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Speak, Bird, Speak Again

Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales

Ibrahim Muhawi
Sharif Kanaana
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    Speak, Bird, Speak Again
    Book Description:

    Were it simply a collection of fascinating, previously unpublished folktales,Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktaleswould merit praise and attention because of its cultural rather than political approach to Palestinian studies. But it is much more than this. By combining their respective expertise in English literature and anthropology, Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana bring to these tales an integral method of study that unites a sensitivity to language with a deep appreciation for culture. As native Palestinians, the authors are well-suited to their task. Over the course of several years they collected tales in the regions of the Galilee, Gaza, and the West Bank, determining which were the most widely known and appreciated and selecting the ones that best represented the Palestinian Arab folk narrative tradition. Great care has been taken with the translations to maintain the original flavor, humor, and cultural nuances of tales that are at once earthy and whimsical. The authors have also provided footnotes, an international typology, a comprehensive motif index, and a thorough analytic guide to parallel tales in the larger Arab tradition in folk narrative.Speak, Bird, Speak Againis an essential guide to Palestinian culture and a must for those who want to deepen their understanding of a troubled, enduring people.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90873-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Alan Dundes

    It was with great pleasure that I watched a joint collaborative effort between a man of letters and a social scientist come to fruition. The marvelous results of this partnership lie in the pages ahead. Not only are there forty-five splendid Palestinian Arab folktales to be savored, but we are also offered a rare combination of ethnographic and literary glosses on details that afford a unique glimpse into the subtle nuances of Palestinian Arab culture. This unusual collection of folktales is destined to be a classic and will surely serve as a model for future researchers in folk narrative.


  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Key to References
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-48)

    The forty-five tales included in this volume were selected on the basis of their popularity and the excellence of their narration from approximately two hundred tales collected on cassette tapes between 1978 and 1980 in various parts of Palestine—the Galilee (since 1948 part of the state of Israel), the West Bank, and Gaza. The criterion of popularity reflects our intention to present the tales heard most frequently by the majority of the Palestinian people. Both our own life-long familiarity with this material and the opinions of the raconteurs themselves helped us to assess a tale’s popularity. We made a...


    • Notes on Presentation and Translation
      (pp. 51-52)

      Following the scheme articulated in the Introduction, the tales are divided into groups, each of which is followed by an afterword. This commentary follows rather than precedes the selections in order not to interfere with the reader’s individual response to the tales. Likewise, we hope that the enjoyment of a first reading will not be interrupted by the footnotes. Notes have been provided to explain or explore many of the terms and concepts found in the tales. Extensive cross-referencing should allow readers to pursue particular topics, and the Footnote Index provides even more comprehensive surveys.

      A translation must sound natural...

    • Group I Individuals

      • Children and Parents

        • 1. Ṭunjur, Ṭunjur
          (pp. 55-59)

          There was once a woman who could not get pregnant and have children. Once upon a day she had an urge; she wanted babies. “O Lord!” she cried out, “Why of all women am I like this? Would that I could get pregnant and have a baby, and may Allah grant me a girl even if she is only a cooking pot!”³ One day she became pregnant. A day came and a day went, and behold!⁴ she was ready to deliver. She went into labor and delivered, giving birth to a cooking pot. What was the poor woman to do?...

        • 2. The Woman Who Married Her Son
          (pp. 60-62)

          Once upon a time there was a woman. She went out to gather wood, and gave birth to a daughter. She wrapped the baby in a rag, tossed her under a tree, and went on her way. The birds came, built a nest around the baby, and fed her.

          The girl grew up. One day she was sitting in a tree next to a pool. How beautiful she was! (Praise the creator of beauty, and the Creator is more beautiful than all!) Her face was like the moon.¹ The son of the sultan came to the pool to water his...

        • 3. Precious One and Worn-out One
          (pp. 62-65)

          Once there was a man who was married to two women, one of whom he called “Precious One” and the other “Worn-out One.” Precious One had two sons, and Worn-out One had only one.¹

          They had an animal pen from which one sheep was stolen every night. “Sons,” said the father, “every night one of you must stay up to watch the sheep and find out who's been stealing them.”

          “I’m the son of Precious One,” said the eldest.² “I’ll keep watch tonight.” In the evening he went to keep watch by the sheep pen. He stayed awake till ten...

        • 4. Šwēš, Šwēš!
          (pp. 66-67)

          Once upon a time there was a man. His mother was always calling down curses upon his head. He strung a hammock for her and put her in it, saying to his wives,² “Rock my mother in this hammock, and take very good care of her.”

          His wives organized themselves so that one of them was always rocking her while another was doing the work. His mother spent all her time in the hammock, and his wives were always rocking her.

          One day a traveling salesman came by.³ “What’s going on here?” he asked. “Why is this woman always being...

        • 5. The Golden Pail
          (pp. 68-81)

          There was in remote times a king who had two wives, a new one who was precious to him and whom he loved, and an old one whom he did not care for. The old one had one son, while the new one had two.¹

          “Wait till your father has assembled the Council of State,” said the new wife to her eldest son one day. “Then go up to him, kiss his hand, and ask him to give you the kingdom.”²

          Waiting till morning, when all the ministers and dignitaries of state were meeting with his father, the son went...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 81-83)

          The five tales brought together here are concerned with the different aspects of the relationship between parents and children, touching on the theme of individual freedom, which will recur in many of the tales that follow. The first tale focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter, the second and fourth on that between mother and son, and the third and fifth on that between father and son.

          The opening episode of the first tale, itself a recurring motif in the corpus, demonstrates the importance of having children (a major theme in the culture), and subsequent events in the tale...

      • Siblings

        • 6. Half-a-Halfling
          (pp. 84-88)

          Once upon a time there was a man who was married to two women. One of them was his first cousin and the other was a stranger, and neither of them could get pregnant.²

          “I’m going to visit the sheikh,”³ he said to himself one day, “and maybe for the sake of Allah he’ll give me some medicine to make these women conceive.” He went to the sheikh and said, “I want you to give me a medicine that’ll make my wives get pregnant.”

          “Go to such and such a mountain,” the sheikh advised, “and there you’ll find a ghoul....

        • 7. The Orphans’ Cow
          (pp. 89-93)

          There was once a man who was married to a certain woman. The wife died, leaving behind a son and a daughter. The man said, “This cow is for the boy and the girl.”

          One day the man married again. His wife became pregnant, gave birth, and had a boy. She became pregnant again, gave birth, and had a girl. She fed her children only the best food, and the others nothing but bran.

          The orphans used to roam with their cow in the countryside every day. When they were well out of town, they would say to her, “Open,...

        • 8. Sumac! You Son of a Whore, Sumac!
          (pp. 93-98)

          Once there was a man and his wife, and they had three sons. They also had a flock of sheep. The wife had not given birth to any daughters, and the whole family yearned for a little girl. One day the woman cried out, “O Lord, would you give me a little girl, even if she turns out to be a ghouleh!”¹ Allah fulfilled her wish,² and she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. The whole family loved her very, very much.³

          Soon after the birth of the girl, when they made their daily check of their herd,...

        • 9. The Green Bird
          (pp. 98-102)

          Once upon a time there was a man. He had a son and a daughter whose mother had died. They had a neighbor who was a widow, and every day she kept after the children, putting ideas in their heads.

          “Tell me,” she would say, “doesn’t your father intend to get married?” “No, not yet,” they would answer.

          “Why, then, don’t you say to him,” she would urge, “‘Father, marry our neighbor.’”¹

          “Father,” they would go to him and say, “marry our neighbor.”

          “Children, you’re still too young,” he would answer. “If I get married now, your aunt will beat...

        • 10. Little Nightingale the Crier
          (pp. 102-111)

          Once upon a time there were three girls. They were spinners and had nothing but their spinning. Every day they used to spin and go down to the market to sell their product and buy food. One day the town crier announced that it was forbidden to put on a light in the city, because the king wanted to test his subjects—to see who was obedient and who was not.¹ That night the king and his vizier went through the city to check whose lights were on and whose were not.

          What were the girls to do? They had...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 111-114)

          The tales in this group focus on relationships among siblings in different contexts. Siblings of the same sex generally have relationships characterized by conflict, competition, and jealousy; among cross-sexual siblings, however, relationships of love, tenderness, and mutual cooperation prevail.

          In “Half-a-Halfling,” the competition between the brothers is acted out against a family background of polygyny and first-cousin marriage. This tale is one of the best loved and most popular in Palestine, perhaps because it dramatizes a situation that can occur in any family—that concerning an underdog younger (or smaller) brother. Here, however, a child who identifies with Half-a-Halfling would...

      • Sexual Awakening and Courtship

        • 11. The Little Bird
          (pp. 115-117)

          Once upon a time there was a little bird. She dug in the earth and dug, she dyed her hands with henna.¹ She dug in the earth and dug, she dyed her feet with henna. She looked up to the Lord, and He beautified her eyes with kohl.² She went on digging and digging, and found a bolt of silk. “What am I going to do with this?” she asked herself. “By Allah, I’m going to have it made into a dress.”

          So she went to the seamstress. “Take this,” she said, “and make dresses out of it—one for...

        • 12. Jummēz Bin Yāzūr, Chief of the Birds
          (pp. 117-121)

          Once there was a father, a merchant with three daughters. Two were from one mother, while the third was from a different mother. She was the youngest of the three and very beautiful. Her father loved her very much, and had given her the name of Sitt il-Ḥusun.²

          Wanting to go on the hajj, the father one day asked his daughters what they wished. “Name something I can bring back with me,” he said.

          “I want a gold bracelet,” announced the eldest. “And I want a dress embroidered with the most expensive silk,” said the second.³ “As for me, father,”...

        • 13. Jbēne
          (pp. 122-125)

          Once upon a time there was a woman who could not get pregnant and have children. One day, when a cheese vendor passed through, she gathered herself and cried out, “You who ask, your wish be granted!¹ May Allah grant me a daughter with a face as white as this piece of cheese!” Allah spoke with her tongue, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter with a face so fair it was like a square of cheese, and she called her Jbēne.²

          When Jbēne grew up she was very beautiful, and all the girls in the neighborhood...

        • 14. Sackcloth
          (pp. 125-130)

          Once upon a time there was a king who had no children except an only daughter. One day his wife laid her head down and died, and he went searching for a new wife. They spoke of this woman and that, but none pleased him. No one seemed more beautiful in his eyes, so the story goes, than his own daughter and he had no wish to marry another. When he came into the house, she would call him “father,” but he would answer, “Don’t call me ‘father’! Call me ‘cousin.’”¹

          “But father, O worthy man!² I’m your daughter!”


        • 15. Šāhīn
          (pp. 130-144)

          Once there was a king (and there is no kingship except that which belongs to Allah, may He be praised and exalted!) and he had an only daughter. He had no other children, and he was proud of her. One day, as she was lounging about, the daughter of the vizier came to visit her. They sat together, feeling bored.

          “We’re sitting around here feeling bored,” said the daughter of the vizier. “What do you say to going out and having a good time?”

          “Yes,” said the other.

          Sending for the daughters of the ministers and dignitaries of state, the...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 144-147)

          In general, the five tales in this group portray the early stirrings of sexuality, when they are still subjective feelings and before formal arrangements for marriage have been made. Except for “Jbēne,” the individuals in the tales, whether male or female, handle these feelings in a way that communicates them to those for whom they are intended. In “The Little Bird,” the theme of sexual awakening is manifested in the bird’s preparation for marriage. By collecting her trousseau, and by beautifying and putting herself on display, she arouses the interest of the sultan’s son. In “Jummēz Bin Yāzūr, Chief of...

      • The Quest for the Spouse

        • 16. The Brave Lad
          (pp. 148-150)

          There was once the king of a city who had a very beautiful daughter. He announced that he would give her hand to anyone who could kill the ghoul. He also let it be known that the ghoul would be easy to kill: all one had to do was remove three hairs from his head. If they were removed, the ghoul would die. The ghoul had been giving the people a hard time, eating them and their animals, and they wanted to be rid of him. He lived in a cave in the forest, not far from the city.


        • 17. Gazelle
          (pp. 150-159)

          Once upon a time there were three brothers.² Their father happened to be a king, and he said to them, “Listen! I’m about to die, and you have three sisters. He who comes to ask for the hand of any of them—don’t even ask where he’s from. Just give her to him in marriage.”³

          After the king died, the first suitor came to ask for the hand of one of the sisters, and he gave her to him.⁴ The second also he married off, and the third. Now the eldest brother, whose name was Ḥasan,⁵ thought to himself, “Here...

        • 18. Lōlabe
          (pp. 159-167)

          Once there was a king who had a son—an only son and no other. He made a vow.² If his son survived and grew up, he would run two channels into the city for the benefit of the poor and the destitute. One channel would be filled with honey, and the other with ghee.³

          One day the boy grew up and started school, and an old crone began annoying him. Every day she would meet him and say, “Tell your mother to fulfill the vow, or I’ll cut short your life!” But when he reached home, he forgot. The...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 168-172)

          In contrast to the tales in the previous group, which explore subjective feelings associated with sexuality, the quest tales here concern the search for a bride as a public affair circumscribed by preexisting conditions. The interplay of social forces in the quest situation is similar in all three tales, receiving its clearest expression in “The Brave Lad.” The very realistic narration in this tale, the absence of magic and the supernatural, itself gives a meaningful cultural context to the quest pattern. The teller relates this tale without distancing herself from the action, as if the events narrated came, or could...

    • Group II Family

      • Brides and Bridegrooms

        • 19. The Old Woman Ghouleh
          (pp. 175-177)

          The son of the king took the daughter of one of his father’s viziers for his wife. As the girl was sitting in the bridal seat receiving congratulations, an old woman came in and said, “Niece, may your wedding be blessed!”

          “And may Allah bless you too, aunty!” responded the bride.

          “I’m sorry, my dear,” the old woman said, “but I don’t have any money to give you as a wedding present.¹ Would you accept these glass bracelets?”

          The old woman then went home, waited until midnight, and returned.“Little bracelets, little bracelets!” she said, tapping on the door, “Open the...

        • 20. Lady Tatar
          (pp. 178-181)

          There were three sisters, and each of them had a hen.² The eldest killed her hen and ate it. The second one did the same. After a while they started pestering the young one: “Why don’t you kill your hen too? How long are you going to stay without meat?”³

          “How am I going to slaughter it?” she responded. “And how much [meat] will there be to eat? This way, she’ll lay an egg every day, and I’ll eat the egg.”

          Becoming envious, the sisters took the hen and dropped it into the well of the ghoul while the young...

        • 21. Šōqak Bōqak!
          (pp. 181-188)

          There was in the old days a king, Ṯāʾir by name, who had no children except an only son whose name was ʿAlāʾiddīn.¹ When he became of marriageable age, his parents urged him once, twice, and three times to let them find him a wife, but he always refused.² One snowy day he took his servant and went hunting. A doe sprang in front of them, and he aimed and shot her. The servant slaughtered her, and as her blood flowed to the ground, he said, “O master! May you find a bride who’s like this blood on the snow.”³...

        • 22. Clever Ḥasan
          (pp. 188-198)

          Once upon a time there was a king who had an only son and no other. One day the father died. Taking his mother with him, the son said, “Mother, let’s go traveling around these lands. We ought to have some fun.”

          With her on one mare and him on another, they went out and traveled, traveled, traveled. They came upon a man sitting at the crossing of three roads.

          “Hey, uncle!” called out the boy.

          “What do you want?” the man answered.

          “What road is this?” asked the boy.

          “This one’s the Road of Safety,” the man replied. “That...

        • 23. The Cricket
          (pp. 199-202)

          Once there was a woman who could not get pregnant and have children. One day she cried out, “O Lord, would you grant me a little girl, even if she’s nothing more than a cricket!” It so happened that Allah heard her plea, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a cricket. A day went and a day came, and the cricket grew up. Once upon a day she wanted to get married.

          “Mama,” she said, going to her mother, “I want to get married.”

          “What can I do for you?” asked the mother. “You must look for a...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 203-205)

          This group of tales deals with the marriage relationship, focusing on the newlyweds themselves and the pressures they experience regarding their choice of mate and their sexuality. Because (despite the emphasis on endogamy) none of the couples are cousins but rather are strangers to each other, they must learn to establish patterns of communication and to adapt to each other’s needs and observe each other’s limits. The tales explore ways in which success may be achieved in marriage, especially in the initial phases of the relationship, immediately following the wedding.

          “The Old Woman Ghouleh” shows us some of the confusion...

      • Husbands and Wives

        • 24. The Seven Leavenings
          (pp. 206-211)

          There was once in times past an old woman who lived in a hut all by herself. She had no one at all. One day when the weather was beautiful she said, “Ah, yes! By Allah, today it’s sunny and beautiful, and I’m going to take the air by the seashore.² But let me first knead this dough.”

          When she had finished kneading the dough, having added the yeast, she put on her best clothes, saying, “By Allah, I just have to go take the air by the seashore.” Arriving at the seashore, she sat down to rest, and lo!...

        • 25. The Golden Rod in the Valley of Vermilion
          (pp. 212-218)

          Once, long ago, there was a merchant. An important merchant. Every Friday the wives of the other merchants came to visit his wife, and they would go out to take the air, enjoying themselves at the public baths and then returning home.¹ Days went and nights came. One day the wives of the merchants came calling on her, and she went out with them. One of them happened to be wearing a beautiful black velvet dress, and the wife of the big merchant liked it very much. Home she went, and how angry she was! Who was that wearing such...

        • 26. Minjal
          (pp. 218-224)

          Once upon a time there was a woman. She had for a neighbor a charming rogue who knew how to enjoy life. “By Allah,” said he one day, “I’m going to play a trick on her and take away one of the family’s yoke of oxen.” Waiting until the husband had gone to the fields to plow (they had another team of oxen which he did not take with him) the neighbor disguised himself and called out, “Ho! I have names for sale! Who wants a beautiful name? I sell names!” The woman was baking bread outdoors in her clay...

        • 27. Im ʿĒše
          (pp. 224-227)

          Once there was a man, and he had a daughter. He and his wife had no other children except this daughter, and her name was ʿĒše. One day people from another town came to ask for ʿĒše hand. They asked for her hand, took her for a bride, and departed.

          The days passed. ʿĒše became pregnant and gave birth; she had a boy.

          “Abū ʿĒše!”¹ said the mother.

          “Yes. What do you want?” he replied.

          “Our daughter has given birth to a boy,” she answered, “and we ought to go visit her. What are we going to take her?”²


        • Afterword
          (pp. 227-229)

          The issues addressed in these tales can touch on any established marriage relationship. We find sexuality, which was a central theme in the “Brides and Bridegrooms” group, a vital issue here as well. It is clearly articulated in the last tale, “Im ʿĒše,” in which the couple are willing to tolerate each other’s miutual follies and even the loss of their material possessions. The one loss the marriage cannot sustain, that of the husband’s virility, poses a problem for both husband and wife. For the husband it represents a source of anxiety and fear about himself. We have already come...

      • Family Life

        • 28. Chick Eggs
          (pp. 230-234)

          Once there was a girl, the daughter of a co-wife.¹ And, as everybody knows, a co-wife’s daughter usually turns out meaner than her own mother. Her stepmother hated her, always saying to her “Come here” and “Go there” and giving her endless work to do.

          The stepmother had a daughter of her own about the same age. One day she said to her mother, “Mother, I want to go to the countryside with my sister to gather wood.” “Go ahead,” said the mother.

          After the girls had left, lo! a salesman was crying his wares:

          “Chick eggs, chick eggs for...

        • 29. The Ghouleh of Trans-Jordan
          (pp. 234-237)

          Once there was a poor man. One day he said to his family, “Let’s cross over to Trans-Jordan. Maybe we can find a better life there than we have here.”¹ They had (May Allah preserve your worth!)² a beast of burden.

          Crossing eastward, they came upon some deserted ruins.³ When they found an empty house in the ruins, they wanted to move into it. A woman came upon them. “Welcome!” she said to the man. “Welcome to my nephew!⁴ Since my brother died, you haven’t dropped in on me, nor have you visited me.”

          “By Allah,” he answered, “my father...

        • 30. Bear-Cub of the Kitchen
          (pp. 237-241)

          Once there was a king who had three wives.¹ One day a mosquito crept into his nose.² Try as he would, he could find no doctor or medicine, east or west, that could cure him. It did not come out, and soon his nose had swollen up, like this. “It’s all over,” they said. “The king is going to die.”³ One day, as he sat contemplating his condition, the mosquito said to him, “Look here, I’ll come out of your nose, and you will get well. But will you take me for your wife? I’m from the jinn (In the...

        • 31. The Woman Whose Hands Were Cut Off
          (pp. 241-243)

          There was a man whose wife had given birth to a daughter and a son and then died. One day the man himself died, and the children remained alone.

          They had a hen that laid an egg every day. They would eat the egg for breakfast and wait till the following day. It so happened one day that the hen stopped laying. “I must go check inside the coop,” said the girl to herself. She went down into the coop to search the straw, and behold! she found a pile of eggs, and under it was all her father’s money....

        • 32. Nʿayyis (Little Sleepy One)
          (pp. 244-248)

          Once there was a king who had an only son and no other. His name was Nʿayyis, Little Sleepy One, and his father loved him very much and indulged him. One day the daughter of the king of the jinn fell in love with him and stole him away from his father.² There was no place left in the world where the king did not ask about his son, but he could not find him.

          In that country there were three girls who were spinners. They used to spin their wool, sell it, and eat from what they earned. When...

        • Afterword
          (pp. 248-250)

          The general theme that unites the tales in this group is that of conflicting loyalties. The conflict usually centers on the male and arises out of his responsibilities as the head of his own household or as a member of an extended family. In the last tale in the group, “Nʿayyis,” the source of the conflict is not so much the responsibility a mature man must shoulder but rather the duty a young son owes his parents by remaining within the fold of the extended family.

          “Chick Eggs” and “Bear-Cub of the Kitchen” demonstrate the potential for divided loyalties in...

    • Group III Society

      • 33. Im ʿAwwād and the Ghouleh
        (pp. 253-254)

        Once upon a time there were some women who agreed to meet on a certain day to go wash their clothes at the spring on the edge of town.² As they were discussing the matter, a ghouleh who had hidden herself behind a retaining wall nearby heard what they agreed to do that day.³ On the appointed night, toward dawn, she came to the one among them whose house was on the outskirts of town and made as if she were one of the women who had promised to go to the spring. The woman to whose house she had...

      • 34. The Merchant’s Daughter
        (pp. 255-261)

        Once there was a merchant, a big merchant, the biggest of all the merchants, and he had an only daughter. He did not have a wife; she had died. He used to pamper his daughter very much, and she spent her days at home with no one to keep her company.¹ When the time came for pilgrimage, he thought, “I’d like to go on the hajj.” He made preparations, but his daughter asked, “And how can you leave me all by myself?”

        “Don’t worry,” he answered. “I’ll have all the daughters of my fellow merchants come visit you, and they’ll...

      • 35. Pomegranate Seeds
        (pp. 261-267)

        There was once a woman who had no children except an only daughter whom she indulged.² She had a pair of golden slippers made for her. The mother loved her daughter very much and would send her to the sheikh for lessons. (In the old days there were no schools; the sheikhs were the teachers.)³ Early one morning the girl went to the house of the sheikh and found him skinning a little boy and devouring him.⁴

        She gathered herself and ran away, not returning to her mother. “If I return to my mother,” she thought, “she’ll want to take...

      • 36. The Woodcutter
        (pp. 267-272)

        Once upon a time there was a poor man, a woodcutter. Every day he would bring a bundle of wood, sell it, and eat from his earnings. One day, before setting out to the woods in the morning, he roasted a handful of fava beans to entertain himself along the way.¹ He walked along munching on them, taking the road to Bāb il-Wādī. As he approached the well belonging to the house of Yūsif is-Slīman,² the one in the middle of the road, he tossed a bean up in the air—but it did not land in his mouth, it...

      • 37. The Fisherman
        (pp. 272-277)

        Once there was a fisherman who lived all by himself in a shack. Every day he caught some fish and sold them, saving a few for his neighbor to cook for him. Because he was by himself and had nobody, she took pity on him. One day he thought, “Am I to keep imposing on my neighbor like this? By Allah, I’m going out to the coffeehouse for a cup of coffee, and when I come back I’ll prepare the fish myself.” He put the fish down, covering them with a platter, and went to the coffeehouse, where he sat...

      • Afterword
        (pp. 277-278)

        These tales take for their theme the relationship between the individual and society, where family bonds and obligations do not necessarily dictate the standard of conduct. In this group the fabric of society in operation is shown, with the values of helping those in distress and of neighborliness present or assumed in all of them. The women in “Im ʿAwwād” go to the spring to wash their clothes in groups, both for protection and because people like to be together. In “The Merchant’s Daughter,” the neighbor not only comes to the girl’s rescue, but he also assumes the father's role...

    • Group IV Environment

      • 38. The Little She-Goat
        (pp. 281-283)

        Once there was a she-goat who had three kids. She used to say to them, “You stay here. I’m going to bring you some grass.” Every day she went grazing until she was full, then she came home with grass for them and said:

        “O my kids! O my kids!

        Open the door for me!

        The grass is on my horns

        And the milk is in my teats.”

        They would then open the door for her.

        One day the hyena saw her as she was leaving and discovered where her kids were.¹ “By Allah,” he said to himself, “I’m going...

      • 39. The Old Woman and Her Cat
        (pp. 283-285)

        Once there was an old woman who had a cat. One day she brought some milk home, and the cat came and lapped it up. Feeling angry, she cut off his tail.

        “Meow! Meow!” he cried. “Give me back my tail.”

        “Give me back my milk,” demanded the old woman.

        “And how am I going to bring back the milk for you?” he asked.

        “Go bring it from that ewe over there,” she answered.

        Going to the ewe, the cat said, “Ewe, give me some milk, and the milk is for the old woman, and the old woman will then...

      • 40. Dunglet
        (pp. 285-288)

        Once there was a woman who had no children. Her husband was a plowman, and every day they had a hard time finding someone to take food out to him.¹ They had a few sheep, and one day, as the wife was sweeping out their pen, she cried out, “O seeker, your wish be granted! May I become pregnant and have a boy, even if it is a piece of dung!”²

        It was as if Allah Himself had spoken with her tongue.³ When she gave birth, she delivered a pile of dung. All those present at the birth gathered up...

      • 41. The Louse
        (pp. 288-290)

        Once a louse married a flea.¹ One day guests came to visit them.

        “O wife,” said the flea. “Won’t you get up and make us some dinner?”²

        Getting up, the louse kneaded unleavened loaves and went outside to bake them in the oven.³ But when she reached in, she could not bring them out. She ran to her husband the flea and said, “I wasn’t able to reach them.” So out he went and came toward the oven to reach for the loaves, and behold! he landed in the heart of the oven.

        The louse waited for him, but he...

      • Afterword
        (pp. 290-294)

        This group differs fundamentally from all the other tales in the collection. Because they are “formula” tales, requiring a verbal precision that becomes part of the content, there is little room in them for tellers to show individuality in weaving the narrative. Also, being formulaic, they are circular in structure, with the end contained in the beginning. They therefore do not reflect social reality in the same way the other tales do; rather, they serve an analogical function, as models of that reality. The regularity and security of the social world is reflected in the predictable organization of each tale...

    • Group V Universe

      • 42. The Woman Who Fell into the Well
        (pp. 297-301)

        Once there were some men who had been out selling, you might say, charcoal and were on their way home.¹ As they were traveling, one of them said, “God forsake you!² By Allah, we’re hungry!”

        “O So-and-So!” they said. “Stop by and ask for something for us.”

        Stopping by a house to ask for something, he found a woman at home.³

        “I entreat you in Allah’s name, sister,” he said, “if you have a couple of loaves of bread, let me have them for these cameleers. We’re on the road from faraway places, and we’re hungry.”

        “Of course,” she said,...

      • 43. The Rich Man and the Poor Man
        (pp. 301-306)

        Once upon a time there were two sisters, married to two brothers, one very, very rich, and the other very, very poor.¹ One day the sister married to the poor one went to visit the wife of the rich one and found her preparing stuffed cabbage leaves for dinner. She sat on the doorstep, but her rich sister did not say to her, “Come in, sister, and sit down inside.”² When she brought the cabbage out of the boiling water, the rich sister gave the ribs of the leaves to her children but did not say, “Here, sister, take some...

      • 44. Maʿrūf the Shoemaker
        (pp. 307-317)

        Once there was a shoemaker—a poor man with his wife and children, just like the son of Yūsif il-Xatīb, who is new to the craft.¹ All day he mended shoes—save the listeners!—so he could make two or three piasters and buy bread for his children.² I mean, he was making ends meet. One day his wife said to him, “You know, husband, I have a strong craving forknāfe.³ It’s a long time since we’ve had it, and we want you to bring us a platter full ofknāfewith honey.”⁴

        “Wife,” he asked, “how are we...

      • 45. Im ʿAlī and Abū ʿAlī
        (pp. 317-323)

        Once, long ago, there was a poor outcast of a man, and no one was willing to give him work. His name was Sparrow, and his wife’s name was Locust. One day she started to grumble.

        “Don’t you fear Allah?”¹ she said. “Your children are dying of hunger. Don’t we need to eat? Don’t we need to drink? Why don’t you find some work?”

        “There is no work I can do,” he answered.

        “In that case,” she continued, “come let me sew straps on this pouch, which has a copy of the Qurʾān in it (he couldn’t read or write),...

      • Afterword
        (pp. 323-326)

        Relations in these tales not only go beyond the familial and societal but transcend the physical environment as well. Here the relationship is between the human and the divine, as based on a human being’s acceptance of God’s will as it is manifested on a day-to-day basis. Wisdom consists precisely in this continual trust in God’s ultimate design for the universe.

        The major characters in this group exhibit simplicity of heart and lack of guile, qualities that enable them to stay in touch with the workings of destiny. The woman who fell into the well does not hold a grudge...

  9. Folkloristic Analysis
    (pp. 327-380)

    Each tale is introduced here by both its English and its Arabic name, and by the name and age of the teller (when available) and her or his place of residence.

    Tales are identified as to Type following Aarne and Thompson’sTypes of the Folktale(abbreviated as “AT”); citations for international parallels to the tales included here may be found in that volume as well. Motif numbers are drawn from ThompsonsMotif-Index of Folk-Literature.

    In the “Parallels” section, we have listed Arabic parallels according to their geographic proximity to Palestine, beginning with the Mashreq and moving westward to Egypt and...

  10. Appendix A: Transliteration of Tale 10
    (pp. 381-386)
  11. Appendix B: Index of Folk Motifs
    (pp. 387-402)
  12. Appendix C: List of Tales by Type
    (pp. 403-404)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 405-412)
  14. Footnote Index
    (pp. 413-420)