Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Tree That Grew From Her Bones

In the book this was titled simply “Omani Cinderella (2)”, but I think it bears more resemblance to Snow White.  I’ve taken the liberty of translating sidr (Ziziphus spina-christi) as the Christ’s Thorn tree in some places instead of just leaving it as sidr, giving it a significance I don’t think the name had in the original.  Mea culpa.

It is said that there was a happy family composed of a father and a mother and their one child, a girl, except that the wife was struck by an illness that led to her death, and the father was saddened just as his daughter was by the loss of the love of their wife and mother.

However, the father’s work often required a lot of travelling, to India one time and to Zanzibar other times, which decided him to marry another woman who would take care of his daughter and raise her while he was gone.  And indeed he married a woman who appeared in the beginning to be good and of generous character, but not long passed before she began to be jealous of the love of her husband for his daughter, and not long passed before the jealousy turned to strong hate which filled her chest with venom, although she continued to hide it.


One day the father said farewell and left on a trip to far away.  So the woman seized the opportunity to reveal the extent of her hate and ill-will for the little girl, and decided to make her carry the burden of all the housework, so that she would exhaust her strength, saying to herself:  Perhaps an illness will strike her and lead to her death and relieve me of her forever.

Yet the days passed and the girl tried to please her paternal aunt[1] by doing everything that was asked of her, of strenuous work in the house and outside of it such as sweeping and laundry and cleaning dishes and bringing water from the well and wood for fuel.

When the paternal aunt saw that her plan had failed, and that the girl was suffering in silence, and had not been stricken by any damage, she could not find any method to get rid of her except slipping poison into her food.

The poor girl died and the wife of her father hid the evidence of her crime by burying her outside the house.  When the husband returned from his travels she had invented a lie for him and the neighbours saying: One day the girl went out to draw water from the well and fell in it and drowned.  And because of that she supposed that she was finally rid of her little competitor.


However, when the rain fell a sidr[2] tree grew from the place where the girl’s bones were buried, and it wasn’t long before it grew and its branches got larger and grew twigs and spread into the house.  After it flowered it became weighed down with Christ’s thorn fruit to give generously to passers-by and the poor and orphans and travellers.

Except that every time the father’s wife tried to enter her house, her head was struck by the thorns on the branches which grew from the girl’s bones and were heavy with fruit, reaching into the house.  She was pushed aside by them and thrown on the earth yelling and crying in pain, until she was forced to call the village carpenter and ask him, saying:

-          Cut this cursed Christ’s thorn, and I want you to make a door for my room from its wood.


The carpenter obeyed her and cut the Christ’s thorn tree and made from its wood a door decorated with various carvings which he spent days perfecting, then he took down the old door and put in its place the new door.

Yet, every time the father’s wife tried to enter or exit her room, the door which was made from the sidr tree which grew from the girl’s bones would squeeze her until it nearly pressed the juice from her body, and she cried and yelled until her screams were heard at the far ends of the village.  Then she decided to burn the door and spread its ashes on the fields.


The days passed and the season for planting red watermelon seeds, and it was not long before red watermelons grew where the ashes of the door made from the sidr tree which had grown from the girl’s bones were spread, and when the plants bore fruit the people of the village carried them away…and none remained but one fruit that was very small, as though it were sick.


Finally an old woman came to the father’s wife and said to her: All the people of the village have tasted the fruit of the red watermelon except for me.  The father’s wife answered her: If there is any fruit left then it is for you.

The old woman hurried to the one small remaining fruit and took it to her tent which was falling apart and intended to cut it with her knife, but she heard the voice of a girl pleading with her, saying:

-          I beg of you, don’t wound me, good grandmother.

And the little girl told her her story with her father’s wife, and she [the old woman] had joy in raising her, but she was afraid that people would see her and it would get back to the father’s wife that she [the old woman] had her and she [the father’s wife] would come snatch her away, and because of this she hid her in her clothes chest after leaving an opening so she could breathe.

The girl grew up in the care of the old woman while she provided for her from what she had saved during her life, buying for her the finest clothes and best food, milk and honey and dates rubbed with butter, until she became a very beautiful bride.


One evening a young Bedu passed by the village, and stopped at the old woman’s house asking for water to drink, and he caught sight of the girl and liked her and he decided to propose to marry her and he spoke expressing his desire and his character to the old woman, for he was the son of the head of the tribe.  He asked about the father of the girl in order to present himself to him, and the old woman revealed to him what the wife of the girl’s father had done to the girl.

And the father knew the truth and divorced his evil wife, and the people of the village cast her out, and they were kind to the old woman on the day the girl’s marriage to the son of the head of the tribe was celebrated.

[1] Her step-mother.
[2] Christ’s thorn, Ziziphus spina-christi.

No comments:

Post a Comment