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  • Writer's pictureRajaa Aquil

It's Halloween

The culture of changing fear into a festivity is not particular to the West only, as in All Saints day and Halloween. I believe it is a universal phenomenon. In this post, I will not talk about its universality. Instead I will focus on Egyptian folklore and three main characters of fear in Egyptian stories narrated to children. These are: ommina il ghoola (omminal-ghoola, in connected speech), il naddaaha, and, abu rigl masloukha.

These three characters prevail in all children stories. Below is how they are illustrated in the stories.

The English translation for ‘ommina il ghoola’ = the ogre mother, - امنا الغولة - she has red eyes, with long unkempt hair and appearance.

‘il naddaaha’ = the caller, النداهة - is illustrated as an extremely beautiful woman with a very sweet sexy voice.

‘abu rigl masloukha’= the man with a flayed leg. - ابو رجل مسلوخة - he is illustrated as an ordinary man, but when he gets angry his leg turns flayed.

As shown in the pictures, the first two are female characters and the third is a man.

‘Ommina-l ghoola’ امنا الغولة character, is used by parents as a means to coerce their kids to brush their teeth before they sleep, to drink milk and to listen to and obey their parents’ words. What is interesting is that the word 'om' أم which means mother is used. To me this gives some depth to the personifying of fear. Despite the fact that fear is embodied in this ugly fearful looking female character, her being a mother signifies tenderness if the child behaves.

‘il naddaaha’ is also a female character and she is said to be a very beautiful seductive woman who calls for men who are wandering the fields alone at night. She seduces them and then eats them alive. My interpretation is that this character is created so men stay at home with their wives, and don't wander alone or visit shady places at night. The word is derived from the verb 'nadah' which means 'he called' and then inserted into a template that has the meaning of (the person who does (the action of the verb), in this case (calling)). All words whether in colloquial Arabic, Egyptian included, or Modern Standard Arabic, (MSA) or FusHa, as labeled by Arabs, are formed by inserting the 3- consonantal-root into templates. There will be posts about this morphological aspect of Arabic in subsequent posts.

The last character is ‘abu rigl masloukha’ ابو رجل مسلوخة . He is supposed to have one human leg and the other flayed or looks like a goat’s leg. He often does not show his flayed leg. This character is used as means to warn children of playing in streets after sunset. They are always told that if they continue playing, they will meet 'abu rigl masloukha' and he will be very mean and cruel to them.

Many children stories are written around these characters. These stories always start with a plot where good children meet these characters because of their unintentional naughty deeds, and therefore, struggle with them, but when the children attain good habits and start practicing good deeds, in their fight with these characters they win over them at the end. The stories always end with the moral that good deeds make you win over fear and its characters.

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