Tale – Tehran, Iran

“Bareh va Gorgh” (“The Sheep and the Wolf”)

“There once was a sheep (bareh) and she had three kids: Shangool, Mangool, and Habehyeh Angoor.  The mom would always tell her kids to never talk to strangers and to always lock the doors because the bad wolf (gorgh) would do bad things.  One day, she left to do some shopping and told the kids, as usual, to not open any doors for anybody and that she’ll be back soon.  She left and the kids were playing, not paying attention to anything she said.  However, the wolf was behind the door the whole time and heard that the mother sheep was leaving.  So the wolf knocks on the door and the kids open the door immediately.  The wolf eats Shangool and Mangool.  Habehyeh Angoor runs to hide and starts crying.  When the mom comes back, she sees that the door is opened and she knows something has happened.  She sees Habehyeh Angoor crying and asks what happened.  He explains the whole story for his mom.  The mom then runs after the wolf and finds him.  She demands for her kids back but the wolf won’t give her them.  And so they start to fight and the mother sheep throws the wolf to the ground and cuts his stomach to get her kids out.  When the kids see the mom, they are so happy but are also crying.  They apologize for not listening to her and promise to never do it again.”

My mom says she learned this story when she was a little girl.  In Iran, it is a popular story that almost everybody knows.  She says she learned it from her mom when she wanted to go to sleep.  But also, at the elementary schools in Iran, the students would perform “Bareh va Gorgh” as a play.

My mother would tell my brother and me this tale whenever she wanted us to go to bed.  The Grimm brothers also wrote a different version of this tale called “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids.”  Both “Bareh va Gorgh” and “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids” are tales, or märchens.  They vary such that in my mother’s version, the characters are one mother sheep with three children, whereas in the Grimm’s version, the characters are a mother goat and six children.

My mother told me this story so many times that I had it memorized at age six.  In the Grimm’s version of the tale, the mother goat gets her kids back and they dance around in celebration.  When my mother would tell the story, she would end it by saying that the mother sheep would get her kids back and the kids would apologize for not listening to their mother.  I think my mom changed the last part of the tale so that my brother and I would learn a lesson and the consequences if we talk to strangers.

This story is a tale, or märchen, because it follows the guidelines, or laws, of märchens.  “Bareh va Gorgh” is not set in the real world and it is not to be believed since the characters, the sheep and the wolf can talk.  Märchens also serve to get a lesson and moral across to the audience.  The tale has the number three repeat throughout the text; there are three children and the wolf tries to get into the house three times (his last being successful), which also follows the law that repetition is almost always threefold.  In this performance that my mom gave of the tale, she forgot to add that the wolf tries but fails to get into the house two times before he actually did.  In the tale, there are always only two characters to a scene, the children as a group as one character; for example the mother with her children, or the children with the wolf, or the mother with the wolf.  The tale is also single stranded, meaning that there is only one plot and does not go back and forth between scenes.