How The Ox Came To Be The Servant Of Man

: Folk-tales Of The Khasis

When mankind first came to live upon the earth, they committed many

blunders, for they were ignorant and wasteful, not knowing how to

shift for themselves, and having no one to teach them. The Deity who

was watching their destinies saw their misfortunes and pitied them,

for he saw that unless their wastefulness ceased they would perish

of want when they multiplied and became numerous in the world. So

the Deity called t
him the ox, who was a strong and patient animal,

and sent him as a messenger to mankind, to bless them, and to show

them how to prosper.

The ox had to travel a long way in the heat, and was much worried by

the flies that swarmed round his path and the small insects that clung

to his body and sucked his blood. Then a crow alighted on his back

and began to peck at the insects, upon which it loved to feed; this

eased the ox greatly, and he was very pleased to see the crow, and he

told her where he was going, as a messenger from the Deity to mankind.

The crow was very interested when she heard this, and questioned him

minutely about the message he had been sent to deliver, and the ox

told her all that he had been commanded to say to mankind--how he was

to give them the blessing of the Deity and to warn them not to waste

the products of the earth lest they died of want. They must learn to

be thrifty and careful so that they might live to be old and wise,

and they were to boil only sufficient rice for each meal, so as not

to waste their food.

When the crow heard this she was much disturbed, for she saw that

there would be no leavings for the crows if mankind followed these

injunctions. So she said to the ox, "Will you repay my kindness to you

in destroying the insects that worry you by giving a message like that

to mankind to deprive me of my accustomed spoil?" She begged of him to

teach mankind to cook much rice always, and to ordain many ceremonies

to honour their dead ancestors by offering rice to the gods, so that

the crows and the other birds might have abundance to eat. Thus,

because she had eased his torments, the ox listened to her words,

and when he came to mankind he delivered only part of the message of

the Deity, and part of the message of the crow.

When the time came for the ox to return, a great fear overcame

him as he approached the abode of the Deity, for he saw that he had

greatly trespassed and that the Deity would be wrathful. In the hope of

obtaining forgiveness, he at once confessed his wrong-doing, how he had

been tempted by the crow, and had delivered the wrong message. This

confession did not mitigate the anger of the Deity, for he arose,

and, with great fury, he struck the ox such a blow on the mouth that

all his upper teeth fell out, and another blow behind the ribs which

made a great hollow there, and he drove the disobedient animal from

his presence, to seek pasture and shelter wherever he could find them.

After this the ox came back sorrowfully to mankind, and for food and

for shelter he offered to become their servant; and, because he was

strong and patient, mankind allowed him to become their servant.

Ever since he was struck by the Deity the ox has had no teeth in

the upper jaw, and the hollow behind his ribs remains to this day;

it can never be filled up, however much grass and grain he eats,

for it is the mark of the fist of the Deity.