TIN HINAN, Chapter 9

CHAPTER 9

Young Moroccan Bride

Young Moroccan Bride

The Hoggar  Mountains  in central Algeria. Tin Hinan traveled there from Morocco in the 6th century.

The Hoggar Mountains in central Algeria. Tin Hinan traveled there from Morocco in the 6th century.

When you are a Berber and about to wed, you don’t marry a man, you marry the tribe.

The approval of both families was necessary, and since mine were far away, as distant as a star in the nighttime sky, provisions had to be made.

Immel asked for his parent’s approval.  I don’t believe they were surprised, because during the past few moons, he had made clear his intentions.  They remembered his grief in losing Cherifa, and what man is at peace without a wife?

The elders were consulted, the natural course for great and small concerns. Nothing this important could be decided without the elders.

Not all went well. There were objections. Mother Leila told me I would have to appear and explain why I was alone on the distant mountain with my woman.  Gossip always filtered down but the elders wanted to hear the story from my own mouth.

Marrying Immel was bound to raise many considerations.  He was the eldest son of a prominent elder and trusted to lead raids and men.  I was no one, with no family or tribe to represent me.

If I found favor before them, there were other moons to jump. When Immel married me we would have to bring a heavy bride-price to my parents and tribe, appeasing them with much wealth.  Separated by long distances across mountains and desert, our traditions still held.  There was war enough between the different tribes residing in the mountains and deserts. Immel’s tribe did not want more. Tribute would have to be made.

Ah!  It was a necessary evil, but we would make the long trip down the mountain, across the valley, up the mountain, down again, and so forth. And of course I would go with him. In fact, because of the distance and questionable safety of our journey, Immel would lead a caravan of many men to my parents. It would be supplied with gifts to impress my tribe with the wealth of his clan and family.

First, I would have to appear before the elders.  Mother Leila planned on my heavy silver jewelry and my best robes, but I had a different idea, one that Mother Leila would not like at all.

I would appear exactly as Immel and his tribesmen found me.  I would don the robes of a man, the indigo- blue turban and the sword and dagger I had left home with when Takama and I started into the desert.  I believed this would make my case as well as any words from my mouth.  I would make these elders know I was a woman with a mission,  one given to me by the Goddesses.  Well, at least I could try to make them believe that.  Whether the Goddesses spoke to me or not wasn’t their business.

I let Takama into my plan and she thought me crazy.  “What! Do you want to tempt fate? Have you learned nothing about men?  What would Immel think to have his intended show up before the elders dressed like a man?  Some Zar must have scrambled your head!”

She had a point, but I was determined.  Perhaps I felt more power as a man.  During the journey, even though I was fully a woman, just dressed like a man and carrying a dagger and a sword, I did feel some sort of transformation in my liver.  Perhaps men are more powerful by nature, but the sword made me feel power. I was just glad I wasn’t tested in my ability.  Both Takama and I would be dead now and this story would not be told.

The morning I was to appear before the council of elders, I prayed one last time to my silent Goddesses.  Takama was lookout for Mother Leila while I dressed in my male undergarments.   I drew on the long gown men wore and my tribe’s red and white striped burnoose.  I tucked my dagger and short sword into my girdle and wrapped the indigo-dyed cloth around my head, in turban fashion.  I even secured the trailing end over my nose, and walked out to meet Takama in the front room.  The transformation was complete, and Takama, even though she had seen me dressed this way before, trembled.  Perhaps her emotion came from fear, for what I was doing was a fearful thing for a woman to do.

I was to appear before the elders in a small house used by them for tribal meetings.  I strode confidently down the winding road to the courtyard, a young Berber man, tall and thin, but inside, I was quaking.  I entered the wooden door to the house, and sitting on benches were the fifteen elders.  Before them was a rough table with their judgement stones.  Off to the side was Immel.  I expected him to be but had not been sure.

The sky outside was gray, a pale wintry day, and the council room was not well lighted except for a brazier pot in the middle of the room.  There were oil dishes providing some illumination, but still the room was dim. I stood there, the door closed behind me, and I blinked to adjust my eyes from the change outside.

“I am Tin Hinan.”

At my voice, the men looked up, confused, and I glanced over at Immel.  He sat back on his bench, his shoulders hitting the wall, and a wry grin formed on his face.

I removed the veil from my face, exposing my mouth.  “I come amongst you as Immel Uzmir and his men found me.  I dressed as a man when I left my tribe for the safety of my woman, Takama, and myself.  I made this journey to follow my destiny.”

There were some exclamations of surprise and not a few of disdain. My garb was shocking to these men.

A voice called out.  “What reasons do you give, Tin Hinan, for setting out from your parents and tribe?”

I tried to keep the waver from my voice, but my stomach betrayed me.  I felt my right leg shake and I knew fear.  My state must have been obvious to the elders.  Gazing at Immel I saw him slightly nod his head, encouraging me to go on.

“I was to be married to Hasim Azur Dhalid.  The bride-price was paid to my parents.  Gifts were exchanged between our clans. Then, less than a moon before the wedding, I was told Hasim had left for the tent of another woman.  My parent’s gifts were returned, and I knew our tribes would go to war over this insult.”

A mummer spread across the room. Immel looked grim. To any Berber, this would be a grievous insult not only to the family, but also to all the clans. Such an act would call for war.  This mountain tribe was no different in defending honor than my desert home.

“For three days and nights I purified myself and prayed to Ammon, Isis, Ayyur and Neith.  I sought council from the other Goddesses.  On the third night I had my answer.”

I looked down at my feet.  No, I did not have my answer, but these elders did not know. What they knew was what Immel told them. I glanced at him, saw him deep in thought, his eyes hooded, his expression neutral. I did not know what was in his heart, or if he would defend me.

“Is this why you cut your woman’s hair off, daughter?”  A deep voice in the gloom.

“Yes, Father.  My happiness as a new bride would never happen. I also knew my tribe was smaller than the tribe of Hasim. There would be many slaughtered clans if they went to war over this injury to our dignity.”

“You could not think of any other way except to take your woman and leave dressed as a man?  Did your father not try to stop you?  What father would let his daughter leave like that.  Are you sure you are telling us the truth?”  This voice was rough and accusing.

“I am, Father.  I have no reason to lie to you.”

I cast my eyes to the floor, and I thought my stomach would heave. Suddenly, I felt the presence of someone at my left, and glancing up, I found Immel standing next to me.  Although he did not touch me, or hold my hand, I knew he would defend me.  Then, at that point, I realized I could love this man who stood with me in spite of my turning fortunes.

“Fathers.”  I heard Immel’s voice, strong and clear, address the Elders.

“I have come to know Aicha, for that is her birth name, though she would have us call her Tin Hinan.  I have come to know her love for her family, her clan and tribe.  She would sacrifice herself in the desert to avoid the bloodshed.  When we found her in the mountain far from here, she had drawn her sword and pushed her woman behind.  I knew she was woman when I lay eyes on her.”

There was much nodding of heads at this last statement, for men, at any age, can discern a woman, even dressed in the garb of a man.  (I could not help but think Immel rather boastful.)

“And more.  She was a brave woman for she drew a sword against thirty men and stood ready to die.  We men know courage when we see it, but seeing such courage in a woman!”  Immel spat on the ground in emphasis.

“She would have not lasted much longer, for we found the grey wolf and her pack the night before.  They were hunting and it was only a matter of hours before they would have killed these two women.  It is by the grace of the Gods we found them first.”

One of the elders stood up slowly, and addressed us.

“Immel Uzmir and Tin Hinan.  The Council of Elders will meet on this matter and cast our stones together.  We will call you both back within a matter of days, and give you our decision.  May the Gods and Goddesses continue to champion your fortune.”

I looked up at Immel, he smiled down and pulled his veil over his face.  Turning on his heel he walked out, stooping to get his height through the door.  I bowed to the elders, as a proper woman should and followed Immel outside into the bleak winter day.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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6 Responses to “TIN HINAN, Chapter 9”

  1. Berowne Says:

    The excitement builds! Good dramatic tension here.

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Berowne!

    This is a hard slog because I have forgotten so much of the story, but rereading it, I hope I can rewrite with some flair here.

    The next chapter is deep into preps for marriage and as many of the social customs I can find about Berbers…and you know what? So much hasn’t changed. They are a people deeeep in tradition and their culture.

    This last winter I went to a Moroccan wedding. I was surprised how many things could have fit so easily in this story. 6th Century and 21st Century. Quite amazing actually. Sure there were differences….but the celebratory parts were a lot like the same. A lot of dancing…so much dancing, chanting, singing, poems read in honor of the couple, the FOOD!! Rugs placed on the floors and people sitting on cushions and low benches….that sweet mint tea served throughout the regions….

    We will see. I am getting more into this story, and hope it entertains.

    Thank you for reading and giving a comment.

    Jane

    Like

  3. Margie Says:

    I’m glad you’ve been able to get back to this – really a fascinating story and, as always, I’m looking forward to more!

    Like

  4. shia1 Says:

    I am excited to know what happens. Keep writing, you are wonderful.

    shia

    Like

  5. ladynyo Says:

    Oh! Thank you, Margie.
    It lay moldering in the drawer for a couple of years, and I’m as surprised as anyone else about the story. I’ve forgotten so much of it…but having to rewrite this has been a good issue for me. I’m seeing that there is a bit of ‘writerly’ progress in the rewriting, but much more needs to come. I’ll get there, hopefully.

    The next part is full of Berber wedding traditions and so is the next chapter and the next….LOL!…Seems that Berber weddings never quit, which is true because they usually are a blowout feast for 7 days, but now more like 3. Those modern things cut down on pleasure…and when a wedding was the only pleasure for a year or so, they knew how to ‘party’.

    Thank you for reading this story, Margie. I hope it continues to please.

    Like

  6. ladynyo Says:

    I know a couple of people right now who would challenge that statement. LOL!

    But I am ignoring them.

    Berowne mentioned dramatic tension building….I hope so. It’s very hard to remember that over the long write….what interests you as the author might not translate to the reader. This obviously is another issue…but dramatic tension is something hard to keep going.

    IF I can hope that readers are excited by events, twists in the plot (s), etc….then perhaps it is entertaining in the end. We are not making earth shaking statements here, but I think we just aim to entertain.

    Thank you, shia for reading and leaving a comment. Helps know the impact of our writing anything.

    Like

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