How The Ox Came To Be The Servant Of Man
Source: Folk-tales Of The Khasis
When mankind first came to live upon the earth, they committed many
blunders, for they were ignorant and wasteful, not knowing how to
shift for themselves, and having no one to teach them. The Deity who
was watching their destinies saw their misfortunes and pitied them,
for he saw that unless their wastefulness ceased they would perish
of want when they multiplied and became numerous in the world. So
the Deity called to him the ox, who was a strong and patient animal,
and sent him as a messenger to mankind, to bless them, and to show
them how to prosper.
The ox had to travel a long way in the heat, and was much worried by
the flies that swarmed round his path and the small insects that clung
to his body and sucked his blood. Then a crow alighted on his back
and began to peck at the insects, upon which it loved to feed; this
eased the ox greatly, and he was very pleased to see the crow, and he
told her where he was going, as a messenger from the Deity to mankind.
The crow was very interested when she heard this, and questioned him
minutely about the message he had been sent to deliver, and the ox
told her all that he had been commanded to say to mankind--how he was
to give them the blessing of the Deity and to warn them not to waste
the products of the earth lest they died of want. They must learn to
be thrifty and careful so that they might live to be old and wise,
and they were to boil only sufficient rice for each meal, so as not
to waste their food.
When the crow heard this she was much disturbed, for she saw that
there would be no leavings for the crows if mankind followed these
injunctions. So she said to the ox, "Will you repay my kindness to you
in destroying the insects that worry you by giving a message like that
to mankind to deprive me of my accustomed spoil?" She begged of him to
teach mankind to cook much rice always, and to ordain many ceremonies
to honour their dead ancestors by offering rice to the gods, so that
the crows and the other birds might have abundance to eat. Thus,
because she had eased his torments, the ox listened to her words,
and when he came to mankind he delivered only part of the message of
the Deity, and part of the message of the crow.
When the time came for the ox to return, a great fear overcame
him as he approached the abode of the Deity, for he saw that he had
greatly trespassed and that the Deity would be wrathful. In the hope of
obtaining forgiveness, he at once confessed his wrong-doing, how he had
been tempted by the crow, and had delivered the wrong message. This
confession did not mitigate the anger of the Deity, for he arose,
and, with great fury, he struck the ox such a blow on the mouth that
all his upper teeth fell out, and another blow behind the ribs which
made a great hollow there, and he drove the disobedient animal from
his presence, to seek pasture and shelter wherever he could find them.
After this the ox came back sorrowfully to mankind, and for food and
for shelter he offered to become their servant; and, because he was
strong and patient, mankind allowed him to become their servant.
Ever since he was struck by the Deity the ox has had no teeth in
the upper jaw, and the hollow behind his ribs remains to this day;
it can never be filled up, however much grass and grain he eats,
for it is the mark of the fist of the Deity.
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