The doum tree of Wad Hamid

by benjamin73

By: Ben Turland

That’s One Important Tree

“The doum tree of Wad Hamid” by Tayeb Salih is a short story that grabs your attention and draws you into its compelling story. This story centers around the doum tree; which is a palm tree to the naked eye, but is a symbol, a light, a beacon, a strong hold and the most prized spiritual asset for this small village. This story has depth and meaning beyond its pages, and it will leave you wishing it was more than just a short story.

The story is told by a young guest who is writing it down as he heard the story from one of the old men of the village. It seems to be in the realm of oral, which gives it a very personal storytelling feel, but it is of literacy context. The young guest is visiting the village for an unknown reason and this old man is telling him about the doum tree of Wad Hamid, what this tree brings to the people, and the events that surround it. The village is usually very calm, with the only uprisings occurring because of the tree. One of these uprisings occured when the foreign government came into the village, wanting to tear the tree down and replace it with a water pump. The villagers carried that man away. The government then wanted to put a stopping place for a steam boat so the villagers could travel faster, but it was also to be placed where the doum tree stood. The villagers almost killed that government official. There are not just negative uprising but also positive events that center around the tree such as peace, healing and security.

“The doum tree of Wad Hamid” is of great importance to the village. It is a tree that is “lefty, proud, and haughty as though—as thought it were some ancient idol” (4). The tree does ordinary things, like grant shade from escaping the sun, but it also does extraordinary things. The tree gives hope, strength, dreams, faith, healing, life, topples government and awakes a nation. This doum tree was never planted, and it is stated that “every new generation finds the doum tree as though it had been born at the time of their birth and would grow up with them” (6). Tayeb Salih bring this tree to life, the imagery Tayeb lays out with the text makes it so you can feel the profound power, significance, ambience and spirit the tree has to the people of this village and visualize it all. Tayeb shows how much strength can come from truly believing in something and that when believing so many things are possible. While believing may be difficult to many people, true belief can be truly rewarding, as it is shown to be, to these villagers.

This short story is a page turner that you hope goes on and on, but to the reader’s dismay it is only twenty pages. Tayeb Salih gives abundance of imagery, thought and meaning into a palm tree, things usually not associated with a tree. This is a great story which is quick and easy to read but is one which will leave you pondering about the depth of the story for hours.

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