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The Girl Who Always Found Helpers






Source: Santal Folk Tales

There were once upon a time, six brothers and a sister. The brothers
were married. They were merchants, and their business often took them
to a distance from home. On such occasions the wives were left alone
with their sister-in-law. For some reason or other they hated the girl,
and took every opportunity to harass and worry her.

One day when the brothers were away on a journey they said to her,
"Oh! girl, go to the forest and bring a load of firewood without
tying it." What could the girl do? She must obey her sisters-in-law,
or else they would beat her, and give her no food. So she went to the
forest with a heavy heart, bewailing her unhappy lot in the following
plaintive song,


Woe is me! For I must bring
Unbound a fagot on my head.

Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While business you far hence hath led.


Seeing her grief a Jambro snake asked, "Why daughter, do you cry?" She
replied, "My brothers have gone away on business, and my sisters-in-law
persecute me. They have sent me to bring a bundle of firewood on
my head without tying it." The Jambro took pity on her and said,
"Gather firewood." Then the Jambro stretched himself full length upon
the ground and said to the girl, "Lay the sticks on me." When she
had done so the serpent twined itself round the fagot like a rope,
and said, "Now lift it on to your head, but when you reach home,
lay your burden down gently."

When her sisters-in-law knew that she had done what they considered
impossible, they were still more angry with her, and ordered her to
go to the forest and get milk from a tigress. They gave her a small
earthen vessel, saying, "Go, bring us the milk of a tigress." What
could the girl do? She went to the forest with a heavy heart, bewailing
her unhappy lot in the following plaintive song,


Woe is me! For I must bring
A brimful cup of tigress' milk
Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While you far hence by trade are lured.


She went to the tiger's den, but only found two cubs, who seeing
her sitting weeping at the entrance said, "What are you seeking?" She
replied, "My sisters-in-law have sent me to bring some of your mother's
milk." The cubs took pity on her and hid her in the cave. They
said to her, "Our mother will devour you, so you must not shew
yourself." In a short time the tigress returned, and entering the
den said, "I smell a human being. Where is he?" The cubs replied,
"There is no one here." The cubs milked a little of their mother's
milk into the girl's vessel, and when the way was clear they gave it
to her, and sent her home.

Her sisters-in-law were greatly disappointed when she brought home
the milk, they had expected that the tiger would have devoured her,
on that she would return home empty handed, and so give them the
opportunity of abusing her for not carrying out their order.

Another day when the brothers were absent they called her, and said,
"Go to the forest and bring us some bear's milk." What could the girl
do? If she did not do as she was bidden her sisters-in-law would beat
her, and give her nothing to eat. So taking the vessel in her hand,
she went to the forest, bewailing her unhappy lot in the following
plaintive strains;


Woe is me! For I must bring
A brimful cup of she bear's milk
Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While you far hence by trade are lured.


Going to the bear's den she sat down and wept. The she-bear was not
in the den, only two cubs were there, who, when they saw the girl,
took pity upon her, and asked why she wept. She replied, "My brothers
have gone away on business, and my sisters-in-law, who hate me, have
sent me to procure bear's milk in order to harass and annoy me." The
bear cubs then said, "Our mother will eat you, if she finds you,
so we will hide you, and you must keep quiet while she is here." The
she-bear on entering the cave said, "I smell a human being." The cubs
replied, "There is no one here." The young ones succeeded in obtaining
a small quantity of their mother's milk in the girl's earthen vessel,
and after the mother bear had left, the cubs dismissed her with their
best wishes for her welfare.

Her sisters-in-law were extremely annoyed when she presented the bear's
milk to them. They had expected that the bear would have torn her to
pieces, or that she would have returned empty handed, and thus give
them another chance to abuse and reproach her.

The girl's sisters-in-law again took advantage of their husbands'
absence to send her to bring water from the spring in a water-pot with
a hole in it. They said, "Go bring water in this water-pot." What
could the girl do? She placed it on her head, and went towards the
spring bewailing her unhappy lot in the following plaintive song,


Woe is me! For I must bring
Spring water in a leaking jar
Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While business you far hence hath lured.


She seated herself near the well, and exclaimed, "How can I carry
water in this pot?" At that moment a frog raised his head above the
reeds, and said, "Why do you sit here lamenting?" The girl replied,
"My sisters-in-law, who hate me, have ordered me to bring water in this
pot which has a large hole in the bottom. How is it possible for me
to obey their order?" The frog replied, "Do not worry yourself over
it, I will help you." So he pressed himself tightly over the hole,
and she filled her pot, and carried it home on her head.

Her sisters-in-law, when they saw her place the water-pot on the
ground, full to the brim, were intensely mortified. They had looked
for her returning with an empty pitcher, thus affording them an
ostensible reason for maliciously upbraiding her.

Another time they scattered a large basketful of Mustard seed on
the ground, and ordered her to pick up every seed. They said to her,
"You must gather it all into the basket again." What could she do? If
she failed they would beat her, entreat her spitefully, and deprive
her of food. As she gazed upon the seeds scattered all around her,
she bewailed her unhappy condition as follows:


Woe is me! I must refill
This basket with these scattered seeds
Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While business you far hence hath lured.


The plaintive murmur of her song had scarcely died away when a
large flock of pigeons alighted near her. They said, "Why do you
weep?" She replied, "My sisters-in-law, who hate me, have scattered
all this mustard seed on the ground, and have ordered me to pick it
all up. One solitary seed must not be left." The pigeons said, "Do
not vex yourself, we will soon pick it up for you." As the pigeons
were very numerous they soon collected it all into the basket. They
did not leave one seed on the ground.

When she called her sisters-in-law to come and see how efficiently the
work had been done, they were furious at being again balked by her,
and vowed vengeance.

Once again, when the brothers were from home, her sisters-in-law
ordered her to go to the jungle, and bring a bale of leaves with
which to make the family cups and plates. They said to her, "Go to
the jungle and bring a large bale of leaves, but do so without in
anyway tying them." What could the girl do? She had been ordered to
perform an impossibility. If she refused, or failed to do it, her
sisters-in-law would beat her, and deprive her of food. So she went to
the forest bewailing her unhappy lot in the following plaintive song;


Woe is me! For I must bring
Of forest leaves an unbound bale
Oh! brothers dear, I weeping sing
While business you far hence hath lured.


As she was sitting in the forest weeping a Horhorang serpent drew
near and said, "Wherefore daughter do you grieve?" She replied,
"My sisters-in-law hate me and have ordered me to bring leaves
without tying them into a bundle. I cannot do this, and I fear their
resentment, so I cannot help weeping." The Horhorang said, "Vex not
yourself. Go and pluck your leaves and bring them here." She did so,
and the Horhorang twined himself round them binding them into a sheaf,
which the girl placed upon her head, and carried home.

When her sisters-in-law saw the leaves, and had looked to see that
none had fallen by the way they were greatly chagrined. They had
expected an opportunity to reproach her with disobedience, and a
reason for punishing her.

Although her sisters-in-law had imposed so many impossibilities upon
her, yet they had been unable to defeat her. Just at the proper time
some one had appeared to help her.

They had seen a bunch of flowers on the top of a high tree, and one
day when their husbands were away, they said to her, "Climb up into
the tree and pluck the flowers, we wish to dress our hair with them on
the occasion of your marriage." No sooner had she clambered up into
the tree than her sisters-in-law placed thorny bushes all round in
such a manner as to prevent her coming down again. They then went home.

A few days afterwards, the brothers, when returning from a distant
market to which they had gone rested for a little under this tree. A
tear drop fell on the hand of one of them. Looking at it he said,
"Look brothers, this tear drop resembles those of the daughter." Then
they looked and saw her high up in the tree. They quickly brought
her down, and she related how in time past she had been persecuted
by her sisters-in-law whenever they were absent. The brothers were
wroth with their wives for having used her so cruelly.

The brothers put their sister into a bag, and carried her home on a
bullock's back. When the wives came out to welcome them, they asked,
"Where is the daughter?" They gave no reply.

Afterwards the brothers dug a deep well, and on the pretence of
propitiating the water spirit induced their wives to stand round the
well with offerings of rice, &c., in their hands. At a given signal
each hurled his wife head foremost into the well. They then placed
a cart over the opening.

In return for the persecution she had endured at their hands, the
girl used to go to the well and looking in, say, "You treated me
cruelly once, but now, boo sisters boo."





Next: A Simple Thief

Previous: The Story Of Jhore



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