "Lolabe" (Tale 18), the parents have an only son who is torn from them by supernatural forces, and in both cases these forces are overcome so that the son may return to his family. In "Bear-Cub," the teller presents the beautiful woman who wrests the king from his wives and his three sons in the metaphorical guise of the jinn. In "N`ayyis," however, no transitional devices are provided to help mediate the connection between jinn and human in the mind of the listener; the teller endows the jinn wife with an absolute existence, separate from that of the human domain, and the listener must make the imaginative leap between the two domains unaided.


We may therefore conclude that the jinn wife in "N`ayyis" is a very beautiful woman who captivated the son to such an extent that she made him renounce his parents. The implicit moral to be drawn from all three tales is that the bond between the son and his parents (particularly when he is an only child) is, or should be, so strong that it would take a supernatural power to break it.



Preferred Citation: Muhawi, Ibrahim, and Sharif Kanaana. Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.