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The King And His Inquisitive Queen

Source: Santal Folk Tales

There was a certain king known by the name of Huntsman, on account of
his expertness in the chase. One day when returning from the forest
where he had been hunting he found a serpent and a lizard fighting
on the path along which he was moving. As they were blocking the way
he ordered them to stand aside and allow him to pass, but they gave
no heed to what he said. King Huntsman then began to beat them with
his staff. He killed the lizard, but the serpent fled, and so escaped.

The serpent then went to Monsha, the king of the serpents, and
complained of the treatment the lizard and himself had received at
the hands of king Huntsman. The next day king Monsha went and met king
Huntsman on his way home from the forest, and blocked his way so that
he could not pass. King Huntsman being angry said, "Clear the way,
and allow me to pass, or else I shall send an arrow into you. Why
do you block my way?" King Monsha replied, "Why did you assault the
lizard and the serpent, with intent to kill them both?" King Huntsman
answered, "I ordered them to get out of my way, but they would not,
I therefore assaulted them, and killed one. The other saved himself
by flight." King Monsha hearing this explanation said, "Very good,
the fault was theirs, not yours."

King Huntsman then petitioned the king of the serpents to bestow upon
him the gift of understanding the language of animals and insects. King
Monsha acceded to his request, and gave him the gift he desired.

A few days after this event King Huntsman went to the forest, and after
hunting all day returned home in the evening Having washed his hands
and feet, he sat down to his meal of boiled rice. When the rice was
being served to the king a few grains fell on the ground, and a fly
and an ant began to dispute as to who should carry them away. The fly
said, "I will take them to my children." The ant replied, "No, I will
take them to mine." Hearing the two talk thus, the king was amused,
and began to smile. The queen, who was standing by, said to him,
"Tell me what has made you laugh." On being thus addressed the king
became greatly confused, for at the time the gift of understanding the
language of animals and insects was bestowed upon him, King Monsha had
forbidden him to make it known to any one. He had said, "If you tell
this to any one, I shall eat you." Remembering this the king feared
to answer the question put to him by the queen. He tried to deceive
her by saying, "I did not laugh, you must have been mistaken." She
would not, however, be thus put off, so the king was obliged to tell
her that if he answered her question his life would be forfeited. The
queen was inexorable, and said, "Whether you forfeit your life or
not, you must tell me." The king then said, "Well, if it must be so,
let us make ready to go to the bank of the Ganges. There I shall
tell you, and when I have done so you must push me into the river,
and then return home."

The king armed himself, and the two set out for the river. When they
had reached it, they sat down to rest under the shade of a tree. A
flock of goats was grazing near to where they were seated, and the
king's attention was arrested by a conversation which was being carried
on between an old she-goat and a young he-goat. The former addressed
the latter thus, "There is an island in the middle of the Ganges,
and on that island there is a large quantity of good sweet grass. Get
the grass for me, and I shall give you my daughter in marriage." The
he-goat was not thus to be imposed upon. He angrily addressed his
female friend as follows, "Do not think to make me like this foolish
king, who vainly tries to please a woman. He has come here to lose
his own life at the bidding of one. You tell me to go and bring you
grass out of such a flood as this. I am no such fool. I do not care
to die yet. There are many more quite as good as your daughter."

The king understood what passed between them, and admitted to himself
the truth of what the he-goat had said. After considering a short time
he arose, and having made a rude sacrificial altar, said to the queen,
"Kneel down, and do me obeisance, and I shall tell you what made me
laugh." She knelt down, and the king struck off her head and burnt
her body upon the altar. Returning home he performed her funeral
ceremonies, after which he married another wife.

He reigned prosperously for many years, and decided all disputes that
were brought before him by animals or insects.

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