Read by Jana
Spider and Bull voices and information by Umar Isa Dandago.
Adaption by Bertie
The Kind Old Woman
Hello, this is Jana, and welcome to Storynory. I’m back with another Hausa story from Northern Nigeria. Our friend Umar is on the line from Kano, Nigeria.
"Hi Umar, lovely to have you here.
What story have you picked for us this time?"
"Ok, so let’s start the story, and Umar, please stay around to play the part of Gizo the Spider and the bull."
There was once an old woman who went to the forest daily to look for firewood. One day, she heard a deep groan when she was gathering fallen branches. It sounded like a large animal. At first, she was frightened, but then, when it groaned again, she thought:
"That animal, whatever it is, is in pain." As she had a kind heart towards all living things, she ventured towards the sound. Eventually, she found a large bull who was very sick.
"Don’t you worry," she said, stroking his head. "I will take care of you. I know all sorts of cures for every disease."
Somehow the sick bull understood. He summoned up all his remaining strength and staggered to his feet. Then he followed the old woman towards her home.
On their way, they crossed paths with the bull's former owner.
"Hey, old woman! Where are you taking my bull?" the man called out, with a mix of surprise and annoyance.
The old woman pulled herself up, her ancient back as straight as a sword, and she spoke with a tongue that was just as sharp: "Now listen here, your bull was abandoned and full of suffering."
"You are right," admitted the man. "He is very sick, and he smells rotten. We can’t stand his stench anymore, so we drove him out into the woods to end his days."
When he said this, the old woman’s eyes blazed, she wagged her finger and declared, "It is wrong to abandon a living creature who has served you well, even if he is dying. I’m going to take him home and look after him myself."
The man scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief. "You're wasting your time, old woman! He'll never recover."
The old woman continued, leading the bull towards her home. The villagers whispered praises and words of support as she passed by.
When she reached home, she cleaned the bull, gave him water and medicine, and placed him on a comfortable bed of straw. His strength grew daily, and his once-dull coat became radiant. The villagers marvelled at the old woman's good fortune.
Word spread quickly to the bull's previous owner. He came to the old woman’s house and demanded the return of his valuable animal. But the old woman stood her ground, telling him firmly:
"In days of despair and sickness deep,
This bull you abandoned, left to weep.
I nurtured him with love and care,
His strength restored, a majestic affair.
With me, he’ll stay, no more to roam.
No longer yours, he's found a new home."
The villagers cheered for the old woman.
"Go away!" They shouted at the previous owner while waving their arms, "You can't take the bull! You drove him into the woods to die because you could not stand his stench. Then the old woman saved him with kindness and skill. He belongs to her now.”
Feeling outnumbered and embarrassed, the previous owner retreated with his head hung low.
Now all while this drama unfolded, a spider called Gizo was watching. He was a tricky little fellow with the knack of changing his form. He thought to himself:
"Here’s a situation where I can get a reward."
He was so excited that he danced on his eight legs all the way to the palace of the King.
"Oh, Your Majesty, Your Majesty!" Gizo exclaimed, bouncing up and down.
The King, amused by the spider's antics, smiled and asked, "What is it, little Gizo? What exciting news do you bring?"
"Oh great King, I have the most amazing news! But before I share, please tell me how many eyes you have?"
“I see you with my two eyes,” replied the King.
Gizo's eight magical eyes swirled and rotated as he continued.
“Oh, but Your Majesty, I have eight watchful eyes. And you know what? My eyes are your spies. I see everything interesting in the land and report it all to you. So, you have ten eyes in total!"
The King chuckled, intrigued by Gizo's explanation. "Tell me, dear spider, what interesting news have you spied with your eight watchful eyes?"
“I've seen an old woman blessed with a magnificent bull. His beauty rivals that of a King's possession. Furthermore, I've heard whispers that she stole this extraordinary creature."
“Hmm, that is indeed interesting information,” said the King thoughtfully.
He decided to send his servants to fetch the bull. Gizo was so sure that he would soon receive a fine reward that the hairs on his legs were trembling with excitement. But when the servants arrived at the old lady’s house, the bull, now loyal to his kind-hearted saviour, refused to leave her side. He lowed:
"With strength and resolve, I proudly declare,
I won't depart from her loving care.
When sickness plagued me, she healed my strife,
This old woman is my guardian for life."
The servants were surprised at this defiance. They grew angry and threatened the old woman, but the huge beast began to snort and stamp his foot. The servants grew frightened and returned to the King with the tale of the bull’s loyalty and gratitude.
And so the King gave up the idea of confiscating the bull from the old lady.
And Gizo did not get his reward.
“Bother! That old woman has got the better of me - for now!” he said.
And then he thought, “But I still have more spider tricks up my many sleeves.”
And so, with a bounce in his step, he scurried back to the old lady's village. His eight fuzzy legs, ticklish with excitement, started doing what they did best - catching whispers and secrets floating on the breeze like an antenna! The village people said that the old woman was doing very well for herself. Three beautiful young girls now lived with her and looked after her. They did all her work, gathered firewood, gathered food, cooked and cleaned.
“This is most interesting,” thought Gizo to himself. “I shall find out more.”
And so he went to the old woman’s house disguised as a beggar. He held out his bowl and pleaded:
“Please, old woman, I have heard you have a kind heart. Give me some food, for I am hungry.”
The beggar’s plight touched the old woman. She clapped her hands, and Gizo saw three girls jump out of the belly of the bull.
“Girls, fetch some porridge for this poor beggar,” commanded the old lady. And one of the girls took the beggar’s empty bowl to the barn and filled it with food.
"This is most interesting indeed," whispered Gizo to himself. "There's a reward to be gained from this wondrous story."
And so Gizo scampered back to the palace and hailed the King, saying:
"Sire, I bring you captivating news! But before I share, tell me, how many ears do you truly possess?"
“Why Gizo, I am listening to you with my two ears.”
"Indeed, Your Majesty," said the spider, "You may only have two ears, but in truth, you possess ten. My eight keen legs are your listening posts. I detect every murmur, every whisper that stirs the air, and relay everything interesting to you.”
Chuckling, the King replied, "Gizo, tell me what news you have heard with your eight hairy legs."
And Gizo revealed, "Oh great, King, I have heard something extraordinary! The old woman has three remarkable girls who possess unmatched beauty and skills. Each one of them is fit to marry a King!"
“That is indeed interesting news,” said the King. “ If you can bring one of the girls to me, and she is as beautiful and skilful as you say, I shall marry her, and you shall have a reward.”
This time Gizo left nothing to chance. He transformed himself into the appearance of a high-up official, the right-hand man of the King. Then he travelled to the village of the old woman.
The three girls saw Gizo approaching the house, dressed in his fine court uniform. They immediately changed into their best clothes. They wanted to look their finest for such an honoured guest! He knocked on the door and asked the old woman for water. She invited him in.
Gizo sat down in the cosy abode. The old woman turned to the first of the girls, "Dearie, could you please fetch some cool water for our esteemed guest?"
The first girl looked down at her sparkling outfit, twirling a little to make the sequins catch the light. "Oh, I can't," she pouted playfully, "I'm wearing my grandest gown. If I fetch water from the well, it might get all splishy-splashy."
Not missing a beat, the old woman turned to the second girl with the same request.
"But I can't either," the second girl protested, flouncing the frills of her dress. "You see, I'm wearing my most fabulous frock. If I go fetching water, it could get all soggy and droopy."
Then, she turned to the third girl, the modest and kind-hearted Ta Kitse. "Ta Kitse, could you fetch some water for our guest?"
Ta Kitse, always good-natured, didn't mind a bit of dirt or mud on her dress. She got up, fetched the water, and returned with a smile.
Once she was back, Gizo announced, "Ta Kitse, the King wants to marry a kind and beautiful girl like you. Would you come with me to the palace?"
Ta Kitse turned to the Old Woman for advice. After a moment, she answered, “I'd be honoured to meet the King.”
When the King met Ta Kitse, he was taken aback by her striking beauty and wisdom . Overjoyed, he forgot all about Gizo's reward. He and Ta Kitse wed, living happily, though not quite ever after.
After some time passed, the King had to leave the palace to go and fight a war. While he was away, the women in the palace, including the King's aunts and sisters, bullied Ta Kitse, for they were very jealous of her beauty and the King’s love for her. They made her work and work and work, no matter how hot it was or how tired she was. Ta Kitse began to grow weaker and weaker, and she even started to melt in the heat. In despair, she spoke to a little bird and asked him to fly to the King and tell him of her suffering.
The bird flew straight to the King and sang in his ear.
They work her to the bone, the pain she cannot bear,
In the palace, torment and cruelty fill the air.
Ta Kitse, the Queen, weakens day by day,
Melted by the heat, her spirit begins to fray.
When the King heard the news, he was greatly alarmed. He thanked the bird for his loyalty and rewarded him. Then he left the battlefield and rushed home, where he found his Ta Kitse in a terrible state. She had become so hot and tired that she had melted into a puddle.
In despair, he did not know what to do. He wept and cried, “Oh, you cruel people who bullied my beloved queen!”
Now it so happened that Gizo the spider had seen all this, and he thought, “In every crisis, there is an opportunity. Now, I shall surely get my reward!”
So he rushed to the old woman’s house and told her everything that had happened. She immediately came to the palace with her herbs and medicines, which she poured into the puddle. The water sprang up like a fountain and took back the form of the lovely Ta Kitse. The King was overjoyed to see his queen again and could not thank the old woman enough.
“You must come and live in the palace,” he told her, “and all will give you respect like my mother.”
The old woman smiled and replied with grace,
"I am content in my humble dwelling place.
The joy of seeing Ta Kitse restored is my reward,
No need for riches or a palace, my heart is assured."
“Hey, what about me? Shall I have my reward?” asked Gizo.
But the King was far too busy getting ready for his wonderful future life with Ta Kitse to remember the tricky little spider.
And I would like to say Gizo the Spider learned a good lesson from this story. Do you think that from then on, he resolved to use his cleverness only for good, kind and unselfish schemes? Hmmm. I’m not so sure. Are you?
And that was the story of the ‘The Kind Old Woman’. Wow, that was an interesting tale - I don’t think I’ve heard one quite like it before.
What was the old woman's initial purpose for visiting the forest?
How would you describe the old woman's character based on her interactions in the story?
How does the author portray the contrast between the old woman and the bull's former owner?
Can you find any other contrasts between the characters?
What does the word "groan" imply about the noise the old woman heard? How does this set the tone for her discovery?
The phrase "her ancient back as straight as a sword" uses a simile. What does this comparison suggest about the old woman's character?
In the context of the story, what does "ventured" mean when the old woman approached the sound?
The old woman's tongue is described as being "just as sharp" as a sword. How does this metaphor convey her manner of speaking
How does Gizo convince the King that he has ten eyes in total? What does Gizo mean by this?
How does the author create a playful tone between the characters in the passage?
How does Gizo ensure that he isn't recognized when he visits the village?
What is the significance of the phrase "right-hand man of the King"?
How do the three girls react differently to Gizo's arrival, and what does this reveal about their personalities?
The words "splishy-splashy" and "soggy and droopy" describe potential damage to the dresses. What feeling or image do these phrases convey?
What can be inferred about Ta Kitse's character from her actions in the story?
The second girl "flounced the frills of her dress." What does "flounced" mean, and what image does it create?
Why does Ta Kitse turn to the Old Woman before responding to Gizo's proposal?
Why did the King initially forget about Gizo's reward?
How does the repeated forgetfulness of the King concerning Gizo's reward serve as a recurring theme in the story?
Why does Gizo consider the crisis with Ta Kitse an opportunity for him? What does this attitude tell us about his charachter?
The old woman's medicines make the water "spring up like a fountain." How does this imagery emphasise the miraculous nature of Ta Kitse's recovery?
Why might this story be considered different or distinctive? And are there any well-known stories it reminds you of? (hint: in the last part of the story?)
Spider Eyes: Most spiders have eight eyes, which are located on their head in different arrangements. These eyes vary in size and shape, providing them with a wide field of vision. However, not all spiders have excellent eyesight. Some rely more on other senses, like touch and vibrations, to navigate their surroundings.
Leg Sensitivity: Spiders use their legs to perceive their environment in fascinating ways. The tiny hairs on their legs, called setae, are highly sensitive and allow them to detect vibrations, sounds, and even changes in air currents. This helps them sense approaching prey, potential mates, or any danger nearby.
Spider Silk: Did you know spiders are like tiny factories? They make silk right from their tummies! They use this silk to create webs, wrap up their food, protect their baby eggs, and even make safety ropes as they move around.
Different Ways to Hunt: Not all spiders sit and wait in a web for food. Some, like the jumping spider, love to leap and pounce on their snacks. Others, like the sneaky trapdoor spider, hide in the ground and pop out when lunch walks by!
Growing New Clothes: Imagine if you could grow a new set of clothes every time you got bigger. Spiders do something similar! As they grow, they shed their old skin and reveal a shiny new one underneath.
Venom and Little Pointy Teeth: Most spiders have tiny pointy teeth, called fangs, that they use to inject a special juice called venom into their food. This makes the food easier to eat. But don't worry, most spiders are super friendly and their venom doesn't hurt humans.
Spider High-Fives: Spiders don't talk like we do, but they do have their own special way of saying "hello!" Male spiders tap and dance on a female spider's web to say, "Hey there! I come in peace."
Spider's Special Sensors: Spiders have special parts on their bodies called slit sensilla. Think of them as tiny superhero sensors! They help spiders feel everything that's going on around them, like if a tasty bug is nearby or if there's danger.