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Udea and her Seven Brothers

March 5, 2011 in World Stories

A couple had seven sons. One day, they set out hunting and told their aunt that if their mother had a daughter, to wave a white handkerchief, and they would return at once, but if a son, a sickle, and they would keep on. It was a daughter, but the aunt wished to be rid of the sons, so she waved a sickle.

One day, the daughter, Udea, was taunted with her brothers’ roaming the world; she questioned her mother and set out to find them. Her mother gave her a camel, some food, and a cowrie shell about the camel’s neck as a charm, and a negro and his wife to take care of her. On the second day, the negro tried to make her let his wife ride the camel instead of her, and she called on her mother, but the third day, he tried again, she was no longer close enough to her mother to be heard. She had to walk.

One day, they passed a caravan, where they were told of the castle where the brothers lived. The negro let Udea ride but smeared her with pitch, so that she was black. The brothers were convinced that she was their sister. She talked to the oldest of their home until his tears washed off some of the pitch. This revealed the truth, and he killed the negro and his wife and had his sister wash off the pitch.

The brothers left her in the castle with strict instructions never to go out, and to eat nothing that the cat did not eat, too. They returned, and found her well. They told her of pigeons, and she asked why they did not have her feed the pigeons, because the food they had laid out had to be old after seven days. They agreed. But when they left, she found a bean and ate it. The cat demanded half. Udea said she could not, because she had already eaten it, and offered other beans. The cat refused and put out the fire. Udea set out to find a fire, but the light she saw was of a man-eater. He demanded a strip of her blood in return for a coal, and she paid it.

She bled all the way home, and a raven followed her, putting dirt over the blood. It startled her at the door, and she cursed it, hoping it would be startled as she was. It told her it had done her a favor, and flew off, rubbing off dirt over the blood. The man-eater followed her and broke through the doors, one each day. She sent a letter to her brothers by the pigeons, and they trapped the man-eater in a burning pit.

One of his fingernails got away and stabbed Udea, and she fell dead. Her brothers put her on a bier, on a camel, and set it off to their mother, with orders not to stop unless someone said, “string.” Three men chased after it, but only when one said his sandal string was broken did it stop. They pulled off her ring, which freed the fingernail and woke her. The camel brought her back to her brothers.

They set out to see their father and mother again.


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