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C. F. F

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THE GRAIN OF CORN

ONCE upon a time a farmer's wife was winnowing corn, when a crow, flying past, swooped off with a grain from the winnowing basket and perched on a tree close by to eat it. The farmer's wife, greatly enraged, flung a clod at the bird with so good an aim that the crow fell to the ground, dropping the grain of corn, which rolled into a crack in the tree. The farmer's wife, seeing the crow fall, ran up to it, and seizing it by the tail, cried, 'Give me back my grain of corn, or I will kill you!'

The wretched bird, in fear of death, promised to do so, but, lo and behold! when he came to search for the grain, it had rolled so far into the crack that neither by beak nor claw could he reach it.

So he flew off to a woodman, and said

'Man! man! cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the woodman refused to cut the tree; so the crow flew on to the King's palace, and said

'King! king! kill man;

Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the King refused to kill the man; so the crow flew on to the Queen, and said

'Queen! Queen! coax King;
King won't kill man;
Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the Queen refused to coax the King; so the crow flew on till he met a snake, and said

'Snake! snake! bite Queen;
Queen won't coax King;
King won't kill man;
Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the snake refused to bite the Queen; so the crow flew on till he met a stick, and said

'Stick! stick! beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man:
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the stick refused to beat the snake; so the crow flew on till he saw a fire, and said

    'Fire! fire! burn stick;
     Stick won't beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man;
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the fire refused to burn the stick; so the crow flew on till he met some water, and said

    'Water! water! quench fire;
     Fire won't burn stick;
     Stick won't beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man;
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the water refused to quench the fire; so the crow flew on till he met an ox, and said

    'Ox! ox! drink water;
     Water won't quench fire;
     Fire won't burn stick;
     Stick won't beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man;
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the ox refused to drink the water; so the crow flew on till he met a rope, and said

    'Rope! rope! bind ox;
     Ox won't drink water;
     Water won't quench fire;
     Fire won't burn stick;
     Stick won't beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man;
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the rope wouldn't bind the ox; so the crow flew on till he met a mouse, and said

    'Mouse! mouse! gnaw rope;
     Rope won't bind ox;
     Ox won't drink water;
     Water won't quench fire;
     Fire won't burn stick;
     Stick won't beat snake;
     Snake won't bite Queen;
     Queen won't coax King;
     King won't kill man;
     Man won't cut tree;
I can't get the grain of corn
To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

But the mouse wouldn't gnaw the rope; so the crow flew on until he met a cat, and said 'Cat! cat! catch mouse;

Mouse won't gnaw rope;

Rope won't bind ox;

Ox won't drink water;

Water won't quench fire;

Fire won't burn stick;

Stick won't beat snake;

Snake won't bite Queen;

Queen won't coax King;

King won't kill man;

Man won't cut tree;

And I can't get the grain of corn

To save my life from the farmer's wife!'[1]

The moment the cat heard the name of mouse, she was after it; for the world will come to an end before a cat will leave a mouse alone.

'So the cat began to catch the mouse,

The mouse began to gnaw the rope,

The rope began to bind the ox,

The ox began to drink the water,

The water began to quench the fire,

The fire began to burn the stick,

The stick began to beat the snake,

The Queen began to coax the King,

The King began to kill the man,

The man began to cut the tree;

So the crow got the grain of corn,

And saved his life from the farmer's wife!'[2]



[1] In the original they were

Phir gîâ billî ke pâs,
'Billî, rî billî, mûsâ khâogî?
Khâtî khûnd pâr nâ!
Khûnd chanâ de nâ!
Râjâ khâtî dande nâ!
Râjâ rânî russe nâ!
Sapnâ rânî dase nâ!
Lâthî sapnâ mâre nâ!
Âg lâthî jalâve nâ!
Samundar âg bujhâve nâ!
Hâthî samundar sukhe nâ!
Nâre hâthî bandhe nâ!
Mûsâ nâre kâte nâ!
Lûngâ phir chorûn nâ
!'

 

He then went to the cat (saying),
'Cat, cat, eat mouse,
Woodman won't cut tree!
Tree won't give peas!
King won't beat woodman!
Queen won't storm at king!
Snake won't bite queen!
Stick won't beat snake!
Fire won't burn stick!
Sea won't quench fire!
Elephant won't drink up sea!
Thong won't bind elephant!
Mouse won't nip thong!
I'll take (the pea) yet, I won't let it go
!'

It will be seen that in the text the order has been transposed for obvious literary convenience.

[2] In the original these are

Usne kahâ, 'Lap, lap, khâûngî!'
Phir gîâ mûsâ ke pâs, 'Mûsâ, re mûsâ, ab khâ jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî nâre katenge.'
Phir gîâ nâre ke pâs, 'Nâre, re nâre, ab kâte jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî hâthî bandhenge.'
Phir gîâ hâthî ke pâs, 'Hâthî, re hâthî, ab bandhe jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî samundar sûkhenge.'
Phir gîâ samundar ke pâs, 'Samundar, re samundar, ab sukhe jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî âg bujhâenge.'
Phir gîâ âg ke pâs, 'Âg, rî âg, ab bujhâî jâogî ?' 'Ham bhî lâthî jalâvenge.'
Phir gîâ lâthî ke pâs, 'Lâthî, re lâthî, ab jal jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî sâmp mârenge.'
Phir gîâ sâmp ke pâs, 'Sâmp, re sâmp, ab mâre jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî rânî dasenge.'
Phir gîâ rânî ke pâs, 'Rânî, rî rânî, ab dasî jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî râjâ rusenge.'
Phir gîâ râjâ ke pâs, 'Râjâ, re râjâ, ab rânî rus jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî khâtî dândenge.'
Phir gîâ khâtî ke pâs, 'Khâtî, re khâtî, ab dande jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî khund kâtenge.'
Phir gîâ khund ke pâs, 'Khund, re khund, ab khâte jâoge ?' 'Ham bhî chanâ denge.'
Phir woh chanâ lekar chalâ gîâ
?

 

The cat said, 'I will eat him up at once!'
(So) he went to the mouse, 'Mouse, mouse, will you be eaten?' 'I will gnaw the thong.'
He went to the thong, 'Thong, thong, will you be gnawed?' 'I will bind the elephant.'
He went to the elephant, 'Elephant, elephant, will you be bound?' 'I will drink up the ocean.'
He went to the ocean, 'Ocean, ocean, will you be drunk up?' 'I will quench the fire.'
He went to the fire, 'Fire, fire, will you be quenched?' 'I will burn the stick.'
He went to the stick, 'Stick, stick, will you be burnt?' 'I will beat the snake.'
He went to the snake, 'Snake, snake, will you be beaten?' 'I will bite the queen.'
He went to the queen, 'Queen, queen, will you be bitten?' 'I will storm at the king.'
He went to the king, 'King, king, will you be stormed at by the queen?' 'I will beat the woodman.'
He went to the woodman, 'Woodman, woodman, will you be beaten?' 'I will cut down the trunk.'
He went to the trunk, 'Trunk, trunk, will you be cut down?' 'I will give you the pea.'
So he got the pea and went away
.