The Demon's Daughter

A Tsemay Story

Before you read the story

  • Has a stranger ever asked you to go to his or her house?
  • If a stranger asks you, will you go?

Tef is a cereal that grows in Ethiopia

Now read the story

A long time ago, the rains did not come, and there was a famine in the country. The people were hungry. They had no tef, or sorghum, or barley, or wheat. They had to go into the forest to look for fruit and leaves.

Two girls, Dula and her sister, were in the forest one day. They were looking for food. Dula's sister went home, but Dula went on, into the forest.

Suddenly, she met a woman. The woman was wearing a veil. It covered the back of her head. She smiled at Dula.

"What's your name?" she asked her.

"Dula," said Dula.

"And what are you doing here in the forest?" the woman said.

"I'm looking for fruit and leaves to eat," said Dula, "because I'm very hungry."

"Come with me," said the woman. "I have food in my house. I have tef, and sorghum, and barley, and wheat. And I have butter, and honey, and meat."

Dula was very happy.

"Oh thank you," she said. "You are very kind."

And she went with the woman to her house.

The woman's daughter was in front of the house. She was grinding maize. Dula smiled at her.

"Hello," she said.

The woman went behind the house to the store room.

"Why did you come here?" her daughter asked Dula. "What did my mother tell you?"

"She was very kind to me," said Dula. "I was looking for food in the forest, because I am very hungry. 'Come to my house,' she said. 'I have tef, and sorghum, and barley, and wheat. And I have butter, and honey, and meat. I will give you food.'"

"Oh, you poor girl," the woman's daughter said. "You don't understand. My mother is a demon. Did you see her veil? It covers the eyes in the back of her head. We don't have a lot of food in this house. We don't eat it. We are demons. We eat people. Human meat is our only food."

Dula began to cry.

"What can I do?" she said. "I am alone here. Who will help me now?"

The demon's daughter looked at her.

"I will help you," she said. "You are a good girl, and I like you. I'm sorry for you. Listen. My mother will soon come back from her store room. She will give you food to eat. Don't put it in your mouth. It will kill you. Give it to me. It won't hurt me."

Soon the demon woman came back from her store. She smiled at Dula. She had food in her hands.

"My poor child," she said. "You are very hungry. Come and eat."

Dula looked at the food. She wanted to eat it. She was very hungry. 

She took the food from the demon, but she did not eat it. When the demon was not looking, she gave it to her daughter.

Soon it became dark.

"Sleep here, next to me," the demon's daughter said.

Dula lay down with her. The demon woman lay down on the other side of the house.

"Your mother is asleep," Dula said quietly to the girl. "Please, dear friend, help me. I must run away now."

"Not yet," the girl said. "Wait. My mother is not asleep yet."

Dula waited. At last, the demon woman began to snore.

"Now she is asleep," the girl said. "The door is locked. You can't open it. I will do it for you."

She got up and opened the door.

"Run!" she said to Dula. "Run for your life!"

Dula ran into the forest. Behind her, in the house, the demon woman woke up.

"The door is open!" she said. "Where is Dula? Where is my dinner? My dinner has run away! Daughter, where did Dula go? Did you see her?"

Her daughter was lying on her bed. Her eyes were shut. She was pretending to be asleep. Her mother called to her again.

"Daughter! Wake up!" she said.

The girl sat up.

"Where is Dula?" her mother asked her again. "Where did she go?"

"I don't know, Mother," her daughter answered. "I didn't see anything. I was asleep."

The demon woman ran out of the house. She ran fast, fast, through the forest. Dula heard her footsteps. She tried to run fast too.

She looked back, over her shoulder. The demon was coming! The demon was near her!

In front of Dula there was a big river.

"I can't swim!" thought Dula. "What can I do? The demon woman will catch me now."

Then she saw a fallen tree in the water. It was a long tree. It went from one side of the river to the other. She jumped on to it and ran across it. Soon she was on the other side of the river. Then she picked up the end of the tree and threw it into the river. The water carried it away.

The demon woman came to the river.

"Dula!" she called out. "Don't run away from me. I am your friend. I want to help you."

Dula didn't answer. She could see something in the river. The crocodiles were coming.

"How did you cross the river?" the demon said to her. "I want to cross it too."

"There are logs in the water," Dula answered. "I ran across the logs."

The demon woman was very hungry. She didn't wait. She didn't look carefully at the river. She jumped on to the first log. But it wasn't a log. It was a crocodile. At once, it opened its big mouth, and ate the demon woman.

Dula was saved. She ran home to her sister and her family. She told her parents about the demon woman in the forest.

"Learn your lesson," her father said to her. "Don't trust strangers. Don't go with them. Be careful, my dear, and God will keep you safe."


Exercises for The Demon's Daughter


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