Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
ALLAH had given a certain woman seven sons, and she was very thankful for them, but for all that she longed to have a daughter and asked Allah to let her have one. One day, as she was passing through the market, she saw some fair, white goat's milk cheese exposed for sale; and the sight so moved her that she exclaimed, "O my Lord! O Allah! Give me, I entreat, a daughter as white and lovely as this cheese, and I will call her "Ijbeyneh." 2 Her prayer was heard, and in due time she became the mother of a beautiful girl with a complexion like goats’ milk cheese, the neck of a gazelle, blue eyes, black hair, and a rose on either cheek. The child was named "Ijbeyneh" and every one who saw her loved her, with the exception of her cousins who were very jealous.
When Ijbeyneh was about seven years old, these cousins, at her own request, took her with them on
an excursion into the forest, 1 where they were in the habit of going in order to pick the fruit of the "Za’rûr." 2 The child, having filled her square linen head-veil ("tarbì’ah"), with the berries, laid it at the foot of a tree and wandered picking flowers. When she returned to the place where she had left her head-veil, she found bad berries instead of the beauties she had gathered, and her cousins gone. She wandered hither and thither through the "hìsh," calling to them, but received no answer. She tried to find her way home, but went further astray. At last a ghûl, out hunting, came up and would have devoured her, but, Ijbeyneh being Allah's gift to her parents, and so protected, instead of eating her up the monster pitied her. She cried, "O my uncle! tell me which way my cousins have gone." He answered, "I do not know, O Beloved, but come and live with me until your cousins come back and seek you." Ijbeyneh consenting, he took her to his house on the top of a high mountain. There she became his shepherdess, and he grew very fond of her, and daily brought choice game for her to eat. For all that she was most unhappy, weeping often for her home and parents. Now the doves belonging to her parents, which she had been used to feed, missed Ijbeyneh very much, and made search for her upon their own account. One day they espied her afar off, and came to her, showing their joy by
settling on her shoulders and nestling to her cheeks, as they had used to do. And when Ijbeyneh saw them she wept tears of joy and said to them:
Ijbeyneh's naughty cousins had gone home and reported her as lost, without saying that they had purposely deserted her. Her father and her brothers sought everywhere; her mother wept herself almost blind, exclaiming that Allah had punished her for not being content with seven sons; and it was noticed that the very doves seemed mournful, and did not coo as of old. One day, however, the behaviour of the birds changed suddenly. From mournful they became lively and seemed anxious to make their owners understand something. Their dumb efforts were apparent to the neighbours, one of whom suggested that the parents of Ijbeyneh should try and discover which way the birds went every day, and follow them. The father, the brothers, and a number of sympathisers set out on the quest. They found that the doves flew straight to the summit of a certain mountain and there settled. Climbing forthwith, they found the missing girl, who was full of joy to see them. They then took all the goods, cattle, poultry, and whatnot
belonging to the ghûl, who was out hunting, and returned. When the ghûl, came home to find Ijbeyneh gone and his house looted, he burst asunder from grief and died. But when Ijbeyneh had told her story and it was known that her cousins had taken away her berries and left her alone in the wilderness, people were furious. A crier was sent through the district, crying, "Let every one who loves justice bring a fiery ember!" So a great fire was made, and the wicked little girls were burnt to ashes as they deserved. But Ijbeyneh grew up and eventually the son of the sultan saw and married her.
There once was a clever man named Uhdey-dûn who lived in a strong castle 1 on the top of a steep rock. He was at enmity with a dreadful ghûleh, who devastated the country and lived with her three daughters in a gloomy cave in a wady near the desert. In those days fire-arms were unknown, and so Uhdey-dûn could not shoot either the ghûleh or her children, but he had a sharp hatchet and long packing needle 2 as well as other things. The ghûleh had nothing but a copper cauldron in which she cooked the food for herself and her children. But they very often did not take the trouble to cook, but ate their food raw, and as they had no knife, they used to tear the flesh with their teeth, and break the bones by hammering them with a stone.
However, the ghûleh had an advantage over her adversary in this respect, that she could change her form at will.
Well, one day the ghûleh came in the guise of an old woman to the foot of the rock on which Uhdey-dûn's house stood, and called out: "O Uhdey-dûn, my uncle, won't you accompany me to the forest 1 to-morrow that we may get some wood?" Now Uhdey-dûn was sharp and he knew that if the ghûleh got hold of him all alone she would kill and eat him. So, not to offend her, he answered, "Do not take the trouble to come here for me, for I will meet you in the forest to-morrow morning." Next morning, very early, Uhdey-dûn, who knew of a very short way to the forest, took his hatchet and long needle and a sack and went there. He was there long before the ghûleh reached the spot, and he at once cut down a great deal of wood and filled his sack, leaving a hollow place in the middle into which he crawled. He then tied up the sack and remained perfectly quiet till the ghûleh appeared. How he managed to tie up the sack when he was inside it I do not know, but he was a clever man. In time the ghûleh came, and when she saw the sack and smelt Uhdey-dûn, she looked about for him, but could not find him. At last, tired of hunting for him, she said, "I shall carry this sackful of wood to my cave, and then come back to kill my enemy." So she lifted the sack and put it on her back. As soon as she had gone a few steps, Uhdey-dûn gave
her a stab with his long needle. The ghûleh thought it must have been the end of a piece of wood that had hurt her, and she therefore moved the sack into a different position. As soon as she started off again with her burden, Uhdey-dûn gave her another dig with his needle, and so on till, by the time she reached her cave, she was bleeding from countless wounds. "Mother!" cried her daughters, when she appeared, "have you brought us Uhdey-dûn for dinner as you promised?" "I did not find him, my dears," replied the mother, "but I have brought his sackful of wood, and I am now going back to find him and kill him for our dinner." She put down her load, placed a cauldron filled with water on the fire, and departed. As soon as Uhdey-dûn thought she was beyond recall, he began to make a noise like somebody chewing gum, and said quite aloud, "I've got chewing-gum, I've got chewing-gum!" "Who are you?" asked the ghûleh's daughters. "I am Uhdey-dûn, and I've got chewing-gum." "O please, give us some," begged the little ghûlehs. "Open the sack and let me out," said Uhdey-dûn. The little ghûlehs did as he wished, but when he got out he took his hatchet and killed all three of them and cut them to pieces and put them into the great copper cauldron which had been placed on the fire full of water for Uhdey-dûn. Their heads, he hid under a "tabak" or straw tray. Then he left the cave and went home to his house on the great rock.
In the meantime the ghûleh sought Uhdey-dûn in the forest, but in vain. She returned to her cave,
and not finding her little ones, but noticing the scent of Uhdey-dûn, and also of cooked meat, she said, "O, I am sure that my enemy has been here and my darlings have killed him and put him into the copper to be cooked, and now they are gone in order to invite their cousins to the feast. However, as I am very hungry, I shall take something out of the cauldron and eat it." She did so and was rather surprised to find the flesh so tender. She did not suspect that she was feeding on her own offspring. When she was satisfied, she began to look around her, and noticed that some blood was trickling from under the straw tray. So she lifted it up, and to her consternation, found the heads of her three daughters. In grief and despair, she began to bite the flesh off her own arms, and swore to revenge herself on her crafty foe. Now some days later Uhdey-dûn was invited to the wedding of his cousin, and as he was sure the ghûleh would try to kill him on that occasion, he kept sharp watch from a corner whence he could see all comers, himself unnoticed. After some time he saw a great, fierce-looking bitch approach and prowl about the house, and observed how the other dogs slunk away from her. He knew her for the monster that was seeking his life. The wedding meal, which, as usual, consisted of pieces of meat cooked with rice, was served, and Uhdey-dûn sat down to eat. He took a large bone, and having eaten the meat off it, went to the house door and called the dogs. The ghûleh ran towards him and he threw the bone at her with so true an aim that it hit her on the forehead and cut it so
that the blood began to flow down her face. As it did so, she licked it with her tongue, saying, "O how sweet is the dibs 1 in my uncle's house!" "Ah! said Uhdey-dûn, as he brandished his hatchet, "do you think that I can't see through your disguise? It was I who destroyed your children, I who poked you with my needle while you carried that sack of wood, and I'll kill you yet. Come near me if you dare!" "Now the ghìlan are afraid of iron and so, when the ghûleh saw that her enemy was armed and on the alert, she slunk away disappointed.
Some days later, she thought of a device to tempt him to expose himself unarmed. In the form of a peasant-woman she came to the foot of his rock, and called up to him for the loan of a sieve. "Come up and fetch it," said Uhdey-dûn. "I cannot climb the rock," replied the ghûleh. "I will lower a rope for you," said Uhdey-dûn. He did so, but noticing that his visitor was coming up with unusual skill, he observed her more closely and recognised her. He therefore let the rope go, and so the monster fell down the precipice and was dashed to bits. This was the way in which Uhdey-dûn delivered the country from the ghûleh and her brood.
There was once a poor wood-cutter, 2 who had a wife and three daughters dependent on him. One day, while he was working in the forest, a stranger
passed that way and stopped to talk with him. Hearing he had three daughters the stranger persuaded him, for a large sum of money, which he paid on the spot, to let him have the eldest girl in marriage.
When the wood-cutter went home at dusk, he boasted of the bargain to his wife, and next morning, took the girl to a certain cave and there gave her over to the stranger, who said that his name was Abu Freywar. As soon as the woodman was gone, Abu Freywar said to her, "You must be hungry, eat these." So saying, he took a knife and cut off both his ears, which he gave to her together with a nasty-looking loaf of black bread. The girl refusing such food, he hung her up by the hair from the ceiling of a chamber in the cave, which had meanwhile become a magnificent palace. Next day, Abu Freywar went again to the forest and found the wood-cutter. "I want your second daughter for my brother," he said; "Here is the money. Bring her to the cave to-morrow." The woodcutter, delighted at his great good fortune, brought his second daughter to Abu Freywar, and directly he had gone, Abu Freywar gave the girl his ears, which had grown afresh, to eat. She said she was not hungry just then, but would keep them to eat by-and-by. When he went out of the room, she tried to deceive him by hiding his ears under a carpet on the floor. When he returned and asked if she had eaten them, she said "Yes"; but he called out, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold?" and they answered promptly, "Cold as ice, and lying under
the carpet." Whereupon Abu Freywar, in a rage hung her up beside her sister.
He then went and asked for the youngest daughter, whose name was Zerendac, saying, that he wanted her for another brother. But the girl, a spoilt child, refused to go unless she might take with her a pet kitten and a box in which she kept her treasures. Hugging those, she went with Abu Freywar to the cave.
She proved wiser than her sisters. When her husband's back was turned, she gave his ears to the cat which devoured them eagerly, while she ate some food which she had brought from home. When the ogre returned and cried as of wont, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold?" he received the answer, "As hot as can be in this snug little stomach," and this pleased him so that from that time he began to grow very fond of Zerendac.
After she had lived some days with him, he said, "I must go on a journey. There are forty rooms in this palace. Here are the keys, with which you may open any door you please except that to which this golden key belongs," and with that he took his departure. Zerendac amused herself in his absence with opening and examining, the locked-up rooms. On entering the thirty-ninth, she happened to look out of the window which opened on to a burial ground, and was terrified to see her husband, who was a ghûl, devouring a corpse that he had just dug out of a grave with his long claw-like nails. She was so fascinated with the sight that (hidden behind the window curtain), she
watched him at his horrible repast. A few minutes later she saw him start and hide himself behind a monument in the cemetery. He had been disturbed by the approach of a funeral. As the procession approached she heard one of the bearers say, "Let us be off as soon as possible, lest the ghûl which haunts this place get hold of us," and she could see that the whole company seemed very anxious.
This discovery caused the girl great uneasiness. She was anxious to know what was in the fortieth room, and the discovery she had made as to the real character of her husband prompted her to solve the mystery at any cost. She took the golden key and opened the door. She found her two sisters still alive and dangling from the ceiling by their hair. She cut them down, fed them, and as soon as their health was restored, sent them back to her parents.
Abu Freywar returned next day, but not for long. He left home a few days later, telling his wife she might invite any of her relations whom she cared to see. Accordingly she invited many of her friends and relatives; who came to see her, but heard nothing of her troubles. It was well for her that she did not complain, for her visitors were not the persons they seemed to be, but simply her husband in various shapes assumed in order to entrap her. He succeeded at last in the form of her grandmother to whom she was beginning to tell all her sorrows; when the old woman became Abu Freywar and, taking a poisoned nail, drove it into her breast. The wound did not kill her,
but it caused her to swoon away. No sooner was she unconscious than the monster put her into a chest and sank it in the sea.
Now the son of the sultan of that land was fond of boating and fishing, and this prince happened to cast a large net from a boat close to the place where the chest in which she was lay at the bottom of the sea. The net, happening to enclose the chest, was hauled in with the greatest difficulty. The sultan's son had it drawn into the boat, and, before opening it, said to his attendants, "If it contains money or jewels, you may have them all; but should it contain anything else, it is mine."
He was greatly shocked when he saw its actual contents, and mourned the sad fate of that lovely girl. He had her body carried to his mother's chamber, to be honourably prepared for burial. During the process, 1 the nail being found and removed, Zerendac sneezed and came to life again.
She married the prince, and in course of time bore him a daughter. But one day, when she was alone with the child, the wall of her room suddenly split open, and Abu Freywar appeared. Without a word to the mother, he snatched up the infant and swallowed it, disappearing as suddenly as he had come. Zerendac was so bewildered by this fresh misfortune that, when asked where the baby had gone, she could only weep despairingly.
Her second child, a son, and the third, another daughter, were torn from her in the same horrible
manner. On this last occasion, the cruel ogre smeared the poor mother's face with her child's blood. She washed it off, but, in her hurry and anguish, missed a slight stain beneath her under-lip. Her husband and her mother-in-law, already very suspicious, judged of course that she was a ghûleh and had devoured her offspring.
Zerendac told her story, but no one would believe it. Her husband, being loth to put her to death, ordered her to be imprisoned in a small underground chamber, and, at his mother's suggestion, sought another bride. Hearing of the beauty of the daughter of a neighbouring sultan, he went to ask for her. But before setting out he sent for the mother of his lost children, and asked her what she would like him to bring her when he came back. She asked for a box of aloes, 1 for a box of henna, 2 and a dagger. Her request was granted, and when the prince returned from his betrothal to the sultan's daughter, he brought with him these things for Zerendac. She opened the boxes, one by one, saying, "O box of sebr, you have not in you more patience than I have shown. O box of henna, you cannot be gentler than I have been," and was just going to stab herself with the dagger, when the wall of her prison opened and Abu Freywar appeared, leading a handsome boy and two lovely girls. "Live!" he cried, "I have not killed your children. Here they are." He then by his magic made a secret staircase connecting her dungeon with the
great hall of the palace. Having done this, he seized the dagger and slew himself.
When the festivities in connection with the prince's marriage began, Zerendac sent the three children, richly dressed in clothes which Abu Freywar had left with her, up the staircase, telling them to amuse themselves without respect for the guests or the furniture. Accordingly they did all the damage they could think of; but the mother of the prince was slow to punish them, because they were pretty, and reminded her of her son at their age. But at last, losing patience, she was going to strike one of them when they all shouted at once, "Ya sitt Ubdûr, shûfi keyf el kamr btadûr," which means, "O Lady Full-Moon, look how the moon is turning round." Every one rushed to the window, and while their backs were turned the children vanished.
On the actual wedding-day the children appeared again when their father was present, ran about, breaking china and glass, and did all the damage they could think of. The prince forbade them. They replied haughtily, "This is our house, and everything here belongs to us and to our parents." "What do you mean by that?" inquired the prince. The children answered by leading their father down the secret staircase to Zerendac, who explained who they really were and how they came there. The prince, greatly moved, embraced her tenderly and swore to be true to her till his life's end. The sultan's daughter was returned, with excuses and a satisfactory present, to her
father; and the prince and Zerendac lived happy ever after.
One snowy day, a woman who had just given birth to a girl named her "Thaljìyeh" ("Snow-Maiden"), and straightway expired. The motherless babe was tended by her grandmother, who kept her father's house, till she could walk about and play with other children. But then Thaljìyeh's father took to wife a widow with two daughters, and her grandmother left the house in disgust. The new wife made her stepdaughter a household drudge. Thaljìyeh had to carry jars of water on her head from the distant spring. She had to rise at midnight to help grind the corn for next day's bread, and, when she was old and strong enough to do this by herself, her stepmother and sisters lay abed till sunrise. It was also her duty to go out with other girls and gather fuel, brushwood, thorny burnet, or dried cows’ dung from the hillsides, then to heat the village oven 1 and knead and bake the bread; and when, as rarely happened, there was nothing to do at home, she was sent out to gather potsherds to be crushed into "hamra" for cistern cement. Whenever there was a wedding or other merry-making, she was not allowed to go, though she sat up late the night before, embroidering many-coloured breast-pieces 2 to deck the festal gowns of her unkind relatives. But Allah had given Thaljìyeh a sweet nature. She found comfort in
singing at her work, and was always ready to help others at theirs. But to see her thus cheerful did not please her step-mother and the daughters of the latter, whose own voices were as harsh and unmelodious as those of screech-owls; and they forbade her to sing in the house.
One day when the rest of the family had gone to a wedding, Thaljìyeh was left alone in charge of the vineyard tower, for it was summer time. Just outside the vineyard gate, by the roadside, there was a cistern for rainwater, from which she was wont to draw water for the house, and to fill the drinking trough 1 for thirsty wayfarers. On this day Thaljìyeh had lowered her bucket into the cistern when the rope broke and the vessel sank to the bottom and was lost. She was obliged to go to a neighbour and borrow a well drag. 2 Having obtained one, Thaljìyeh tied it to a new rope, and having said "dustûr," 3 to warn any spirits that might be in the cistern to get out of the way, she lowered the drag while she sang:--
Now, though she did not know it, these words were a spell, and, as there happened to be in the
cistern a jinnìyeh who liked Thaljìyeh, the latter immediately felt the drag catch hold of something heavy; and when she drew it up, there was her bucket full of the most lovely jewellery--rings, massive gold bracelets, anklets, chains for tying the headdress round the neck, 1 and gold chains for the head-tie. Full of joy at her good fortune, the girl took the pretty things into the tower, and when her relations came home she gave them into their keeping. They, however, pretended not to want them, and, having been told how Thaljìyeh had come by them, said they would get some for themselves. They, therefore, each in turn dropped the bucket into the cistern, and in loud arrogant tones of command uttered the words of the spell which Thaljìyeh had sung so sweetly. Try as they would, they always brought up the bucket full of mud, stones, and loathsome crawling things. So, in their disappointment, they took Thaljìyeh's jewels, continued to treat her with great unkindness, and one evening, after her father's death, actually turned her out of doors.
It was raining, and the poor girl did not want to spoil her pretty shoes made of red Damascus leather, which had been her dead father's gift. She tied them together and threw them over her shoulder, one hanging in front of, and the other behind, her. 2 It was now dark, and Thaljìyeh knew not where to go. Seeing a light glimmering from the
open door of a cave-dwelling, she went towards it, hoping to obtain shelter for the night. Seated at the door of that humble abode was an old woman spinning. It happened to be Thaljìyeh's grandmother, though the girl did not know her, she had been so young when her father married the widow. The old woman, however, recognised her grandchild, and gladly granted her request for a night's lodging. "Your mother's daughter," said she, "should not be out of doors at this time of night, so, of course, you may stay here. My own daughter died at the time you were born, and if you like it you shall take her place in my dwelling." She then set the best food she had before her guest, who gladly agreed to remain with the old woman when the latter disclosed their relationship.
It so happened that one of Thaljìyeh's shoes had been lost on her way to the old woman's cave. The string with which the pair were tied had given way, and the shoe which was hanging behind her shoulder had fallen off, while its fellow, by a curious chance, caught on a knot or hook which was on her gown, so that it was not till she had found shelter with her grandmother that she discovered her loss. It was then too late for her to go and look for the missing shoe, but she meant to do so the first thing in the morning.
Now the old woman was spinning woollen thread to make an ’abâyeh for the son of a wealthy sheykh. The young man was very handsome, and many a mother, including Thaljìyeh's unkind stepmother, had been plotting and planning, quite unsuccessfully,
to obtain him for a son-in-law. Whilst Thaljìyeh was having her supper, he approached the cave-dwelling, having, as it happened, noticed and picked up the girl's shoe on his way. Hearing a man's step, the girl sprang up hastily and hid herself in a dark corner of the cave, where she could see and hear without herself being seen. "My aunt," said the youth, addressing the old woman, "have you got all the thread spun ready for my new ’abâyeh?" "I shall have it finished by to-morrow at noon," answered the old woman, "but what have you got in your hand?" "It is a girl's shoe which I have just picked up," answered the youth, "and it is so small and pretty that its owner must be a very beautiful maiden, and therefore--Wallahi! Wallahi! Wallahi!--I shall search for her, and when I have found her, she, and no other, shall become my wife." The old woman was pleased with this impetuous speech; but, being wise, she said nothing to the young man, but laughingly bade him meet her at the dyer's the next day.
Next morning, having finished her task, the old woman left Thaljìyeh alone in the cave, having enjoined her to keep the door closed and not to answer the young man, should he, as she suspected he would, come again to ask if the thread was all ready. Things fell out as Thaljìyeh's grandmother thought they would. The young man, who had thought she was only putting him off with the promise that the thread would be ready that day, came to the cave instead of going to meet her at the dyer's shop. He found the door closed, and received no answer
when he called to the old woman to ask whether her work for him was done. Hearing Thaljìyeh singing as she turned the spinning-wheel, he peeped through a crack in the door in order to see who it was that sung so sweetly; and finding that the maiden was alone, he went away, sorry for his rash vow the previous evening, to the dyer's, where he found the grandmother. She handed him the thread, and when he asked her who was the maiden singing in the cave, she answered, " Your bride." "What do you mean? " replied he in surprise. " It is the girl to whom the shoe which you picked up last night belongs, and whom you swore thrice by Allah that you would marry," said the old woman. The youth was delighted. His father made no objection to the marriage, seeing that Thaljìyeh was of good family. By the kindness of the jinnìyeh in the cistern, all the jewellery belonging to 'the bride was found one morning at the head of her bed in her grandmother's cave, and the cruel stepmother and her daughters had the bitterness of listening to the "Zaghârìt" 1 and the shouting, as the veiled bride, the beautiful Snow-maiden, whom they had so despised and ill-treated, seated upon the bridal camel, was led in joyful procession to her husband's house.
It is not likely that any reader will fail to recognise in this tale a local version of "Cinderella."
214:1 The story of Khuneyfseh, which properly falls under this heading, was told in the foregoing chapter in connection with the Jân, as illustrating some of the ideas in vogue concerning them.
214:2 The diminutive of jibn = cheese.
215:1 The "hìsh," thick brushwood, is dignified with that name in Palestine.
215:2 Crategus Azarolus, the berries are edible and make a delicious jelly.
217:1 Or palace; Ar. kusr.
217:2 Ar. umsulleh.
218:1 Ar. "hìsh." In Syria, a kind of brushwood like the "maquis" of Corsica is so named.--ED.
221:1 Grape syrup or molasses.
221:2 This story seems to be a version of Bluebeard.
225:1 Described in one of the Karakash stories.
226:1 Ar. sebr, also meaning "patience."
226:2 The same word means "tenderness."
228:1 Ar. tabûn.
228:2 Ar. kubbeh.
229:1 Ar. sebìl.
229:2 Ar. khuttâfeh. This instrument consists of a flat iron ring from which iron hooks hang by short chains attached to its circumference. The whole is suspended from a ring in the centre of the two curved cross-bars fastened over the flat ring.
229:3 Lit. permission = By your leave.
230:1 Ar. Iznâk.
230:2 As the fellahìn in Palestine always do whenever it is raining, and they go barefoot in order to save their shoes.
233:1 Cries of joy of the bride's female friends, properly zalâghìt (sing. zálghateh, zárghateh, or zághrateh). The zaghrateh is a very shrill fluttering sound peculiar to Eastern women, made by rapid revolution of the tongue in the mouth.--ED.