The Mouse and the Beetle – a Sudanese Proverb with a Folktale

الخنفُسانة شافت ولدها في الحيط قالت دا لولي ملضوم في خيط

al khunfusaana shaafat walada fi l-HeeT gaalat da luuli malDuum fi kheeT.

The dung beetle saw its son on the wall and said these are pearls put together on a string.

Though the dung beetle is ugly, to his mother he is as lovely and beautiful as pearls beads strung together on a thread. This proverb implies that parental love can be blind. There is a short folktale called The Mouse and the Beetle relating to this proverb.

It once happened that a mouse married a beetle. One day when the beetle went down to the river to wash her shamla (a rag of wool or goat hair used by Sudanese women to cover their bodies when having a smoke bath), a strong habuub suddenly blew and swept away the shamla, together with the beetle who was clinging on to it tightly. The gust of wind threw the beetle on an island in the river, leaving her feeling shocked and bewildered. By coincidence, a boy from the house where the mouse and the beetle had their hole was passing near the shore. When the beetle saw him, she called out in her loudest voice:

‘Hey you! Young, long-necked man, tell the tale! Tell him, my master of the long tail that the finest lady has fallen into tragedy.’ Upon hearing the voice, the youth turned left and right but could not see who was making the sound. He returned home and informed his mother that he had heard a cry coming from the island that said: ‘Hey you! Young, long-necked man, tell the tale! Tell him, my master of the long tail that the finest lady has fallen into tragedy.’

The mouse, who happened to be peeping through the opening of its hole, heard their conversation, and felt a rising sense of disapproval that his mistress had turned them into objects of ridicule amongst the worthy and the unworthy, and that she was now the subject of gossip. So he rushed to the river, swam to the island and returned with his wife on his back. When they were very close to their house, the beetle saw her children sitting near each other and she proudly said to her husband:

‘Look how beautiful our children are. They are pearls put together on a string.‘

The mouse laughed and lifted up his chest in a bragging manner. ‘maasha! Allah! As God has willed it. Actually this is how the angel’s children look like!’

Another similar proverb is: ‘A monkey is to his mother eyes like a deer’ al girid fi ‘een ummu ghazaal.  القرد في عين أمو غزال

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