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The Baby In The Box


Source: Aino Folktales

There was once a woman who was tenderly loved by her husband. At last,
after some years, she bore him a son. Then the father loved this son
even more than he loved his wife. She therefore thought thus: "How
pleasant it used to be formerly, when my husband loved me alone! But
now, since I have borne him this nasty child, he loves it more than he
does me. It will be well for me to make away with it."

Thus thinking, she waited till her husband had gone off bear-hunting in
the mountains, and then put the baby into a box, which she took to the
river and allowed to float away. Then she returned home. Later on, her
husband came back; and she, with feigned tears, told him that the baby
had disappeared--stolen or strayed,--and that she had vainly searched
all round about the house and in the woods. The man lay down, like to
die of grief, and refused all food. Only at length, when he saw that his
wife, too, went without her food, did he begin to eat a little, fearing,
in his affection for her, that she too might die of hunger. However, it
was only when he was present that she fasted. She ate her fill behind
his back.

At last, one day, not knowing what to do to rouse him, she said to him:
"Look here! I will divert you with a story." Then she told him the whole
story exactly as it had happened, being herself, all the while, under
the delusion that she was telling him an ancient fairy-tale. Then he
flew into a rage, took his bludgeon, beat her to death, and then threw
her corpse out-of-doors. This was the way in which the gods chose to
punish her.

Then the husband, knowing now that his search must be made down the
stream, started off. At last, after seeking for a long time, he came to
a lonely house, where he found a very venerable-looking old man, an old
woman, and their middle-aged daughter, and also a boy. He said to the
old man: "I come to ask whether you know anything of my little boy, who
was placed in a box and set to float down the stream." The old man
replied: "One day, when my daughter here went to draw water from the
river, she found a box with a little boy in it. We knew not whether the
child was a human creature, a god, or a devil. So doubtless he is yours.
We have kept the box too. Here it is. You can judge by looking at it."

It turned out to be the same box, and the same boy. So the father
rejoiced. Then the old man said: "Remain here. I will give to you for
wife this daughter of mine, my only child. Live with us as long as my
old wife and I remain alive. Feed us, and then you shall inherit from
me." The man did so. When the old people died, he inherited all their
possessions; and then, with his new wife and his beloved son, returned
to his own village. So you see that, even among us Ainos, there are
wicked women.--(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 17th
November, 1886.)

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