Atrasu and Amegag
Narrated by Ibrahim Sharif
A long time ago there lived a man called Atrasu in the city of Harar. He was a tangolenya (a mischief maker) and a thief. But in the city of Harar it was not long before the citizens knew about his character. So wherever he went people began to point their fingers at him.
He thought, “Since my character is well known to the citizens, I’d better leave this town and go to another city where no one knows me.”
So, similarly, another well known thief called Amegag, from another town, decided to leave his town and go to another town.
So Atrasu takes a gourd and fills it with ash and puts a very small amount of honey on top of the ash and started his journey to go and sell it. Amegag also fills a gourd with sand with a small amount of butter on top of it and goes off to sell it in the other town. On their way they met each other swapping towns. After the greetings, Atrasu told Amegag that he was going to the town to sell his honey.
Then Amegag said, “Well, I’m going to the other town to sell my butter and buy honey, so if you don’t mind, I’ll be glad if we can exchange our goods.”
So they agreed, and exchanged their goods. So both of them were happy and felt they had succeeded in cheating someone at last and went their own way.
When they reached their respective houses they opened their goods and to their astonishment found they had been cheated. So they both were angry and decided to go to the place where they exchanged the goods. When they reached that place they met and at once decided to make peace and work together because both of them have now become well-known thieves. So they decided to go to a third town and start work to make a living.
After a long journey they reached a jinn’s house and both found work there. Atrasu was assigned to look after a cow. Amegag was assigned to clean the compound. Then one day Atrasu took the cow out to the fields. Suddenly the cow started to run. So he started to chase and began to zigzag after and spent the whole day running back and forth. At the end of the day the cow stopped. So he took the cow to the house.
Amegag spent the whole day trying to clean the compound by sweeping the ground, but the wind was very strong, so as soon as he finished one area, the wind immediately blew the dust back again. When evening came the wind stopped and he was able to sweep it properly.
While they were sleeping, in the night, Atrasu said, “My work is very easy. I just sit under a tree and watch the cow eating grass.”
Amegag said, “Mine also is even more simple. You just have to sweep the compound once and then I spent the whole day lying down.”
So they decided to change jobs.
The next day Amegag spent the whole day chasing after the cow and came home exhausted and dog-tired. And Atrasu spent the whole day sweeping and picking up and sweeping again in the compound.
When they met in the night, they decided that as the work was so hard they would look for another. But before they left they asked the jinn to pay them their money.
The jinn said, “The money is in a gourd. You just put your hand in and take as much out as you can.”
Atrasu put his hand in the gourd, his fingers were cut. So at once he hid his hand under his arm so Amegag couldn’t see, and said, “I’ve taken my share. Go and take yours.”
When Amegag put his hand in the gourd his fingers were cut and he screamed and shouted, “My fingers are cut! My fingers are cut!”
And he showed his hand to Atrasu and Atrasu showed his fingers too.
So from that day onwards the two mischievous thieves became handicapped for the rest of their lives.