The Mongoose Boy

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there was a Raja who had two wives. By his first

wife he had six sons, but the second wife bore only one son and he

was born as a mongoose. When the six sons of the elder wife grew up,

they used to jeer at their mongoose brother and his mother, so the

Raja sent his second wife to live in a separate house. The Mongoose

boy could talk like any man but he never grew bigger than an ordinary

mongoose and hi
name was Lelsing.

One day the Raja called all his sons to him and said that he wished,

before he died, to divide his property among them. But the sons said

that they had rather he did not do so then; they wished to go abroad

and see the world, and if he would give each of them some capital to

start, with, they would go abroad and trade and even if they did not

make much profit they would have the advantage of seeing the world.

So the Raja gave his six sons twenty rupees each to start business

with; but when Lelsing also asked for some money, his brothers jeered

at him and declared that he certainly could not go with them, for

he would only get eaten up by some dog. Lelsing made no answer at

the time but afterwards he went to his father alone and begged again

for some money. At last the Raja, though he scarcely believed that

Lelsing would really go out trading, gave him ten rupees.

The six brothers made everything ready and one morning set out on

their travels, without saying anything to Lelsing. But Lelsing saw them

start and followed after them, and as the brothers were resting in the

middle of the day they looked back and saw Lelsing galloping along to

overtake them. So they all travelled together for three or four days,

till they came to a great jungle and camped on its outskirts. There

they debated how long they should stay away from home and they decided

that they would trade for six months and then go back.

The next morning they entered the jungle, and as they travelled through

it, the six brothers managed to give Lelsing the slip, so that when

they came out of the forest they found themselves at Nilam bazar, but

Lelsing after wandering about for some time came out at Sujan bazar.

The six brothers bought sun-horses at Nilam bazar, and began to

trade. But Lelsing at Sujan bazar looked about for someone who would

engage him as a servant. No one would employ a mongoose, and Lelsing

was in despair, for he had very little money. At last he began to

enquire whether anyone would sell him a cheap horse, and learnt that

the horse market was at Nilam bazar; so he went to Nilam bazar and

there found his brothers trading, but he did not make himself known

to them. He tried to buy a horse but they were all too highly priced

for him, so at last he had to be content with buying a donkey for

three rupees and some articles to trade with.

When the six months expired, the brothers went home; and a little after

them came Lelsing, leading his donkey, his brothers laughed at him

but the Raja did not laugh; and Lelsing showed his father and mother

what profits he had made by his trading, which his brothers declined

to do. The Raja was pleased with Lelsing for this and declared that,

in spite of his shape, he was a man and a Raja. It only made his

brothers more angry with him to hear Lelsing praised.

Two or three years later there was a famine in the land. Lelsing

foresaw it and he dug a large hole in the floor of his house and buried

in it all the grain on which he could lay his hand. The famine grew

severe, but Lelsing and his mother always had enough to eat from their

private store. But his brothers were starving and their children cried

from want of food. Lelsing had pity on them and sent his mother with

some rice for them to eat. The Raja and his sons were amazed that

Lelsing should have rice to give away, and they went to his house

to see how much he had; but they found the house apparently empty,

for they did not know of the store buried in the ground. Puzzled

and jealous the brothers made up their minds to burn down Lelsing's

house. So one night they set fire to it, and it was burnt to ashes:

the store buried in the ground was however uninjured.

Lelsing put the ashes of his house into sacks and, loading them on

his donkey, set out to sell them. As he found no buyers, he rested for

the night under a tree by the road side. Presently a band of merchants

with well loaded pack-bullocks came to the place. "You must not camp

here" called out Lelsing to them "I have two sacks of gold coin here

and you may take an opportunity to steal them. If you are honest men,

you will go to a distance." So the merchants camped a little way off,

but in the middle of the night they came and carried off Lelsing's

sacks, leaving two of their own in their place, and hurried on their

way. In the morning Lelsing made haste to carry home the sacks which

had been changed, and when he came to open them he found them full

of rice and rupees. He sent his mother to borrow a measure from his

brothers with which to measure the rupees; and when he returned it,

he sent it to them full of rupees.

His brothers came running to know where he had found so much money. "I

got it by selling the ashes of my house" said Lelsing "and it is a

pity that I had only one house; if I had had more houses, I should

have had more ashes, and should have got more money still." On hearing

this the brothers at once made up their mind to burn their own houses,

and take the ashes for sale. But when they did so and took the ashes

for sale from village to village they were only laughed at for their

pains, and in the end had to throw away the ashes and come back empty

handed. They were very angry at the trick which Lelsing had played

on them and decided to kill him and his mother; but when they went

to the house to do the murder, Lelsing happened to be away from home

and so they were only able to kill his mother.

When Lelsing came home he found his mother lying dead. He placed the

body on his donkey and carried it off to burn it on the banks of the

Ganges. As he went, he saw a large herd of paek bullocks coming along

the road. He quickly propped the body of his mother against a tree

which grew by the road and himself climbed into its branches, and when

the bullocks came up he began to call out "Take care, take care: you

will have my sick mother trampled to death." But the drivers were too

far behind to hear what he said. When they came up, he climbed down

from the tree and charged them with having allowed their bullocks to

kill his mother. The drivers had no wish to face a charge of murder;

and in the end, to secure their release, they made over to Lelsing

all their bullocks, with the merchandize which they were carrying.

Lelsing threw his mother's corpse into some bushes, and drove the

laden bullocks home. Naturally his brothers wanted to know where he

had got such wealth from, and he explained that it was by selling

the dead body of his mother and he was sorry that he had only one

to dispose of. At once his brothers went and killed all their wives,

and took the corpses away to sell; but no one would buy and they had

to return disappointed.

Another trick that Lelsing played his brothers was this: he used to

mix rupees in the food he gave his donkey, and these passed out in

the droppings; and Lelsing took care that his brothers should know of

it. They found no rupees in the dung of their horses, and consulted

Lelsing as to the reason why. He told them that if they gave their

horses a blow with an axe while they ate their grain, they would

find rupees in the dung. The brothers did as they were advised,

but the only result was that they killed all their horses.

More and more angry, the brothers resolved to kill Lelsing by guile. So

they went to him and said that they had found a wife for him, and

would take him to be married. When the procession was ready, Lelsing

got into a palki. His brothers made the doors of the palki fast and

carried him off towards a deep river, into which they meant to throw

him, palki and all.

When they reached the river, they put the palki down and went to

look for a suitably deep pool. Lelsing found that he was outwitted,

and began to weep and wail. Just then a shepherd came by, driving a

flock of sheep and asked what was the matter. Lelsing cried out that

they were going to marry him against his will, but that anyone who

would take his place in the palki could marry his bride. The shepherd

thought that this would be a great opportunity to get a wife without

spending any money on the marriage, and readily changed places with

Lelsing, who drove away the flock of sheep. The brothers soon came

back and, picking up the paiki, threw it into the river and went home,

thinking that they had at last got rid of Lelsing.

But four or five days later Lelsing appeared, driving a large flock of

sheep. His brothers asked him, in amazement where he had come from,

"You threw me" said Lelsing "into a shallow pool of the river where

there were only sheep, but in the deeper parts there are cattle

and buffaloes as well. I can take you to fetch some of them if you

like. You take your palkis to the bank of the river,--for I cannot

carry you all--and then shut yourselves inside and I will push you

into the water." So the brothers took their palkis to the river side

and shut themselves in, and each called out "Let me have the deepest

place, brother." Then Lelsing pushed them in one by one and they were

all drowned. Then he went home rejoicing at the revenge which he had

taken for their ill treatment of him.