The Boy And His Stepmother

: Santal Folk Tales

A certain boy had charge of a cow which he used to tend while

grazing. One day the cow said to him, "How is it that you are becoming

so emaciated?" The boy replied, "My stepmother does not give me

sufficient food." The cow then said to him, "Do not tell any one,

and I will give you food. Go to the jungle and get leaves with which

to make a plate and cup." The boy did as he was ordered, and behold,

the cow from one horn
shook boiled rice into the leaf plate, and from

the other a relish for the rice into the cup. This continued daily

for a considerable time, until the boy became sleek and fat.

The stepmother came to know of the relation which existed between

the cow and her herd-boy, and to be revenged upon them she feigned

illness. To her attendants she said, "I cannot possibly live." They

asked, "What would make you live?" She replied, "If you kill the cow,

I will recover." They said, "If killing the cow will cure you, we will

kill it." The boy hearing that the life of the cow which supplied

him with food was threatened, ran to her and said, "They are about

to kill you." Hearing this the cow said, "You go and make a rope of

rice straw, make some parts thick, and some thin, and put it in such a

place as they can easily find it. When they are about to kill me, you

seize hold of my tail and pull." The next day they proceeded to make

arrangements to kill the cow, and finding the rope prepared by the boy

the day before, they tied her with it to a stake. After she was tied

the boy laid hold of her tail, and pulled so that the rope by which

she was secured was made taut. A man now raised an axe, and felled

her by a blow on the forehead. As the cow staggered the rope broke,

and she and the boy were borne away on the wind, and alighted in an

unexplored jungle. From the one cow other cows sprang, in number equal

to a large herd, and from them another large herd was produced. The boy

then drove his two herds of cows to a place where they could graze, and

afterwards took them to the river to drink. The cows having quenched

their thirst, lay down to rest, and the boy bathed, and afterwards

combed and dressed his hair. During this latter operation a hair from

his head fell into the river, and was carried away by the current.

Some distance lower down, a princess with her female companions and

attendants came to bathe. While the princess was in the water she

noticed the hair floating down stream, and ordered some one to take it

out, which when done they measured, and found it to be twelve cubits

long. The princess on returning home went to the king, her father,

and showing him the hair she had found in the river said, "I have made

up my mind to marry the man to whom this hair belonged." The king gave

his consent, and commanded his servants to search for the object of his

daughter's affection. They having received the king's command went to

a certain barber and said to him, "You dress the hair and beards of

all the men in this part of the country, tell us where the man with

hair twelve cubits long is to be found." The barber, after many days,

returned unsuccessful. The king's servants after a long consultation

as to whom they should next apply to, decided upon laying the matter

before a tame parrot belonging to the king. Going to the parrot they

said, "Oh parrot, can you find the man whose hair is twelve cubits

long?" The parrot replied, "Yes, I can find him." After flying here

and there the parrot was fortunate enough to find the boy. It was

evening, and having driven his two herds of cattle into their pen,

he had sat down, and was employed in dressing his long hair. His

flute was hanging on a bush by his side.

The parrot sat awhile considering how she might take him to the king's

palace. Seeing the flute the idea was suggested to her, that by means

of it she might contrive to lead him where she desired. So taking it up

in her beak, she flew forward a little and alighted in a small bush. To

regain possession of his flute the boy followed, but on his approach

the bird flew away, and alighted on another bush a short distance

ahead. In this way she continued to lead him by flying from bush to

bush until at length she brought him to the king's palace. He was then

brought before his majesty, and his hair measured, and found to be

twelve cubits in length. The king then ordered food to be set before

him, and after he was refreshed the betrothal ceremony was performed.

As it was now late they prevailed upon him to pass the night as the

guest of the king. Early in the morning he set out, but, as he had

a long distance to go, the day was far advanced before he reached

the place where his cattle were. They were angry at having been kept

penned up to so late an hour, and as he removed the bars to let them

out, they knocked him down, and trampled upon his hair in such a way,

as to pull it all out leaving him bald. Nothing daunted, he collected

his cows, and started on his return journey, but us he drove them

along, one after another vanished, so that only a few remained when

he reached the king's palace.

On his arrival they noticed that he had lost all his hair, and on being

questioned he related to the king all that had fallen him. His hair

being gone the princess refused to marry him, so instead of becoming

the king's son-in-law, he became one of his hired servants.