Laila Wil Th’ib
Laila and the Wolf
My informant is from Lebanon and has experienced this narrative many times throughout her childhood and has passed it on to her own children.
The story describes Laila, the little girl, “preparing Kaa’k, a Lebanese type of bread and Shaye, a certain Arabic tea to take to her grandmother’s home as she is not feeling well” Once Laila is lectured by her mother about the rules of arab generosity and taught that she “must not listen to the words of others, specifically, not family” as they do not have the same values as their household and may hurt her” Laila is at an intersection in the path and has to choose whether to go down one covered with beauty and the other with darkness. “A hyena emerged from the bush and told Laila to take the path of darkness because there will be a surprise and that she must listen to her elder.” Yet, she continues to her sick grandmother in hopes of curing her with Laila’s love. Once she arrived, Laila had approached her grandmother’s bed and “kissed her forehead to show her love, but noticed it was fur, and that she had big eyes and ears.” Laila uncovered her ‘grandmother’ and revealed a wolf that had eaten her grandmother whole. Once Laila screamed, she alerted a watchman who then killed the wolf and cut open his stomach to save her grandmother” However, the hyena was the wolf’s friend a watched all this, as he planned how he was going to get Laila next”
This tale is merely an oikotype of the famous story of ‘Red Riding Hood’ and presents the tale with some changes such as the introduction of a hyena to the narrative in order to present more lessons in the story. The story was mainly “told to children at a very young age so that they could learn how to effectively live independently in a safe manner” as it has many rules such as ‘don’t listen to strangers’ and ‘respect your parent’s wishes’ or else worse will occur. It places an emphasis on the child being told the narrative as it serves as a lesson for when they are being dealt with “a similar situation to the one being told in the story.” Usually parents, specifically the mom would tell this story “before bed so that the children remember and dream practising it or at the beginning of the day, before they leave the house, especially to families who live in the city” because of the many incidents that occur there.
The mention of a hyena being part of the story reminds children that they must always be aware and stay safe because anyone may wish to hurt them. Although this may traumatize some children, it allows them to gain a harsh understanding of reality and ‘the way the world works’. When presented with the tale, I noticed a few differences between this and the Western-typical story. The changes in the story when speaking of the house customs, the food had been altered to fit the culture and Lebanese standard so that children have an easier time relating it to their own experience and point of view, presenting a more efficient approach to storytelling and lecturing. The middle east is seen to be more transparent in the manner that maturity is approached, they give children the chance to view the world in the brutal form that it is. Some countries are not blessed with the same safety as most of the Western world. This is presented through the violence and gore in the story of the wolf eating the grandmother as it prepares the children for the world they are going to be forced into.