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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 559


Spanling and His Uncles

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

There was once a little man named Spanling (Bita) because he was only a span (Bita) high; and he had a beard one span and four finger-breadths long. His father was dead, and he lived alone with his mother and he was as cunning as anyone in the world. He had one cow-buffalo and this he always grazed at night, for fear that the sun might melt it. Once it happened that as he was following his buffalo, he got buried in its droppings and he was so small that he could not get out.

However, next morning, some girls, who were gathering cowdung for fuel, found him and set him free. Spanling decided to get rid of the buffalo after this; so he killed it and flayed it and when the skin was dry, took it away to sell. Before he found a purchaser night came on, so he climbed a tree with his hide to be out of danger. During the night a gang of thieves came to the tree, and began to divide their booty. While there were busy over this, Spanling let the hide fall with a clatter into their midst, and they all ran away in a fright, leaving all their stolen goods behind.

When day dawned, Spanling climbed down and found piles of gold waiting for him. He took it home and sent his mother to borrow a wooden measure from his uncles to measure it with. When he returned the measure, one of the gold pieces was left sticking in a crack. His uncles at once hastened to enquire how he came to be measuring gold. Spanling told them that he had sold his buffalo skin at a town which he named, for an enormous price and no doubt they could find the same market, if they chose to kill their buffaloes. The uncles hurried home and killed all their buffaloes and took the hides to the city, which Spanling had named, but they were only laughed at when they asked more than the price which was paid every day for hides. The uncles came home very angry at the way in which they had been tricked by Spanling, and in revenge they burnt his house down. Finding himself homeless, Spanling gathered the ashes of his house into sacks, loaded them on a cart and drove away. When evening came he camped by the roadside in company with some other carters and, in the middle of the night, he quietly changed his sacks of ashes for some of the sacks in the other carts. When he got home he found that the sacks which he had stolen were full of gold coins. He again sent to his uncles for a measure and when the measure was returned a gold coin was again left sticking in a crack. The uncles at once came to enquire how Spanling had got the money. He told them that he had sold the ashes of his house for gold and, as their houses were bigger than his, they would doubtless make their fortunes if they burnt them down and sold the ashes. The uncles took his advice but when they tried to sell the ashes they were only laughed at for their pains.

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