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Louliyya and the Ogre with Green Chickens


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A Human Struggles with the Worse Side of Her Nature.

The language of storytelling is, as this tale clearly demonstrates, universal. Wherever the tale is told, at its heart is myth. In this case, a fantasy ogre contains the emotional message of a transformation of two youths into new identities. It is not that fantasy is myth, or that the ogre is mythic; the combination of youths undergoing transition in the real world within a fantasy context creates myth.

(Egypt) A king and his wife were childless. The wife pledged to God that if she had a child she would make three wells and fill them—with honey, butter, and rose water. They had a child, a boy, Yousif, and in their joy forgot the pledge. The boy grew up, and while the king slept he heard a voice telling him to fulfill his pledge. But the king forgot. And the boy became ill and no one could cure him. Then the king remembered, and the wells were built, and filled with honey, butter, and rose water. Then the king invited his people to come and empty the wells, which they did. An old woman came and, finding the wells empty, sponged drops off the walls, filling the three cans that she carried. Yousif was playing with a ball; he hit the woman with the ball and everything that she was carrying was spilled. She wondered what she could do to such a young boy, and she cursed him with Louliyya, daughter of Morgan. When he asked about Louliyya, he was told that he was too young to know. Finally, a servant told him that she was a beautiful young woman whom he would have to find. He upset his parents when he told them that he was going to quest for her. He went from country to country, seeking her. Finally, an ogre caught up with him, and when Yousif told him he was seeking Louliyya, the ogre sent him to his brother, who sent him to his brother, and on to the next brother, and finally to a sister of the ogre. If that sister had red chickens around her and was well-groomed, he should not speak to her; if she had green chickens, her breasts thrown over her shoulder, and her hair a mess, then he could speak to her. When he arrived, she had red chickens. Later, when she had green chickens, he addressed her. He told her that he sought Louliyya, and she asked why, he was too young to die. She told him to hit a ball with a racket, then follow the ball. Yousif followed it a long way and came to a great palace in the middle of the desert, a tall palace with no windows or doors. He saw a small window at the top. Then a great ogre came along, singing to Louliyya, asking her to let her hair down. She did that, and the ogre climbed her hair to her window. Later, when Yousif called to her, she warned him about her father. He went up and told her that she was predestined for him. The ogre was her father, she said, and there was no escape. When the ogre came, she transformed Yousif into a pin. The next day, retransformed, Yousif and Louliyya escaped, allowing the furniture to answer when the ogre called for her. Now he pursued them, and Louliyya with a needle created a field of thorns, then a comb became a hedge of bamboo, her mirror a lake. The ogre and his dog drank the water from the lake until the ogre exploded. As he died, he threw pins at them, and Louliyya became a dog, Yousif a lark. Louliyya, as a dog, arrived at his parents' place. Yousif kept flying over the house. Yousif's mother petted the dog, found three pins in its head, pulled them out, and the dog became the beautiful Louliyya. Louliyya got sugar and attracted the lark, pulled the pins out of its head, and the bird transformed into Yousif. They married.

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Subjects: Religion.


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