The Faithless Sister

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time there was a man who had a son and daughter: he used to cultivate his land and his son and daughter used to take his dinner to him. One day the man went to plough and while ploughing he stuck the spear which he had brought with him into the ground. As the man ploughed a tiger came and waited an opportunity to spring upon the man: but from whichever side the tiger approached, the spear which was stuck in the ground bent its point towards the tiger and so protected its master. Just then the boy and girl came along with their father’s dinner. The baffled tiger was hiding in some bushes by the field. As the children went along they saw a paddy bird on the ground. The boy of course had his bow and bird arrows with him and he shot an arrow at the paddy bird: he missed the bird, but it happened that the tiger was just in the line of fire; the arrow pierced the eye of the tiger and killed it instantaneously. When the girl saw the tiger lying dead she said that it was clear that their father had enticed them there in order that the tiger might kill them when they brought him his dinner: clearly the only way for them to save their lives was to leave their home at once. The boy agreed; drawing his arrow from the tiger’s head and taking the tiger’s eyes with him, he went away with his sister as fast as they could run. After going some little distance they met in the way two tigers. The boy threw at the tiger the eyes of the first tiger which he had brought with him. The tigers at once fell down dead, but from the body of one proceeded, a hare, and from the body of the other, two dogs which peaceably followed the boy and his sister. Having escaped to a distance they lived in the jungle happily for some time with their three animal friends. One day the hare said that he would like to have a spear, so the boy went with him to a blacksmith and got a spear made. As they were returning they met in the way a giant Rākshasa who wished to devour them, but the hare holding the spear kept jumping in and out of the giant’s mouth with such speed that the Rākshasa was dumbfounded and surrendered at discretion, promising to be a faithful servant to them henceforth. With the help of the Rākshasa they had great success in hunting. The boy with the hare and the two dogs used to beat the jungle and drive the game towards the Rākshasa who caught it in his mouth. One day they thus caught a monkey, whose life they spared and who joined their band. The monkey took a large drum and caught in it a nest of wild bees, which he preserved.

One day while the others were away a Rājā who was hunting in the jungle found the girl sitting alone and at once fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. The girl said that she was willing but that she was sure that her brother would never consent. The only thing was to kill her brother and the Rājā could never do that as the faithful animals would protect him. At last the girl consented to try and compass her brother’s death. To this end she became very melancholy and seemed to pine away: her brother asked what was the matter and she said that she would never recover unless he could fetch her a certain flower which grew in the midst of a certain lake. Now this lake swarmed with gigantic fish and poisonous snakes. But the brother, never daunted, went to the lake and began to swim out to the centre where the flower grew. Before he got half way there one of the gigantic fish swallowed him up. The Rākshasa however saw this and set to work to drink the lake up: he soon drank the lake dry and not only caught the big fish but also was able to gather the flower that had grown in the lake. They then cut open the fish and took the boy unharmed from its belly. The Rākshasa then vomited up the water he had swallowed and filled up the lake again. Meanwhile the Rājā thinking that the boy had died, carried off his sister. But the boy setting out with the hare and the dogs and the Rākshasa and the monkey proceeded to attack the Rājā’s capital and recover his sister. The monkey opened his drum and the bees issued forth and attacked the Rājā’s army so that it fled. The Rājā had to capitulate and give the boy half his kingdom and his own daughter in marriage, then peace was declared and the animals all disappeared into the jungle and our hero lived happily ever after.