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Hausa Folk-Lore, by Maalam Shaihua, tr. by R. Sutherland Rattray, [1913], at

2. How brothers and sisters first came to quarrel and hate each other

A story, a story.

This tale is about a maiden. A certain man had three children, two boys and a girl, (and) it was the girl he loved. Then (one day) their big brother went with them to the forest (bush), telling them to come for sticks. And when they had reached the forest, he seized her (the girl), climbed a tree with her, (and) tied her on to the tree, (and) came (and) said, 'The maiden has been lost in the forest,' (and said) they did not see her, so they came home.

They were weeping. Then their father asked them what had happened, (and) they said, 'Our young sister she was lost in the forest (and) we did not see her. We searched until we were tired, but we did not see her.'

Then their father said, 'It cannot be helped.' Then one day traders came and were passing in the forest. She (the girl) heard their voices and she (sang) said, 'You, you, you, who are carrying kola nuts, if you have come to the village on the hill, greet my big brother Hallabau, greet my big brother Tanka-baka, (and) greet my big brother Shadusa.' When the traders heard this they said that birds were the cause of this (singing). Then again she repeated (the song). Then the leader of the caravan said he would go (and) see what it was that was doing (singing) thus.

So he went off (and) came across the maiden fastened to the tree. And he said, '(Are you) alive or dead?' The maiden said, 'Alive, alive.' So the leader of the caravan himself climbed up the tree and untied her. Now long ago the caravan leader had wished for offspring, but he was childless. Then he said, 'Where is the maiden from?'

And the maiden said, 'Our father begat us, we were three, two boys by one mother, I also alone, by my mother. Our father and mother loved (me), (but) did not love my brothers. And because of that our big brother brought me here, deceiving me by saying we were going for sticks. He came with me here, tied me to a tree (and) left me. Our father is a wealthy man, and because of that, he (my brother) did this to me.' Then the leader of the caravan said, 'As for me, you have become my daughter.'

So the leader of the caravan took her home (and) nursed her till she recovered. She remained with him until she reached a marriageable age, and grew into a maid whose like was nowhere. And whenever she was heard of, people came to look on her, until a day (when) her elder brother reached manhood. He had not found a wife. Then he heard the report which said that a certain wealthy man had a daughter in such and such a village; in all the country there was not her like. Then he went to their (his) father (and) said he had heard about the daughter of a certain wealthy man (and) it was her he wished (to marry).

So his father gave him gifts, (and) he came to seek a wife in marriage. And Allah blessed his quest and he found what he sought, and the maid was wedded to him. They came home, but when he would consummate their union, she would not give herself to him; (and) it was always thus. Only, when they (all) went off to the farms she would lift her mortar and golden pestle which her father had given her, saying she was going to make 'fura' cakes. And she poured the grain into the mortar of gold and pounded and (sung) said, 'Pound, pound, mortar, father has become the father of my husband, alas for me! Mother has become the mother of my husband, alas, my mortar!' And so on till she had finished pounding. She was weeping (and) singing.

Now a certain old woman of the place heard what she was (saying). It was always so, until one day she told the mother of (the girl's) husband, and she said, 'When you are all about to go to the farm, do you, mother of the husband, come out, give her grain, (and) bid her pound "fura", as you are going to the farm. When you get outside steal away (and) come back, enter the house, (and) remain silent (and) hear what she says.' So the mother of the man came out, their father came out, the boys and the woman all came out, and said they were off to the farm.

A little while after the man's mother came back (and) entered the hut (and) crouched down. Then the maiden lifted her mortar and golden pestle. She was singing and saying, 'Pound, pound, my mortar, father has become (my) husband's father, alas, my mortar! Mother has become (my) husband's mother, alas for me!' She was singing thus (and) shedding tears, the mother also was in the room and was watching her until she had done all she had to do.

When the people of the house who had gone to the farms came back, the mother did not say anything. When night came, then she told her husband; she said, 'Such and such the maid did.' The father said, 'Could it possibly be the maid who was lost?' Then they said, 'But if it is she there is a certain mark on her back ever since she was an infant, she had been left in a house with a fire (and) it had burned her.'

She was summoned. They adjured her by Allah and the Prophet (and) said, 'This man who gave you in marriage, is he your father or were you given to him to be brought up only?' But the maiden refused to answer. Try as they could they could not get an answer. Then the father said, 'Present your back that I may see.'

She turned her back, (and) they saw the scar where the fire had burned her when she was an infant. Then they said, 'Truly it is so. From the first when you came why did you (refuse) to tell me (us)?' And they knew it was their daughter. And they sent to her (foster) father, the one who had found her, and he was told what had happened. And he said, 'There is no harm done. I beg you give me the maiden. If I have found another I shall give her to him (the husband).' But they (the girl's real father and mother) refused to consent to this.

As for the husband, when he heard this he took his quiver and bow. He went into the forest (and) hanged himself. He died. And this was the beginning of hatred among the children of one father by different mothers.

That is all.

Off with the rat's head.

Next: 3. The story of the boy and the old woman, and how the wasp got his small waist