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Dhegdheer, the cannibal woman !

- read the whole world-famous Somali folk tale -


Two children walked through a large and magical forest in Somalia.

“Beware of the witch Dhegdheer – she with the long ears”, the adults had urged the children.

The children walked hand in hand and went with big eyes, deeper and deeper into the forest.

Suddenly the children saw a light shine.

The light shine came from a fire.

At the fireplace, there was a giant storyteller, and she had a big shawl around her head.

The children sat down and looked into the ladys eyes.

“Sheeko haarir, sheeko haarir, we want to hear a story”, the children exclaimed.

And she began to tell:


“There was once a mother and a father and a little boy, who lived in a small cottage next to the edge of the forest.

Everything was well in the family, until one day, when mom and dad started to quarrel.

“No, no, no” Mom said.

- “Yes, yes” Dad said.

- “No, never in my life”, the mother shouted out loud.

The father walked out the door and threw the door behind him.

- “Does dad leave us now ?” the son asked.

“Yes, apparently he does, that villain” Mom replied.

“But if HE can – WE can”, the mother continued.

She took her little son in her hand and went out into the woods.

They walked and they walked and they walked, until the sun started to set.

Then the boy suddenly said:

- “Mom, I can’t go any further.”

Just in that moment, a big old lady appeared in front of them.

The old lady had blood-red eyes.

She said:

- “You must be tired after walking a whole day in the woods.”

The lady asked them to come into her warm and cozy cottage.

There, on a table, was a barrel with the most wonderful sweet and juicy food.

- Almost as if their arrival was expected.

Mom, who was starving, began to eat from the dish,

while the boy saw how the old lady crept out.

The boy walked to the window, and outside he saw a bonfire - a witch’s bonfire.

And next to the witch’s bonfire was the old lady, and she made strange moves.

She danced around the fire and woven with her arms and sang.

She took her shawl off and then he saw her shaggy hair and her long long ears, which stretched all the way down to her shoulders.

One ear went even further down.

She sang:

“Frightened people are bad food – but happy people taste very good !”.

The boy said to his mother:

Look at her blood-red eyes and her long ears – it’s Dhegdheer !

“Come my son” the mother said.

The mother raised her little son on her back.

The mother started running as she had never run before.

They heard the mighty witch Dhegdheer frantically approaching behind, at a tremendous rate.

Suddenly they came to a river, but neither mother nor son were swimming.

But there in the moonlight, a well-known figure came, and he said with a familiar voice:

- “Throw the baby over to me, Fatima,

throw the baby over to me, Fatima “.

It was the father who had come to help them.

The mother gently threw her little son straight into the arms of her husband, just as she felt Dhegdher’s breath puffing in her neck.

Then she did a giant jump over the river, straight in her husband’s arms.

Dad said:

- “Dhegdheer can’t access us now, because she can’t swim.”

- “Is it really true that Dhegdheer can’t swim ?” the son exclaimed.

- “Thank God, thank God !” the mother said relieved.

Then this story was over.


The two children who listened to the story, clapped their hands with delight and thanked the old woman for a very good story.

Then they asked:

- “Do you have any more stories ?”

- “Yes, the old lady said, I have more …”

She took off her shawl,

and inside, her shaggy hair and her long, long ears were seen.

One ear was even longer than the other.



Information about Dhegdheer – the cannibal woman

The fairytale character Dhegdheer is very well known in the Somali literature.

The name Dhegdheer means in Somali “long-eared”.

She is a kind of witch, with blood-red eyes and long ears, one of which is longer than the other.

Her biggest ear is upwards when she is asleep, so that she can hear possible prey, and the ear folds down only when she sleeps really deep.

Her hearing is as good as a leopard’s hearing, so that she could hear her prey from afar.

She is a cannibal, that is, she eats human flesh.

Dhegdheer is described as tall and bold and she can reach an incredible speed when she runs; she can even catch up with horses.

And when she runs, her shaggy hair blows back, like a horse mane.

Dhegdheer cannot – when she gets up the speed – change direction, and this is used by her prey when they suddenly change direction and then Deghdeer cannot follow them.

Somali folk tales are often about the relationship between mother, father, and children and that parents put out their children in the forest.

Witches are a common occurrence in Somali folk tales.


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