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The Mongoose Boy






Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there was a Raja who had two wives. By his first
wife he had six sons, but the second wife bore only one son and he
was born as a mongoose. When the six sons of the elder wife grew up,
they used to jeer at their mongoose brother and his mother, so the
Raja sent his second wife to live in a separate house. The Mongoose
boy could talk like any man but he never grew bigger than an ordinary
mongoose and his name was Lelsing.

One day the Raja called all his sons to him and said that he wished,
before he died, to divide his property among them. But the sons said
that they had rather he did not do so then; they wished to go abroad
and see the world, and if he would give each of them some capital to
start, with, they would go abroad and trade and even if they did not
make much profit they would have the advantage of seeing the world.

So the Raja gave his six sons twenty rupees each to start business
with; but when Lelsing also asked for some money, his brothers jeered
at him and declared that he certainly could not go with them, for
he would only get eaten up by some dog. Lelsing made no answer at
the time but afterwards he went to his father alone and begged again
for some money. At last the Raja, though he scarcely believed that
Lelsing would really go out trading, gave him ten rupees.

The six brothers made everything ready and one morning set out on
their travels, without saying anything to Lelsing. But Lelsing saw them
start and followed after them, and as the brothers were resting in the
middle of the day they looked back and saw Lelsing galloping along to
overtake them. So they all travelled together for three or four days,
till they came to a great jungle and camped on its outskirts. There
they debated how long they should stay away from home and they decided
that they would trade for six months and then go back.

The next morning they entered the jungle, and as they travelled through
it, the six brothers managed to give Lelsing the slip, so that when
they came out of the forest they found themselves at Nilam bazar, but
Lelsing after wandering about for some time came out at Sujan bazar.

The six brothers bought sun-horses at Nilam bazar, and began to
trade. But Lelsing at Sujan bazar looked about for someone who would
engage him as a servant. No one would employ a mongoose, and Lelsing
was in despair, for he had very little money. At last he began to
enquire whether anyone would sell him a cheap horse, and learnt that
the horse market was at Nilam bazar; so he went to Nilam bazar and
there found his brothers trading, but he did not make himself known
to them. He tried to buy a horse but they were all too highly priced
for him, so at last he had to be content with buying a donkey for
three rupees and some articles to trade with.

When the six months expired, the brothers went home; and a little after
them came Lelsing, leading his donkey, his brothers laughed at him
but the Raja did not laugh; and Lelsing showed his father and mother
what profits he had made by his trading, which his brothers declined
to do. The Raja was pleased with Lelsing for this and declared that,
in spite of his shape, he was a man and a Raja. It only made his
brothers more angry with him to hear Lelsing praised.

Two or three years later there was a famine in the land. Lelsing
foresaw it and he dug a large hole in the floor of his house and buried
in it all the grain on which he could lay his hand. The famine grew
severe, but Lelsing and his mother always had enough to eat from their
private store. But his brothers were starving and their children cried
from want of food. Lelsing had pity on them and sent his mother with
some rice for them to eat. The Raja and his sons were amazed that
Lelsing should have rice to give away, and they went to his house
to see how much he had; but they found the house apparently empty,
for they did not know of the store buried in the ground. Puzzled
and jealous the brothers made up their minds to burn down Lelsing's
house. So one night they set fire to it, and it was burnt to ashes:
the store buried in the ground was however uninjured.

Lelsing put the ashes of his house into sacks and, loading them on
his donkey, set out to sell them. As he found no buyers, he rested for
the night under a tree by the road side. Presently a band of merchants
with well loaded pack-bullocks came to the place. "You must not camp
here" called out Lelsing to them "I have two sacks of gold coin here
and you may take an opportunity to steal them. If you are honest men,
you will go to a distance." So the merchants camped a little way off,
but in the middle of the night they came and carried off Lelsing's
sacks, leaving two of their own in their place, and hurried on their
way. In the morning Lelsing made haste to carry home the sacks which
had been changed, and when he came to open them he found them full
of rice and rupees. He sent his mother to borrow a measure from his
brothers with which to measure the rupees; and when he returned it,
he sent it to them full of rupees.

His brothers came running to know where he had found so much money. "I
got it by selling the ashes of my house" said Lelsing "and it is a
pity that I had only one house; if I had had more houses, I should
have had more ashes, and should have got more money still." On hearing
this the brothers at once made up their mind to burn their own houses,
and take the ashes for sale. But when they did so and took the ashes
for sale from village to village they were only laughed at for their
pains, and in the end had to throw away the ashes and come back empty
handed. They were very angry at the trick which Lelsing had played
on them and decided to kill him and his mother; but when they went
to the house to do the murder, Lelsing happened to be away from home
and so they were only able to kill his mother.

When Lelsing came home he found his mother lying dead. He placed the
body on his donkey and carried it off to burn it on the banks of the
Ganges. As he went, he saw a large herd of paek bullocks coming along
the road. He quickly propped the body of his mother against a tree
which grew by the road and himself climbed into its branches, and when
the bullocks came up he began to call out "Take care, take care: you
will have my sick mother trampled to death." But the drivers were too
far behind to hear what he said. When they came up, he climbed down
from the tree and charged them with having allowed their bullocks to
kill his mother. The drivers had no wish to face a charge of murder;
and in the end, to secure their release, they made over to Lelsing
all their bullocks, with the merchandize which they were carrying.

Lelsing threw his mother's corpse into some bushes, and drove the
laden bullocks home. Naturally his brothers wanted to know where he
had got such wealth from, and he explained that it was by selling
the dead body of his mother and he was sorry that he had only one
to dispose of. At once his brothers went and killed all their wives,
and took the corpses away to sell; but no one would buy and they had
to return disappointed.

Another trick that Lelsing played his brothers was this: he used to
mix rupees in the food he gave his donkey, and these passed out in
the droppings; and Lelsing took care that his brothers should know of
it. They found no rupees in the dung of their horses, and consulted
Lelsing as to the reason why. He told them that if they gave their
horses a blow with an axe while they ate their grain, they would
find rupees in the dung. The brothers did as they were advised,
but the only result was that they killed all their horses.

More and more angry, the brothers resolved to kill Lelsing by guile. So
they went to him and said that they had found a wife for him, and
would take him to be married. When the procession was ready, Lelsing
got into a palki. His brothers made the doors of the palki fast and
carried him off towards a deep river, into which they meant to throw
him, palki and all.

When they reached the river, they put the palki down and went to
look for a suitably deep pool. Lelsing found that he was outwitted,
and began to weep and wail. Just then a shepherd came by, driving a
flock of sheep and asked what was the matter. Lelsing cried out that
they were going to marry him against his will, but that anyone who
would take his place in the palki could marry his bride. The shepherd
thought that this would be a great opportunity to get a wife without
spending any money on the marriage, and readily changed places with
Lelsing, who drove away the flock of sheep. The brothers soon came
back and, picking up the paiki, threw it into the river and went home,
thinking that they had at last got rid of Lelsing.

But four or five days later Lelsing appeared, driving a large flock of
sheep. His brothers asked him, in amazement where he had come from,
"You threw me" said Lelsing "into a shallow pool of the river where
there were only sheep, but in the deeper parts there are cattle
and buffaloes as well. I can take you to fetch some of them if you
like. You take your palkis to the bank of the river,--for I cannot
carry you all--and then shut yourselves inside and I will push you
into the water." So the brothers took their palkis to the river side
and shut themselves in, and each called out "Let me have the deepest
place, brother." Then Lelsing pushed them in one by one and they were
all drowned. Then he went home rejoicing at the revenge which he had
taken for their ill treatment of him.





Next: The Stolen Treasure

Previous: The Raja's Dream



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