The Hyena Woman

An Ari Story

Before you read the story

  • When you meet a stranger, how can you know if he or she is a good person or a bad person?
  • Do some people seem good and kind, when they are really cruel?
  • Do you know anyone like that?

This is a long story, in three parts. Answer the questions after each part of the story before you read the next part.

The word "inset" in this story means a kind of false banana plant that some people in Ethiopia eat.

Tef is a cereal that grows in Ethiopia.

Injera is a kind of flat bread made from tef.

Now read the story

Part One 

A man and his wife had two children, a son and a daughter. One sad day the two parents died. The children were alone now. The girl looked after the house, and the boy looked after the cattle.

Every day, the boy took the cattle to the river, and the girl went out to look for food. Then a hyena came to their house. She cooked inset for them, and left it for their supper.

"Who is doing this?" the girl asked her brother one day. "Who is leaving this food for us to eat?"

"We must find out," her brother answered. "Tomorrow, you will take the cattle to the river, and I will climb into the tree beside our house and hide."

So the next day, the girl took the cattle to the river, and her brother climbed the tree and hid. Soon, the hyena came. She began to cook. But she did not use the girl's cooking pot, or her spoons. If she wanted a cooking pot, she called out, "Cooking pot! Come to me!" and a pot flew to her through the air.

"Here I am," it said.

If the hyena wanted a spoon, she called out, "Spoon, come to me!" and a spoon flew into her hand.

"I am here," it said.

Then the hyena called for a knife, and a pot of butter, and wood for the fire. Soon the food was ready.

The boy was watching. He was frightened.

"She's not a hyena," he thought. "She's a witch."

His hands shook, and the leaves of the tree shook too. The hyena heard the noise. She looked up, and saw the boy.

"Come down here," she said.

The boy came down from the tree. The hyena talked to him. She was kind to him. 

"Don't be frightened," she said. "I will not hurt you. I'm your friend. You are a strong, handsome boy. I want to marry you. I will bring you delicious food every day. You will have inset, and meat, and milk."

The boy looked at the hyena. Her smile was full of magic.

"She's good and kind," he thought, "and I like inset, and meat, and milk."

"I want to marry you," he said, "but I can't. I live with my sister. She hates hyenas. She will never agree." 

"Talk to her," the hyena said. "She will listen to you. I will hide in the store room. Call me when you are ready."

So the hyena hid in the store room. Soon, the girl came home with the cattle.

"What happened?" she asked her brother. "Who brings our food every day? Did you see them?"

"Yes," her brother answered. "It was a kind hyena."

His sister was frightened.

"A hyena?" she said. "But hyenas are never kind. They are cruel, and wicked, and..."

"This one is good," her brother said. "She is waiting to meet you."

He called out, and the hyena came out of the store room.

The girl looked at her. She was frightened. 

"This hyena is not good at all," she thought. "She's a witch." 

Then she looked at her brother. 

"Her magic is working on him," she thought. "I must take him away."

That night, she talked to her brother.

"Don't you understand?" she said. "This hyena is not good. She's a witch. She will marry you, and then she'll eat you. Please listen to me, dear brother. We must run away!"

She talked for a long time. At last, her brother agreed. He went to the cattle pen, and opened it. Then he quietly drove the cattle into the forest.

"God will help us," his sister told him. "Perhaps we'll be safe in the forest."

So the brother and sister began to live in the forest. Other boys were living in the forest. They were looking after cattle too. The boy became their friend.


Exercises for The Hyena Woman Part One


Part Two

The hyena didn't forget the boy and the girl. She looked for them everywhere. At last she found them, in the forest. She used her magic and changed herself. She wasn't a hyena now. She was a young woman.

One evening, the boy and his friends were sitting together near their fire. The hyena woman came to them. She was very beautiful. All the boys loved her. They all wanted to marry her.

"Look," she said to them. "I have a long stick here. Only my husband can break this stick."

All the boys wanted to be her husband. They all tried to break the stick. Only the girl's brother could do it.

The hyena woman smiled at the boy.

"I will marry you," she said.

The boy was very happy. He looked at her, and he didn't see a hyena. He only saw a beautiful woman.

The hyena woman married the boy, and she began to live with him and his sister. Every day, the hyena woman cooked good food for them, and looked after the house.

One day, the sister went to a friend's house. They talked for a long time.

"It's late," her friend said to her. "It's dark already. You can't go home now. Stay here with me."

So the sister slept in her friend's house that night. 

In their house, the boy and his wife went to bed. Soon, the boy was asleep. The hyena woman got up quietly, and put a piece of iron in the fire. The iron became hotter and hotter. 

A rat came up out of his hole. He saw the iron in the fire.

"Wake up, wake up, you foolish boy," he called out. "The iron is hot! Your wife is going to kill you!"

The boy didn't hear the rat, but his wife heard him. She woke the boy up.

"Husband, wake up!" she said. "A rat is eating our food. Kill the rat! Kill the rat!"

The boy jumped up and killed the rat. Then he went back to his bed and slept.  And the iron grew hotter in the fire.

A chicken by the door saw the hot iron. She walked into the house.

"Wake up, wake up, you foolish boy," she called out. "The iron is hot! And your wife is going to kill you!"

The boy didn't hear the chicken, but his wife heard her. She woke the boy again.

"Husband, wake up!" she said. "A chicken is eating our food. Kill the chicken! Kill the chicken!"

The boy jumped up, and killed the chicken. 

The iron was very hot now. It was not black, but red. The hyena woman picked it up, and pushed it into the boy. At once, he died. Then the hyena woman picked up the boy's body, and hid it in the inset field.


Exercises for The Hyena Woman Part Two


Part Three

The next morning, the girl came home. The hyena was lying on her bed.

"Where is my brother?" the girl asked her.

"He is at the market," the hyena said. "And I am sick. I must go to the medicine man and get some medicine."

She got up from her bed and went to the door. 

"Stay here," she said, "and grind the tef. I will make injera today."

She took one of her hairs, and made a key for the door. She went outside, and locked it. Then she went to call her relatives.

The girl began to grind the tef. She looked up. A rat was watching her.

"Listen," the rat said. "Your sister-in-law is not a woman. She is a hyena. She has killed your brother, and my brother, the rat. Now she is going to find her relatives. They will come here together and eat your brother's body. Then they will kill you and eat you too."

The girl began to cry.

"Oh, who will help me now?" she said. "My father is dead, and my mother is dead, and now my brother is dead too!"

"I will help you," said the rat. "Your brother's body is in the inset field. Take a gourd, and go to your brother. Put some of his blood in the gourd. Then run away, and hide."

"But my sister-in-law has locked the door," said the girl. "I can't get out of the house."

"I will open it for you," said the rat.

He went to the door and began to chew the lock with his teeth. Soon, the door was open.

The girl took a gourd and ran to the inset field. She found her brother's body, and poured some of his blood into the gourd. Then she ran away.

Soon, the hyena woman came back to the house with her relatives. They looked inside the house, and they looked outside the house, they looked in the cattle pen, and in the inset field. The girl wasn't there. 

"She has escaped!" the hyena woman said to her relatives. "Wait here, and I will go and find her."

The girl was running through the forest. She met a monkey.

"Why are you running, girl?" asked the monkey. "Are you frightened of someone?"

"Yes. My sister-in-law, the hyena, is looking for me," said the girl. "She has killed my brother, and now she wants to kill me."

"Don't worry," said the monkey. "I'm not frightened of hyenas. I'll stop her."

He stood in the path, and waited, but when he saw the hyena, he was very, very frightened, and he ran up into a tree.

The girl ran on. 

"God, help me!" she prayed. "My father is dead, my mother is dead. The hyena has killed my brother, and now she wants to kill me too."

God heard the girl's prayer. He came and stood in front of her.

"What is in your gourd?" he asked.

"My brother's blood," said the girl.

"Give it to me," said God.

The girl gave it to him.

"Now go and hide in the forest," said God.

So the girl hid in the forest. Soon, the hyena ran up.

"Where are you going?" God asked her.

"I'm looking for my sister-in-law," said the hyena. "Have you seen her?"

"Yes," said God. "You will find her there, at the end of this path. Run quickly!"

The hyena ran quickly down the path. There was a gorge at the end of the path. The hyena fell into it, and there she died.

"Daughter, come here!" God called out, and the girl ran to him, out of the forest.

"Your enemy is dead," said God, "and now your brother is alive."

He put his hand into the gourd and touched the boy's blood. At once, the blood became the boy.

The brother and sister went home, and lived happily in their house, and the hyenas never came near them again.


Exercises for The Hyena Woman Part Three


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