Circassian [Adigean] Parables

Customs are not for breaking!

In one village there went the custom that after marriage the daughter-in-law was forbidden to address or talk to her father-in-law [Note: This was a strict custom in the whole of Circassia]. In the stream of events, and in the nature of things, two young people got married in this village. The young man, who was bereft of his mother, lived with his wife at his quarters in the house of his father. The wife behaved absolutely impeccably and in strict observance of the customs and traditions: She did the cooking, cleaning, and all the house chores industriously and without complaint – in fact she held the customs and traditions in high reverence – including not talking to, and actually avoiding, her father-in-law. The father wanted to be able to speak to his daughter-in-law, but she would have none of it. Then he summoned his son and said:

— “Son, slaughter a steer and gather all the village elders to be regaled!”

The son protested at first:

— “Oh, father, what for? We only have two bulls after the lavish wedding ceremonies.”

— “Do not ask why. Do as I say!” admonished the father.

The son could not disobey – he butchered a bullock and invited the elders. The elders were sumptuously feasted, with the daughter-in-law serving the food and wine. At the end of the feast, the father rose and addressed the elders:

— “Revered Elders, remove the vow of silence imposed on my daughter-in-law! She’s so good, so sweet, and very diligent, yet, custom forbids her to speak to me. I want to be able to converse with her.”

The oldest elder stood up and said:

— “You are a highly respected man in our village, and we will waive the vow of silence imposed on your daughter-in-law, so she can talk to you face-to-face.”

The morning after the feast, the father woke up and saw his daughter-in-law.

— “Good morning, my sweet daughter!” he saluted her.

— “Hello!” she replied dryly.

— “Daughter, bring me something to eat!”

— “What, old man! Can’t you bring it yourself?”

— “Daughter, give me some water to drink!”

— “Go, decrepit one, to the well and fetch it yourself!”

Things went on like this for a week. Then the man called his son and said:

— “Son, butcher another steer and invite all the village elders to the feast!”

The son protested again:

— “But, father, we will be left with no bulls in our homestead.”

— “Do not argue. Just do what I tell you!”

The son could not disobey – he slaughtered the family’s last bull and assembled the elders again. The elders were handsomely regaled, with the daughter-in-law serving the food and wine. When the feast was over, the father-in-law stood up and addressed the village elders:

— “Your Eminences, re-impose the code of silence on my daughter-in-law with respect to me!”

The oldest elder rose and said:

— “You are a much respected man in our village, BUT TO UNDERSTAND THE WISDOM BEHIND THE CUSTOM, YOU HAD TO SLAUGHTER YOUR LAST TWO BULLS. SO LET US NEVER BREAK THE ANCIENT CUSTOM AGAIN!”


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