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The Tiger And Ulta's Mother

Source: Santal Folk Tales

A tiger cub was in the habit of playing under the shade of a certain
tree, in which was a crane's nest with a young one in it. The parent
cranes brought frogs and lizards to their young one, and what it could
not eat it used to throw down to the young tiger, and in this way the
two became greatly attached to each other. After a time the tigress
died, and left the cub alone in the world. The young crane felt much
pity for its afflicted friend, and could not bear the thought of
itself being in a better position. So one day it said to the tiger,
"Let us kill my mother." The tiger replied, "Just as you please. I
cannot say do it, nor can I say do not do it." When the mother crane
came to give its young one food, the latter set upon her and killed
her. The friendship between the two increased so that they could
not be separated from each other. Day and night they spent in each
other's society.

After a time the two said, "Come let us make a garden, and plant in it
turmeric." So they prepared a piece of ground, and the crane brought
roots of turmeric from a distance. They then discussed the matter as to
which part of the crop each would take. The crane said to the tiger,
"You, my brother, choose first." The tiger said, "If I must speak
first, I will take the leaves." Then, said the crane, "I will take
the roots." Having settled this point to their satisfaction, they
began to plant. The tiger dug holes, and the crane put in the roots,
and covered them over with earth.

A year passed, and they again said to each other, "Which of us will
take the roots, and which the leaves?" The tiger said, "I will take
the leaves." The crane replied, "I will take the roots." So they began
to dig up the plants, and cutting the leaves from the roots, placed
each by themselves. The tiger collected an immense bulk of leaves,
and the crane a large heap of roots. This done each surveyed the
other's portion. That of the crane was of a beautiful, reddish tinge,
and excited the envy of the tiger, who said to the crane, "Give me half
of yours, and I will give you half of mine." The crane refused, saying,
"I will not share with you. Why did you at first chose the leaves? I
gave you your choice." The tiger insisted, but the crane was obdurate,
and before long they were quarrelling as if they had been lifelong
enemies. The crane seeing it was being worsted in the wrangle, flew in
the face of the tiger, and pecked its eyes, so that it became blind. It
then flew away, and left the tiger lamenting its sad fate. Having lost
its sight it could not find its way about, so remained there weeping.

One day, hearing the voice of a man near by, the tiger called out,
"Oh! man, are you a doctor?" The man stupefied with fear stared at
the tiger, and gave no reply. The tiger again said, "Oh! man, why
do you not reply to my question? Although you are a human being,
have you no pity?" The man then said, "Oh! renowned hero, what did
you ask me? I am terror stricken, so did not reply. You may devour
me." The tiger replied, "If I had wished to kill you, I could have
done so, but I mean you no harm." The tiger again asked the man if he
possessed a knowledge of medicine, but he replied, "I do not." The
tiger then asked, "Is there one amongst you who does know?" The
man replied, "Yes." The tiger enquired, "Who is he?" The man said,
"There is a certain widow with two sons, the name of one of whom is
Ulta, who possesses a knowledge of medicine, she will be able to cure
you." Having given the tiger this information the man went away.

The tiger went to the house of Ulta's mother, and hid himself behind
a hedge. He said within himself, "When I hear any one call Ulta then I
will go forward." Shortly after the tiger arrived Ulta's mother called
Ulta, "Ulta, come to your supper." Then the tiger ran hastily forward,
and cried, "Oh! Ulta's mother, Oh! Ulta's mother." But she was afraid,
and exclaimed, "This tiger has done for us to-day." The tiger said
to the woman, "Do you know medicine?" She replied, "Yes, Wait till
I bring it." So hastily running out she said to her neighbours,
"A tiger has come to my house. He is blind, and wishes me to cure
his blindness." The neighbours said to her, "Give him some of the
juice of the Akauna [20] tree. It will increase his blindness." So
she quickly brought Akauna juice, and giving it to the tiger, said,
"Go to some dense jungle and apply it to your eyes. Do not apply it
here, or it will have no effect. Take it away. We are about to sit
down to supper, and then my children will go to sleep. The medicine
will cause you pain at first, but it will effect a complete cure."

The tiger hurried away to the jungle, and poured the akauna juice
into his eyes. The pain it caused was as if his eyeballs were being
torn out. He tossed himself about in agony, and at last struck his
head against a tree. In a short time, his blindness was gone. He
could see everything plainly, and was delighted beyond expression.

One day several traders were passing along a pathway through the jungle
in which the tiger hunted. He was lying concealed watching for prey,
and when the traders were passing he jumped out upon them. Seeing
the tiger they fled, and left behind them their silver, and gold,
and brass vessels. The tiger collected all and carried them to Ulta's
mother's house, and presenting them to her said, "All this I give to
you, for through you I have again seen the earth. Had it not been for
you, who knows whether I should ever have been cured or not." Ulta's
mother was delighted with the generosity of the tiger. He had made
her rich at once. But she was anxious to get rid of him, and said "Go
away. May you always find a living somewhere." So the tiger returned
to the jungle again.

Sometime afterwards the tiger was minded to take a wife, and sought
his old friend Ulta's mother. On arriving at her house he called out,
"Oh! Ulta's mother, where are you? Are you in your house?" She replied,
"Who are you?" The tiger answered, "It is I, the forest hero. You
cured my blindness." So Ulta's mother came out of her house, and said,
"Wherefore, Sir, have you come here?" "I wish you," replied the tiger,
"to find a bride for me." Ulta's mother said, "Come to-morrow and I
will tell you. Do not stay to-day." So the tiger left.

Ulta's mother then went to her neighbours and said, "The tiger has put
me in a great difficulty. He wishes me to find a bride for him." They
said to her, "Is he not blind?" She replied, "No. He sees now, and it
is that, which distresses me. What can I do?" They said, "Get a bag,
and order him to go into it, and then tie up the mouth tightly, and
tell him to remain still. Say to him, If you move, or make a noise,
I will not seek a bride for you. And when you have him tied securely
in the bag, call us." The next day the tiger appeared, and Ulta's
mother told him to get into the bag, and allow her to tie it. So he
went in, and she tied the bag's mouth, and said, "You must not move,
lie still, or I shall not be your go-between." Having secured him,
Ulta's mother called her neighbours, who came armed with clubs,
and began to beat the helpless animal. He called out, "Oh! Ulta's
mother, what are you doing?" She said, "Keep quiet. They are beating
the marriage drums. Lie still a little longer." The tiger remained
motionless, while they continued to beat him. At length they said,
"He must be dead now, let us throw him out." So they carried him to
a river, and having thrown him in, returned home.

The current bore the tiger far down the river, but at length he
stranded in a cove. A short time afterwards a tigress came down to
the river to drink and seeing the bag, and thinking it might contain
something edible she seized it and dragged it up on to the bank. The
tigress then cut the bag open with her teeth, and the tiger sprang out,
exclaiming, "Of a truth she has given me a bride. Ulta's mother has
done me a good turn, and I shall remember her as long as I live." The
tiger and the tigress being of one mind on the subject agreed never
to separate.

One day the two tigers said "Come let us go and pay a visit to Ulta's
mother, who has proved so helpful to us. As we cannot go empty handed,
let us rob some one to get money to take with us." So they went and
lay in wait near a path which passed through the forest in which they
lived. Presently a party of merchants came up, and the tigers with
a loud roar sprang from their ambush on to the road. The merchants
seeing them, fled, and left behind them all their property in money
and cloth. Those they carried to Ulta's mother. When she saw the
tigers approaching her throat became dry through terror.

Before entering the court-yard they called out to Ulta's mother
announcing their approach. Ulta's mother addressed the tiger thus,
"Why do you come here frightening one in this way?" The tiger replied,
"There is no fear. It is I who am afraid of you. Why should you
dread my coming? It was you who found this partner for me. Do you
not yet know me?" Ulta's mother replied, "What can you do Sir? Do
you not remember that we give and receive gifts on the Karam festival
day? On the days for giving and receiving, we give and receive. Now,
that you are happily wedded, may you live in peace and comfort;
but do not come here again."

The tiger then gave Ulta's mother a large amount of money and much
cloth, after which the two tigers took their leave, and Ulta's mother
entered her house loaded with rupees and clothing.

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