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The Changed Calf

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a cowherd named Sona who saved a few rupees and he
decided to buy a calf so as to have something to show for his labours;
and he went to a distant village and bought a bull calf and on the way
home he was benighted. So he turned into a Hindu village and went to an
oilman's house and asked to be allowed to sleep there. When the oilman
saw such a fine calf he coveted it and he told Sona to put it in the
stable along with his own bullock and he gave him some supper and let
him sleep in the verandah. But in the middle of the night the oilman
got up and moistened some oil cake and plastered it over the calf;
he then untied his own bullock and made it lick the oil cake off the
calf, and as the bullock was accustomed to eat oil cake it licked it
greedily; then the oilman raised a cry, "The bullock that turns the
oil mill has given birth to a calf." And all the villagers collected,
and saw the bullock licking the calf and they believed the oilman. Sona
did not wake up and knew nothing of all this, the next morning he
got up and went to untie his calf and drive it away, but the oilman
would not let him and claimed the calf as his own. Then Sona called
the villagers to come and decide the matter: but they said that they
had seen him bring no calf to the village and he had not called any of
them to witness it, but they had seen the bullock licking the calf;
why should the bullock lick any but its own calf? No one ever saw a
bullock lick a strange bullock or cow and so they awarded the calf
to the oilman. Then Sona said that he would call someone to argue the
matter and he went away meaning to get some men from the next village:
but he lost his way in the jungle and as he went along a night-jar
flew up from under his feet; he called out to it to stay as he was in
great distress, and the bird alighted and asked what was the matter,
and Sona told it his trouble. Then the night-jar said that it would
argue the matter for him but it must have a colleague and it told Sona
to go on and ask the first living being he met to help; so he went on
and met a jackal and the jackal agreed to help the night-jar, and they
told him to call the villagers to the edge of the jungle and not to
let them bring any dogs with them. So Sona brought all the villagers
to the jungle and the night-jar and jackal sat side by side on a stone.

Then Sona asked the villagers whether they would let him take away
the calf or no, and they persisted in their previous opinion. At last
one man said, "What are your advocates doing? it seems to me that they
are asleep." And at this the two woke up with a start and looked about
them, and the night-jar said "I have been asleep and dreamed a dream:
will you men please hear it and explain its meaning?"

And the jackal said, "I too have had a dream, please explain it for
me. If you can explain the meaning you shall keep the calf and, if
not, the boy shall have it." The villagers told them to speak and the
night-jar said, "I saw two night-jar's eggs and one egg was sitting
on the other; no mother bird was sitting on them, tell me what this
means." And the jackal said, "I saw that the sea was on fire and the
fishes were all being burnt up, and I was busy eating them and that
was why I did not wake up, what is the meaning of this dream?" And
the villagers said. "The two dreams are both alike: neither has
any meaning; an egg cannot sit on an egg, and the sea cannot catch
fire." The jackal said, "Why cannot it be? If you won't believe that
water can catch fire why do you say that a bullock gave birth to
a calf? Have you ever seen such a thing? Speak," And they admitted
that they had never seen a bullock have a calf, but only cows. "Then,"
said the jackal, "explain why you have given the oilman a decree." And
they admitted that they were wrong and awarded the calf to Sona and
fined the oilman five rupees for having deceived them.

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