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From Cultural Heritages of Eritrea: On Eritrean Traditional Fairies

According to many researchers paper, most folklore worldwide fairies are generally considered beneficent toward humans. In the West, especially, they are often inclined to play high jinks.

However, the bad amongst them are thought to be accountable for such misfortunes. Similar to this, in our country, all fairies or Deki Hidrtna are good. And if there are bad amongst them, we call them Sir-el. And what other traditional storms have brought is that good fairies are playful and harmless to human. Henceforth, they take you with them to the woods or barren mountains and you get lodging and food for free. Legend also adds that their music and their sound when singing is very enticing and touches the bottom of the heart.

While remembering that fairies tale can enrich our cultural heritages, some traditional fairologist narrates about who are the fairies.

Legend says that: “One long time ago, a woman lived in a small cottage herself. She had nine children out of whom five were good-looking and the rest were ugly. The lady, who was a bit superstitious, took it as her duty to hide the beautiful children when a guest arrived in the house. The reason was that if people made eye contact with the beautiful children, the Evil Eye would go into action and causes them to fall ill and die in the end.”

“Days were followed by nights and nights by days and one fine morning a noblewoman knocked on the door and was allowed in and was asked to partake of the humble meal the poor lady had prepared. And in the last, the noblewoman asked the lady if she had children, to which the Lady replied negatively. She then went into the kitchen and brought the children with her, but she hid the beautiful ones behind her back and put the ugly ones in front. The noblewoman smelled sarcastically in the lady’s action. She intrigued her why she hid some of her children behind her back, to which the lady replied by saying that she was afraid lest they be bewitched by the Evil Eye.”

Hence, the noblewoman took offense at the lady’s insolent statement and cursed her saying: “Let the ugly children inherit the earth and the beautiful ones remain hidden behind the veil of mystery, walking in the ethereal world forever; and from now to eternity they will never be seen by any mortal eyes…”

Another Eritrean researcher also stated about these traditional fairies in his paper “The Benign and the Malignant: Traditional Eritrean Fairies”. The researcher accentuated that fairies, according to the tradition, live in barren mountains and in woods, in rivers, in creeks and streams, in deep canyons and dark forests. Therefore, they visit dwellings of their mortal counterparts, and this is the central focal point why it was long-aged tradition leaving some food on the tray after dinner, in case the ethereal guests, invite themselves to a mid-night snack. In addition to this, during harvest time, the farmer is not supposed to count his bushels of his wheat for fear that the bad fairies learn of his excessive riches and come to destroy it in the opportune time. But this was part of the traditional legend.

Meanwhile, what really amazes me is hearing a lot of people, especially aged fathers and mothers, narration about their exotic experiences with good and bad fairies in different places, and tells you about their experiences which are at times very hard to believe. This surprise vacation to the fairyland is commonly known as Shikushuka, where, as already aforementioned, lodging and food are provided for free. The list of what fairies or Sir-els can and cannot do is too long to state here point by point.

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