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The Rat Boy

Category: MORAL TALES.

Source: Aino Folktales

In a certain village there lived a very rich couple; but they were
childless. They were very anxious for a child. But one day, as the wife
went to the mountains to fetch wood, she found a little boy crying
beside a tree. Rejoiced at this, she took him down with her to the
village. Thenceforth they kept the boy with them. It was a place where
there was plenty of deer and also of fish; it was a place provided with
all the things which people like to eat. But though they hunted the
deer, they could not catch them; though they angled for the fish, they
could not catch them. They were very hungry. Hearing that great
quantities both of fish and of deer were killed in the village next to
theirs, towards the mountains, the wife went off to buy food there,
taking the child with her. She went to the village next to theirs,
towards the mountains. She went to the house of the chief.

The woman looked and saw fish hanging on poles, and flesh hanging on
poles. With tears she longed for some. She went in, she went in to the
chief's house. Then she stayed there. She was feasted on the best bits
of the fish and on the best bits of the flesh. After that, as she lay
down with her little boy, he rose quietly in the middle of the night.
Then there was the sound of a rat nibbling at the fish and flesh on the
poles. The woman thought it very strange. So at dawn the boy came
quietly back, lay down by the woman's side, and slept there till the day
was bright. The people of the house rose, and the chief went out and
mumbled thus to himself: "Never were there such rats as this. There have
been rats nibbling my good fish and my good flesh."

So the woman bought a quantity of fish and flesh and went off with it.
She wanted the little boy to walk in front of her; but he disliked to do
so. He would only walk after her. Then there was the sound of a rat
nibbling at her load. When she looked back, the little boy was grinning.
So they went on; they went home. Then she put both the fish and the
flesh into the store-house. Then she whispered to her husband. Then her
husband went into the next room, and made a trap. Then the trap was set
in the store-house. Then they went to bed. The little boy lay between
the woman and her husband; but after awhile he quietly rose and went
out. He stayed away, without coming back. Daylight came. On the man of
the house going into the store-house, there was a large rat in the trap.
So he brought it down, beat it to death, and swept it on to the
dust-heap. That night he had a dream. A person of divine aspect spoke to
him thus; "You were childless, and wanting to have a child. The most
wicked of the rats, seeing this, took the shape of a little boy, and
dwelt in your house. For this reason, your village has been polluted.
But as you have now killed the rat, all will now be right. I am sorry
for you, so you shall have a child." Thus did he dream that the god
spoke to him. As it was true, they got a child, though they had been

For this reason, whether it be on the shore or in the mountains or
anywhere else that one finds either a child or a puppy, one should not
let it dwell in one's house without knowing its origin.--(Translated
literally. Told by Penri, 20th July 1886.)

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