By E. Frere
ONCE upon a time there was a Raja who had seven beautiful daughters.
They were all good girls; but the youngest, named Balna, was more
clever than the rest. The Raja's wife died when they were quite little
children, so these seven poor Princesses were left with no mother to
take care of them.
The Raja's daughters took it by turns to cook their father's dinner
every day, while he was absent deliberating with his Ministers on the
affairs of the nation.
About this time the Prudhan died, leaving a widow and one daughter; and
every day, when the seven Princesses were preparing their father's
dinner, the Prudhan's widow and daughter would come and beg for a
little fire from the hearth. Then Balna used to say to her sisters,
"Send that woman away; send her away. Let her get the fire at her own
house. What does she want with ours? If we allow her to come here, we
shall suffer for it some day."
But the other sisters would answer, "Be quiet, Balna; why must you
always be quarreling with this poor woman? Let her take some fire if
she likes." Then the Prudhan's widow used to go to the hearth and take
a few sticks from it; and while no one was looking, she would quickly
throw some mud into the midst of the dishes which were being prepared
for the Raja's dinner.
Now the Raja was very fond of his daughters. Ever since their mother's
death they had cooked his dinner with their own hands, in order to
avoid the danger of his being poisoned by his enemies. So, when he
found the mud mixed up with his dinner, he thought it must arise from
their carelessness, as it did not seem likely that anyone should have
put mud there on purpose; but being very kind he did not like to
reprove them for it, although this spoiling of the curry was repeated
At last, one day, he determined to hide, and watch his daughters
cooking, and see how it all happened; so he went into the next room,
and watched them through a hole in the wall.
There he saw his seven daughters carefully washing the rice and
preparing the curry, and as each dish was completed, they put it by the
fire ready to be cooked. Next he noticed the Prudhan's widow come to
the door, and beg for a few sticks from the fire to cook her dinner
with. Balna turned to her, angrily, and said, "Why don't you keep fuel
in your own house, and not come here every day and take ours? Sisters,
don't give this woman any more wood; let her buy it for herself."
Then the eldest sister answered, "Balna, let the poor woman take the
wood and the fire; she does us no harm." But Balna replied, "If you
let her come here so often, maybe she will do us some harm, and make us
sorry for it, some day."
The Raja then saw the Prudhan's widow go to the place where all his
dinner was nicely prepared, and, as she took the wood, she threw a
little mud into each of the dishes.
At this he was very angry, and sent to have the woman seized and
brought before him. But when the widow came, she told him that she had
played this trick because she wanted to gain an audience with him; and
she spoke so cleverly, and pleased him so well with her cunning words,
that instead of punishing her, the Raja married her, and made her his
Ranee, and she and her daughter came to live in the palace.
Now the new Ranee hated the seven poor Princesses, and wanted to get
them, if possible, out of the way, in order that her daughter might
have all their riches, and live in the palace as Princess in their
place; and instead of being grateful to them for their kindness to her,
she did all she could to make them miserable. She gave them nothing
but bread to eat, and very little of that, and very little water to
drink; so these seven poor little Princesses, who had been accustomed
to have everything comfortable about them, and good food and good
clothes all their lives long, were very miserable and unhappy; and they
used to go out every day and sit by their dead mother's tomb and cry-
"O mother, mother, cannot you see your poor children, how unhappy we
are, and how we are starved by our cruel stepmother?"
One day, while they were thus sobbing and crying, lo and behold! a
beautiful pomelo tree grew up out of the grave, covered with fresh,
ripe pomeloes, and the children satisfied their hunger by eating some
of the fruit, and every day after this, instead of trying to eat the
bad dinner their stepmother provided for them, they used to go out to
their mother's grave and eat the pommels which grew there on the
Then the Ranee said to her daughter, "I cannot tell how it is, every
day those seven girls say they don't want any dinner, and won't eat
any; and yet they never grow thin nor look ill; they look better than
you do. I cannot tell how it is." And she bade her watch the seven
Princesses, and see if anyone gave them anything to eat.
So next day, when the Princesses went to their mother's grave, and were
eating the beautiful pomeloes, the Prudhan's daughter followed them,
and saw them gathering the fruit.
Then Balna said to her sisters, "Do you not see that girl watching us?
Let us drive her away, or hide the pomeloes, else she will go and tell
her mother all about it, and that will be bad for us."
But the other sisters said, "Oh no, do not be unkind, Balna. The girl
would never be so cruel as to tell her mother. Let us rather invite
her to come and have some of the fruit." And calling her to them, they
gave her one of the pomeloes.
No sooner had she eaten it, however, than the Prudhan's daughter went
home and said to her mother, "I do not wonder the seven Princesses will
not eat the dinner you prepare for them, for by their mother's grave
there grows a beautiful pomelo tree, and they go there every day and
eat the pomeloes. I ate one, and it was the nicest I have ever
The cruel Ranee was much vexed at hearing this, and all next day she
stayed in her room, and told the Raja that she had a very bad headache.
The Raja was deeply grieved, and said to his wife, "What can I do for
you?" She answered, "There is only one thing that will make my
headache well. By your dead wife's tomb there grows a fine pomelo
tree; you must bring that here, and boil it, root and branch, and put a
little of the water in which it has been boiled on my forehead, and
that will cure my headache." So the Raja sent his servants, and had
the beautiful pomelo tree pulled up by the roots, and did as the Ranee
desired; and when some of the water, in which it had been boiled, was
put on her forehead, she said her headache was gone and she felt quite
Next day, when the seven Princesses went as usual to the grave of their
mother, the pomelo tree had disappeared. Then they all began to cry
Now there was by the Ranee's tomb a small tank, and as they were crying
they saw the tank was filled with a rich cream-like substance, which
quickly hardened into a thick white cake. At seeing this all the
Princesses were very glad, and they ate some of the cake, and liked it;
and next day the same thing happened, and so it went on for many days.
Every morning the Princesses went to their mother's grave, and found
the little tank filled with the nourishing cream-like cake. Then the
cruel stepmother said to her daughter: "I cannot tell how it is, I have
had the pomelo tree which used to grow by the Ranee's grave destroyed,
and yet the Princesses grow no thinner, nor look more sad, though they
never eat the dinner I give them. I cannot tell how it is!"
And her daughter said, "I will watch."
Next day, while the Princesses were eating the cream cake, who should
come by but their stepmother's daughter. Balna saw her first, and
said, "See, sisters, there comes that girl again. Let us sit round the
edge of the tank and not allow her to see it, for if we give her some
of our cake, she will go and tell her mother; and that will be very
unfortunate for us."
The other sisters, however, thought Balna unnecessarily suspicious, and
instead of following her advice, they gave the Prudhan's daughter some
of the cake, and she went home and told her mother all about it.
The Ranee, on hearing how well the Princesses fared, was exceedingly
angry, and sent her servants to pull down the dead Ranee's tomb, and
fill the little tank with the ruins. And not content with this, she
next day pretended to be very, very ill-in fact, at the point of death-
and when the Raja was much grieved, and asked her whether it was in his
power to procure her any remedy, she said to him: "Only one thing can
save my life, but I know you will not do it." He replied, "Yes,
whatever it is, I will do it." She then said, "To save my life, you
must kill the seven daughters of your first wife, and put some of their
blood on my forehead and on the palms of my hands, and their death will
be my life." At these words the Raja was very sorrowful; but because
he feared to break his word, he went out with a heavy heart to find his
He found them crying by the ruins of their mother's grave.
Then, feeling he could not kill them, the Raja spoke kindly to them,
and told them to come out into the jungle with him; and there he made a
fire and cooked some rice, and gave it to them. But in the afternoon,
it being very hot, the seven Princesses all fell asleep, and when he
saw they were fast asleep, the Raja, their father, stole away and left
them (for he feared his wife), saying to himself: "It is better my poor
daughters should die here, than be killed by their stepmother."
He then shot a deer, and returning home, put some of its blood on the
forehead and hands of the Ranee, and she thought then that he had
really killed the Princesses, and said she felt quite well.
Meantime the seven Princesses awoke, and when they found themselves all
alone in the thick jungle they were much frightened, and began to call
out as loud as they could, in hopes of making their father hear; but he
was by that time far away, and would not have been able to hear them
even had their voices been as loud as thunder.
It so happened that this very day the seven young sons of a neighboring
Raja chanced to be hunting in that same jungle, and as they were
returning home, after the day's sport was over, the youngest Prince
said to his brothers: "Stop, I think I hear some one crying and calling
out. Do you not hear voices? Let us go in the direction of the sound,
and find out what it is."
So the seven Princes rode through the wood until they came to the place
where the seven Princesses sat crying and wringing their hands. At the
sight of them the young Princes were very much astonished, and still
more so on learning their story; and they settled that each should take
one of these poor forlorn ladies home with him, and marry her.
So the first and eldest Prince took the eldest Princess home with him,
and married her.
And the second took the second; and third took the third; and the
fourth took the fourth; and the fifth took the fifth; and the sixth
took the sixth; and the seventh, and the handsomest of all, took the
And when they got to their own land, there was great rejoicing
throughout the kingdom, at the marriage of the seven young Princes to
seven such beautiful Princesses.
About a year after this Balna had a little son, and his uncles and
aunts were so fond of the boy that it was as if he had seven fathers
and seven mothers. None of the other Princes and Princesses had any
children, so the son of the seventh Prince and Balna was acknowledged
their heir by all the rest.
They had thus lived very happily for some time, when one fine day the
seventh Prince (Balna's husband) said he would go out hunting, and away
he went; and they waited long for him, but he never came back.
Then his six brothers said they would go and see what had become of
him; and they went away, but they also did not return.
And the seven Princesses grieved very much, for they feared that their
kind husbands must have been killed.
One day, not long after this had happened, as Balna was rocking her
baby's cradle, and while her sisters were working in the room below,
there came to the palace door a man in a long black dress, who said
that he was a Fakir, and came to beg. The servant said to him, "You
cannot go into the palace-the Raja's sons have all gone away; we think
they must be dead, and their widows cannot be interrupted by your
begging." But he said, "I am a holy man, you must let me in. Then the
stupid servants let him walk through the palace, but they did not know
that this was no Fakir, but a wicked Magician named Punchkin.
Punchkin Fakir wandered through the palace, and saw many beautiful
things there, till at last he reached the room where Balna sat singing
beside her little boy's cradle. The Magician thought her more
beautiful than all the other beautiful things he had seen, insomuch
that he asked her to go home with him and to marry him. But she said,
"My husband, I fear, is dead, but my little boy is still quite young; I
will stay here and teach him to grow up a clever man, and when he is
grown up he shall go out into the world, and try and learn tidings of
his father. Heaven forbid that I should ever leave him, or marry yon."
At these words the Magician was very angry, and turned her into a
little black dog, and led her away; saying, "Since yon will not come
with me of your own free will, I will make you." So the poor Princess
was dragged away, without any power of effecting an escape, or of
letting her sisters know what had become of her. As Punchkin passed
through the palace gate the servants said to him, "Where did yon get
that pretty little dog?" And he answered, "One of the Princesses gave
it to me as a present." At hearing which they let him go without
Soon after this, the six elder Princesses heard the little baby, their
nephew, begin to cry, and when they went upstairs they were much
surprised to find him all alone, and Balna nowhere to be seen. Then
they questioned the servants, and when they heard of the Fakir and the
little black dog, they guessed what had happened, and sent in every
direction seeking them, but neither the Fakir nor the dog were to be
found. What could six poor women do? They gave up all hopes of ever
seeing their kind husbands, and their sister, and her husband again,
and devoted themselves thenceforward to teaching and taking care of
their little nephew.
Thus time went on, till Balna's son was fourteen years old. Then, one
day, his aunts told him the history of the family; and no sooner did he
hear it, than be was seized with a great desire to go in search of his
father and mother and uncles, and if he could find them alive to bring
them home again. His aunts, on learning his determination, were much
alarmed and tried to dissuade him, saying, "We have lost our husbands,
and our sister and her husband, and you are now our sole hope; if you
go away, what shall we do?" But he replied, "I pray you not to be
discouraged; I will return soon, and if it is possible bring my father
and mother and uncles with me." So he set out on his travels; but for
some months he could learn nothing to help him in his search.
At last, after he had journeyed many hundreds of weary miles, and
become almost hopeless of ever hearing anything further of his parents,
he one day came to a country that seemed full of stones, and rocks, and
trees, and there he saw a large palace with a tower; hard by was a
Malee's little house.
As he was looking about, the Malee's wife saw him, and ran out of the
house and said, "My dear boy, who are you that dare venture to this
dangerous place?" He answered, "I am a Raja's son, and I come in
search of my father, and my uncles, and my mother whom a wicked
Then the Malee's wife said, "This country and this palace belong to a
great enchanter; he is all powerful, and if anyone displeases him, he
can turn them into stones and trees. All the rocks and trees you see
here were living people once, and the Magician turned them to what they
now are. Some time ago a Raja's son came here, and shortly afterward
came his six brothers, and they were all turned into stones and trees;
and these are not the only unfortunate ones, for up in that tower lives
a beautiful Princess, whom the Magician has kept prisoner there for
twelve years, because she hates him and will not marry him."
Then the little Prince thought, "These must be my parents and my
uncles. I have found what I seek at last." So he told his story to
the Malee's wife, and begged her to help him to remain in that place
awhile and inquire further concerning the unhappy people she mentioned;
and she promised to befriend him, and advised his disguising himself
lest the Magician should see him, and turn him likewise into stone. To
this the Prince agreed. So the Malee's wife dressed him up in a saree,
and pretended that he was her daughter.
One day, not long after this, as the Magician was walking in his garden
he saw the little girl (as he thought) playing about, and asked her who
she was. She told him she was the Malee's daughter, and the Magician
said, "You are a pretty little girl, and to-morrow you shall take a
present of flowers from me to the beautiful lady who lives in the
The young Prince was much delighted at hearing this, and went
immediately to inform the Malee's wife; after consultation with whom he
determined that it would be more safe for him to retain his disguise,
and trust to the chance of a favorable opportunity for establishing
some communication with his mother, if it were indeed she.
Now it happened that at Balna's marriage her husband had given her a
small gold ring on which her name was engraved, and she had put it on
her little son's finger when he was a baby, and afterward when he was
older his aunts had had it enlarged for him, so that he was still able
to wear it. The Malee's wife advised him to fasten the well-known
treasure to one of the bouquets he presented to his mother, and trust
to her recognizing it. This was not to be done without difficulty, as
such a strict watch was kept over the poor Princess (for fear of her
ever establishing communication with her friends), that though the
supposed Malee's daughter was permitted to take her flowers every day,
the Magician or one of his slaves was always in the room at the time.
At last one day, however, opportunity favored him, and when no one was
looking the boy tied the ring to a nosegay, and threw it at Balna's
feet. It fell with a clang on the floor, and Balna, looking to see
what made the strange sound, found the little ring tied to the flowers.
On recognizing it, she at once believed the story her son told her of
his long search, and begged him to advise her as to what she had better
do; at the same time entreating him on no account to endanger his life
by trying to rescue her. She told him that for twelve long years the
Magician had kept her shut up in the tower because she refused to marry
him, and she was so closely guarded that she saw no hope of release.
Now Balna's son was a bright, clever boy, so he said, "Do not fear,
dear mother; the first thing to do is to discover how far the
Magician's power extends, in order that we may be able to liberate my
father and uncles, whom he has imprisoned in the form of the rocks and
trees. You have spoken to him angrily for twelve long years; now
rather speak kindly. Tell him you have given up all hopes of again
seeing the husband you have so long mourned, and say you are willing to
harry him. Then endeavor to find out what his power consists in, and
whether he is immortal, or can be put to death."
Balna determined to take her son's advice; and the next day sent for
Punchkin, and spoke to him as had been suggested.
The Magician greatly delighted, begged her to allow the wedding to take
place as soon as possible.
But she told him that before she married him he must allow her a little
more time, in which she might make his acquaintance, and that, after
being enemies so long, their friendship could but strengthen by
degrees. "And do tell me," she said, "are you quite immortal? Can
death never touch you? And are you too great an enchanter ever to feel
"Why do you ask?" said he.
"Because," she replied. "if I am to be your wife, I would fain know
all about you, in order, if any calamity threatens you, to overcome, or
if possible to avert it."
"It is true," he added, "that I am not as others. Far, far away,
hundreds of thousands of miles from this, there lies a desolate country
covered with thick jungle. In the midst of the jungle grows a circle
of palm trees, and in the center of the circle stand six chattees full
of water, piled one above another: below the sixth chattee is a small
cage which contains a little green parrot; on the life of the parrot
depends my life; and if the parrot is killed I must die. It is.
however," he added, "impossible that the parrot should sustain any
injury, both on account of the inaccessibility of the country, and
because, by my appointment, many thousand genii surround the palm
trees, and kill all who approach the place."
Balna told her son what Punchkin had said; but at the same time
implored him to give up all idea of getting the parrot.
The Prince, however, replied, "Mother, unless I can get hold of that
parrot, you, and my father, and uncles, cannot be liberated: be not
afraid, I will shortly return. Do you, meantime, keep the Magician in
good humor-still putting off your marriage with him on various
pretexts; and before he finds out the cause of delay, I will be here."
So saying, he went away.
Many, many weary miles did he travel, till at last he came to a thick
jungle; and, being very tired, sat down under a tree and fell asleep.
He was awakened by a soft rustling sound, and looking about him, saw a
large serpent which was making its way to an eagle's nest built in the
tree under which he lay, and in the nest were two young eagles. The
Prince seeing the danger of the young birds, drew his sword, and killed
the serpent; at the same moment a rushing sound was heard in the air,
and the two old eagles, who had been out hunting for food for their
young ones, returned. They quickly saw the dead serpent and the young
Prince standing over it; and the old mother eagle said to him, "Dear
boy, for many' years all our young ones have been devoured by that
cruel serpent; you have now saved the lives of our children; whenever
you are in need therefore, send to us and we will help you; and as for
these little eagles, take them, and let them be your servants."
At this the Prince was very glad, and the two eaglets crossed their
wings, on which he mounted; and they carried him far, far away over the
thick, jungles, until he came to the place where grew the circle of
palm trees, in the midst of which stood the six chattees full of water.
It was the middle of the day, and the heat was very great. All round
the trees were the genii fast asleep; nevertheless, there were such
countless thousands of them, that it would have been quite impossible
for anyone to walk through their ranks to the place; down swooped the
strong-winged eaglets-down jumped the Prince; in an instant he had
overthrown the six chattees full of water, and seized the little green
parrot, which he rolled up in his cloak; while, as he mounted again
into the air, all the genii below awoke, and finding their treasure
gone, set up a wild and melancholy howl.
Away, away flew the little eagles, till they came to their home in the
great tree; then the Prince said to the old eagles, "Take back your
little ones; they have done me good service; if ever again I stand in
need of help, I will not fail to come to you." He then continued his
journey on foot till he arrived once more at the Magician's palace,
where he sat down at the door and began playing with the Parrot.
Punchkin saw him, and came to him quickly, and said, "My boy, where did
yon get that parrot? Give it to me, I pray you."
But the Prince answered, "Oh no, I cannot give away my parrot, it is a
great pet of mine; I have had it many years."
Then the Magician said, "If it is an old favorite, I can understand
your not caring to give it away; but come, what will you sell it for?"
"Sir," said the Prince, "I will not sell my parrot."
Then Punchkin got frightened, and said, "Anything, anything; name what
price you will, and it shall be yours." The Prince answered, "Let the
seven Raja's sons whom you turned into rocks and trees be instantly
"It is done as you desire," said the Magician, "only give me my
parrot." And With that, by a stroke of his wand, Balna's husband and
his brothers resumed their natural shapes. "Now, give me my parrot,"
"Not so fast, my master," rejoined the Prince; "I must first beg that
you will restore to life all whom you have thus imprisoned."
The Magician immediately waved his wand again; and whilst he cried, in
an imploring voice, "Give me my parrot!' the whole garden became
suddenly alive: where rocks, and stones, and trees had been before,
stood Rajas, and Punts, and Sirdars, and mighty men on prancing horses,
and jeweled pages, and troops of armed attendants.
"Give me my parrot!" cried Punchkin. Then the boy took hold of the
parrot, and tore off one of its wings; and as he did so the Magician's
right arm fell off.
Punchkin then stretched out his left arm, crying, "Give me my parrot!"
The Prince pulled off the parrot's second wing, and the Magician's left
arm tumbled off.
"Give me my parrot!" cried he, and fell on his knees. The Prince
pulled off the parrot's right leg, and the Magician's right leg fell
off: the Prince pulled off the parrot's left leg, down fell the
Nothing remained of him save the limbless body and the head; but still
he rolled his eyes, and cried "Give me my parrot!" "Take your parrot,
then, cried the boy, and with that. he wrung the bird's neck, and
threw it at the magician; and as he did so, Punchkin's head twisted
round and, with a fearful groan, he died!
Then they let Balna out of the tower; and she, her son, and the seven
Princes went to their own country, and lived very happily ever
afterward. And as to the rest of the world, everyone went to his own