Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Tale of the Fifth Sister (Hui) Part One

 There once was a poor old woodcutter named Hassan, left widowed with five daughters to raise, with the last two daughters being twins. The two little ones were barely a month old when Hassan's wife passed away. And so Hassan had to be both a father and mother to his girls. And this he did--making sure the girls always had food to eat and clean clothes and shoes to wear. 

There was one other thing about Hassan. He certainly didn't have much in the way of possessions, but he did have an ax with an inlaid silver handle that he absolutely treasured, an heirloom that had been passed down to him. 

It was now eighteen years later after the birth of the twins, and all the girls were now of marriageable age . . . except none was yet married. Each one was as lovely as a peony, yet they all remained single. 

One day Hassan was out doing some work and happened to pass by his neighbor Selim's garden. The garden itself grew on the slope of a cliff. He saw some flowers growing on a branch on the edge of the cliff and decided to pick five flowers, one for each of his girls. 

Leaning over to pick the flowers, though, he dropped his beloved ax down the precipice!

Rather than trespass on Selim's property, Hassan went to the door of Selim's house. 

"Brother Selim! Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan. "My ax has fallen down somewhere into your garden!"

"Hold on a minute," replied Selim. "I'm putting my pants on!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan a few minutes later. "My ax is somewhere in your garden!"

"Hang on!" replied Selim. "I'm putting on my shoes!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan a few minutes later. "My ax--"

"Just a moment, please!" said Selim. "Let me wash my face!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan once again. "My--"

"All right, already! I'm here!" said Selim, opening the door. 

Now, this Selim was much younger than Hassan, and while Selim did possess some property, thanks to his deceased parents, he was nowhere near a wealthy man. Thus, he too remained unwed since he was not considered to be an eligible bachelor for any family that wanted to marry their daughter "up." 

Selim located the ax for Hassan; not only that, he also picked an especially beautiful flower and carefully wrapped it in a cloth. 

"I have your ax," said Selim, "but just one moment, please. Now, Big Brother, please allow me to ask for the hand of one of your daughters in marriage! I've lived too long without a wife, and if you would consent, please consider this flower I wish to hand over to you a dowry!"

Hassan knew that Selim was a decent, straightforward sort of fellow, so he took the flower and accepted the proposal.

Selim exclaimed, "Salaam!" and handed over the ax to Hassan. 

"Salaam!" replied Hassan, thus cementing the deal. 

Hassan returned home and asked First Sister if she would consent to marry Selim. She said nothing and only pouted. 

"That means 'no,'" said Hassan, now turning to Second Sister with the same question. All she did was grimace. 

"All right," said Hassan, who next turned to Third Sister. She just frowned. 

"Hmm . . ." said Hassan. "I know what that means." He asked Fourth Sister, who just glared at him. 

"Very well," sighed Hassan. He waited for Fifth Sister, who was out washing the clothes, to come back in. He assumed she would reject the offer because Selim was a poor man. He was worried because he had already given his consent to Selim and certainly didn't want to renege on the deal. 

Fifth Sister came in and saw the sour expressions on everyone's face. 

"Why is everyone so glum?" she asked. And when Hassan explained how he had made an arrangement for one of the sisters to marry Selim and how her four sisters had turned down the deal, Fifth Sister laughed and said, "Dada! I'll marry Selim!"

"My baby daughter's not afraid to live in poverty?" asked Hassan. 

"Oh, Dada!" said Fifth Sister. "All of us here in this area work hard by living off the land. There's no shame in that! No one here has ever starved to death!"

And so Hassan selected an appropriate Jumu'ah (the weekly day of worship, Friday) for the wedding day. Selim and Fifth Daughter were wed. Since they both were very energetic workers, the marriage got off to a great start as the pair eagerly worked together on their land to make better lives for themselves and to ensure they would have a strong, safe, happy marriage. 

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