Adiberga and her Brothers
A Shinasha Story
Before you read the story
This is a long story in three parts. Answer the questions at the end of each part before you read the next one. Think about these questions before you begin.
- Is it right for parents to choose a wife or husband for their son or daughter?
- Should the son or daughter accept their parents’ choice?
- Is it right for the son or daughter to choose someone that they like?
Tej is an alcoholic drink made from honey.
Now read the story
Once upon a time, there was a girl called Adiberga. She was very beautiful, and everybody loved her.
Adiberga's father was dead, and she lived with her mother and her four older brothers. She worked hard in the house. She fetched the water, cooked the food and cleaned the compound.
One day, Adiberga's mother said to her oldest son, "You are a man now. You must find a wife, and marry her."
"I don't want a wife," the oldest son said. "My sister, Adiberga, looks after me."
The next day, Adiberga's mother said, "Please, my son. Don't wait any longer. Go out and look for a wife."
"Where can I find a wife?" her son answered her. "My sister, Adiberga, is the most beautiful girl in the world. Where can I find a girl like her?"
A week later, his mother said to him, "Have you looked for a wife yet? Have you found a girl?"
"I have looked for a wife," her son answered, "but I have not found one. I love my sister, Adiberga, and I want to marry her. Then she will stay at home with us for ever."
His mother was angry.
"You can't marry Adiberga!" she said. "She is your sister! How can a man marry his own sister?"
Her son was angry too.
"Mother," he said. "I will never marry another woman. I want my sister, and I will have her."
He spoke to his mother every day. At first, she was angry, but then she began to listen to him.
At last she said, "Yes, my son. You can marry Adiberga. I will help you."
The oldest son was very happy. The second and third sons were happy too.
"Adiberga will stay at home with us now," they thought. "We will never lose her."
That evening, Adiberga went to the river to fetch water. Her mother and her brothers stayed in the house. Adiberga filled her pot with water and walked home. She went to the door of the hut. She wanted to go inside. But her oldest brother put his leg across the door.
"Brother," she said. "Please put your leg down. I want to come in."
Her oldest brother smiled at her.
"I am not your brother," he said. "I am your husband."
And he put down his leg.
Adiberga tried to go in again, but her second brother held his leg across the door.
"Please, brother," she said. "Let me come in."
"I’m not your brother," her second brother said. "I am your brother-in-law."
And he put down his leg.
Adiberga waited. Her third brother's leg was across the door now.
"What are you doing?" she said. "Please, brother. Put your leg down. Let me come in."
"I am not your brother," the third brother said. "I am your brother-in-law."
And he put down his leg.
Now, Adiberga's mother sat beside the door. She put her leg up. Adiberga couldn’t go inside.
"Mother," she said. "Please let me come in. Please put your leg down."
"I am not your mother," her mother answered. "I’m your mother-in-law."
And she put down her leg.
Adiberga's fourth brother sat beside the door now. He was disabled. His legs were weak and he couldn’t walk. He lifted one leg with his hands.
"Brother," Adiberga said. "Why are you doing this to me? Please, let me come in."
Her fourth brother put down his leg.
"Yes, dear sister, you can come in," he said.
The next evening, Adiberga went to the river again. When she came home, her family was together in the hut. Again, they lifted their legs against her. Again, her fourth brother let her come in.
They did this every day, week after week.
Tef is a cereal that grows in Ethiopia
One day, Adiberga's fourth brother said to her, "Dear Adiberga, I want to go to the toilet. Please carry me outside."
So Adiberga picked up her brother and carried him out to the fields.
She stopped beside a field of tef.
"Don't stop here," her brother said. "I can't use this place. The tef will become dirty."
So Adiberga carried him on. They came to a field of sorghum.
"Not here," said her brother. "The sorghum is for our food. I don't want to make it dirty."
Adiberga carried him far away, to a place full of trees.
"Put me down here," her brother said, "and sit beside me. Listen. I don't need to go to the toilet. I brought you here because I want to talk to you. Our mother and brothers have a plan for you. Tomorrow, they are going to give you to our oldest brother. They want you to marry him."
Adiberga was very unhappy.
"What?" she cried. "My brother wants to marry me? But I can't marry my own brother! It's a wicked thing to do."
"I agree," her youngest brother said. "But they will try to force you. My dear sister, you must run away. Go now."
"But where can I go?" Adiberga said. There were tears in her eyes now. "Who will help me?"
"God will help you," her brother said. "Be strong. Go."
So Adiberga ran away. She ran and ran, over the fields, up the mountains and down into the valleys. At last, she came to a big river.
"I can't cross this river," she thought. "It's too deep. I must stay here."
There was a big tree near the river.
"I'll climb the tree," Adiberga thought. "I will be safe there from the wild animals."
So Adiberga began to live in the tree. She collected fruits and leaves for her food, and she drank the water of the river.
Now a rich man lived not far away. Every day, his servant girl came down to the river to fetch water. One day, the girl walked under Adiberga's tree to the edge of the river. She put her pot down, and began to fill it.
Adiberga was sitting in the tree above the girl's head. When the girl filled her pot, she looked down at the water, and she saw Adiberga's face.
"That's my face," the girl thought. "Oh, how beautiful I am!"
She looked at the face in the water again and again.
"That is not the face of a servant girl," she thought. "It's the face of a princess. I'm not going to be a servant any more. I'm going to find a rich man to marry me!"
She dropped her pot on the ground, and it broke.
"It doesn't matter," the girl said. "It was just an old water pot. I don't need it now. I'm beautiful! I'm going to be a princess!"
She ran back to the rich man's house. But before she reached it, she began to think.
"I broke my master's pot," she thought, "and he is waiting for his bath. He will be angry with me. I must take another pot and go to the river again."
So the servant girl fetched another pot, and went back to the river. But again she saw Adiberga's face in the water.
"It's true!" she cried. "I am the most beautiful girl in the world!"
She dropped the second pot, and it broke too.
Then Adiberga spat on the girl from the tree. The girl looked up and saw her.
"Oh," she said. "I am not beautiful at all. The face in the water was not mine. It belongs to the girl in the tree. I will tell my master. I have broken two of his pots, but when he sees this girl, he will not be angry with me."
So the servant girl ran home to her master.
"Master!" she said. "I saw a girl in a tree beside the river today. She was as beautiful as St Mary. She is the most beautiful girl in the world. I was very surprised and I - I broke your water pots."
"Don't worry about the water pots," the rich man said. "Where is this girl? I want to see her."
"Come to the river with me," the girl said. "I will show you."
So the rich man followed the girl to the river. He stood under the tree, and looked up. He saw Adiberga.
"My servant was right," he thought. "This is the most beautiful girl in the world, and I want to marry her."
"Beautiful girl," he said. "Why are you hiding in the tree? Have you done something wicked? Does your family want to punish you?"
Adiberga didn't answer. She said nothing.
The rich man turned to his servant.
"Go back to my house," he said. "Bring me my spear, and two carpets."
The girl ran home. She came back again quickly with the carpets and the spear. The rich man stood the spear in the ground. The sharp point of it was below Adiberga. He put one carpet on one side of the spear, and the other carpet on the other side. Then he spoke to Adiberga.
"Jump down from the tree," he said. "Perhaps you are a bad girl. Perhaps you did something wrong, and your family is angry with you. Is that why you ran away? Is that why you are hiding up there in the tree? If that is the reason, you will fall on the spear. But perhaps you are a good girl. Perhaps someone tried to hurt you, and you ran away to save your life. Is that why you are hiding in the tree? If that is the reason, you will fall on the carpet."
So Adiberga jumped down from the tree. She fell on the carpet, and the rich man picked her up.
"Marry me," he said.
So Adiberga married him.
Now a new life began for Adiberga. She was the wife of a rich man. She lived in a big house, and she had many servants. She forgot about her mother and her brothers. She was happy.
But Adiberga's fourth brother did not forget his sister. He left his mother's house, and he began to travel everywhere. He was looking for Adiberga.
It was very hard for Adiberga's brother. He could not use his legs, but only his arms. He needed other people to help him.
One day, he came to the rich man's house. He sat outside, under a tree. Adiberga's servants saw him. They ran to Adiberga.
"There is a man outside your house, under the tree," they said. "His face is like your face. His eyes and his nose, his mouth and his hair, they are all like yours. Is he a relative? Does he come from your family?"
"I have no relatives," Adiberga said. "I have only one brother, and he is disabled. Go and look at the man again. If he is disabled and cannot walk, come and tell me."
The servants hurried out to the tree again. Soon they came back to Adiberga.
"He looks like you!" they all said. "His hair, his eyes, his teeth..."
"But is he disabled?" Adiberga said. "Can he walk?"
Her servants looked at each other.
"We don't know," they said at last. "He was sitting on the ground. We didn't see his legs."
"I will see him myself," Adiberga said.
Her servants put carpets down on the ground for her, and Adiberga walked outside. She went to the tree, and saw her brother.
She was very happy. She ran to him, and kissed him.
"Oh, my dear, dear brother!" she said. "Come into the house. You are tired, and hungry. You must rest, and I will make a delicious meal for you to eat."
She took her brother inside. She washed his feet and gave him the finest food to eat, and tej to drink.
Her brother finished his meal at last.
"Now," said Adiberga. "You must listen to me. My husband is not here tonight, but he will come home tomorrow. He is a good man, but he likes to trick people. Ask if you can help him. He will say something strange. Perhaps he will say, 'Kill my cattle.' Don't do it. Look after the cattle for him. Or perhaps he will say, 'Take my cattle to the desert. Don't let them drink water.' Then you must take them to the river, and let them eat and drink. Listen carefully to his words, and do the opposite."
The next day, Adiberga's husband came home.
"My brother is here," Adiberga said. "He wants to help you."
"Ah," said her husband. "That is good. He can take the cattle up to the mountain and push them over the cliff."
Adiberga's brother smiled at her.
"Good," he said. "I will do that."
The next morning, he went out with the rich man's herdsmen. He took the cattle to the valley, and they ate the good green grass.
That evening, the rich man was happy with his brother-in-law. He went to his box and took out some hairs from a sheep, some hairs from a goat, some hairs from a cow, a mule and a horse. He put them in a sack and gave them to Adiberga's brother. He gave him a stick, too.
"Go home," he said. "Take this sack with you. When you reach your house, beat the sack with the stick."
"Goodbye, dear brother. May God go with you," Adiberga said.
So Adiberga's brother went home. When he arrived, he stood outside the hut. He took out the sack and beat it with the stick. At once, hundreds of sheep and goats, cows, mules and horses ran out of it.
He looked at them and laughed. He was very happy.
"I am a rich man now," he thought. "Thank you, dear brother-in-law!"
His brothers heard the noise of all the animals. They came out of their hut.
"What happened to you?" they said to the fourth brother. "Where did you go? And where did you get all these animals?"
"I went to find our sister," the fourth brother said. "She has married a rich man. He gave all these animals to me."
The oldest brother was not happy.
"My youngest brother is rich, and I am poor," he thought. "I will go to my brother-in-law. He will give me sheep and goats, cows, mules and horses, and I will be rich too."
So the eldest brother went off to find Adiberga. He came at last to her house, and sat down under the tree. He called to her servants.
"Find your mistress," he said to them. "Say to her, 'Your brother is here.'"
The servants went to Adiberga.
"Another of your brothers is here," they said to her. "He is sitting outside the house, under a tree."
"Another brother?" Adiberga said angrily. "I don't have another brother. I only have one."
But she went out to the tree. Her oldest brother jumped up.
"Dear Adiberga!" he cried. "My lovely sister!"
Adiberga did not smile at him. She didn’t kiss her brother. She didn’t talk to him.
That night, Adiberga's husband came home. Adiberga's brother was very polite to him.
"Please," he said, "let me help you. Let me take your cattle out tomorrow."
"Very well," said his brother-in-law. "Take them to the desert, and kill them all."
Adiberga's brother was surprised. He looked at Adiberga but she didn't look at him. She didn't speak to him.
The next day, Adiberga's brother took his brother-in-law's cows to the desert, and he killed them all.
That evening, he said to his brother-in-law, "I obeyed you, brother. I took your cows to the desert, and they are all dead. Where is my reward?"
His brother-in-law went to his box. He took out some hairs from a lion, and a leopard, and some hairs from a hyena, an elephant and a buffalo. He put them in a sack, and gave them to Adiberga's brother. He gave him a stick, too.
"Go home," he said. "Take this sack with you. When you reach your house, beat it with the stick."
"Thank you!" said Adiberga's brother. He was happy.
"I will be a rich man soon," he thought.
He hurried home. When he arrived, he stood outside the hut. He took out the sack, and beat it with the stick. At once, hundreds of lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants and buffaloes ran out of the sack. They turned on Adiberga's brother and ate him. Then they ran away.
Adiberga and her husband lived happily for many years, and had many fine children. And Adiberga's fourth brother was rich and happy too, for the rest of his long life.
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