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Folk: Eri, the Orphan

Once upon a time. In a land far away, when things were not the way they are today. There lived an orphan, Eri whose parents died when she was just a few months old. Her uncle took her in, to raise her alongside his kids, Agbona and Tete.

Eri was hardworking. She learned new things quickly and this made her half-siblings hate her. She was always the first to wake up each morning. She did house chores and this made her aunt jealous of her. This jealousy resulted in Eri having to do the hardest chores in the house. Her aunt maltreated, and served spoilt food to her, and also sent her on errands late in the night. Meanwhile, Agbona and Tete had no work to do, they grew lazy and depended on Eri’s hard work. Eri could not complain to the uncle as he was always busy and returned home late at night. She was also afraid of what the aunt would do to her if she found out that she reported her.

One evening when Eri’s uncle was away, the aunt decided to send Eri to the stream. It was late and people would normally not visit the stream at night. It was rumoured that spirits gathered at the stream for parties each night. Anyone stubborn enough to visit the stream at night did so at his or her peril. The aunt knew all this but went on to send Eri to the stream.

As Eri’s uncle was away on a mission, no one could stop the aunt from maltreating her. The stream was several miles away and so would take until nightfall to reach. Eri had no torch, she had no companion to assist her. But out of obedience, she went on, crying softly along the way. She sang of her plight, of the happy people who knew no hate, of love, and how much she missed her parents. Along that lonely forested path, she could hear wild animals and the approaching evening wind did worse. It created ghostly images that made Eri panic. Eri arrived at the stream and couldn’t even see much as it was dark. Then a glint of light flashed as several strange-looking people came out from the stream. She knelt suddenly and prayed for mercy. The ghosts called to her to stand but she wouldn’t out of fear. They knew her ordeal and decided to help her. After a little prodding, Eri looked up. Lo, the ghosts of her parents stood smiling. She was gifted several gold bracelets, those befitting royalty, and her pot was filled with water. A ghost accompanied her with a torchlight to the boundary of the village and bade her goodbye. Out of joy, Eri went in to meet her aunt who was surprised to see her. She noticed the shining bracelets and started to hit her for stealing. Eri cried out, explaining all that happened to her but the wicked aunt wouldn’t listen.

Morning came and the aunt still does not believe Eri’s stories. That evening she decided to send her daughters to the stream. Agbona and Tete were terrified of the idea but seeing the alluring bracelets they decided to try their luck. On their way, they encountered ghostly figures. They were arrogant and rebuked them. When they arrived at the stream and saw the ghosts they stood their ground, demanding to receive bracelets from the ghosts. The ghosts initially ignored them but seeing how impudent they were, decided to take the girls, prisoners.

Morning came again and they hadn’t returned. This got Eri’s aunt mad. She hit Eri more and vowed to kill her if her children didn’t return. That night the wicked aunt dressed up and went to find her girls and when she reached the stream, it was dark. The ghosts appeared as usual and asked what she wanted. She was arrogant too, so the ghosts took her prisoner as well. Several days passed and Eri’s uncle returned.

He couldn’t find his wife and daughters and promptly reported the issue to the King. A search party was organized after Eri narrated her story. When the search party got to the stream they could only see the pots which the daughters came with and that was all that was found till this day.

Morals: It’s wrong to maltreat the less privileged. What goes around comes around.

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