The Grateful Cobra
ONCE upon a time there was a rajah and ranee who
were much grieved because they had no children, and
the little dog in the palace had also no puppies. At
last the Rajah and Ranee had some children, and it also
happened that the pet dog in the palace had some puppies;
but, unfortunately, the Ranee's two children were two puppies
and the dog's two puppies were two pretty little girls!
This vexed her majesty very much; and sometimes when
the dog had gone away to its dinner, the Ranee used to put
the two puppies (her children) into the kennel, and carry
away the dog's two little girls to the palace. Then the poor
dog grew very unhappy, and said: "They never will leave
my two little children alone. I must take them away into
the jungle, or their lives will be worried out." So one night
she took the little girls in her mouth and ran with them to
the jungle, and there made them a home in a pretty cave
in the rock, beside a clear stream; and every day she would
go into the towns and carry away some nice currie and rice
to give her little daughters; and if she found any pretty clothes
or jewels that she could bring away in her mouth, she used
to take them also for the children.
Now it happened some time after this, one day, when the
dog had gone to fetch her daughters' dinner, two young
princes (a rajah and his brother) came to hunt in the jungle,
and they hunted all day and found nothing. It had been
very hot, and they were thirsty; so they went to a tree which
grew on a little piece of high ground, and sent their attendants
to search all around for water; but no one could find any. At
last one of the hunting dogs came to the foot of the tree, quite
muddy, and the Rajah said: "Look, the dog is muddy: he
must have found water; follow him, and see where he goes."
The attendants followed the dog, and saw him go to the
stream at the mouth of the cave where the two children were;
and the two children also saw them, and were very much
frightened and ran inside the cave. Then the attendants returned
to the two princes and said: "We have found clear,
sparkling water flowing past a cave, and, what is more, within
the cave are two of the most lovely young ladies that eye
ever beheld, clothed in fine dresses and covered with jewels;
but when they saw us they were frightened and ran away."
On hearing this the princes bade their servants lead them to
the place; and when they saw the two young girls, they were
quite charmed with them, and asked them to go to their
kingdom and become their wives. The maidens were frightened;
but at last the Rajah and his brother persuaded them,
and they went, and the Rajah married the elder sister, and his
brother married the younger.
When the dog returned, she was grieved to find her children
gone, and for twelve long years the poor thing ran
many, many miles to find them, but in vain. At last one
day she came to the place where the two princesses lived.
Now it chanced that the elder, the wife of the Rajah, was
looking out of the window, and seeing the dog run down the
street, she said: "That must be my dear, long-lost mother."
So she ran into the street as fast as possible, and took the
tired dog in her arms, and brought her into her own room,
and made her a nice comfortable bed on the floor, and bathed
her feet, and was very kind to her. Then the dog said to her:
"My daughter, you are good and kind, and it is a great joy
to me to see you again, but I must not stay; I will first go and
see your younger sister, and then return." The Ranee answered:
"Do not do so, dear mother; rest here to-day; to-morrow
I will send and let my sister know, and she, too,
will come and see you." But the poor, silly dog would not
stay, but ran to the house of her second daughter. Now the
second daughter was looking out of the window when the
unfortunate creature came to the door, and seeing the dog
she said to herself: "That must be my mother. What will
my husband think if he learns that this wretched, ugly,
miserable-looking dog is my mother?" So she ordered her
servants to go and throw stones at it, and drive it away, and
they did so; and one large stone hit the dog's head, and she
ran back, very much hurt, to her elder daughter's house.
The Ranee saw her coming, and ran out into the street and
brought her in in her arms, and did all she could to make
her well, saying: "Ah, mother, mother! why did you ever
leave my house?" But all her care was in vain: the poor
dog died. Then the Ranee thought her husband might be
vexed if he found a dead dog (an unclean animal) in the
palace; so she put the body in a small room into which the
Rajah hardly ever went, intending to have it reverently buried;
and over it she placed a basket turned topsy-turvy.
It so happened, however, that when the Rajah came to visit
his wife, as chance would have it, he went through this very
room; and tripping over the upturned basket, called for a
light to see what it was. Then, lo and behold! there lay the
statue of a dog, life-size, composed entirely of diamonds,
emeralds, and other precious stones, set in gold! So he called
out to his wife, and said: "Where did you get this beautiful
dog?" And when the Ranee saw the golden dog, she was
very much frightened, and, I'm sorry to say, instead of telling
her husband the truth, she told a story, and said, "Oh,
it is only a present my parents sent me."
Now see what trouble she got into for not telling the truth.
"Only!" said the Rajah; "why this is valuable enough to
buy the whole of my kingdom. Your parents must be very
rich people to be able to send you such presents as this. How
is it you never told me of them? Where do they live?"
Now she had to tell another story to cover the first. She
said: "In the jungle." He replied: "I will go and see them;
you must take me and show me where they live." Then the
Ranee thought: "What will the Rajah say when he finds I
have been telling him such stories? He will order my head
to be cut off." So she said, "You must first give me a palanquin,
and I will go into the jungle and tell them you are
coming"; but really she had determined to kill herself, and so
get out of her difficulties. Away she went; and when she had
gone some distance in her palanquin, she saw a large white
ants' nest, over which hung a cobra, with his mouth wide
open; then the Ranee thought: "I will go to that cobra and put
my finger in his mouth, that he may bite me, and so I shall
die." So she ordered the palkee bearers to wait, and said she
would be back in a while, and got out, and ran to the ants'
nest, and put her finger in the cobra's mouth. Now a large
thorn had run, a short time before, into the cobra's throat,
and hurt him very much; and the Ranee, by putting her finger
into his mouth, pushed out this thorn; then the cobra, feeling
much better, turned to her, and said: "My dear daughter,
you have done me a great kindness; what return can I make
you?" The Ranee told him all her story, and begged him
to bite her, that she might die. But the cobra said: "You certainly
did very wrong to tell the Rajah that story; nevertheless,
you have been very kind to me. I will help you in your
difficulty. Send your husband here. I will provide you with
a father and mother of whom you need not be ashamed."
So the Ranee returned joyfully to the palace, and invited
her husband to come and see her parents.
When they reached the spot near where the cobra was,
what a wonderful sight awaited them! There, in the place
which had before been thick jungle, stood a splendid palace,
twenty-four miles long and twenty-four miles broad, with
gardens and trees and fountains all around; and the light shining
from it was to be seen a hundred miles off. The walls
were made of gold and precious stones, and the carpets, cloth
of gold. Hundreds of servants, in rich dresses, stood waiting
in the long, lofty rooms; and in the last room of all, upon
golden thrones, sat a magnificent old Rajah and Ranee,
who introduced themselves to the young Rajah as his papa- and
mamma-in-law. The Rajah and Ranee stayed at the
palace six months, and were entertained the whole of that
time with feasting and music; and they left for their own
home loaded with presents. Before they started, however, the
Ranee went to her friend, the cobra, and said: "You have
conjured up all these beautiful things to get me out of my
difficulties, but my husband, the Rajah has enjoyed his visit
so much that he will certainly want to come here again. Then,
if he returns and finds nothing at all, he will be very angry
with me." The friendly cobra answered: "Do not fear.
When you have gone twenty-four miles on your journey, look
back, and see what you will see." So they started; and on
looking back at the end of twenty-four miles, saw the whole
of the splendid palace in flames, the fire reaching up to
heaven. The Rajah returned to see if he could help anybody
to escape, or invite them in their distress to his court;
but he found that all was burned down—not a stone nor a
living creature remained!
Then he grieved much over the sad fate of his parents-in-law.
When the party returned home, the Rajah's brother said to
him: "Where did you get these magnificent presents?" He
replied: "They are gifts from my father- and mother-in-law."
At this news the Rajah's brother went home to his wife
very discontented, and asked her why she had never told
him of her parents, and taken him to see them, whereby he
might have received rich gifts as well as his brother. His
wife then went to her sister, and asked how she had managed
to get all the things. But the Ranee said: "Go away,
you wicked woman, I will not speak to you. You killed the
poor dog, our mother."
But afterwards she told her all about it.
The sister then said: "I shall go and see the cobra, and get
presents too." The Ranee then answered: "You can go if
So the sister ordered her palanquin, and told her husband
she was going to see her parents, and prepare them for a visit
from him. When she reached the ants' nest she saw the cobra
there, and she went and put her finger in his mouth, and the
cobra bit her, and she died.