My informant was born in Fez, Morocco, then moved to the United States, and then moved back to Morocco but to the mountains when he was five years old. He attended high school in Auburn, Alabama. My informant told me stories about the origin of his last name, how is family got to Morocco, folklore stories about his family, and a family superstition. All three stories that I collected were passed down from father to son to father to son, my informant being the son. My informant’s father, who is one of twelve children in his family, became the active bearer of this family lore. My informant is the only son in his family, so he commented that he will be the active bearer after his father passes. My informant speaks French at home, and these stories were translated from French to English. The setting is an apartment bedroom in Los Angeles.
Informant: And so a couple hundred years ago there was this guy name Si Tayeb Biaz. Si is like Mr. and Tayeb and T-A-Y-E-B. And so the family became a little political. And this guy became the minister of foreign affairs for Morocco. And he was very close to the king. And he became an extremely powerful man and there was a giant fountain built in his honor in the middle of Fez and it said [pause] “drink, be merry, and remember the Biaz, the face of heaven” in Arabic. It was an inscription on the fountain, that’s still there to this day. But, but, Si Tayeb was becoming really influential so Fez was the capital of Morocco at the time. So he became really influential and really powerful. Enough that the king began to feel threatened and he thought that Si Tayeb was planning an overthrow the king.
Me: but was he?
Informant: We don’t know. We don’t know if he was. It could have been grounded in some truth. And so he had him executed. But because he liked him so much, he let his family live and keep the estate and so we were still around. But he had them executed, he had him beheaded and then he had the inscription changed on the fountain.
My informant first heard this story from an uncle, to explain why his family does not like politics. I liked this story because the elements of uncertainty as to whether or not Si Tayeb was actually planning to overthrow the king, give the story a legendary quality. There is additional mystery in the story, because there is no proof of the inscription on the statue, because it was removed after the execution. It is also interesting to note that my informant first heard the story in French, but told me the story in English. The story also probably started out in Arabic and then was told in French. As more generations of my informant’s family stay in the United States, I wonder if the “active bearer’s” version of the story will remain in French or begin to be passed down in English.