Narrated by Ikran Ahmed Omer
Once there were two men who were brothers. One has five boys and one has five girls. Both of their wives had died and they married again. The wife of the man with five girls quarrelled with him and hated his children.
He went away and when he came back she said, “Listen, you, man, husband, you must choose. Either you divorce me, or else you send away your children.”
Then the man said, “I have no relative other than this, so what can I do?”
She said, “If you want me, you must throw these small children away, otherwise I cannot be your wife.”
He accepted and consulted with his brother, saying, “What do I have to do? She said like this.”
His brother said, “You have to keep one, even if you throw the others, and give me also one, and the other three you throw away.”
But the man consulted with his wife again and the wife said, “No, it is impossible. You have to throw all. Otherwise you cannot be my husband.”
Then he accepted her advice and he took all the five children to the bush and they were in the bush, saying, “Our father!”
“Yes,” he said.
Then he made the grunting sound of a camel (camels live in the bush and you know where they are because of their grunting sounds).
So the father grunted like a camel and the children said, “Oh, our father is still here.”
But then he disappeared and ran away.
They called, “Father!” but all they heard was a grunt.
Then they went to look where the camel had been tied to the branch of a tree; the rope was there but the camel was gone and there was no father.
Then the children think, and say, “Father, only by the rope we see there is somebody, but no one else is there except lions and other wild animals.”
So they cry out in a sorrowful poem: "Alas we are alone!"
Then the sun goes down and they see a girl with sheep who is going back to her home, and they said to her, “You! We want to go back to our father, but our father disappeared. Can you take us to your house?”
“Sorry,” she said, “My mother is a degder, that is ‘long ear’. She eats human beings except me. Every night she eats human meat. If I take you to our house, she will eat you.”
“Please,” said the children, “We have nothing, and anyway, wild animals may eat us, so you are our only hope. Just for one night. Tomorrow night we will try to find some other way.”
So the girl said, “Please don’t let her see you. So when the goats go home they will kick up a cloud of dust. You must hide in the cloud of dust among the goats. Then there is a hole in the fence where the goats go through. Stop near the hole and escape through it quickly in the morning.”
So the children did this.
In the evening the degder sniffed the air.
“I smell people.”
The daughter said, “My breast is smelling. It’s me you smell. Do you want to eat me?”
“No! I am your mother. There’s another human.”
“No, it’s your daughter you smell. It’s my breast.”
The degder said, “I want to eat something.”
So the daughter brought her a fat goat and she ate it.
Then she said, “Cut the sheep’s tail and we will eat it. Fry it and put it in my ear because I have an earache.”
But as soon as the daughter put the tail in her ear, she died. As soon as degder died, the girl and all the people she wanted to eat sang:
“Degder has died!
The land now is peaceful.”
The children sang too.
And the men looking for girls to marry came too, and they said:
“Oh! Degder has died!
The land now is peaceful.”
Some of them looked at the biggest daughter who had reached marriage age and said, “We want to marry you.”
But she said, “I have my four little sisters who have nothing, so I can’t marry. I must look after them until they become big.”
So the men wanted to marry degder’s daughter.
But she said, “I am ready, but I will become a degder like my mother when I have had six children. My mother became degder after six children. So you will not like me then.”
But they said, “Whatever you become, we want to marry you.”
So she married and left.
The five girls went to a town and got jobs and became very rich. They earned. They were happy.
Their father and their stepmother had no children and they became too old and too poor. They came to their daughters’ house and begged. When they begged, the littlest girl recognised her father.
“Oh! This is our father! Are you not our father?”
“Yes, I am.”
“So come in.”
So they bathed him and gave him new clothes and he started to live a luxury life. Both were helpless, but they forgave them.
They became rich because the biggest one made injera (a flat, round bread usually made from tef, a grain cultivated in the highlands of Ethiopia), and the little ones went round and sold it in different markets for money.
While they were surviving like that, in the town where they were, was a small hole from which everyone got their water, but in the hole was a big snake. When the snake went down into the hole, people went and took the water. But if they saw the snake they wouldn’t go.
In that hole there was a lot of gold that the snake was guarding. When the people come for water and the snake comes out, the people run away.
But one day the smallest girl went to the well to get water, and the snake caught her and pulled her down into the water, and he mixed soap (Omo) with the water so that it became slippery and she couldn’t get out. The biggest girl became worried when the little one didn’t come home.
“Where is she? Why is she late? Perhaps the snake has caught her and pulled her down into the water!”
So she ran to the well and saw her little sister slipping as she tried to get out of the water. The snake was waiting till she died so it could eat her. But the big sister pulled out the little girl and took her home and made her better.
All night the big sister thought how she could kill the snake. She made a trap and took a sword.
Then when the snake thought, “Maybe the little girl has died now and she’s inside,” he came out of his hole to eat her, and the sword pierced him and he died there.
The big sister came back to check her trap and saw the snake has died. She took it out and took all the gold and they became rich.
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