The Story of Adiberga
Narrated by Demelew Beyene
Once there was a beautiful girl called Adiberga. She had four brothers. When they reached puberty, the age of marriage, they wanted to marry a girl as beautiful as their sister. The couldn’t find any beautiful girls like her.
So the three brothers said to one another, “Why should we marry ugly girls who are not as beautiful as our sister?”
Finally they decided and said to the eldest brother, “You marry her.”
The eldest brother was about to marry her. The fourth son was crippled. He loved his sister and she loved him.
When the girl went out to fetch water with her pot, the three older brothers and mother plotted.
They decided that, when she comes, fetching water, through the door, the older brother will put out his leg and hold her up, so that she can’t enter. She will say, 'Why, brother, don’t you put down your legs and let me come in?’ He would say, ‘I am not your brother, I’m your husband.’ Brothers two and three would do the same. She will ask the same question, ‘Brother, why don’t you let me in?’ Two and three would answer, ‘I’m not your brother. I am your brother-in-law.’ The mother will put out her leg and say, ‘I’m not your mother, I’m your mother-in-law.’
So they do this again and again. The fourth brother puts his legs down for her. He’s not a collaborator.
One day the crippled brother says, “My Adiberga, please carry me and take me out to the toilet.”
She took him. When she takes him out and puts him down, he says, “This is a field where tef [an Ethioian food grain] grows. I will not use it as a toilet.”
After that she takes him to a further place, a sorghum field.
“I can’t do it here, to make the sorghum dirty.”
After she took him far away.
“Put me here, my Adiberga. It’s not because I couldn’t get a place to use as a toilet that I told you to carry me. It is because I have smelled the problem that you have.”
“Therefore, what is the problem?” she asks him.
“There is a problem in the family and that’s why they are tripping you up.”
“What is the problem?”
He tells her they want to marry her and he advises her to run away.
She runs away. She sits on a tree near the edge of a river in a deserted place, where she can’t see any people. She lives there.
Now a certain maidservant of a rich man comes to the river to fetch water. When she tries to collect water in the pot, she sees the reflection of a very beautiful girl.
She thinks, “Is it me?”
The maid says, “Why should I fetch water since I have such a beautiful face?”
She broke her pot and went home. Then she changed her mind, afraid that her master would be angry, and went back to the river again with another pot. She saw the same image. Again she said the same thing and broke her pot. Adiberga spat on her from the tree. The maid looked up and saw her.
She ran and told her master, “Master, I saw a very beautiful girl, as charming as St. Mary.”
He didn’t believe her, so he went with her and saw Adiberga. He admired her beauty.
This wealthy man brought two carpets and spread them beneath the tree. In the middle of the carpets he plunges a spear into the ground – the sharp side upwards.
He says, “If you have come with complaints or bad deeds, if you’re running away since you’ve done something bad, or no complaints or grievances from your home, if you have run away, you will fall down on the spear. But if you have come here because you have been badly treated at home like a slave and you’re a good girl, you will fall down on the carpet.”
So she came down on the carpet. He married her. The crippled brother, not knowing where she was, travelling and asking for his sister, came to her house. She’s very rich now. This Adiberga, being the wife of a very rich man, doesn’t come out of the house, because she has many servants.
When the crippled brother reaches the gate, he shakes a tree.
“Who is this man? See who he is,” she ordered her maids.
The maids say, “A man who looks like you.”
She says, “I don’t have any relatives. Who could it be? The only brother I have is crippled. Please go and check.”
Another maid goes to check. She gets the same answer.
“He’s just like you – his teeth, his eyes and so on.”
“Let me see who he is. Bring carpets.”
She walks on them and goes to see him. It’s her brother. They kissed each other.
She said, “Come in,” and took him into the house.
“Now my husband is not at home, but he is a wise man. When he tells you to herd cattle, kill them. When he says kill them, look after them. This is his way of ordering. You must do the opposite. When he tells you to take the cattle to a desert where there is no water, take them to the river and have them drink water.”
So when the husband came, he met his wife's brother. The husband said as she advised.
The wealthy man took a leather sack and put into it the shaved hair of a sheep, a goat, an ox, a cow and a horse and gives him that and says, “Take this and go back to where you came from. When you reach your village, beat the sack with a stick.”
He gave him a certain magic kind of stick. When the brother did as the wealthy man said, out came dozens of oxen, cows, goats, sheep, horses and mules and he went home very wealthy. People wondered.
His brothers asked him, “Where did all these animals come from?”
They were surprised.
He replied, “Our sister, I hunted for her and her husband gave me all this.”
So the oldest wanted to go and get the same reward, like the crippled one did.
When he arrived at Adiberga's house, the maids looked at him.
“This other man also looks like you," they told their mistress.
“Which other relatives do I have?” she says bitterly.
Again they went and told her the same thing.
She said, “Go again and look.”
The same thing.
Finally she went out and it was that evil man. She spat on him. She took him inside. She didn’t give him any advice like she did with the crippled brother. The wealthy man comes. He told him the same thing – take the animals to the desert and kill them.
Then he shaved off the hair of the lion, the elephant, the hyena and the ghosh-bear and gave him a stick and said, “Beat it,” and he did and dozens of wild animals came out of the sack and ate him up.
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