The Winning of a Bride

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Formerly this country was all jungle; and when the jungle was first cleared the crops were very luxuriant; and the Santals had large herds of cattle, for there was much grazing; so they had milk and curds in quantities and ghee was as common as water; but now milk and curds are not to be had. In those days the Santals spent their time in amusements and did not trouble about amassing wealth, but they were timid and were much oppressed by their Rajas who looted any man who showed signs of wealth. Well, in those days the winters were very cold and there used to be heavy frost at nights. And there was a man who had seven grown-up daughters and no son; and at the time of threshing the paddy he had to undergo much hardship because he had no son to work for him; he had to sleep on the threshing floor and to get up very early to let out the cattle; and as the hoar frost lay two inches deep he found it bitterly cold.

In those days the villagers had a common threshing floor; and one day this man was talking to a friend and he jestingly asked whether he would spend a night naked on the threshing floor; and the friend said that he would if there were sufficient inducement but certainly not for nothing. Then the father of the seven daughters said “If you or any one else will spend a night naked on the threshing floor I will give him my eldest daughter in marriage without charging any bride price.”—for he wanted a son-in-law to help him in his work. A common servant in the employ of the village headman heard him and said “I will accept the offer;” the man had not bargained for such an undesirable match but he could not go back from his word; so he agreed and said that he would choose a night; and he waited till it was very cold and windy and then told the headman’s servant to sleep out that night. The servant spent the night on the threshing floor without any clothes in spite of the frost and won his bride.