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Tigre stories
A man swore he would carry out these four things: not to refuse [a request] ; not to lie ; not to be jealous ; not to flee [from danger]. And after he had taken the oath about them, his father-in-law, the father of his wife, tempted him in all of them. In order to make him break his vow not to refuse, he sent every stranger to him whosoever it was, so that his property should be exhausted. But he entertained every stranger that came to him, and finally when his property was exhausted, he killed his saddle-camel for them.
After that he became stripped of everything, and he had reached rock-bottom. But he had carried out his vow and given away all his property. Now his father-in-law having been foiled in this, tried him in his vow about lying: he sheared a young camel on one side and said [to his servants]: "Pass by him turning the shorn side towards him !" And after them, he sent messengers to him, and they asked him: "Have they passed by here with a shorn young camel?" But he answered them: "That side which was turned towards me was shorn; but the other side of it God knows, I have not seen it." And another time he had butter smeared on the outside of a wooden bowl and sent [people] to pass by him with it, while it was closed [with a cover]. Thereupon he sent a messenger to him asking him: "Has a man passed by here carrying his polenta with its butter?" He answered: "The outside of the bowl was smeared with butter, but what was in it, God knows/' His father-in-law thought: "Now I shall try him about jealousy," and said to him: "Come, let us play wad-arba”16" ') And after they had sat down opposite each other to play wad-arba together, he went and took a woman and said to her: "Sit down near us and kiss me all the time so that this man may grow jealous." And the woman kissed him all the time, but the man did not grow jealous; and after they had finished the game they parted from each other.
Now his father-in-law thought he would try him with regard to fleeing [from danger]. Their villages were distant from each other about as far as a horse runs. He sent a messenger to him saying: "I have fallen sick, and my remedy is with the boil coffee in thy house, pour it at night into a cup, and come to me [with it] !" And on the road he made some men to lie in ambush for him and said to them : "Treat him so that he may become like one who flees!" The other after having prepared the coffee poured from it into a cup, and when, armed and holding the cup of coffee in his hand, he was on his way to the house of his wife's father, he met the ambushed people on the road. And when they sprang upon him in order to make him flee, he put the cup firmly on the ground, drew his sword against them and put them to flight.
Then he took his cup and brought it to his wife's father. And his father-in-law saw that he had carried out all his vows, and knew that he had sworn nothing in rashness. Then he wished to make him a gift and said : "Wish, what shall I do for thee?" The man said to him: "I wish [that thou mayest] take thy daughter from me, sending a beast of burden and people [to take her]!" And in this way he divorced his wife in -his rage because her father had tried him in all these things and had intended to make him a liar.
(1) In order to preserve the butter for a longer time it is boiled together with various spices. This is called hesas, and is preserved in bags made of leather. Unboiled butter, zébdat, is used only for hairdressing. It would be loathful to them to eat this.
(2)i. e. during their absence.
(3) This may possibly refer to a herd of that kind of cows which are called »ostriclies.»
But the probability is that the reference concerns a flock of actual ostriches, from which
the conclusion may then be drawn that, at the time of the incident related, the ostrich
existed in the coastal regions by the Red Sea, whereas,now, it is completely extirpated in
that place and is found only in the lowland of Barka, that is, in the interior desert lands
between Akordet and Kassala and northwards.
(3) Through the punishment of God.
(4) Various kinds of »Ieather bags» are to be understood. Whether the Barja people were at the same stage of cultural development then as now, is uncertain
(5) i- e. »Thou hast obtained a certain claim on us».
(6) Whatever is offered a guest at his reception, is regarded as a gift to him, of which he may, in his turn, invite others to partake.
(7) i. e. this man destitute of relatives.
(8)i. e. wlien the stellar combinations evince favourable tokens.
(9) Ham, father-in-law, is said both between the fathers of the betrothed and between the engaged parties and their fathers.
(10) These descendants of the ancient Takar people inhabit Mehlab and have amalgamated with the Bet-Shahkan.
(11) i. e. the near kindred. They call one another - brother» even to the 5th and 6th generation.
(12) See introduktion p. 10.
(13) The cross-feast, on the 24th of September.
(14) Wooden shoes of different kinds are chiefly used during the rainy season in the highland,
July-September, and otherwise only in moist weather as at Christmas.
(15) i. e. have not kept your word.
(16) the manqale of the Arabs.