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The Monkey Boy

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a man who had six sons and two daughters and he died
leaving his wife pregnant of a ninth child.

And when the child was born it proved to be a monkey.

The villagers and relations advised the mother to make away with it,
but she refused saying "Chando knows why he has given me such a child,
but as he has done so I will rear it."

All her relations said that if she chose to rear a monkey they would
turn her out of the family. However she persisted that she would do
so at all costs. So they sent her to live with her child in a hut
outside the village, and the monkey boy grew up and learned to talk
like a human being.

One day his elder brothers began to clear the jungle for cultivation
and the monkey boy took a hatchet and went with them; he asked where
he could clear land for himself and in fun they showed him the place
where the jungle was thickest. So he went there and drove his hatchet
into the trunk of a tree and then returned and watched his brothers
working hard clearing the scrub, and when they had finished their work
he went and fetched his hatchet and returned home with them. Every
day he did the same--and one day his brothers asked why he spent all
his time with them, but he said that he only came to them when he was
tired of cutting down trees; they laughed at this and said that they
would like to see his clearing, so he took them to the place and to
their astonishment they saw a large clearing, bigger than they had
been able to make for themselves. Then the brothers burnt the jungle
they had cut down and began to plough the land.

But the monkey boy's mother had no plough or cattle nor any seed rice;
the only thing in the house was a pumpkin, so he took the seed out
of the pumpkin and sowed it in his clearing. His brothers asked what
he had sown and he told them--Rice.

The brothers ploughed and sowed and used to go daily to watch the
growing crop, and one day they went to have a look at the monkey boy's
crop and they saw that it was pumpkins and not rice and they laughed
at him. When their crop was ripe the brothers prepared to offer the
first fruits and the monkey boy watched them that he might observe the
same ceremonies as they. One day they brought home the first fruits
and offered them to the bongas, and they invited the monkey boy
and his mother to come to the feast which followed the offering.

They both went and enjoyed themselves; and two or three days later
the monkey boy said that he would also have a feast of first fruits,
so he told his mother to clear the courtyard and invited his brothers
and he purified himself and went to his clearing and brought home the
biggest pumpkin that had grown there; this he offered to the spirits;
he sliced off the top of it as if it were the head of a fowl, and
as he did so he saw that the inside was full of rice; he called his
mother and they filled a winnowing fan with the rice and there was
enough besides to nearly fill a basket; they were delighted at this
windfall but kept the matter secret lest they should be robbed. The
monkey boy told his mother to be sure and cook enough rice so that
his brothers and their wives might have as much as ever they could
eat, and not merely a small helping such as they had given him,
and if necessary he would go and fetch another pumpkin; so his
mother boiled the rice. When the time fixed for the feast came,
nothing was to be seen of the brothers because they did not expect
that there would really be anything for them to eat; so the monkey
boy went and fetched them, and when they came to the feast they
were astonished to have as much rice as they could eat. When the
crop was quite ripe the monkey boy gathered all the pumpkins and
got sufficient rice from them to last for the whole year. After
this the brothers went out to buy horses, and the monkey boy went
with them and as he had no money he took nothing but a coil of rope;
his brothers were ashamed to have him with them and drove him away,
so he went on ahead and got first to the place where the horsedealer
lived. The brothers arrived late in the evening and decided to make
their purchases the following morning and ride their horses home, so
they camped for the night. The monkey boy spent the night hiding on
the rafters of the stable; and in the night the horses began to talk
to each other and discussed which could gallop farthest, and one mare
said "I can gallop twelve kos on the ground and then twelve kos
in the air." When the monkey boy heard this he got down and lamed
the mare by running a splinter into her hoof. The next morning the
brothers bought the horses which pleased them and rode off. Then the
monkey boy went to the horsedealer and asked why the mare was lame
and advised him to apply remedies. But the dealer said that that
was useless: when horses got ill they always died; then the monkey
boy asked if he would sell the mare and offered to give the coil of
rope in exchange; the dealer, thinking that the animal was useless,
agreed, so the monkey boy led it away, but when he was out of sight
he took out the splinter and the lameness at once ceased. Then he
mounted the mare and rode after his brothers, and when he had nearly
overtaken them he rose into the air and flew past his brothers and
arrived first at home. There he tied up the mare outside his house
and went and bathed and had his dinner and waited for his brothers.

They did not arrive for a full hour afterwards and when they saw
the monkey boy and his mount they wanted to know how he had got home
first. He boasted of how swift his mare was and so they arranged to
have a race and match their horses against his. The race took place
two or three days later and the monkey boy's mare easily beat all the
other horses, she gallopped twelve kos on the ground and twelve
kos in the air. Then they wanted to change their horses for his,
but he said they had had first choice and he was not going to change.

In two or three years the monkey boy became rich and then he announced
that he wanted to marry; this puzzled his mother for she thought that
no human girl would marry him while a monkey would not be able to talk;
so she told him that he must find a bride for himself. One day he set
off to look for a wife and came to a tank in which some girls were
bathing, and he took up the cloth belonging to one of them and ran
up a tree with it, and when the girl missed it and saw it hanging
down from the tree she borrowed a cloth from her friends and went
and asked the monkey boy for her own; he told her that she could only
have it back if she consented to marry him; she was surprised to find
that he could talk and as he conversed she was bewitched by him and
let him pull her up into the tree by her hair, and she called out to
her friends to go home and leave her where she was. Then he took her
on his back and ran off home with her.

The girl's father and relations turned out with bows and arrows to
look for the monkey who had carried her off but he had gone so far
away that they never found him. When the monkey boy appeared with his
bride all the villagers were astonished that he had found anyone to
marry him, but everything was made ready for the marriage as quickly
as possible and all the relations were invited and the wedding took
place and the monkey boy and his wife lived happily ever after.

Next: The Miser's Servant

Previous: The Prince Who Acquired Wisdom

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