طيوب اللغات

The Old Hag and the Devil

Younes Mahjoub

من أعمال التشكيلي عمران بشنة
من أعمال التشكيلي عمران بشنة

An old hag once roamed the land, moving from one place to another, spreading evil, provoking temptations, turning brothers against one another, making people fight, lie, envy, steal and kill each other, and that was her only joy in life: to see families and friendships get torn apart.

The crone woman was so old that she had to use a walking stick, her face usually grimacing, her nose crooked with a long mole growing on it, but most importantly, she had two horns on her head which she hid with a scarf.

One day, the old hag was heading to a small village where its inhabitants lived happy and content with one another. The chieftain of the village was an old man, wise and generous, respected and loved amongst his people. The devil was lurking in that village, trying to sabotage their lives and run havoc throughout their homes; he tried his best, but to no avail. It seemed the harder he tried, the more the people came together and banded together.

In his sorrow, the devil sat under a tree, losing his wit, not knowing what to do next.

The old hag passed him by and asked, “Why so gloomy dear devil, what is bothering you?”

“What an accursed village. I no longer know what to do with those people. I tried and tried to set them up, but they just voiced their solidarity against evil,” the devil replied.

The old hag smiled, “Oh, just that?” the devil nodded and she added, “I can help you if you help me.”

“What is it you need?” 

The old hag removed her scarf and showed him her horns, “Rid me of these horns and carry them as your own.”

The devil agreed and the old hag entered the village. She wandered its streets and alleys, talked to the women and learned their pattern of life. She then asked where the house of the village elder is. She went there and knocked on the door.

The elder’s wife opened the door and the old hag said, “Hello child, I am a traveler passing by and the long road made me weary, can I have some water?”

“Come inside and rest, auntie, the weather is hot today,” the wife welcomed her in.

The old hag entered the house and the elder’s wife gave her a warm welcome. She pretended to be tired, drank water and ate some food, and then, “Oh, you are beautiful, but it’s a shame.”

Those words surprised the wife, “What do you mean?”

“You must have not known, that your husband has another wife at the other side of the village,” the cunning old lady replied.

“No, you must be mistaken.” 

“I’m afraid not, you are the wife of the village elder, yes? I was with his other wife yesterday,” the old hag said.

“This can’t be,” the wife muttered, “my husband loves me and he is an honest man, I can’t believe he married another woman.”

“Oh, believe me poor thing, I am sorry,” as soon as the old hag finished talking the wife began to sob; her face became pale, she didn’t know what to say or what to do, the old hag added “Don’t cry, I can help you, this day won’t pass until he leaves his other wife, just do as I say.” 

“What should I do?” the wife asked.

“When your husband returns tonight, go to him in his sleep and cut a few hairs of his beard, I will come by in the morning and cast a spell on those hairs and burn them, then he will leave his other wife willingly,” the old hag said.

“I will, I will, thank you,” said the naive wife.

The old hag left the house and went to see the village elder at the village square, she greeted him and he welcomed her. He offered her a cup of tea but she said “Oh dear elder, I don’t want tea, I came to tell you something important.”

“What is it?” the elder said.

“Your wife, be careful good man, for I learned that she intended to kill you, perhaps even tonight,” the old hag whispered. 

The village elder thought the woman was crazy and said with anger in his voice, “Hush now old woman, what is this nonsense, my wife is a good woman and she is not how you say she is.”

“Fine, you can be sure of what I say, just go back home tonight and pretend you are sleeping, then see what she will do.”

Some doubt seeped into his mind and he thought, better safe than sorry, after returning home and spending some time with his wife, he yawned and pretended to be asleep before going to bed.

After a few minutes, his wife entered the bedroom with scissors in her hands, to cut a few hairs of his beard just like the old hag told her. He saw her holding the scissors and thought she wanted to kill him. He jumped off the bed, grabbed the scissors and stabbed her. She fell to the ground and soon died bleeding out.

During that time, the old hag went to the family of the wife and yelled, “Hurry, the elder has killed your daughter.”

They went to the elder’s house and found her dead next to her husband who was holding the scissors with blood on his hands. They hailed down on him beating him to death, while the old hag ran to the family of the elder and yelled “Hurry, your in-laws have killed your son!”

They ran and found the elder beaten to death, while the elder wife’s brothers stood in the room. Chaos soon broke out and a violent fight occurred between the two families, and soon each called his friends and relatives and before sun down, a deadly battle tore the village in two. Many people died and many others were injured.

The next morning, the old hag met the devil outside the village. She said laughing, “Now dear devil, I did as promised and left the village in ruins.” 

The devil smiled, “And I will do as promised,” and with a swift motion of his hand, the horns disappeared from her head and appeared on his. He quickly said goodbye and ran away fearing her cunning mind, and to this day, the devil still carries those horns as his own.

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