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The Good Daughter-in-law

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a very rich man who had seven sons and the sons were
all married and lived with their father. The father was a miser: he
lived in the poorest manner in spite of all his wealth and hoarded
all his money. His eldest daughter-in-law managed the household and
she alone of the family did not approve of the miserly way in which
the family affairs were conducted.

One day a Jugi came to the house and asked for alms. The eldest
daughter-in-law happened to be away at the time, fetching water from
the stream. Those of the family who were at home flatly declined to
give the poor beggar anything and turned him away from the house. So
the Jugi went away, cursing them for their miserliness. On his way
he met the eldest daughter-in-law coming back with her jar of water
and she asked the Jugi why he seemed so angry. When she heard how he
had been treated, she at once besought him to return to the house and
explained that she was the housekeeper and that that was the reason
why none of the others had ventured to give him alms.

The Jugi returned with her and she gave him a seer of rice to put
in his bag. At first the Jugi refused to take it, on the ground that
she was only giving it for fear of his curses but she assured him
that she never refused alms to anyone who begged. So the Jugi took
the rice and then asked what boon she would accept in return. The
woman at first said that she was in want of nothing, but, on the Jugi
pressing her, she said that she would like to be able to understand
the language of birds and beasts and to see the disembodied souls of
men. Then the Jugi took a feather from his bag and drew it across her
eyes and blew into her eyes and ears and she found herself possessed
of the powers for which she had asked. But before he left, the Jugi
told her that she must never reveal to any human being the boon he
had conferred on her, for if she did she would die.

Years passed and nothing happened but then it chanced that a Chamar
who lived at the end of the village died, and as he had been a good
and kind man his family wept bitterly at their loss. The woman saw the
spirit of the Chamar being taken away in a grand chariot and she also
wept for the death of so good a man. Her family became very suspicious
at her showing sorrow for the death of a stranger of another caste.

A few days later the miserly father-in-law died and the woman saw
three beings dragging him out of the house by his heels, and she
laughed to see him treated so for his sins. But the family were
shocked by her laughter and concluded that she was a witch and had
killed her father-in-law by her witchcraft; so after the funeral
they held a family council and called on the woman to explain why
she had laughed. She assured them that if she told she would die,
but they insisted and at last she told them of the boon conferred on
her by the Jugi, and what she had seen, and then she lay down upon
her bed and died.

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