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  • AppendixThe Cannibal of Qəmər
  • Michael Kleiner and Wendy Laura Belcher

Following is a translation from Gəˁəz into English of the Ethiopian tale "The Cannibal of Qəmər" as it appears in The Miracles of Mary (Tä'ammərä Maryam), a parchment manuscript created in Gondar, Ethiopia, between 1667 and 1706 (folios 127v–131r, photos 254a–261, owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Ada Turnbull Hertle and Marian and Samuel Klasstorner, 2002.4). It can be viewed at For purposes of comparison, we have underscored the sentences or phrases that do appear in this manuscript (representing what we call Recension A) and that do not appear in the shorter version of the tale (what we call Recension B). For a translation of the shorter version, see Budge 94–97. For Getatchew Haile's translation of a similiar version of this tale, see Zärˀa Yaˁqob 8–10. We have omitted the opening and closing invocations of blessings upon the eighteenth-century Ethiopian commissioners of this particular manuscript. For interpretations of the more puzzling aspects of the tale, see Belcher's essay "Mary Saves the Unrepentant Man-Eater," which appears in this issue.

│254b│ In the town of Qəmər, 1 there was a man from an illustrious family, who was, in name, Christian.2 His sins were greater, however, than the sins of all [other] people: he ate neither bread nor beef, but humans. The number of people he had eaten totaled seventy-eight.3 [Thus] did his friends and companions come to an end and die, │254c│ as well as his head servants. But some of his servants fled so that he wouldn't eat them. The man-eater4 was left behind alone with his wife and his two children, but then he ate them too. Now this madman was left all alone.

At that point, the man-eater left his home, taking along nothing from all his riches except for │255a│ a leather bottle,5 from which he [End Page 138] could drink water, and his gold-embellished bow. While the man-eater was walking along, he came across a plowman plowing [his fields]. The man-eater decided to lie in ambush, tracking him in order to kill him. But when he realized that the plowman was stronger than he was, he decided to leave him alone and came out [of his hiding place].

Now the man-eater greeted the plowman, and then greeted him again, saying, "Peace to you, sir."

But the plowman did not reply │255b│ to him.

So the man-eater added,6 "Sell me your ox."7

The plowman asked, "What will you give me [in exchange]?"

The man-eater responded, "Please, take my gold-embellished bow."

The plowman replied, "I prefer bread to anything else: I reject your offer."8

So the man-eater said, "I will add two arrows, as an incentive."9

But the plowman [still] replied, "I will not give the ox to you."

│255c│ [Acquiescing,] the man-eater said to him, "Please show me a cave10 where I can spend the night."

The [puzzled] plowman said to him, "Why don't you spend the night in a house?11 After all, they are close by."

The man-eater replied, "I will not spend the night in a house. Just show me a cave."

The plowman said to him, "I will show you [a cave] because you come across as well-born12 and from an illustrious family. However, [I can see that] your heart is wicked and │256a│ treacherous; you act like a certain rich man13 who lives in the city of Qəmər."

The man-eater replied, "My friend, why do you compare me to him?"

The plowman then pointed out a cave to him, and the man-eater went toward it, taking with him the water in [his] leather bottle.

While he was walking [toward the cave], the man-eater came across a man whose whole body was [covered with] sores and scabs.14 The man-eater...


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