folktales about eating dead people
D. L. Ashliman
There was a man who married a wife of whom he was very fond. But after a while the wife died. Then the man wandered away in order to find a country in which no one died. So he went from place to place, looking for a town where there were no graves. At last he came to a town in the Sudan where there were no graves. So he remained here, in the house of the sheik. The sheik made a feast for him, and first offered him a piece of a roasted leg.
"Where is your father?" asked the man.
"This is his leg," said the sheik, "the rest of him is up there," pointing to a shelf.
Then the man learned that when anyone fell ill, he was killed and eaten, and that this was the reason there were no graves. So in the night he ran away back to his own country.
There was a man with his mother. The mother was much afraid of dying, therefore she wished to go into a country where there is no death. The son said, "Where is a country without death?"
She answered, "Well, there is such a country, bring me there!" The woman was very old.
So they traveled into a very, very distant country to reach the country where there is no death. They turned into a village and asked for water. When it was given them, the son asked, "Is there death in this country?"
The people answered, "Dear me, where do you come from that you ask such a question concerning death?"
He answered, "My mother is afraid of dying, so she wants a country where death is not."
The people said, "Why, go away!"
They went and turned to another village. There they asked again and received the answer, "Why, what kind of man are you that you ask about dying? Go away! There is death here."
Then they went to a very distant country and asked, "How is your country? Is there death in it?"
The answer was, "No, people do not die here."
The mother was very glad, she said, "Well done, my son, you have brought me to a country where there is no death."
Her son had a friend in that town, and to his home he brought his mother. He said, "Here is my mother, let her live with you. I shall go to our country, and after three years I shall return to see you and my mother." His mother was satisfied.
So the boy returned to his native country and stayed there for some time.
But his mother became sick; she got a headache; she said, "Friend of my son, I have a headache."
On that the boy arose and called the people together. The people came and sat down. The boy said, "I have called you because of the mother of my friend, who is here. Now collect money, that we may give it to her son when he returns. For she says her head is aching; and because of her sickness her meat will spoil. For that reason," he said, "she must be killed at once."
When the woman heard this, she began crying, "I am not sick! I have no headache!"
But the people said, "Never mind, seize her, or her flesh will be spoiled." So she was caught, brought, thrown on the ground and killed; her flesh was divided among the people, and they ate it. The next day they collected money and brought it to the friend of her son.
And her son came back. He sat down, they gave him food, and he ate. He asked, "Where is my mother?"
His friend answered, "My friend, your mother was seized with sickness, so we collected money, -- here is the money! -- and killed her, lest her meat should be spoiled. For as for us, we do not die in our country; if a man is seized with sickness, we kill him."
The boy replied, "Why, should I sell my mother? Never!"
Then he said, "I will but go."
His friend said, "You are angry?"
He replied, "No, I am not angry."
In the meantime the people came and wanted to eat the boy too. His friend therefore went to him saying, "Go, or you also will be eaten like your mother." He accompanied him into a distant country.
When the boy came home, he said to his people, "My mother has been eaten by a lion."
That is all; and the people said, "Your mother was a sinful woman. Is not death in all the world, and should there be a place where there is no death?"
Revised March 19, 2013.