The Girl and the Lion
Narrated by Degen Ali Adem
Once upon a time there was a man who was engaged to a girl. He had an appointment with the girl’s family to bring the dowry. But on the way to go to the village, taking the dowry cows and oxen, one of the cows was caught by a lion. Then the cow was bellowing.
“What caught my cow?” said the man.
“A real man caught it,” answered the lion.
“What?” answered the man, “Are you more of a man than me? How can you eat my cow? I’m not going to let you get away with this.”
So they fought. The lion was down and the man was on top.
The lion said, “The only reason you got me down was because you have a right hand. It’s not fair. I don’t have one. Cut your right hand and we’ll try again.”
So the man cut his right hand and they fought again. Again the lion was under the man.
The lion said, “Oh, the reason is, you have a left hand. Cut your left hand.”
So the man cut his left hand and tried again, but this time he fell down and the lion ate him.
Then the lion put on his clothes and took the cattle to the village.
The bride’s family was waiting and they sang and ululated, “Oh the man has come with the dowry!”
So they took him into a room and he sat down there. Then the girl, her name was Fatima and she was the only girl, entered the house and they sat together. And food was cooked and meat, and they took the meat to the lion, who was dressed as the bridegroom. The lion refused it.
“This is not for me,” he said.
So they fried the meat and made a spicy dish.
“No,” said the lion, “This is not mine.”
“What is it that you want?”
“Uncooked meat is mine.”
“OK, give him uncooked.”
They were shy, because he was new to the village, so they gave him the uncooked meat.
When they wanted to sleep, he said, “This bed isn’t mine.”
“What do we have to do?
He said, “Please change the bed.”
She changed it to sticks. When they slept together, he showed his fur.
“Oh! The fur! You have fur!” said the bride.
“This is my fur,” he said.
Then she jumped up and went to her father and said, (in a song),
You have given me to a wild animal.
This is not a man!
I have seen his fur.”
The father was very angry.
“This is not possible. Go back to your husband.”
“But Father, it’s true!”
“Very well, we’ll test him. Tomorrow, the whole village must move in search of grass and water. Everyone will start when they hear the shout, ‘The time has come!’ If he doesn’t make the shout, I will know he’s a wild animal. But now it’s shameful. I can’t go and check inside my daughter’s house. But if he can’t say, ‘The time has come!’ I will act.”
Now the lion had followed the girl and was listening outside the house, but the girl didn’t see him. She went to her husband’s house quietly.
Early in the morning, while everyone was still asleep, the lion shouted,
“Why is the village not moving?
Why is the village asleep?
The time has come.”
So the father heard him and thought, “Oh, what a stupid girl is my daughter! This is a real man, not a wild animal. She is telling a lie.”
The whole village was preparing to move from here to another place.
The lion said, “Where are you moving to?"
“To another place.”
“No,” said the lion, “I am moving my family to my relatives in a separate place.”
“OK,” they said, “You are free. It’s your right. Go to your family’s place.”
So the lion said, “You, girl, we don’t both guide the camel. One rides on it and one guides it. So do you want to ride or guide?”
“No, I will guide.” she said. “If you are tired, you go up.”
So he goes up there on the camel. But when he was on the camel, he bit the camel’s hump.
“Aaargh!” says the camel.
“What happened to the camel?” says the girl.
“He’s shocked. He doesn’t like your black scarf.”
“Is that right? I’ll take it off.”
So she took it off. Again the lion bit the hump.
“What happened to the camel?”
“Oh, he hated your bracelets and necklace.”
She took them off. Again he bit.
“What happened to the camel?”
“He doesn’t like your dress.”
So she took off her dress and became bare. So they went on and reached a bare, empty place. No one was there.
“We will settle here,” he said.
So she put up her Somali nomadic house and they slept there.
He said, “I go to my relatives and check where they are. Please stay here. I will come back. When I am coming back, if you hear ‘gogobuk, gogbuk’, I have brought camels. If you hear ‘chackaka, chackaka’, I have brought goats. If you hear ‘chomp, chomp”, I have brought cows.”
“OK, I will wait,” she said, and he went away.
She was alone. She thought, “This is not a man. He is a wild animal. And maybe he will bring other wild animals who will eat me. I can’t live with wild animals. What can I do? I can’t go back to my family because they will not believe me and they will feel ashamed.”
So she cut her little finger and put it in the mortar and ran away. She ran and ran and ran and ran, and found a dead tree inside a lake. At one side the water was very deep. She took a rope and climbed up and into the tree. When she climbed up the lion brought all the wild animals, the snake, the hyena and all of them to the house. But they found Fatima wasn’t there. Only her finger was in the mortar.
“Fatima! Fatima!” called the lion.
No, she wasn’t there.
The lion was very angry. All the animals were with him. He broke the door.
The little finger shouted, “Fatima is not here! She ran away!”
The lion ate the finger.
The rat (begele) said, “I know where she went.”
“You, begele, you know?”
“Yes, I have seen where she went. There is a tree in the lake.”
“Can you show us?”
All the animals followed the begele, an animal which looks like a rat.
“Oh, look, Fatima is there, in the tree.”
“Oh! You, Fatima! Please come down.”
“I will not. You will have to come up to me.”
“How can we go up?”
“You must take the rope and I’ll pull you.”
“So who’ll come first?
“I’m her husband,” said the lion. “She’ll take me first.”
“OK, take the rope.”
So the lion took the rope but when he was half way up, the girl cut the rope and he fell into the water and drowned.
Another said, “She is my ‘demashi’ – my brother’s wife. She’ll take me up. She won’t cut the rope for me.”
But she cut.
One by one, all the animals tried to climb, but she cut and cut. She became alone.
Then a bird has come. She had only one wing. She was hungry.
She said, “Please, girl, can you give me a date from the tree to eat?”
“I will give you a date if you will go to my family and give them a message.”
“All right. What message?”
“Say, ‘Your daughter Fatima is crying on that tree.’”
Then she gave the date to the bird, who had only one wing. The bird flew to the village on one wing and she found Fatima’s mother making butter.
She sang, “You woman, churning the butter, your daughter is in the dead tree on the lake and crying, saying ‘Ohe o byo. Hoge o bayo’ (what women say when they cry). What kind of butter are you making, bad woman, while your daughter is crying?”
“What did you say?”
“This bird has only one wing, she doesn’t know anything, but I will say, what kind of woman are you, making your butter when your daughter needs help?”
“What’s this bird doing?” said the wife.
The bird went to the father. He was sewing shoes.
“What bad thing are you doing when your daughter is crying in that tree on the lake, saying ‘Hoge o bayo'? Why you don’t give help? The bird has only one wing. She doesn’t know anything, but why don’t you give help to your daughter?”
“What is this stupid bird?” he said.
Then the bird went to a brother who was herding cattle.
“What bad cattle you are herding! Your sister needs help. She is in the dead tree in the lake. The bird with one wing doesn’t know anything, but I will tell you that your sister needs you.”
Then the brothers, father and mother all come together and say, “What was the bird telling us? That tree on the lake. Let’s go and check.”
So they all went to check that tree to see if it was true. And they found the daughter, who was their only daughter.
The mother called, “My only daughter, she told us, her husband was an animal and not a man. Maybe she has got a problem. I will check.”
So they went under the tree and shouted, “You, Fatima, come down.”
“I will not. You gave me to a wild animal. I am angry with you. I am helpless. I will die. I will not go down.”
“Why not?” each one begged.
“No. No. I will not go down.”
Then the mother said, “You are my only daughter. Please come down. I will help you. We were mistaken.”
Lastly they say, “What do we do?”
The youngest brother, the little boy said, “I will pray to Allah.”
So he prayed and said, “Allah, this tree has to fall down and my sister must fall down. And may she lose only the little finger from her right hand, no other damage.”
So he begged Allah, and the tree fell down and she had only lost her little finger. So she forgave them and they took her back to the village.
When they got there, the mother said, “Fatima, please help me and make the butter.”
“Where must I do it? Inside the house?”
“No, it’s not possible.”
“In the cattle’s house?”
“No, it’s not possible. Where do you want to do it?”
“I want to do it on the roof of the house. Is that possible?”
“That’s the only place for me.”
“OK, if you have to do it, go there.”
So she took the butter churn up to the roof of the house. The milk was in the churn, and while she was churning a big wind came, and it snatched up the girl and the butter churn and they flew up into the sky. The father and mother saw.
The mother shouted, “Wind, take the girl, but leave my butter churn!”
The father shouted, “Wind, take the churn but leave the girl!”
The wind left the churn but took the girl and dropped her down in the bush. She became two carved sticks. A boy who was herding camels found them.
“Oh, a good stick,” he said, and picked one up and tried to beat the camel.
As soon as he tried to beat the camel, the stick entered the camel. Again he took the other stick and tried to beat the camel, but at once the stick went inside the camel.
When he took the camels to the village, he told his father he had found two beautiful sticks and had beaten the camel and now they are in the camel.
The father said, “Are you telling the truth?”
“If you are telling a lie, I will kill you.”
“OK, kill me.”
The father said, “I will find the stick.”
He cut the camel’s throat and opened it up, but the sticks darted about in the camel’s body, hiding from him and the man couldn’t find them. In a furious rage he killed his boy, who was his only son.
At once the two sticks flew out of the camel and up the tree calling, “I made you have no boy and no milk (that camel was the only one with milk). I made you have no milk and no boy.”
That’s the end.
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