Palestinian Folktale: The Lentil

There was and there was not a poor couple who had between them only three lentils to eat. As the wife was cooking them a beggar came by and asked for alms. She looked at the lentils and fished one out and gave it to him. He thanked her and went on his way.

When her husband came home he was furious. “How could you give away what little we had?!” She reminded him that the beggar was even worse off than they were. “Still, if only we had the lentil!” he groused.

The following day, the husband found work carrying bags at the market and the wife busied herself foraging wild plants. She cooked them up and she and her husband ate. “Still, it only we had the lentil you gave away, our situation would be better than it is!” he said.

He carried on refusing the good things that had been provided for them until one day the beggar returned. The wife said “I have nothing to give you.” But the beggar said “I wish to give you this old ring of mine, in thanks for your kindness and the lentil. I am going to Mecca.”

The ring was old, tarnished and green. The woman accepted it and the beggar went on his way. “I’ll see if this ring won’t look a little better if I polished it…” And so she did. The moment she polished it a huge man stood before her. A djinn!

“Who are you?!” she exclaimed. The djinn replied “I am the servant of whoever owns that ring. Command me.” The woman recovered her composure and asked for food. Instantly the room was covered in copper plates of all kinds of good things to eat!

When the husband returned, he was shocked. “Where did all of this food come from?!” he exclaimed. “From the djinn who serves whoever has this ring.” The husband rubbed the ring to test it and saw the djinn appear. “I would like a villa with gardens and orchards!” he cried.

It was so. “Now are you satisfied?” asked his wife. “See how we were rewarded for our lentil!” Having eaten his fill the man replied “still, if only we had our lentil! Why did you give it away?! Besides, having all this wealth will make people suspicious and cause trouble!”

“Djinn, I wish you to move our villa and us to another country where no one will know us.” It was so. In a short time, the king of that country came calling. He invited the strange new ‘nobles’ to the palace and feasted them there.

“This is all very grand but if only we had the lentil— OW!” His wife stepped on his foot under the table. “The lentil?” asked the king. “He means my bracelet with the pearls like lentils.” When they got home the wife cornered her husband.

“We used to go begging and now we are entertained by a king and still you bring up the lentil right in front of them! Will you get over it?” “It doesn’t matter how good things are,” he shouted. “It would be better if only for the lentil!”

The wife rubbed her ring and the djinn appeared. “Take him back to our old shack, and give him a bag of lentils. When he has finished them, give him another bag. I don’t want to see him again!” And it was so.

This story is adapted from The Lentil from An Illustrated Treasury of Palestinian Folktales by Najwa Kawar Farah. Read more about the book here.

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2 responses to “Palestinian Folktale: The Lentil”

  1. I just love your stories!

    1. Thanks, Layla! <3

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