The Mother of Sons
Narrated by Shamis Habib Farah
Once there was a man with two wives in PuntlandThe name "Puntland" comes from “the Land of Punt”, which is mentioned by ancient Egyptian sources. What area was covered by this term is still debated, but it may have been located in Somalia.. His first wife had only girls, but the second wife had only boys. Since the second wife had boys, he liked her and he called her “many poles” (to hold up the roof). But the other he called “woman with house”. Both of them lived side by side. The hut on the right by tradition is the hut of the first wife and the less important wife’s hut is on the left.
So he also closed the door of the first wife, and said, “You have to use the door of the second wife.”
He did this to encourage the second and discourage the first. Then he moved her from the right position on the land to the left. So the priority was given to the second wife.
They were nomads. When she had delivered seven girls and the other had delivered two boys, they had to move from that place as there was no rain and no grass. The man took the horse and the second wife and moved with her to a better place, leaving his first wife and seven daughters alone. He wanted them to die. Let them die.
They were alone, as the whole village had left. But fortunately the rain started at that very place and the grass grew, and they had a few goats and sheep and they lived healthily because God helped them.
The man, according to tradition, goes off and surveys for good grass. Then he comes back to his family and moves them to the new place. While he was searching, he came back to the old place, and found it had rained and there was water and new grass. And it was night, so he didn’t recognise that it was the place where he had left his first family.
He shouted, “Who is living here?”
And his daughter said, “It’s us, your children. Don’t you know us?”
“Oh, you’re here. And you had rain, and you have grass!”
“Yes, we have. So please come in. It is raining. I will make a fire and warm you.”
Then the father sat by the fire and the daughter came to the mother and said, “My father has come but he didn’t come to you. He said only. 'That woman delivers nothing good.' But God may still give you a son. Since he’s alone and he’s not with his second wife, if he wants you don’t be angry. So clean your body and use your perfume.”
So the woman prepared herself and he went to her house and slept with her and she became pregnant. But early in the morning the man went away back to his second wife and he moved her back near his first wife. He didn’t believe she could deliver a son and he didn’t wait for the delivery.
But the second wife saw the pregnancy and mocked and was cruel to the first wife, saying, “She cannot have a son and even this pregnancy is not legal.”
The husband didn’t want to upset his second wife so he didn’t admit he had slept with the first.
But the first wife’s daughter had advised her: "When my father sleeps, take off his ring and take one of his shoes, to prove he has been with you."
So when everyone in the village said, “He was far away and maybe she went with someone else,” the first wife could say, “No, he came to me and here is his ring and his shoe.”
So they admitted it was the husband’s pregnancy.
But the husband said, “Even if the pregnancy is mine, I know it’s a girl.”
And the time came to move. The wife was nine months pregnant and about to give birth. She needed help. But he left her again and went away with the horse and the luxury and the second horse. And the first wife and seven daughters were left alone by the whole village.
As soon as they all had gone, the woman gave birth to a boy. She was very happy. The husband had named his sons by the other woman by the name of the heir, the name he liked best, but she took that name and gave it to her son.
Then she started to go after the others and reached them.
She took a stove, and an iron and said, “The ground has to move and the sky has to move. I have delivered a boy called Durbananti, the one who inherits the land.”
The man saw it and went to his second wife and said, “Your son is no longer Durbananti. That name is for the son of my first wife.”
She was shocked and died.
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