A Fairy Tale From Kabylia

The Ogre's Oak

from "The Magic Grain,"
by Taos Amrouche (Paris: Chez Francois Maspero, 1971)
translation by Michelle Duvall

En français

I hope that my tale is beautiful, and unfolds like a long thread!

They say that long ago there was a poor old man who remained all alone in his little cottage waiting for death, for he was paralyzed. They had dragged his bed to near the door, which he opened with the help of a string. This old man had a granddaughter, barely through with her childhood, who brought his lunch and dinner to him every day. Aicha came from the other end of the village, sent by her parents who were not able to take care of the old man themselves.

The little girl, carrying a cake and a plate of couscous, would arrive singing:

"Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"

And the grandfather would respond, "Make your little bracelets jingle, Aicha my girl."

The little girl let her bracelets bang together, and he'd open the door. Aicha went in, swept the cottage and made the bed. Then she served the old man his meal and poured him something to drink. After having spent a long time by his side, she went home, leaving him calm and about to fall asleep. The little girl reported back to her parents every day about how she had attended to her grandfather, and what she had said to him in order to keep him distracted. The grandfather loved to have her come visit.

But one day, the Ogre noticed the child. He secretly followed her to the cottage and hear her sing: "Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"
He heard the old man respond: "Make your little bracelets jingle, oh Aicha my gir!"

The Ogre said to himself, "I get it; tomorrow I will come back, I'll repeat the words of the little girl, he'll open the door for me, and I'll eat him!"

The next day, just befor the little girl arrived, the Ogre came to the cottage, and said in his gruff voice, ""Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"
"Get away from here, Evil One," responded the old man, "Did you really think I wouldn't recognize you?"

The Ogre came back severaly more times, but the old man guessed who he was each time. The Ogre finally went to seek the help of the wizard.

"Listen," he said, "there is an old weak man who lives just outside of the village. He won't open the door for me because my deep voice gives me away. What should I do to make my voice as high and clear as the little girl's?"

The wizard replied: "Go coat your throat with honey and lie on the ground in the sun with your mouth wide open. Ants will enter your throat and scratch it, but it's going to take a while for your voice to get that high and clear!"

The Ogre did what the wizard recommended: he bought some honey, filled up his throat with it, and went to stretch out in the sun with his mouth wide open. An army of ants entered his throat.

After two days, the Ogre went back to the cottage and sang: "Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"

But the old man still recognized him: "Go away, Monster," he cried, "I know who you are!"

The Ogre went home. He ate more and more honey, and spent long hours lounging in the sun. He let legions of ants come and go in his throat. The fourth day, his voice was as high and clear as the little girl's. The Ogre went back to the old man's house, and sang in front of the door: "Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"
"Make your little bracelets jingle, oh Aicha, my girl!" responded the grandfather.

The Ogre had gotten himself a chain, which he made jingle like Aicha's bracelets. When the door opened, the Ogre went in and devoured the old man. He then dressed himself in the old man's clothes, and took his place to wait for the little girl so that he could eat her, too.

The girl came soon after, but as soon as she got to the cottage she noticed blood running from under the door. She thought to herself, "What has happened to my grandfather?" She locked the door from the outside and sang: "Open the door for me, oh papa Inoubba, oh papa Inoubba!"

The Ogre replied in his high, clear voice, "Make your little bracelets jingle, oh Aicha, my girl!"

The little girl, who did not recognize this as the voice of her grandfather, left on the chimney the cake and the plate of couscous she was carrying, and ran back to the village to alert her parents.

"The Ogre ate my grandfather," she announced, crying, "I closed the door on him, but now what are we going to do?"

Her father went to tell the news in the town square. Each family offered a bundle of sticks, and the men gathered from all parts to carry these sticks to the cottage, where they set them on fire. The Ogre tried in vain to escape. He threw his weight against the door with all his strength, but since the door would not budge, he burned to death.

The next year, at the same place where the Ogre was burned, an oak tree grew. The call it the "Ogre's Oak", and show it to everyone who passes by.

My story is like a stream, and I have told it even to noblemen.


Headquarters : Amazigh World  ( Amadal Amazigh), North America, North Africa


Copyright 2002  Amazigh World.  All rights reserved.