Once upon a time, there was a man who had three wives. The man was very rich and could not think of anything else apart from his wealth. The third wife had two children and, since she was the last wife of the man, she was expected to do anything that was necessary in the whole family.
The woman was very busy to the extent that the work became too much for her, and sometimes she decided to dodge. When this happened she was hated by the other ladies and the husband. She was termed to be the lazy woman. The husband decided to deprive her, and even hated her and the children.
One day the man decided to chase her away from the family; the woman took with her all her belongings and the children, and decided to go and look for a place where she could live with her two children in peace. She went and stayed where there was nobody, deep in the forest. She stayed there for some good years until her children grew up.
In the forest there were many wild animals, but from the very first day, every morning she would find a dead animal outside her tukul which the woman built. She did not know exactly who brought the animals, but one day a lion came to her and told her, “Do you know who usually brings to you the meat that you eat with your family?”
“No,” the woman said.
The lion told her, “It is me, Mawu, who feeds you and now I am telling you this as a secret. I will give you all that you need in life and you will be a happy woman”. The lion told her, “Every time you see a dead animal lying on the left-hand side, that is mine; and if you find it lying on the right-hand side, that is yours”.
I will give you all you need in life, and you will be a happy woman.
The lion continued feeding the woman and her children and one day told the woman, “Today in the evening, you climb a tree and look to the east and if you see the smoke of fire, do not panic, that is me coming with animals.”
The woman did as the lion said and surely she saw the smoke. The second time she climbed the tree she saw the smoke, and the smoke was getting closer and closer. From a distance she saw animals in white and black. She now began to doubt, and wondered to herself ‘What were these strange kinds of animals?
To her surprise she realised they were cows and she watched them as they were coming. The cows came and lay down in her compound. The lady quietly gathered some grass and made a fire. The cows did not go anywhere and no one came after her. She prayed to God because God had heard her prayers and had helped her through Lion. She believed that God used the lion to do all these acts of kindness and solve her problem.
After some days, the lady became happy and she told her children, “Now it is time for us to go back to our people,” and they went with their cows.
Back at her husband’s home, the other ladies had rebelled against the husband. They all left to their homes of origin and the man was left alone.
The lady and the children travelled for many days, and as they moved, some young men from their own village saw the cows from the distance. They went back and reported this to the elders and all young men planned to go and loot the cows. But one of the elders told them, “Wait, we should not attack them, the owner might be seeking refuge and we should let them come and stay peacefully.”
The lady came and settled with her children and cows under a very big tree. The elders talked among themselves and finally they sent a group to go and find out who the newcomers were, and where were they coming from. The group went and from a distance they recognised the woman as a wife of Guzul, the one who disappeared a long time ago. They rushed and greeted her warmly and some of them went back and told the others that the wife of Guzul had come back with very many cows and her children had grown into young men.
Mr. Guzul was called to come and see his wife. Guzul was happy and knelt down before his wife and children and asked the wife to forgive him. He also asked the elders and the whole community to forgive him. The woman forgave him and went with him to their former home. She asked the whereabouts of the others ladies whom the husband loved most and he explained how they had left him. Guzul stayed with his wife and the two children happily and enjoyed the wealth his wife had brought. They became the richest family in the community.
1) What does this story teach us about how women should behave?
2) What do you think the woman learns during her time in the wilderness? What do you think her husband learns?
Folktales Collected in Renk
Folktales Collected in Pibor
Folktales Collected in Bentiu
Folktales Collected in UNMISS PoC site, Juba
The Story of a Woman who is Rejected by her Husband
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Na’eesh Mabadh is a peacebuilding project inspired by South Sudanese folktales.
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