There was once an old woman who was a tattooer.1 All the women used to go to her to be tattooed, and she took food from them in payment. Now there was a man who had a daughter called Fatima, and one day the girl said to her mother: "Mother, I'm going to get myself tattooed too." "All right, be off with you," said her mother.
The girl took some flaps of bread 2 with her and went with them to the tattooer. "O old lady," said she, "take this bread and do some tattooing for me." - "Not I." "Why?" said the girl. - "If you'll go and kill your mother, I'll tattoo you." "How am I to kill my mother?" asked Fatima.
"Go home to her and say: 'Mother, I want a pomegranate, and I want that one that's at the very top of the tree, and I want it from my mother's own hand.' When you and she have gone out together to pluck the pomegranate, and when your mother has climbed up to the top of the tree, then you must suddenly call out: 'Mother, your brother's dead!' Then she will fall down and be killed."
1Persian women think that tattoo marks make them more pretty, so they often have a little tattooing done on their ankles and hands and faces. They are particularly fond of having their eyebrows connected by a line. The tattooing is of a blue colour.
2 In Persia bread is made in large round or oval flaps, usually about a quarter of an inch in thickness. They are like big thin brown scones, and not at all like our fat white loaves. The flaps are flexible, so that you can roll up cheese or spring onions or other food in them and stow them away in your waistcloth, as the young cowherd did in Story No. 37.
"Mother, your youngest brother's dead!"
Fatima went home to her mother as she had been told, and said: "Mother, I want a pomegranate." "Our she'pherd is coming back, he will pick it for you, my child," said her mother. - "No, I want it from your own hand." "Come along, then," said her mother, "and I'll get one for you." They went off together and came into the garden, and Fatima pointed to a very big pomegranate and said: "I want that one." Her mother climbed up to the very top of the tree to get it for her, when the girl suddenly cried out: "Mother, your youngest brother's dead!" The moment she heard this, the mother threw herself down and was killed.
Fatima's father arrived on the scene a little later and saw that his wife had fallen down and been killed, and they carried her away and buried her. After that the girl went to the tattooer woman and said: "I've killed my mother, now tattoo me." "Do you know what you must do now?" asked the old woman. - "No." - "Well, you must sprinkle salt in your clothes, and at night shake them out and say: 'O Father, what quantities of these horrible little things there are in my clothes!' If he then says: 'What can I do?' say: 'There is an old tattooer woman, go and marry her, so that she may come and look after me.' "
Now the man loved his daughter very much and never used to cross her, so when she said: "Father, go and marry the old tattooer woman," he went and married her and brought her home. Some days later when she was in the women's quarters the girl went up to her and said: "Now tattoo me." "Go away and die!" said" the old woman, "do you think I'm going to get up in my private rooms and tattoo you?" - "Well, but you asked me to kill my mother, and you promised that you would tattoo me if I did."
Thus Fatima became motherless
Fatima wept bitterly, and went to her mother's grave, and said: "O Mother, the old tattooer woman deceived me and I killed you. Now she won't tattoo me, nor does she even give me enough bread to eat. O Mother, what am I to do now?" Night fell, and she lay down to sleep. In her sleep she saw her mother come to her bed-head and say to her: "Go to your uncle's house and don't take anything they offer you, but say: 'I want your calf.' Then you will take the yellow calf and bring it back and tie it up. Whenever you are hungry, say: "Yellow calf, ash and pulau from one of your ears and rose-water from the other!" But take care that the old tattooer woman doesn't find out about it."
In the morning when she got up from sleep she went to her uncle's house and refused everything they offered her, and said: "I want the yellow calf." They gave her the yellow calf, and she came back with it. "What's this?" asked the old woman. "I have brought it from my uncle's house," said Fatima.
After some months the stepmother gave birth to two daughters; one was called Char-te, that is, Four Eyes, and the other Char-angila, that is, Four Stumps. These girls grew up, and their mother used to cook all the wheat-flour she could get and give it to them because they were her own children, but to the motherless Fatima she gave only barley bran.
The girl, however, used to go to the hill and give the barley bran to the yellow calf and strike it on the ear, and then everything she wanted would be forthcoming. This went on, till one day the stepmother said: "Girl, why do these daughters of mine who eat wheat-bread get thinner and thinner from day to day, while you who eat barley bran get every day fatter and fatter?" "I've got accustomed to it," replied Fatima.
The old woman, however, thought for a moment to herself: "I'll send Four Eyes with her in the morning and see what she does." Next morning she said: "Four Eyes, my daughter, go along with your sister." "All right," said Four Eyes. They set off together and went off to the hills, and wandered about till mid-day. Fatima was afraid to say anything, but at last she got desperate with hunger and said: "O Sister, if I tell you something, will you not tell your mother?" - "No, may my father die! I'll tell no one."