The South Bank Review Winter 2017 | Dhega-dheer
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Once upon a time there lived a woman called Dhega-dheer. Dhega-dheer, also known as Lady Dhega-dheer is a very famous character in Somali oral history. Her name, Dhega-dheer translates as ‘Long Ears’. Her long ears enhanced her hearing and enabled her to hear sounds from far away. It was said that when Dhega-dheer slept, she folded her long ears to block out all the noise. Dhega-dheer was no ordinary woman for she was the leader of a prosperous village.

Dhega-dheer was extremely paranoid and due to her fear that men were working against her to overthrow her rule, she cut off the testicles of every man in the land. She believed testicles to be the source of all their wisdom and bravery.

Dhega-dheer had one daughter and one day, this daughter gave birth to a son. Immediately, Dhega-dheer sought to cut off her grandson’s testicles but her daughter pacified her; convincing her that the son was a simple boy who was not worthy of Dhega-dheer cutting off his testicles. Her mother reluctantly complied.

After some years had passed, Dhega-dheer set out to test her village people with complex riddles. Dhega-dheer did this often to ascertain whether there were any whose wisdom and bravery surpassed her own. If the village people passed the test, she promised to reward them and if they were to fail, she vowed to punish them for their foolishness.

On this occasion, she told them that they were to saddle items on a camel’s back without the aid of ropes and strings and walk the camel without anything falling off.

The villagers were puzzled. They conspired to go to a wise old man still in possession of his testicles who hid from Dhega-dheer in a secret cave. He knew a solution to their problem straightaway. He told them to put all the items on the camel, spread mud all over, and let the mud dry and harden so that the items stay firmly on the camel’s back. When they showed Dhega-dheer what they had done, she grew suspicious and declared ‘there is a man with his balls. I know there is.’ But the village women pacified her, convincing her that there was no such man, and she grew calm, believing that it was by luck that they had found a solution because she could hear no man.

But to make sure, she set them another task. She told them, ‘go and roll up the ground up like a carpet’

‘Roll up the ground?’ they exclaimed.

Completely perplexed, the villagers turned once again to the old man for guidance and once again he provided them with a solution.

They came back to Dhega-dheer with their solution to the problem. They told her ‘If you wish for us to roll up the ground, first step off it’

Once she heard this, Dhega-dheer was absolutely certain that there was still a man with full possession of his balls in the village.

She listened with her big ears and heard a man’s shout in the distance.

‘Aha’ she exclaimed.

She followed where the sound was coming from and found a young man and immediately recognized him as her grandson. She suddenly realised that her daughter had lied to her. He was neither stupid nor deficient. In fact, he was strong and healthy. She crept up behind him, intending to kill him but alas he had heard her coming and immediately threw his spear and it struck her in the ear. Dhega-dheer bled to death and from then on, the villagers lived in eternal bliss.


Suad Aden

Suad is an English student at London South Bank University. She loves the creative writing part of her degree course and is slowly working her way towards becoming a teacher in the near future. She loves writing in her spare time but has yet to be brave enough to share most of what she writes. Her choice of degree was prompted by a love of great authors like Michael Morpurgo, J. B. Priestley and J.K. Rowling.