The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid

by robinkate

The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid is a story by Tayeb Salih, a Sudenese author born in 1929. It is a story surrounding the battle of tradition and spirituality versus modernization and progress. Salih uses the Doum Tree to represent tradition and how it is in danger of getting lost amidst current trends of progress and change.

This short narrative begins with an old local man telling the story of his village to a young guest. “Tomorrow you will depart from our village, of this I am sure, and you will be right to do so (2).” The old man mentions this often enough and in a tone that makes the reader believe that it has been said before. He tells tales of townspeople, preachers, and government officials who have passed through the village with ideas of progress only to leave the very next day, deflated and weary and covered in insect bites. While many new ideas have come to this village, there is yet one which has managed to stay.

There is great contrast between the old man and the young guest. The old man who has lived in the village his entire life shares the oral history of his village in a slow, methodical way delivering mythical qualities of the story intertwined with dateable facts. “When you arrive at your destination, think well of us and don’t judge us too harshly (20).” says the old man in his final words to the young guest. He fears that the young guest will not understand the village’s reluctance to move forward with progress and change, while the tree will become just another monument where the true meaning will be lost, even if the tree remains. In contrast, the young guest who is clearly an outside is focussed on the future and progress, and will be quick to move on, perhaps to the next village, the next day. He is a literary, able to record the oral story of the old man and pass it on to the next place he visits. While he respects the old man and his values, both the young guest and the old man are aware that progress will happen eventually, and nothing can be done to stop it.

The speaker weaves in and out of spiritual tales and social and political ideology, pushing the reader forward as they learn the history of the village. The Doum Tree has faced many perils however the greatest it has yet to face is when the villagers no longer dream of the tree in their sleep. While everyone is torn between tradition and progress, the old man realizes that “What people have overlooked is that there’s plenty of room for all of these things (19).”

Robin Morris

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One Comment to “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”

  1. After reading this article, I just feel that I really need more information on the topic. Can you share some resources please?

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