The Hyena’s Cruelty
Narrated by Metekia Libri
Introductory phrase in the Ari language used at the start of a story:
(Let’s narrate the old stories)
A husband and wife had a son and a daughter. They were wealthy but they died and the children became orphans. They looked after the cattle, and they ate whatever they could find. The hyena every day comes and prepares enseteEnsete or enset, also known as “false banana”, is an important root crop in southern Ethiopia. food and leaves it there for them to eat. So whenever they came home they got that food prepared by the hyena and ate it for supper.
“Who is doing this for us?” they wondered.
The son said, “We must know who prepares this food for us. Why don’t you go and look after the cattle and I’ll hide myself in the ensete and see who it is?”
And so they did as they agreed.
The hyena came out at the usual hour and he saw and heard a strange thing. The hyena was a magician. Whenever she wanted a kitchen utensil, knife or spoon, she calls them and they say, “Here I am,” and they come to her themselves.
“Shilim (knife in the Ari language), where are you?”
“Here I am. I’m coming to you.”
The chopper. The ladle. The pot of butter. It didn’t take her long to prepare the meal.
The boy was surprised because he had expected a human being. He was so afraid he wet himself.
The hyena looked up and saw him.
“Come down off the tree,” she told him.
He was so afraid, he came down.
By the time the girl was coming the hyena was hidden in the next room.
When the girl came with her cattle, the girl, seeing the food, asked who prepared it and the boy called the hyena to come out of the next room, and said to the girl, “She did it.”
“Let’s marry and live together. I will feed you like this,” the hyena said to the boy.
And she slept with him that night.
On the morrow the brother and sister discussed the marriage proposal which the hyena had made.
“The hyena has asked me to marry her,” the boy said. “How can we live with a hyena feeding us? We don’t want this.”
So they decided to run away.
“Let’s go to the forest and pray to God and keep the cattle there.”
And so, pretending to bring the cattle to the grazing land, they drove them into the forest, leaving the hyena behind. They hid the cattle in the forest and went to join their friends.
So the hyena transformed herself into a woman and came to their friends’ place. She had a long, thin rod in her hand.
“One who breaks this wooden rod can marry me,” she said.
They all tried to break it, and couldn’t.
Then the boy tried and it broke.
“So I’ll marry you,” she said.
He didn’t know it was the hyena. They married and they were living together with the sister with them.
One day the sister had gone to a neighbour’s place to sleep and the boy was sleeping. His wife (the hyena) was putting a sharpened iron metal poker into the charcoal fire, to heat it, and to put it into the man and kill him.
A rat came out of her hole and said, “The red-hot poker! A red-hot poker is being prepared for you! Wake up! She’s going to kill you!”
The husband woke up and the evil hyena said, “Kill the rat! Kill the rat!”
The husband hadn’t heard the rat so he killed her.
A chicken came and said, “A red-hot poker! A red-hot poker is being prepared for you! Wake up! She’s going to kill you!”
“Slaughter this chicken! Slaughter this chicken!” the hyena said, and so he did. He didn’t understand.
So the hyena killed him with the red-hot poker. She hid his body in the ensete.
When his sister came, the hyena pretended to be sick.
“Your brother has gone to the market, so you eat this meal,” and she gave her the ensete.
She gave her the food and she ate it. She suspected it was poisoned because she feared her, but she ate it anyway, and it was all right.
So the hyena woman said she would go and look for medicine, still pretending to be sick, but in fact she went to call her family to come and eat the corpse of the boy.
“Grind this tefA grain grown in the highlands of Ethiopia. until I come,” she told the girl and went out. “Don’t go out of this house. Just grind.”
She took a hair out of her own vagina and made it a key, and tied the bolt so that it couldn’t be opened. The girl couldn’t come out.
A rat came and told her, “She has killed your brother and is calling her relatives to come and eat him.”
She was warning her.
“And she’s also going to kill you. Bring a hollow stick (gulo) in which you will put the blood of your brother.”
She opened the door for her. The girl escaped with the blood in her gourd.
Then all the other hyenas came. The girl had gone. The hyena searched the whole house but the girl wasn’t there. Leaving her relatives behind, the hyena followed the girl.
The girl met a colobus monkey on the way.
“Are you frightened?” asked the colobus.
“Yes, the hyena is chasing me to eat me.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll drive her back. You just go on your way,” the colobus said.
But when the colobus saw the hyena he was so afraid he jumped up into a tree and ran away.
The hyenas were laughing at the fright of the colobus.
The girl went on and she met God sitting on a rock who had split his penis with a knife. He asked her where she was going.
She said the same thing, “The hyena’s following me to eat me.”
“Well, I will make your brother a man again,” said God, when he had heard the whole story. “I’ll bring him back to life. Just give me the blood in the gourd which the rat gave you.”
She gave it to him.
He told her to hide in the bush.
“I know what to do when the hyena comes,” he said.
The hyena came and asked God, “Have you seen a girl passing by?”
God said, “You will find her there,” and he pointed to the edge of the gorge.
She went as he said, and he said, “Jump.”
She jumped into the gorge.
Now God puts the blood into a “gotera” (a wooden grain store lined with dung to keep out the termites), and the blood became a man.
So the boy came out of the gotera and joined his sister and they lived happily together ever after.
So God can do many things. He created the harvest for us.
Concluding phrase in the Ari language used to round off a story:
(I have come to the end of my story)
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