Enigmas

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time a man and his son went on a visit to the son’s father-in-law. They were welcomed in a friendly way; but the father-in-law was much put out at the unexpected visit as he had nothing ready for the entertainment of his guest. He took an opportunity to go into the house and said to one of his daughters-in-law. “Now, my girl, fill the little river and the big river while I am away; and polish the big axe and the little axe and dig out five or six channels, and put hobbles on these relations who have come to visit us and bar them Into the cow house. I am going to bathe and will come back with a pot full of the water of dry land, then we will finish off these friends.”

The two visitors outside overheard this strange talk and began to wonder what it meant. They did not like the talk about axes and digging channels, it sounded as if their host meant to kill them as a sacrifice and bury their bodies in a river bed; rich men had been known to do such things. With this thought in their minds they got up and began to run away as fast as their legs could carry them. But when the young woman saw what they were doing she ran after them and called them back.

They reluctantly stopped to hear what she had to say; and when she came up they reproached her for not having warned them of the fate in store for them. But she only laughed at their folly and explained that what her father-in-law meant was that she should wash their feet and give them a seat in the cow house; and make ready two pots of rice beer and polish the big and little brass basins and make five or six leaf cups and he would bring back some liquor and they would all have a drink. At this explanation they had a hearty laugh and went back to the house.