The Potter’s Son

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time there was a Kumhār whose wife was about to have a child. As they were very poor the pair resolved that if the child should prove to be a boy they would abandon it, but if it were a girl they would bring it up. When the child was born it was found to be a son, so the Kumhār took it into the jungle and left it there. There it was found by a tiger and tigress whose cubs had just died and who determined to bring up the man-child as their own. They accordingly fed it and looked after it; the boy grew up strong and healthy. When he got big, the tiger went to a blacksmith and had made for him a bow and arrows of iron with which he used to hunt. When the boy became a young man the tiger decided that his marriage must be arranged for. So he went to the capital of a neighbouring Rājā, and when the Rājā’s daughter came to a tank to bathe, the tiger seized her and carried her off into the jungle, where she was married to the Kumhār’s son. The princess was very pleased with her new husband, but found the life with the tigers in the jungle very irksome. She constantly begged her husband to run away, until at last he agreed. One day when the tigers were at a distance they started off and soon arrived at the palace of the princess’ father. Leaving her husband by the palace tank, the princess went ahead to see how matters stood and to prepare a welcome for her husband. He being left alone decided to bathe in the tank. Now a dhobā was there washing the palace clothes, and seeing a stranger he concluded that it was a thief come to steal the clothes. He accordingly killed him and then in fear threw the body into the water. When the princess returned she was distressed to find no sign of her husband but his iron bow and arrows. Search was made everywhere and the tank was netted but no trace could be discovered of her missing spouse.

Shortly afterwards a Ghāsi girl came to catch chingris in the tank, and while doing so suddenly laid hold of a large fish. In great delight she took it home. When she came to cut it up she found inside the belly of the fish a living child. Pleased with its appearance she decided to adopt it. She put it in a basket, and tying the basket under her cloth pretended to be pregnant, and shortly afterwards announced that she had given birth to a child. The boy grew with marvellous rapidity.

Meanwhile the father of the widowed princess insisted that she should marry again. But she was faithful to the memory of her husband and declared that she would only marry the man who could draw the iron bow. Many suitors came but they all failed to draw the bow. At length the reputed son of the Ghāsi woman came and pulling the bow with ease announced himself as the true husband of the princess with whom he lived happily ever after.