The Strong Man

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a Strong man but no one knew of his strength. He was in

the service of a farmer who made him headman over all his labourers. In

those days much of the country was still covered with jungle. One

day the farmer chose a piece of forest land which he thought suitable

for cultivation and told his labourers to set to work and clear it,

and as usual after giving his orders he troubled himself no more

about the
atter, as he could fully rely on the Strong man.

The next morning, the Strong man set the other labourers to work

ploughing a field and then said that he would go and have a look

at the jungle which his master wanted cleared. So he went off alone

with only a stick in his hand. When he reached the place, he walked

all round it, and saw how much could be made into good arable land,

and then he began to clear it. He pulled up the trees by the roots and

piled them into a heap and he took the rocks and threw them to one side

and made the ground quite clear and smooth, and then went back to the

house. On being asked why he had been so long away, he answered that he

had been pulling up a few bushes at the place which was to be cleared.

The following morning the Strong man told the farm labourers to take

their ploughs to the clearing and begin to plough it. When the farmer

heard this, he was puzzled to think how the land could be ready for

ploughing so soon, and went to see it and to his amazement found the

whole land cleared, every tree pulled up by the roots and all the

rocks removed.

Then he asked the Strong man whether he had done the work by

himself. The Strong man answered "no," a number of people had

volunteered to help him and so the work had been finished in a day.

The farmer said nothing but he did not believe the story and saw that

his servant must really be a man of marvellous strength. Neither

he nor the farm labourers let any one else know what had happened,

they kept it to themselves.

Now the Strong man's wages were twelve measures of rice a year. After

working for four years he made up his mind to leave his master and

start farming on his own account. So he told the farmer that he wished

to leave but offered to finish any work there was to do before he went,

that no one might be able to say that he had gone away, leaving his

work half done. The farmer assured him that there was nothing for

him to do and gave him rice equal to his four years' wages. The rice

made two big bandis, each more than an ordinary man could lift,

but the Strong man slung them on to a bamboo and carried them off

over his shoulder.

After he had gone a little way, it struck the farmer that it would

not do to let him display his strength in this way and that it would

be better if he took the rice away at night. So he had the Strong man

called back and told him that there was one job which he had forgotten

to finish; he had put two bundles of sahai grass into the trough to

steep and had forgotten to twist it into string. Without a word the

Strong man wait and picked the sabai out of the water and began

to twist it, but he could tell at once by the feel that the sabai

had only just been placed in the water and he charged the farmer with

playing a trick on him. The farmer swore that there was no trick and,

rather than quarrel, the Strong man went on with the work.

While he was so engaged the farmer offered him some tobacco, and the

Strong man took it without washing and wiping his hands. Now no one

should prepare or chew tobacco while twisting sabai; if one does not

first wash and dry one's hands one's strength will go. The Strong

man knew this, but he was so angry at being called back on false

pretences that he forgot all about it.

But when he had finished the string and the farmer said that he might

go, he essayed to take up the two bandis of rice as before. To his

sorrow he found that he could not lift them. Then he saw the mistake

that he had made. He had to leave one bandi behind and divide the

other into two halves and sling them on the bamboo and carry them

off with him.

The Strong man's cultivation did not prosper, and after three or four

years he found himself at the end of his means and had again to take

service with a farmer.

One day when field work was in full swing the Strong man had a quarrel

with his new master. So when he had finished the morning's ploughing

he pulled the iron point of the ploughshare out of its socket and

snapped it in two. Then he took the pieces to his master and explained

that it had caught on the stump of a tree and got broken. The master

took the broken share to the blacksmith and had it mended. The next

day the Strong man went through the same performance and his master

had again to go the blacksmith. The same thing happened several days

running, till at last the farmer decided to keep watch and see what

really happened. So he hid himself and saw the Strong man snap the

ploughshare in two; but in view of such a display of strength he was

much too frightened to let his servant know that he had found out

the trick that was being played on him. He took the pieces to the

blacksmith as usual and at the smithy he found some of his friends

and told them what had happened. They advised him to set the Strong

man to twisting sabai string and then by some pretext induce him to

take tobacco. The farmer did as they advised and in about a fortnight

the Strong man lost all his strength and became as other men. Then

his master dismissed him and he had to go back to his house and his

strength never returned to him.