The Grey Fairy Book
Udea and Her Seven Brothers
Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who had seven boys. The children lived
in the open air and grew big and strong, and the six eldest spent part of every day hunting
wild beasts. The youngest did not care so much about sport, and he often stayed with his
One morning, however, as the whole seven were going out for a long expedition, they
said to their aunt, 'Dear aunt, if a baby sister comes into the world to-day, wave a white
handkerchief, and we will return immediately; but if it is only a boy, just brandish a
sickle, and we will go on with what we are doing.'
Now the baby when it arrived really proved to be a girl, but as the aunt could not bear the
boys, she thought it was a good opportunity to get rid of them. So she waved the sickle.
And when the seven brothers saw the sign they said, 'Now we have nothing to go back
for,' and plunged deeper into the desert.
The little girl soon grew to be a big girl, and she was called by all her friends (though she
did not know it) 'Udea, who had driven her seven brothers into strange lands.'
One day, when she had been quarrelling with her playmates, the oldest among them said
to her, 'It is a pity you were born, as ever since, your brothers have been obliged to roam
about the world.'
Udea did not answer, but went home to her mother and asked her, 'Have I really got
'Yes,' replied her mother, 'seven of them. But they went away the day you were born, and
I have never heard of them since.'
Then the girl said, 'I will go and look for them till I find them.'
'My dear child,' answered her mother, 'it is fifteen years since they left, and no man has
seen them. How will you know which way to go?'
'Oh, I will follow them, north and south, east and west, and though I may travel far, yet
some day I will find them.'
Then her mother said no more, but gave her a camel and some food, and a negro and his
wife to take care of her, and she fastened a cowrie shell round the camel's neck for a
charm, and bade her daughter go in peace.