Bismilla - Soqotri folk tale from Qalansiya


There were two friends. One day one of them said: “Hey, brother! Do you want (us) to go for a walk?! To that place on this plain?!” “Yes, I do”, this friend said. They went. When they went the strong wind came and the whole place disappeared.

“Bismilla!” said the one. “What do you say?!” asked his friend, “Your mind went mad! Bismilla is bad! Alla save your life!”

“Bismilla is good!” the first friend said. “No. It’s bad!” the second said, “what will you stake when bismilla is good ?” “If bismilla is bad you will take off my eyes, and break my arms and my legs,” the friend said. And you?” “And I too, if bismilla is good, will give you my eyes, and my arms, and my legs to do the same,” the other friend said.

They went walking and met a man who really was a Ginn. “Hey, man!” they said to him, “there is a dispute between us. One of us says: bismilla is good and the other said it is bad...” “The Ginn said: “Bismilla is bad! Bad!” “Bad?” they asked one more time. “Yes, bad!” the Ginn said again.

“Now,” the first friend said, “I want you to take me to that doom-tree there and take off my eyes, break my arms and legs!” That time the people kept their promises.

“Yes,” the second friend said. They went to that tree and there he took off his friend’s eyes, broke his friend’s arms and legs, left him there and went away.

In the night there came dove-birds. The first of them said: “O, sisters! If there was a blind man and take a little blood of this tree – his eyes will recover.” The second said: “O, sisters! If there was one with broken arm and make the earth from around this tree to his arm – his arm will recover.” And the third said: “O, sisters! If there was one with broken leg and make a little blood of this tree to his leg – his leg will recover.”

The man heard all this and made as the birds said. He put his arms to the earth at the foot of the tree and they returned as they had been. He broke the bark of the tree and made its blood to his eyes – and they returned to see. Then he made its blood to his broken legs – and his legs returned to walk in full health.

In the morning he went away but soon he met his friend which he called “brother” sitting by the well. He was thirsty but there was no leather pail to take some water from it. “Brother, it is you now?!” he asked. “How could it be? Who returned you your eyes, and your arms, and your legs?”

“I would not tell you,” the first friend said. “The result is – bismilla is good!” “ Hey, I am thirsty,” the second friend said, “would you like to get down to take for us some water from the well when bismilla is good?!” “Yes, I would,” the first friend said. He came down by the cord to the bottom of the well and said: “Bismilla!”

“Yes, do you say bismilla !?” his friend said. He saw his friend is at the botton of the well – and cut the cord...

But the well had a small ledge over its water and the man sat down on it. He sat along the day of Alla until His night came. When the night came on, two ginns arrived to the well. One of them said: “May be there are people here - let us throw a stone!"

The man kept silent, he didn't say a word ... The second ginn said: “O, brother, what did you do bad in your life?" “Well," he said: “I made the Sultan's daughter ill. And she will not recover untill they beat her three times at her back! Today [one] tried to treat her, who treated - but she didn't recover."

“And you?" he said. “And I put a treasury of the Sultan away! It will not emerge until they bring a black sheep and slaughter it at the door. Only then the treasury will appear!" “Good, it'll be enough," the first ginn said, and they went away. But the man who was sitting in the well picked up his ears and heard all what the ginns said.

In the morning the servants of the Sultan came to make water for His cows and camels. “What has brought you here into the well?" they asked. “I have fallen down," the man said, “now, take me off!" And they took him off from the well by a leathern pail.

“Hai," he said, “is there any thing happened here in your country? Is there anyone ill, anyone suffering?" “Ah," they said, “there is - and are you a doctor?" He said: “Yes, I'am a doctor." “The Sultan's daughter is ill," they said, “today [one] tried to treat her who treated - but she didn't recover." “Well," he said, “come on!"

When they came to the Sultan the man said: “Your Majesty, what is now here with you? If I cure your daughter and she recovers - what you will give me?" “You will take any thing you like!" the Sultan said. “I would like to marry her," the man said. “You will!" the Sultan said.

“Now, leave her here and all of you go outdoors!" the man said. When they got out he beat her three times at her back. She said thanks to the Allah — and recovered. So the man married her.

“What else did you lose?" he asked the Sultan. “I've lost my treasury," the Sultan said. “And if your treasury will emerge," the man said, “what you will give me?" “If my treasury emerge," the Sultan said, “I'll give you a half of all the money! And when I'll die - you became a Sultan!"

“Well," the man said, “now, give me a black sheep!" They brought him a black sheep, he slaughtered it outdoors - and the treasury of the Sultan emerged!

His friend heard that his “brother" married Sultan's daughter and became a merchant. He came up to him and said: “Brother, you wouldn't get all this money and all this favour of Alla if not from that well! Now I want you to take me to that well and abandon me in it!" “No!" his friend said, “I will not! Let any one of the servants lead you there!" One of the Sultan's servants led him to the well, put him down into it and cut the cord of him.

When the night came on two ginns arrived . One of them said to the other: “Brother, It means there were people in the well since the treasury of the Sultan emerged and the Sultan's daughter recovered. Let us throw a stone?!" “You bastards!" the man shouted, “don't hurt me, you children of the sin!" “Ah! Here is a man!" the ginns shouted. They made a storm over the well until it fully disappeared with the poor man in it. Now there is nothing at this place, only a red desert valley. And this is now the end.

(c) Literary retoled by Vladimir Agafonov

First published in CLN with the original Soqotri of Qalansiya oral text transcription in 2006-2007.


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