The Jackal and His Neighbours

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time a jackal killed a kid in a village and taking it to a little distance began to enjoy a good meal. But the crows who always make a noise about other people’s business, gathered in a tree over his head and made a great cawing, so the villagers went to see what was the matter and beat the jackal severely and deprived him of his feast. On this account the jackal was very angry with the crows and determined to be revenged.

Shortly afterwards a great storm came on with wind and heavy rain and all the birds and animals were in danger of being drowned. Then the jackal pretended to be sorry for the crows and invited them all to come and take shelter in his house. But when the jackal had got them safely into his house he killed and ate them all; all except one nilkanth bird which he decided to keep for his breakfast the next day, so he tied the nilkanth bird, on to his tail and went away from that part of the country. But the nilkanth bird pecked and pecked at the jackal’s tail until it not only pecked itself loose but hurt the tail so much that it became festered and swollen.

As the jackal went along with his swollen tail he met a potter going to market with earthern pots for sale. Then the jackal put on a bullying air and said that he was a sipāhi of the Rājā, and one pot of those being taken to market must be given to him; at first the potter refused, but being frightened he in the end gave one to the jackal.

Into this the jackal pressed the matter which had accumulated in his swollen tail and covered it over with leaves. Going on, the jackal met a boy tending goats, he told the boy that he had arranged with the boy’s father to buy one of the goats in exchange for a pot of ghee, the boy believed this and took the chatty with its contents from the jackal and gave him a fine goat.

The jackal went off to his home in triumph with the goat.

His friends and neighbours were very jealous when they saw that he had so fine a goat and waiting till his back was turned, they killed and ate the goat, and then they filled the skin with stones and gravel so that it might seem that the whole goat was still there. The jackal found out what his neighbours had done, and he took the goat skin to a muchi and got the muchi to make it into a drum. Then he went to the banks of a deep river and began to play the drum. All the other jackals collected round and were lost in admiration of the tone of the drum. They wanted to know where so beautiful a drum was got, the first jackal said that there were many drums as good at the bottom of the river, and if they tied stones round their necks and jumped in they would find them. So the other jackals in their anxiety to get such drums jumped into the river and were drowned, and the jackal was revenged on all his enemies.