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The Merchant's Son And The Raja's Daughter






Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once a merchant's wife and a Raja's wife were both with child and one
day as they bathed together they fell into conversation, and they
agreed that if they both bore daughters then the girls should be
"flower friends" while if one had a son and one a daughter then the
children should marry: and they committed the agreement to writing. A
month or two later the Raja's wife bore a daughter and the merchant's
wife a son. When the children grew up a bit they were sent to school,
and as they were both very intelligent they soon learnt to read and
write. At the school the boys used to be taught in an upstairs room
and the girls on the ground floor. One day the boy wrote out a copy
of the agreement which their mothers had made and threw It down to
the girl who was below.

She read it and from that day they began to correspond with each other;
love soon followed and they decided to elope. They fixed a day and
they arranged that the boy should wait for the girl under a turu
tree outside the town. When the evening came the girl made haste to
cook her parents' supper and then, when they went to bed, she had
as usual to soothe them to sleep by rubbing their limbs; all this
took a long time and the merchant's son soon got tired of waiting,
so he sang to the tree:--


"Be witness be witness for me 'Turu tree'
When the Raja's daughter comes."


and so singing he tied his horse to the roots of the tree and himself
climbed up into the branches, and sitting in the tree he pulled off
and threw down a number of twigs. Late at night the Raja's daughter
came; she saw the horse tied and the twigs scattered on the ground,
but no other sign of her lover. And at last she got tired of waiting
and called the Turu tree to witness, singing:--


"Be witness be witness for me 'Turu tree'
When the merchant's son comes."


As she finished her song the merchant's son threw down a large branch
to her, so she looked up and saw him sitting in the tree. Then she
climbed up to him and began to scold him for putting her to the pain
of waiting so long. He retorted "It was you who made me anxious by
keeping me waiting." "That was not my fault: you know how much work
a woman has to do. I had to cook the supper and put my parents to
bed and rub them to sleep. Climb down and let us be off." So they
climbed down from the tree and mounted the horse and rode off to
a far country. On the road the girl became very thirsty but in the
dense jungle they could find no water, at last the merchant's son
threw a stone at hazard and they heard it splash in a pool; so they
went in the direction of the sound and there they found water but it
was foul and full of worms and the girl refused to drink it. She said
that she would only drink water "which had a father and mother."

So they went on their way, and after a time they came to a number
of crows holding a meeting and in the midst was an owl with its head
nodding drowsily; it was seeing dreams for them; every now and then
a crow would give it a shove and ask what it had dreamt, but the owl
only murmured that it had not finished and went off to sleep again. At
last it said "I have seen a gander and a goose go down into a river
and swim about in it."

The merchant's son and his companion went on and presently came to
a river in full flood, which was quite uncrossable; on the far bank
was a cow lowing to a calf which had been left on the bank where they
were. When she saw them the girl began to sing:--


"The cow lows for its calf
The calf bleats for its mother:
My father and mother
Are weeping for me at home."


When he heard her lament like this the merchant's son exclaimed

"You women are all alike, come let us go back."

"How can we go back now?" answered the girl "You of course can pretend
that you have been hunting; but we women lose our character if we
are hidden by a bush for a minute."

So as they could not cross the river by themselves, a goose and gander
carried them across on their backs. As they went on the merchant's
son asked the girl how far she would like to go, a six days' journey
or a six months' journey. He told her that in the six months' journey
they would only have fruits and roots and such like to eat and water
to drink, but the six days' journey was easy and free from hardship.

The girl chose the six days' journey, so they went on for six days
and came to a stream on the banks of which stood a cottage in which
lived an old woman. Before they went up to it the girl told her lover
not to eat any rice given to him by the old woman but to throw it
to the fowls; then they went and asked to be allowed to cook their
food there; now the old woman had seven unmarried sons, who were away
hunting at the time, and when she saw the Raja's daughter she wished
to detain her and marry her to one of her sons. So in order to delay
them she gave them a damp stove and green firewood to cook with;
she also offered the merchant's son some poisoned rice but he threw
it to the fowls, and when they ate it they fell down dead.

The girl could not make the fire burn with the green wood, so
they hurried away as fast as they could without waiting to cook any
food. Before they started however the old woman managed to tie up some
mustard seed in a cloth and fasten it to their horse's tail, so that
as they rode, the seed was spilt along the road they took. When the
old woman's sons came back from hunting she greeted them by saying:
"Why did you not come back sooner? I have just found a pretty wife
for you; but I have tied mustard seed to their horse's tail and it is
being scattered along the road: in one place it is sprouting in another
it is flowering; in another it is seeding and in another it is ripe;
when you get to the place where it is ripe you will catch them." So
the seven brothers pursued the two lovers and caught them up, but
the merchant's son cut down six of them with his sword; the seventh
however hid under the horse's belly and begged for mercy and offered to
serve them as groom to their horse. This man's name was Damagurguria;
they spared his life and he followed them running behind the horse;
but he watched his opportunity and caught the merchant's son unawares
and killed him with his sword.

Then he told the girl that she belonged to him and she admitted it and
asked that she might ride behind him on the horse, so Damagurguria
mounted and took her up behind him and turned homewards. He could
not see what the girl was doing and they had not gone far when she
drew his sword and killed him with it.

Then she rode back to where the body of her lover lay and began to weep
over it. As she sat there a man in shining white clothing appeared and
asked what was the matter; she told him Damagurguria had killed her
lover. Then he bade her stop crying and go and wet a gamcha he gave
her and come straight back with it without looking behind her and then
pick a meral twig and beat the corpse with it. So the girl took the
gamcha and went and dipped it in a pool but, as she was bringing it
back, she heard a loud roaring behind her and she looked back to see
what it was; so the stranger sent her back again to the pool and this
time she did not look round though she heard the same roaring. Then
the stranger told her to join the severed head to the body and cover
it with the wet gamcha; and then, after waiting a little, to beat
the body with the meral twig. So saying he disappeared. The girl
carefully complied with these instructions and to her joy saw the
merchant's son sit up and rub his eyes, remarking that he must have
been asleep for a long time. Great was his astonishment when he heard
how Damagurguria had killed him and how he had been restored to life
by the help of the stranger in white. This was the end of the lovers'
troubles and they lived happily ever after.





Next: The Flycatcher's Egg

Previous: How Sabai Grass Grew



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