Ledha And The Leopard

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time a boy named Ledha was tending cattle with other

boys at the foot of a hill, and these boys in fun used to call out

"Ho, leopard: Ho, leopard," and the echo used to answer from the hill

"Ho, leopard." Now there really was a leopard who lived in the hill

and one day he was playing hide and seek with a lizard which also

lived there. The lizard hid and the leopard looked every where for

it in vain. At last
the leopard sat down to rest and it chanced that

he sat right on top of the lizard which was hiding in a hole. The

lizard thought that the leopard meant to hurt it and in revenge bit

him and fastened on to his rump so that he could not get it off,

so that day when the boys came calling out "Ho, leopard," he ran

towards them to get their help: but when they saw the leopard they

all fled for their lives. Ledha however could not run fast because

he was lame, and the leopard headed him off and begged him to remove

the lizard. This he did after the leopard had sworn not to eat him,

and before they parted the leopard made him promise to tell no one

that the lizard had bitten him, and said that if he told then he would

be carried off and eaten. So Ledha rejoined his companions and told

them nothing of what had passed between him and the leopard. But that

night when they had all gone to bed, Ledha's sister-in-law began to

worry him to tell her what the leopard had said to him, when it had

caught him. He told her that the leopard would eat him if he told,

but she coaxed him and said that no one could hear them inside the

house; so at last he told her that he had taken off a lizard which

was hanging on to its rump. Then they went to sleep; but the leopard

was hiding at the back of the house and heard all that they said;

and when they were all asleep, he crept in and carried off Ledha's bed

with Ledha in it on his head. When Ledha woke up towards morning, he

found himself being carried through dense jungle and he quietly pulled

himself up into one of the trees which overhung the path. Thus when

the leopard put down the bed and was going to eat Ledha, he found it

empty. So he went back on his track and by and bye came to the tree

in which Ledha was hiding. The leopard begged Ledha to come down,

as he had something to say to him, and promised not to eat him; but

directly Ledha reached the ground the leopard said "Now I am going to

eat you." Ledha was powerless, so he only asked to be allowed to have

one chew of tobacco before he died; the leopard assented and Ledha

felt in his cloth for his tobacco, but the tobacco did not come out

easily and as Ledha felt about for it the dry tobacco leaves crackled;

the leopard asked what the crackling sound was, and Ledha said "That

is the lizard which bit you yesterday;" then the leopard got into a

terrible fright and ran away as hard as he could, calling out "Don't

let it loose: Don't let it loose."

So Ledha was saved from the leopard, but he did not know his way out

of the jungle. He wandered about, till he came to the place where the

wild buffaloes used to sleep at night, and he swept up the place and

made it clean and then took refuge in a hollow tree; he stayed there

some days, sweeping up the place daily and supporting himself on the

fruit of a fig-tree. At last one day the buffaloes left one cow behind

to watch and see who it was who swept up their sleeping place. The cow

pretended to be too ill to rise, and Ledha after watching for some

time came out and swept the ground as usual, and then tried to pull

the sick cow up by the tail; but she would not move so he went back to

his hollow tree. When the buffaloes returned they heard that it was a

kindhearted man who cleaned their sleeping place; so they called Ledha

out and said that they would keep him as their servant to clean their

sleeping place and to scrub them when they bathed in the river; they

made him taste the milk of all the cows and appointed the cow whose

milk he liked best to supply him. Thenceforward he used to wander

about with the buffaloes and he made a flute and used to play on it.

One day after scrubbing the buffaloes he washed his head in the river

and some of his hairs came out; so he wrapped them up in a leaf and

set the packet to float down the stream. Lower down the stream two

princesses were bathing with their attendants, and when they saw

the packet they tried who could fish it out and it was the younger

princess who caught it. Then they measured the hairs and found them

twelve cubits long. The princess who had taken the packet from the

water went home and took to her bed and said that she would not

eat until the man was found to whom the hairs belonged. Her father,

the Raja, sent messengers in all directions to search for the man

but they could not find him. Then he sent a parrot and the parrot

flew up high and looking down saw Ledha with the buffaloes in the

forest; but it did not dare to go near, so the parrot returned and

told the Raja that the man was in the forest but that no messenger

could approach for fear of the wild buffaloes. However a crow said,

"I can bring him if any one can," so they sent the crow and it went

and perched on the backs of the buffaloes and began to peck them;

then Ledha threw stones at it, but it would not go away; then he threw

a stick at it and last of all he threw his flute. The crow caught up

the flute and flew up to a tree with it. Ledha ran after it, but the

crow kept flying on a short distance and Ledha still pursued until he

came to the Raja's city. The crow flew on till it entered the room

where the princess lay, and dropped the flute into the hands of the

princess. Ledha followed right into the room and they shut him in

and the princess gave him his flute after he had promised to marry her.

So he stayed there a long time, but meanwhile the buffaloes all got

weak and ill for want of some one to look after them. One day Ledha

set off to the jungle with his wife to see them and when he saw how

ill the buffaloes were, he decided to build a house in the jungle

and live there. And the Raja sent them money and horses and cattle

and elephants and servants and they built a palace and Ledha subdued

all the jungle and became a great Raja; and he made a highway to his

father-in-law's home and used to go to and fro on it.