The Monkey Nursemaid

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there were seven brothers who were all married and

each had one child and the brothers arranged to engage a boy to carry

the children about; so they sent for a boy and to see if he was strong

enough, they made a loaf as big as a door and they told the boy to take

it away and eat it; but he was not strong enough to lift it; so they

told him that he could not carry their children. Now a Hanuman monkey

looking on from the top of a tree, and he came down and carried

off the loaf and ate it. Thereupon the mothers engaged him to carry

the children, and he used to carry the whole seven about on his back.

One day the children were running about the house and kept interfering

with their mothers' work, and the mothers scolded the monkey for not

keeping them out of the way. Then the monkey got sulky and carried

off the children to a distant hill and did not bring them back at

evening. So the mothers got very anxious, but the villagers laughed

at them for engaging a monkey, instead of a human being, to look

after the children.

When the mothers heard that the monkey had taken the children to

the hill, they were still more unhappy, for in the hill lived a

rakhas (ogre) but it was too late to go in search of them that

night. Meanwhile the monkey for fear of the rakhas had carried the

children up to the top of a palm tree and when the rakhas spied

them out he tried to climb the tree, but the monkey drove him away

by throwing the palm fruit at him.

However the monkey was really in a fix, for he was sure that the Rakhas

would return, and he knew that if he let the children be eaten, their

parents would make him pay for it with his life. So he went off to a

blacksmith and bought sharp knives and tied them on to the trunk of the

palm tree: and when the Rakhas came back and tried to climb the tree,

he was so badly cut by the knives, that he fell down to the ground with

a thud and lay there groaning. Then the monkey cautiously descended and

the Rakhas begged him to cure his wounds; the monkey answered that he

would cure him if he gave him complete outfits for the children. The

Rakhas said that he would give them directly he was cured. So the

monkey applied some medicines and recited the following spells:--

"Rustling, rustling sesamum,

Slender sesamum:

Tell your grandfather,

Tell him of seven waist strings.

Rustling, rustling sesamum,

Slender sesamum:

Tell your grandfather,

Tell him of seven dhotis."

And in succeeding verses, he mentioned seven coats, seven pair of

shoes, seven hats, seven swords, seven horses, and seven hogs; and as

he repeated the incantation he blew on the Rakhas, and he was healed.

The Rakhas was to give the things mentioned in the incantation, but

when seven hogs were mentioned he objected and wished only to give one,

and in the end the monkey agreed to be content with two; so the Rakhas

departed and the next day appeared with seven waist strings, seven

dhoties, seven coats, seven hats, seven pairs of shoes, seven swords,

seven horses and two hogs. Then the monkey rigged the children out in

this apparel and mounted them on the horses; and the monkey and the

Rakhas mounted on the two hogs,--the Rakhas having faithfully promised

not to eat the children or their parents,--and they all set out for

the children's home. When the mothers saw the cavalcade come jingling

along, they were frightened at first; but when they recognised their

children they were delighted, and they gave the monkey and Rakhas a

good dinner. Then the monkey made over the children to their parents

and gave up his post as nurse, and left amid the good wishes of all.