The Speaking Crab

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a farmer who kept a labourer and a field woman to do

the work of the farm; and they were both very industrious and worked

as if they were working on their own account and not for a master.

Once at the time of transplanting rice, they were so busy that they

stayed in the fields all day and had their meals there and did not

go home till the evening. During this time it happened that the man

d unyoked his plough bullocks and taking his hoe began to dress the

embankment of the field, and as he dug, he dug out a very large crab;

so he plucked some leaves from the bushes and wrapped the crab in

them and fetching the yoke rope from the plough, he tied the bundle

up tightly with it and put it on the stump of a tree, intending to

take it home in the evening; but when he went home he forgot about it.

Now the crab was alive and in the middle of the night it began to

struggle to get out, but could not free itself. It happened that just

then the farmer was walking in the field to see that no one came to

steal his rice seedlings, and the crab began to sing:--

"This servant, this servant, father,

And this maidservant, this maidservant, father,

Caught me while digging the bank:

And in leaves, leaves, father,

With the yoke rope, yoke rope, father

Tied me and left me on the stump."

At this sound the farmer was very frightened, and puzzled also;

for he thought, "If this were a human being crying, every one in

the neighbourhood would have heard and woke up, but it seems that

I alone am able to hear the sound; who can it be who is talking

about my servants?" So he went back to bed and told no one. The next

morning when the labourer looked for his yoke ropes, he missed one;

and then he remembered that he had used it to tie up the crab; so he

went to the place and found his rope. When his master brought them

their breakfast that day and they had finished eating, the labourer

began to tell how he had lost one of the yoke ropes and had found

it again: and how he had used it for tying up the crab which he had

found. The master asked whether the crab was alive or dead; and the

labourer said that it was dead.

Then the master said "My man you have done a very foolish thing;

why did you tie it up alive? Last night I could not sleep for its

crying. Why did you imprison the innocent creature until it died?" And

he told them the song it had sung, and forbade them ever to cause

such pain to living creatures. He said "Kill them outright or you will

bring disgrace on me; when I heard the lament I thought it was a man,

but now I learn from you that it was a crab. I forbid you ever to do

the like again." And at the time of the Sohrai festival the farmer

called together all his household and sang them the song and explained

its meaning to them, and the men who heard it remember it to this day.