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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 503


The Jealous Stepmother

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

There was once a man whose wife died leaving him with one son and after a year he married again. The second wife was very jealous of the son and she told her husband that she would not stay with him unless he killed the boy; at first he refused but she insisted and then he said that he was frightened to do the deed, but she might kill the boy herself if she liked. She said, “No: he is your son and you must kill him; if he were mine I would do it. You need not be frightened; when you take him out ploughing make him drive the front plough, and you sharpen your plough pole to a point and drive it into him from behind and kill him and then it will seem to be an accident.” So the man promised and made a sharp point to his plough pole but whenever they ploughed, the son drove his plough so fast that the father could not catch him up and so the boy was not killed; then the woman abused her husband and said that he was deceiving her. So he promised to finish the business the next day and told her to give the boy a good hot breakfast before they started, so that he might receive one last kindness, and he said that they must find some other way of killing him because all the ploughing was finished; but his wife told him he could plough down their crop of goondli, the bullocks would stop to eat the goondli as they went along and so he would easily catch up his son. Accordingly the next morning father and son took out the ploughs and the boy asked where they should plough, and the father said that they would plough down the field of goondli. But the boy said “Why should we do that? it is a good crop and will be ripe in a day or two; it is too late to sow again, we shall lose this crop and who knows whether we shall get anything in its place?”

And the father thought ‘What the boy says is true; the first crop is like the first child, if I kill him who will support me in my old age? Who knows whether my second wife will have children. I will not kill him however angry she be;’ so they unyoked their ploughs and went home. He told his wife that he would not kill the boy and scolded her and ended by giving her a beating. Then she ran away in a passion but he did not trouble to go and look for her and in a few days her father and brothers brought her back, and her husband told them what had happened and they also scolded her and told her to mend her ways.

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