Hassan and his Bride
In a village nestled between rolling sand dunes, there lived a young man named Hassan. The whispers of the townsfolk spoke of his reluctance to heed the call of marriage. Hassan, with a determined shake of his head and an unwavering commitment to his bachelor ways, defied the expectations of his community.
"One day I'll choose my bride," he declared, his words floating like a promise on the desert breeze. "But no girl from this village is the one to share my bed."
His father, understanding the heart of his son, granted him the freedom to roam. "You're free to choose," the father said, a nod of respect accompanying his words. "And whoever she is, you bring, for sure I will accept."
Hassan, his heart untamed like the vast expanse of the desert, saddled his camels—the silent masters of the sand. He embarked on a journey that carried him beyond the familiar horizon, riding and riding until the village's silhouette became a distant memory.
At an oasis, where the melody of singing voices mingled with the soft whispers of palm trees, Hassan heard a song that stirred his soul. There, beneath a veil, was a maiden whose voice echoed with a haunting beauty. Enchanted, Hassan realized that her song had woven itself into the fabric of his heart.
"My heart has led me true," he thought, his decision firm. "She is the one I seek."
With determination etched on his face, Hassan approached the veiled maiden. "Tell me truly, Red-eyed maiden, are you bond or free?" he inquired, captivated by her comeliness and the melodic timbre of her voice.
"Why should I respond to you, master of camel trains?" she retorted, her eyes flashing with both defiance and curiosity.
Undeterred, Hassan, ever the persistent suitor, lowered himself from his mount and leaned in closer to hear her words. Their exchange, a dance of words and glances, revealed the spark of a connection.
"Between Summer and Winter," she replied, her eyes now softened. "That means 'Dewy Autumn-tide' in case you can't surmise."
Undeterred by the maiden's initial resistance, Hassan introduced himself, sharing the meaning of his name. "Between Shackle and Halter" was his chosen designation.
As the conversation unfolded, Hassan learned that the maiden's wedding was set to take place between a year and a week—a revelation that filled him with dread. Fueled by a sense of urgency and a fear of losing her, Hassan hastened back to his village.
Upon his return, he discovered the village in a flurry of activity, preparations for a wedding in full swing. Confused and anxious, he sought answers, questioning the purpose behind the music and tinkling bells.
"The princess left her bed after a long illness. She will finally be wed!" the villagers exclaimed.
Desperation gripped Hassan as he pleaded with a woman to deliver a message to the princess. He wished to convey his presence, assuring her of his enduring love. The woman attempted to fulfill his request but was thwarted by the protective cocoon of the bridal preparations.
Undeterred, Hassan implored her to make another attempt, urging her to proclaim his love in the presence of the princess. The message, a heartfelt plea, reached the ears of the veiled maiden. Overjoyed, she declared, "He who waits should know his hopes will surely be rewarded."
However, the sister of the groom, sharp-witted and discerning, overheard the song and sensed the depth of the maiden's emotions. Acting swiftly, she brought her brother aside and questioned the authenticity of his intended union.
"Do you hear the song she sings, what she is saying now?" she queried. "Or is yours simply the understanding of a cow?"
In response, the groom, enlightened by the sincerity in the maiden's song, vowed to release her from the impending union. True love, with its roots between Summer and Winter, blossomed against the odds, mounted between Shackle and Halter.
And so, in the heart of the desert, a tale unfolded—an ode to love's persistence, transcending the barriers of tradition and expectation.
The story is originally in the form of a poem:
They say Hassan refused when he was told to go get married.
They say he shook his head and with his bachelor ways tarried.
One day I’ll choose my bride, he said. One day I will be wed.
But no girl from this village is the one to share my bed.
You’re free to roam, his father said. Your wish I will respect.
And whoever she is you bring, for sure I will accept.
Hassan saddled his camels, those great masters of the sand,
and rode and rode and rode away to a faraway land.
He stopped at an oasis, pulled by singing loud and clear.
There he found a veiled maiden, the one whose voice he’d heard.
He listened from atop his mount, caught by the lovely sound.
And as she sang, Hassan realized to her his heart was bound.
My heart has led me true, he thought. She is the one I seek.
And so Hassan decided to the woman he must speak.
Tell me truly, Red-eyed maiden, are you bond or free?
For your shape is comely and your voice pleasing to me.
The maiden tilted up her face and raised her eyes to him.
Fair indeed, they were, and when she spoke, she spoke with vim.
Why should I respond to you, master of camel trains,
Why should I respond, with you still mounted in disdain?
Well chided but not deterred, Hassan lowered his mount,
and leaned in close to hear what she would say on her account.
Who are you? He asked again. Tell me of whom you’re born.
Might you be deformed or sick and of all cure forlorn?
Hassan knew he spoke in error from her narrowed gaze.
Instead of offense he should have given her more praise.
Depart from me, she said. Take your camels, go your way!
May disease root in you which they can’t ever drive away.
Forgive my reckless mouth, he begged. I accept all the blame.
Maybe we can start again if you tell me your name.
“Between Summer and Winter,” she replied with flashing eyes.
That means “Dewy Autumn-tide” in case you can’t surmise.
I’m named Hassan, which means I’m good, was the young man’s reply.
“Between Shackle and Halter” is the name that I go by.
Tell me, you of lightning eyes, when are you to be wed?
For if you are betrothed, you must come to me instead.
Between a year and a week, that was what the maiden said.
Which meant after the week had fled. Hassan was filled with dread.
He hastened home, the young man did, he hurried to prepare,
for the thought of losing her did fill him with despair.
On her part the maiden told her people she was sick,
the wedding to delay, or it would hold within a week.
But time passed and soon the maiden could delay no further.
Resigned to her fate, she left her bed to wed the other.
When Hassan returned he found her village in upheaval,
with people busy preparing for the wedding festival.
What’s this for? He asked around. This fuss and pell and mell?
What’s it for, this music and the sound of tinkling bells?
Don’t you know? The people cried. The princess left her bed.
After a long illness she will finally be wed!
Please! He begged a woman. Please, go to the wedding house!
I must relay a message and no suspicions arouse.
But when the woman went to where the princess could be found,
The girl was surrounded by the women of the compound.
I tried my best, she told Hassan. Went as close as I dare.
But her sister-in-law was there, to take care of her hair.
Go again, the young man pled, and say so she can hear:
Bless you, God-given Bride, he who you made mad is here.
The woman did as she was told and made her small announcement,
and noted with relief her words were met with great rejoicement.
He comes at last, the one to whom my promise was accorded.
He who waits should know his hopes will surely be rewarded.
But keen-eared she was, the sister of the groom-to-be.
She knew immediately that the wedding was not to be.
Deciding she had to help her brother with his choice,
she called him to her side and spoke to him with lowered voice.
Do you hear the song she sings, what she is saying now?
Or is yours simply the understanding of a cow?
Yes, I heard her song, he said. I know for me, she’s wrong.
I know it’s not for me she longs. I knew it all along.
This I vow in the name of God who sits up above,
She is free to go to him, the one she truly loves.
And so it was that sometime between Summer and Winter,
True love was found, mounted between Shackle and Halter.
Source: Wisdom from the Nile : a collection of folk-stories from Northern and Central Sudan by Ahmed Al-Shahi & F. C. T. Moore.
This is a folk romance from Karmakol village, Sudan, retold and contributed by Mythological Africans.
It is a part of our series, Folklore Worldwide. We are currently open to submissions from around the world, and you are welcome to send us your stories!