The Cracked Land of Drought
Narrated by Moge Abdi Omer
Once there was a boy and his mother. She wanted to go to her married daughter, far away from her village. So the mother and son started to walk early in the morning and they walked all day. They took some water and some food to eat and they finished the food on the way. While they were walking, the boy saw that the earth was dry and cracked.
“Why, Mother, is the land cracked?”
She said, “It is thirsty.”
“Oh! We have water. Let’s give it water.”
“But if you give it water, what will you drink when you’re thirsty?”
“No, I’m not thirsty.”
“But you will be thirsty later.”
“But the land is thirsty now,” he said, and he poured all his water on the ground.
They walked and walked and the child became thirsty.
“Mother, please, give me water.”
“What water? I told you, you will have thirst if you pour your water on the cracked earth.”
“But I wasn’t thirsty then and I am thirsty now.”
“But we have no more water in our bottle, and there is none around here.”
They were very hungry also.
Then they saw a house and they said, “Please let us ask at the house to give us water and food.”
The house belonged to a cannibal woman. When they tried to go in, in front of it they found the daughter of the cannibal.
She said, “You, what do you want?”
“We want water. We’re thirsty and hungry. Do you have water?"
“No, we don’t have any water. Please, go far away from here. My mother is a cannibal. Go away because I cannot save you.”
“But please, give us water.”
“No, I have no water.”
But the cannibal’s daughter had been making injeraInjera is a flat, round bread usually made from tef, a grain cultivated in the highlands of Ethiopia. and over the injera batter was a little water.
“Please, give us that to drink. We are very thirsty.”
“OK. Take it.”
She poured it for them and they drank it. Then they started to go. But when they were away from the house the mother came out.
“My daughter, who were you talking to?”
“I think you were talking to someone. And where is the water from the injera?”
“It’s in the batter.”
“But look, this cup is used. You put some of the water from the batter into the cup and you gave it to someone. Tell me the truth.”
“OK. They were a mother and a small boy and they were thirsty and I gave them.”
“Where did they go?”
“They followed the road of the lion.”
The cannibal ran and ran and looked and looked and she climbed a tree and saw nothing.
She ran back and said to her daughter, “You are telling a lie. Tell me the truth or I will eat you.”
“OK. Go to the cattle’s road.”
The same thing happened. The mother ran back furious.
“Why are you telling a lie? Tell the truth.”
So the daughter finally pointed out the real way’s road and said, “The people, they went over there.”
The cannibal ran and ran and she saw them ahead. The woman looked back and saw the cannibal.
She said, “Oh, my son, that is the cannibal woman. What can we do? She is chasing us. Let’s run.”
“No, we will wait, she won’t hurt us.”
The woman caught them up.
“Listen,” she said to them, “you must choose. Shall I eat this arli (a corn – sweet and ripe) or shall I eat k’eren (barley - not so sweet)?”
By arli she meant the boy. By k’eren she meant the woman.
The boy said, “Eat arli, the sweet wheat,” not understanding, but his mother said, “No, no, don’t eat the arli (my son), eat the k’eren (me).”
Then the cannibal ran at the woman and cut off her breasts and the breasts flew up into the sky like birds. And the mother died and the cannibal ate her, but the boy she did not eat. He escaped and he went, he went, he went. He reached to a place near a village and he saw children herding goats.
He said, “You, do you know Anina? She is my sister.”
“We’ll tell you. First you have to find my goat who has run away.”
So he did.
And they said, “Go and ask that cattle herder.”
“You, cattle herder, do you know Anina in the village?”
“I will tell you where Anina is. First bring me back my straying cows.”
So he did.
The man said, “That camel herder will tell you.”
He went to the camel herder.
“You, camel herder, do you know a girl called Anina in this village?”
“First bring back my camel.”
He brought back the camel.
“OK, now ask that farmer.”
So he said to the farmer, “Do you know a girl called Anina?”
“I will tell you. First, work in my field.”
So he worked all day, and when the sun was setting the farmer tapped a sugar tree and syrup poured from it.
“Eat this sweet gum,” he said to the boy.
So the boy put it in his mouth and his teeth stuck together.
“Humph! Hum!” the boy said.
He took the boy to his own house. Now he was the husband of Anina, but he hadn’t wanted to say so because he was suspicious of the boy.
He said to his wife, “This boy has worked for me today. I found him. He can’t talk. Just make him your servant.”
The boy didn’t know that this was her sister, and she didn’t know this was her brother.
She said, “Oh, you boy, go to the well and bring the water in a sieve.”
But he tried and all the water fell out.
Then she gave him a needle and showed him the mortar and said, “Now pound the grain.”
“How can I? It is impossible.”
Then there was a third one which is impossible (I can’t remember).
Then the birds which were his mother’s breasts fly to the village.
“You, Ali, your sister didn’t understand you.
If she knew who you were,
She wouldn’t give you things which cannot hold the water,
She cannot say, use the needle to pound the grain,
She cannot ask the third thing (like cut the meat with a feather).”
Then everyone heard and said, “Every day the birds talk to this boy.”
They told Anina, and said, “Every day birds talk with this boy and say this.”
When she heard this, Anina went to her brother and he told her his mother had died and become birds. And he told how he had asked Anina’s husband, and he had deceived her. And she became very angry with her husband. When he came at night she dug a hole and put fire in it. Then she covered the hole.
“What is this heat?” her husband said.
“I made heat so we don’t feel the cold.”
But he dropped in the fire and he burned, and she killed him and she recognised her brother and the story was finished.
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