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The Queen of Ethiopia and Solomon

 

In the days of King Solomon, three thousand years ago, there lived in Ethiopia a dynasty of queens, who reigned with great wisdom. One queen, the Malika Habashiya or Abyssinian Queen of old legends, had a dream in which she held a kid in her lap. On waking up she found herself pregnant and in due course she gave birth to a baby daughter. But alas! The child had one goat’s foot. When the queen died, Princess Goat’s Foot succeeded her.

One day she heard of King Solomon and his great wisdom, so she wrote him a letter announcing her arrival at his court. She was hoping that his great knowledge might enable him to cure her foot but she did not mention that. The King, however, always knew in advance what was going to happen, so, in front of his new palace he had a large pool dug, so that all his visitors had to rinse their feet before arriving. When the Queen of Abyssinia arrived, she had to raise her skirt before wading through the pond, so that the King could see her legs, one normal and one caprine.

When she stepped out of the water, she noticed that she had two human feet. She was now a very attractive woman and Solomon fell in love with her. She wanted to go home, having achieved her purpose, but Solomon persuaded her to stay. He proposed marriage, but she refused. However, Solomon knew the answer to that too. He gave some orders to his servants and an hour later the cook served a very spicy meal. That night the Queen felt very thirsty but there was no water in the palace. The servants told her that only the King had water, so she had to go and beg Solomon for water in his bedroom. There is a version of the tale which says that she had agreed to marry King Solomon only if she took something vital from him. She therefore stole into his bedroom like a thief, hoping to find water without waking him.

However, Solomon was wide awake like every man in love. As she was drinking from his water jar, she felt his hand holding hers in the dark, while the King’s voice asked: ‘Is water not vital, my dear Queen?’ She had to agree to marry him there and then, but the next day she insisted on going home. Solomon gave her a ring, saying: ‘When you have a son, send him to me when he is grown up, and I will give him half my kingdom.’

In due course she gave birth to a son whom she called David, after his father’s father. When he came of age, his mother sent him to King Solomon, with numerous presents. When David entered Solomon’s court, he noticed an empty chair next to the King’s and sat down on it. Solomon asked him: ‘What have you come for, handsome young man?’ He replied: ‘I am David of Ethiopia I have come to ask you for half of your kingdom, and here is the ring which you gave my mother.’ Solomon embraced him when he recognized his ring, and spoke: ‘So be it. I will give you Africa, which is half my kingdom.’

 

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