Occupation: Investment Banker
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 1, 2021
Primary Language: Amharic
Other Language(s): English
My informant told me the story of a beautiful mule named Wardit. Wardit was on her way to drink water from the river, when she met an admirer, a horse, on the way. The horse confesses his love for Wardit, and asks about her parentage. Wardit looked confused, and asked the horse why her parentage is important. The horse explains that it is tradition to marry someone from a good familial parentage. Wardit explains that her mother is the governor’s horse. The horse was delighted, and asked of Wardit’s father. Wardit then said proudly that her sister is the priest’s horse. The horse looked puzzled and asked once more of Wardit’s father. Wardit then said that her aunt is the village governor’s horse. The horse grew impatient and once again asked of Wardit’s father. Just then, Wardit’s father appears. He is an old, wrinkled donkey. He asks Wardit what she is doing talking to the horse. Wardit ignores him. Again, the father asks Wardit, and again, Wardit ignores him. The horse angrily asks Wardit who the horse is and why he disturbs the conversation. Wardit insists that she does not know the old, shrivelled donkey. The horse begins to kick the donkey to death. With his final breath, the donkey asks God, “Oh God, look at what has happened to me.” God speaks to Wardit and declares her barren and unable to have children. He says, “you have disrespected your father, so you shall bear no child.”
This tale is told to young children to teach them to respect their elders, as this is a very important manner to instill in children in Ethiopia.
My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He explains that in Ethiopian culture, disrespecting one’s parents is considered a very heinous offense. He informed me that this also applies to any elders in or outside of the family. He explained that Ethiopians are very family oriented, thus many tales in Ethiopian culture aim to teach children to be obedient and prioritize their family. My informant learned this tale from his parents at a young age, which further reaffirms that this tale was told for educational purposes.
I had never heard of this tale before, but it did resonate with me. We have the same family values in Armenian culture. I found it interesting that Wardit was punished by God, which suggests that disrespecting one’s parents is not only a social offense, but a religious one. According to my informant, religion is a non-negotiable aspect of society in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. This tale also communicates the importance of family values. Wardit was punished for not defending or claiming her father. According to my informant, disrespecting an elder, regardless of your relationship with them, is disrespectful and shameful. For more information on Ethiopian family dynamics, see the cited article from Cultural Atlas under the subheadings titled “Family” and “Household Dynamics.”
Evason, Nina. “Ethiopian Culture.” Cultural Atlas, 2018, culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/ethiopian-culture/ethiopian-culture-family. Accessed 1 Apr. 2021.