My great-aunt Nanna used to tell me Moroccan folktales so I would stay still while learning an art she deemed essential, knitting. The magic words at the beginning of each of her stories “hajitek, majitek” [Moroccan Arabic for, “Let me tell you how once upon a time”] always had the desired effect on me. They transported me in ancient cities -or medinas– in a fantastical Morocco and taught me useful morals I still remember today.
A Pleasant Short Folktale
Hajitek, majitek [Moroccan Arabic for, “Let me tell you how once upon a time”] in a small town far away from here, lived a couple with their children in a small house. The wife was hardworking, strong, and impatient. In other words, the opposite of her husband. He was a kind and honest man, but had one major flaw in the eyes of his wife: his lack of ambition. He accepted their below average situation and refused to change his ways to earn more money. This enraged his wife, who pressed him to find more work.
“Husband, when are you going to find more work and bring home more money?”
“My dear, we do not need it since we are not naked, nor homeless, nor hungry.”
“I am exhausted with all the house chores. I need a maid to help me. The children are outgrowing their clothes and shoes. When I go to the souk, the open-air market nearby, I always hide from my friends fearing that they would push me to buy jewelry or a new piece of fabric. You need to earn more money.”
“Oh, my dear, if God wanted me to have more money, he would pierce the roof and make it rain on me.”
And those exact words ended every conversation. Days and months passed, and neither changed their tunes. The wife was becoming restless, while her husband remained unmoved and his faith in God and His mysterious ways reinforced each passing day.
One day, the exhausted wife saw red. From dawn to sunset, she had slaved for her husband and children that never raised their pinky fingers to help her out. She had had enough. The next morning, she changed her clothes and put on a thick black cape. Setting the enormous hood down, she reached the woods and looked for the forester. Legend had it the man was an outcast, unable to bear human companionship. The town believed he had turned into a savage, which was exactly what the wife needed. Rushing down the single rocky path through the trees, the wife did not stop until she found a small cabin. Outside of it stood a bulky man holding an ax. She stayed at the entrance of the clearing, away from the scary bearded man.
“My good sir, may you help a poor woman in need?”
The man did not answer. He only nodded.
The wife took it as an encouragement and kept on before losing her bravado. “Here is an empty burlap sack. I need you to fill it up with snakes, scorpions, and as many venomous animals as you can find in your woods. The pay is generous. I need it before sunset today. What do you say?”
Still no answer. After a long minute, the man stretched out his arm, palm facing up. Afraid to get closer to him, the wife took one step forward before putting the sack on the ground and turning her back. She headed straight to her home without looking behind her.
At sunset, the wife went back to the forester’s cabin. He was standing by the door, arms crossed. The sack, full and tied off, stood at the exact place she had left it that morning. The wife grabbed it and left a small purse full of coins in its place. Without a word, she fled back home, careful not to lose any of the wriggling sack’s precious contents.
After her husband and the children went to sleep, the wife locked the bedroom she shared with her husband and tucked the key in her apron pocket. She then pattered up the stairs to get onto the flat roof and dug a hole in it right above her husband’s bed.
“Let’s show that fool what rains through the roof. Certainly not gold. I need someone to take care of me.”
Blinded by rage and hurt, she flipped the sack upside down in the hole and covered it quickly with a wooden board. She didn’t want any of its contents spreading onto the roof. When she had finished her deed, she snuck into her children’s room and closed her eyes.
At dawn, a rooster crowed and woke the wife up. She left her children’s room and wondered why she had heard no complaints from her husband during the night. Surely he had fought off the attack of the venomous animals, or was he too lazy to do even that? She stomped toward her bedroom and took out the key to open the lock. Slowly, she pushed open the door, making sure nothing came out of it before peeking her head through. Startled, she jerked the door wide open and marveled at the sight in front of her.
“My dear, you are here. Come, come join me and help me count.”
Her husband was sitting cross-legged in a tailor’s position on their bed. In front of him sprawled a sea of gold chains and coins.
“See? Didn’t I tell you if God wanted me to have money, he would pierce the roof and make it rain on me? Well, here it is. All your wishes will be granted.”
Amazed, the wife fell to her knees and started praying and begging for God’s forgiveness. All the animals had transformed into gold and precious gemstones.
Suddenly, the air started humming around her, and a soft voice sounded in her ears. “You’ve worked hard and stuck on the right path your entire life. For that We have absolved your sin, but only this once. Atone and remember there is no relapse in repentance.”
The grace of God saved her innocent husband and granted him his wish, proving his faith in the Almighty was well placed. She swore to do the same. Delighted, the husband pulled his wife up and hugged her. From then on, with their God-sent treasure, the wife, the husband, and their children lived happily ever after.