A woman had two daughters who were not particularly good looking, and one day as she was sitting on the front porch breaking almond shells she prayed to God, “If you bless me with a third daughter please make her beautiful and I promise to call her Hab el Loz, like these wonderful almonds.”
After a while she became pregnant and God gave her a very beautiful daughter who became the center of her life. When the girl grew up, her sisters became very jealous, and decided to take her to the forest to collect azarole (fruit from the Hawthorn tree) and leave her there for the Ogre to devour her.
When they arrived at the forest, Hab el Loz climbed up a tree, but her sisters filled half her basket with stones and the other half with azarole fruit. When she climbed down from the tree and tried to carry the basket she found it too heavy, and asked her sisters, “Why did you do that?”
“So we can arrive home before you,” they replied.
She removed the stones from the basket and filled it with azarole. But by then the Ogre had arrived. When he saw her he was entranced by her beauty and said, “I don’t want to eat you, I want to marry you.”
“But I don’t want you!” she replied. And she ran away.
When she arrived home her mother asked her, “Where is your basket, Hab el Loz?”
“The Ogre found me and said he will not marry anyone else but me, so I ran away,” the girl answered.
Days went by, and her cousin asked for her hand in marriage. They brought the white horse to carry her to her future husband’s house, but as soon as she mounted the horse, the horse kidnapped her and flew away! The horse was, in fact, the Ogre in disguise.
He took her to his cave and told her, “I don’t want to marry you against your will – I want you to accept my hand in marriage.
“But I don’t want you!” Hab el Loz answered.
So he said, “I will transform you into a dog, and only someone who is stronger than me can change you back into your human form. You have 20 moons after which you must return to me and I will marry you.”
Then he changed her into a limping dog, and she limped away. After one whole moon she reached a kingdom. There she found swans strutting in front of the castle, and the swans could see her true self rather than the limping dog that she seemed to be.
They became fond of her and started producing lots of eggs. Hab el Loz would take the eggs and give them to the Queen. The Queen herself also became fond of her and started feeding and taking care of her, warning everyone not to hurt the dog because she was protecting the swans.
When Hab el Loz sat with the swans she would take her dog-pelt off and appear to them as her real self. One day she took off her dog-costume to take a bath and went down into the pool. The Queen’s son saw her from a distance, and walked over to her and said, “I saw you. You are a woman, not a dog!”
Hab el Loz told him her story with the Ogre. The prince immediately fell in love and asked her to marry him.
“But Prince, the Ogre will kill you!”
“But I am stronger and smarter than the Ogre!” he replied.
The prince went to his mother and told her, “I want to marry the dog!”
When he told her the dog’s story she agreed, and they organized a big wedding. After the wedding was over, while they walked together towards the castle, the Ogre appeared to them in the form of a swan. The prince told his wife, “Take off your costume!”
So she took it off and he threw it over the swan. Now the Ogre became trapped, unable to move. Now he was transformed into a limping dog, and Hab el Loz had returned to her original form.
In the meantime, the prince’s cousin heard the story of the bride who used to be a limping dog and how on her wedding day she turned into a beautiful girl. He was full of envy! He told his mother, “I, too, want to marry a dog!”
He went to the Bedouins and chose the best dog and took her home and arranged for a lavish wedding. When he took the dog home he told her, “Take off your costume!”
The dog started barking. He hit her. She bit him back!
And toota toota,
So ends our Hadoota.
This tale is one of 21 Syrian tales collected and preserved by the Hakawati Project in an effort to collect folk tales from fleeing Syrian refugees in this time of upheaval to preserve the county’s culture and oral heritage.