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from the February 2020 issue

Fatoum and Hamoud and Hamed

A mother sheep tries to protect her lambs from a devious wolf in this Qatari folktale, translated by Rana Elmaghraby.
 

In the name of God the Merciful:
Pray to the Prophet, peace be upon him.

Majana1 ela kheer lafana w lafakom w shar ta’adana w ta’adakum: May nothing affect us but goodness for us and you, and may evil stay away from us and you.

~~~

There once was a small sheep with children. The innocent sheep would take care of her lambs. She woke up every morning, told her children to wait in the house, and went out to gather grass for them. She left early in the morning to eat and fetch food. She would return home only when she had enough food for her lambs.

The mother sheep would warn her children of the wolf that prowled the town. She told them not to open the door for anyone who knocked on it, except their mother. The children agreed to obey their mother’s orders.

The next day, the mother sheep left the house to get the food. When she came back, she said, “Ya Fatoum, ya Hamoud, and ya Hamed, open the door for me. I am your mother and I brought you milk and grass to eat.”

The lambs recognized their mother’s voice, so they opened the door for her. While she was talking to them, the wolf came and listened to everything she said. (Even the king had warned everyone of the notorious wolf!)

The following day, the mother left to get food for her children. Then the wolf came and said with his growling voice, “Open the door, I am your mother and I brought you grass and milk and lots of food.”

The lambs said, “No, you are not our mother, because you have a growling voice and our mother’s voice is soft!”

Then the wolf said, “I am your mother, indeed. I am just sick—that’s why my voice changed.”

But they refused again. Then the wolf went away and drank oil and covered his tail with oil. He knocked on the door again. He told them with a softer voice, “I am your mother, open the door.” Then the wolf slid his tail under the door and said, “You can even touch my tail, and you will find it smooth. This will prove to you that I am your mother.”

So the lambs said, “Yes, indeed, it is our mother,” and they opened the door. 

The wolf attacked them, eating Hamoud and Hamed! But when he was about to eat Fatoum, she clawed him, and he bled and ran off.

Later that day, the mother returned and said, “Ya Fatoum, ya Hamoud, and ya Hamed, open the door for me.” But no one answered. She quickly entered the house to find two of her children missing.

She went to the king and told him her story. The king immediately called a large gathering with lots of food and invited everyone, including the wolf.

When it was time to go, the wolf couldn’t leave because his stomach was full. So the king asked him suspiciously, “Why didn’t you eat, and why can’t you leave already?”

The wolf answered, “No, it’s just that I have a stomachache.”

The king sensed that the wolf was lying. He grabbed a knife and tore the wolf’s stomach open, and out came the two sheep: Hamoud and Hamed. They were alive, alhamdulillah.

The mother thanked the king and returned home with her three children. Then she told them, “Didn’t I tell you to listen to your mother and not to open the door for anyone?”

They replied, “Yes, Mother, we’re sorry. We’ve learned our lesson.”

~~~ 

W rohna anhoom w jeena w ma atoona sheey: And we came and we left, and they brought us nothing.
 

1In Qatari dialect, the “j” turns to a spoken “y.” So majana in this case would be pronounced “mayana.”


Told by Umm Khalaf. Translation © 2020 by Rana El Maghraby. All rights reserved.
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