The Wicked Stepmother
Narrated by Merga Debelo
Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who had two daughters, and they were living together happily. Then one day the wife died, so the husband found it difficult to raise the children. So he decided that he should remarry and he went around choosing a bride.
The lady he was going to marry said, “I don’t want any children. I only want to marry you, I want a single man.”
So he really didn’t know what to do, so he hid his two daughters in the greenery and he said to her, “Look, hidden in this greenery rest the souls and spirits of my father and ancestors. Therefore three times a day I want you to throw them food: for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner.”
So they lived like this for some time, throwing the food.
Then one day she went to get her hair cut at the hairdresser and then she said, “Hurry up, I’ve got to go get the food for my husband’s ancestors.”
And the hairdresser said, “No, you’re crazy, it’s his daughters who’ve hidden there, and actually you’re feeding them.”
She became very angry and she boiled a huge pot of hot water and she poured it down the greenery to burn them, but they rushed to one side and the hot water just fell on the chickpeas. So they waited for their father, and they were eating the chickpeas that were cooking in the hot water.
Then, when he came, his wife was very angry and she said, “Look, I want you to get rid of your two daughters, I don’t want to see them, I’ve found out about your secret.”
So she gave them some rations, and he took the children and walked with them to a huge forest, and there were many big trees, oak trees and fig trees.
So he said, “Let’s go to sleep under the trees,” and he slept in between them.
When they were asleep, he got up and put a log in between them, so they could feel his body. And he left them like this in the forest.
Then, after some time, a hyena came and the hyena was very hungry. But, luckily, they were wearing leather clothes. So they tore off small bits and fed them to the hyena until it became dawn.
One of the daughters was clever and one was stupid, and the clever one climbed up the tree and far away she saw a huge house where a wizard was living. He had lots of cattle and was very rich. So when he took his cattle out to graze, the clever one would go into his house and take milk and food to feed her sister and come and live in the tree.
Then one day the stupid sister said, “No, I must also go and steal,” and she went.
But because she was so slow and clumsy, the wizard caught her, and he tied her up in a huge sack, tied to the ceiling and the rafters and went out. But the clever sister was hiding and she saw this, so after he went out she came in and freed her sister. They filled the sack with huge rocks. So in the evening when the wizard came back he poked around and all the rocks fell on him.
So they continued living in the house happily, but it was always the clever one who went out to fetch water and do things. She was fast and agile and quick.
Now one day the stupid one said, “It’s my turn, I must go and fetch the water.”
And when she went to the river, she found two men on the bank who said, “You go home, but you’ve got to drop reeds as you walk along, and we’ll follow the track.”
So they followed her home, and one of the men was stupid and one of them was clever. So the stupid one married the stupid girl and the clever one married the clever girl. So they lived together for some time and both had children.
One day when the clever girl was going out, she said to the stupid one, “Give the child a bath in warm water.”
But the stupid girl boiled the water and put in the child, who burned to death.
And the clever one was so angry that she insulted her sister, and said, “Go away. Move out.”
So the two stupid ones decided to go, and they took their children and some rations, and they left the house. As they were walking by the river the girl was carrying the food and she tried jumping across the river, but she fell and the current took her away.
But the husband thought she had gone away to eat the food by herself, so he threw a stone at her. It hit her head and she started bleeding.
When the water turned red he said, “Look, she’s eating the food and the meat has come to the surface.”
So he jumped in and died.