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105 39 An Orphan Girl Must Not be Mistreated1 T here was a woman who died leaving her daughter with her husband’s other wife. One day, this woman made some sorghum beer. Her husband drank a little of it and also gave some to his daughter. But when the little girl drank, her spit touched the gourd. The stepmother told the girl that this gourd could not be washed at home, but only in the river Lê-Lê. The child took the gourd and started down the road singing: My wicked mother, my wicked mother prepared some sorghum beer. My father served me some of it, my spit touched her gourd. She says her gourd cannot be washed here, but only in the Lê-Lê. While she was walking along singing this song, she met an old woman who was washing herself. The woman asked her to scrub her back. She willingly accepted and scrubbed the old lady’s back, who then wished her a safe journey. On her way she found some porridge2 and some sauce on the side of the road. The porridge invited her to eat it. 1. An orphan girl receives divine protection and she can bring great misfortunes upon those who would do her harm. 2. Daily meal of the Moose made from millet flour or corn flour, sagbo in Moore. 106 Alain-Joseph Sissao (Translated from the French by Nina Tanti) She said: ‘‘Who ate me, that I should eat you’’? The porridge wished her a safe journey. Farther on, she met an old woman who had left her house after spreading her okra outside her door to dry. It began to rain so the girl brought the okra into the house and sat down. A little while later, the old woman returned home in the rain and asked: ‘‘Who is the good child inside my house?’’ ‘‘A bad girl is inside!’’ answered the girl. ‘‘Do you want me to put you into a granary full of gold?’’ asked the old woman. ‘‘Put me wherever you wish,’’ said the child. So she put her in a granary full of silver, and she gave her a gourd full of grain to pound. ‘‘If a bird insults you, do not insult it!’’ The girl took the gourd and began to pound. The bird insulted her; she was silent and continued to pound. Then the old woman told her to come out. When she came out, cattle, sheep, horses and goats followed her. The old woman offered them to her as a gift. The orphan girl returned home with her riches. When she arrived home her stepmother was jealous of her. She told her husband to draw some beer from the earthenware pot, to drink it, and to give some of it to her own child3 . The latter sullied the gourd with her spit. So her mother took this opportunity to ask her to go wash the gourd in the river. 3. That is, to the half-sister of the orphan girl. 107 Folktales from the Moose of Burkina Faso The child obeyed and went down the road to the river. Like the orphan girl, she came upon an old woman who was washing herself. The old woman asked her to scrub her back. She replied in an insolent manner: ‘‘I don’t even scrub my own mother’s back, and you are telling me to scrub yours?’’ The old woman cursed her. She continued on her way. She then found some porridge and some sauce on the side of the road. The porridge told her to eat it. She sat down and ate it all. The porridge cursed her. Afterwards, she found some okra spread out by an old woman in front of her door, just as it was starting to rain. She took shelter inside the old woman’s house and left the okra out in the rain. When the old woman came back, she asked: ‘‘Who is the bad child inside my house?’’ ‘‘It’s a good girl inside!’’ the girl replied. The old woman gave her a gourd and asked her to pound its contents, adding, ‘‘If a bird insults you, don’t insult it!’’ When she began to pound, the bird insulted her and she insulted it back. The old woman asked her: ‘‘Do you want me to put you into a granary full of silver, or a granary full of gold?’’ She told her to put her into a granary...


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