The brightest sun
Storyteller: Salima Abd Alsadeg Abu Khasheem
May God curse the devil, and keep us safe from his schemes.
There is a man who is married to two young women. One is white, the other black. The white woman ridicules the other for her color and constantly reminds her, You are only a servant.
Each one of them had a daughter. When the black woman sends food to the white woman, she doesn’t let her daughter eat it, or even taste it; when she gets it, she tosses it away for the dogs and says, Beware of her food, it makes you sick.
When the white daughter visits the black woman, she gives her candy and lets her play with her own daughter. But when the black daughter visits the white woman, she strikes her and throws her out. The white woman tells people bad things about the black woman, and as the saying goes, Two wives wreck a man’s home.
In time the daughters grew up, and became young women, wearing the ridda*, and turning men’s heads in the village. The white daughter turned up like her mother. She hated her black sister, she constantly ridiculed her too, and she always reminded her, You’re only a servant, just like your mother.
But one day, the black mother sent her daughter to the hamlet to bring her eggs, because she had a chicken that was eager to lay on some eggs, but it is unlucky to have a rooster. And, as you know, eggs without a rooster can’t make chicken.
But the hamlet was far away. You can only have a glimpse of it from the distance if you were lucky. While she was walking down the road, she passed a thirsty palm tree, with a small well to her side. The palm tree said to the black daughter, Quench my thirst, young woman, may God quench yours by the Spring of Zamzam.
So she quenched her thirst, giving her two or three pails of water from that small well. After drinking the water, the palm tree said to the black daughter, May my length be in your hair, not your stature. As she left the palm tree, her hair grew beautiful and long and reached to the ground.
As she continued on her way to the hamlet, she passed a black crow lying on the ground, wailing because of a broken wing. He said to her, Splint my broken wing, may God mend your soul.
So she splinted his broken wing. After that he said to her, May God put my duskiness in your eyes, not in your color. As she left the crow, her eyes turned black and beautiful as the night.
As she continued on her way to the hamlet, she passed a vulture lying on the ground, crying because of a broken leg. She said to her, Splint my broken leg, may God mend your soul. So she splinted the vulture’s leg. After that, the vulture said to her, May my whiteness be in your color, not in your eyes, and may you have the brightest hue, as that of a sun falling at sunset. As she left the vulture, her color turned reddish white, like a sun falling at sunset.
Eventually, the black daughter reached the hamlet, found some eggs, and brought them back to her mother. When her mother saw her new look, she called her the brightest sun. Jealousy filled the white woman at the site of the black woman’s daughter, and her new name. So she said to her daughter, You have to go to the hamlet too and bring me some eggs. I swear to god that the servant’s chicken will never lay on the eggs before ours, and perhaps you will return to us more beautiful than the brightest sun.
So the white daughter went on her way to the hamlet. As she was walking, she passed a thirsty palm tree, with a small well to her side. The palm tree asked her, Quench my thirst, young woman, may God quench yours by the Spring of Zamzam. But she drank from the well and left the palm tree thirsty. The palm tree said to her in anguish, May my length be in your stature, not in your hair. The young woman turned tall as a palm tree at sight, with short and fuzzy hair that couldn’t even reach her cheeks.
As she continued on her way to the hamlet, she passed a black crow lying on the ground, wailing because of a broken wing. He asked her, Splint me, and may god mend your soul. But instead of splinting the broken wing she stroked it, and he cried in anguish, “May my duskiness be in your color, not in your eyes.” The young woman became the color of char on sight.
As she continued on her way to the hamlet, she passed a vulture lying on the ground, crying because of a broken leg. She said to her, “Splint my broken leg, may God mend your soul.” But she spat on her, and the vulture cried in anguish and said to her: “May my whiteness be in your eyes, not in your color.” The young woman’s eyes turned white as salt. She revealed her true self and was now in disgrace. And because of that, she couldn’t continue on her way to the hamlet, nor could she return to her mother. She was filled with shame and was trapped and lost in between.
That is how the story goes, and here I am, and there they were.
*Traditional women’s clothing in Libya
Seven Bulls: A Myth
Storyteller: Salmeen Mohamed Fadeel Alw’ammy
May God keep us safe from the devil.
There is a woman, who has seven sons eager to leave. While she is in labor, they tell her, If you have a boy, put up a white sign so we can continue on our way, but if you have a girl, put up a red sign so we know to stay.
They were seven brothers and impatient for a sister.
The woman told the midwife, If I have a boy, put up a white sign for my children and if I have a girl put up a red sign.
When she had a girl, the midwife walked to the door and put up a white sign, so her children left on their way.
The girl started to grow day after day, and they started to say, A boy grows during the day, and a girl grow night and day.
The little girl noticed her mother saying, Oh, my seven! while she tumbled and something fell from her grip. So one day the girl grabbed her mother’s dress and said, I will not let go until you tell me who those seven are and what’s their story.
The mother said, They are your brothers; they wanted a sister. And when I got you, my midwife put up a white sign instead of a red sign, so they left. But that was one time, now is another. I haven’t had a glimpse of them to this day.
The girl started to roam the land, searching for her brothers, until one day she met that old woman. The old woman was sifting through and wasting the flour, withholding the bran. The girl told her, Please, aunt, let me sift, let me do it right.
The girl sifted the flour, and cooked a delicious lunch, then she lay down to rest. The boys came later and tasted the lunch. They asked the old woman, Is this you’re doing? She said, Of course, it is.
But the boys suspected the old woman. They sneaked on her until they noticed the girl sifting and cooking their lunch. Every day, one of them sneaked and noticed her. On the seventh day, after finishing her work, while she was resting, they caught her.
They told her, What’s your story, girl?
So she told them. She said, I have seven brothers, and when my mother had me, her midwife put up a white sign, and so my brothers thought I was born a boy. While growing up, I noticed my mother often crying in woe, “My seven!” So I told her to tell me about those seven. She said they were your brothers.
They told her, We are your brothers.
Happiness overwhelmed the girl. Afterwards, the girl stayed with her brothers and took care of them.
But one day a man came asking for her hand in marriage. The old woman didn’t like this, so she put a spell on her brothers and turned them into bulls. The girl said she would accept the man’s offer on one condition. He had to take care of the seven bulls. The man accepted her condition and married her. And each day he fed the bulls and watched over them while wandering the fields. Then she gave him a son.
That day, the old woman returned with her schemes. And, like her brothers, she put a spell on her the girl too. She turned her into a pigeon.
The days passed, and the boy grew up. He liked to play with the pigeon every day; he fed her, and asked her, Oh, my pigeon, oh, my dove, where’s my mother? Is she in front of me or behind me? Oh,, my pigeon, oh my dove, where’s my mother? Is she in front of me or behind me?
East time the pigeon told him, Your mother is behind you, and the tears filled her eyes. The days passed and that was their story.
But one day he caught her in his hands. He started touching her, again and again, until he found a small pin on her body. He removed the pin with his fingers, and the pigeon turned back into his mother. The mother rushed to her brothers and started touching them too. She found a pin on each one of them. She removed every pin, and they turned back into seven men.
And here I am, and there they were.