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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 560


The Silent Wife

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

There was once a madcap of a fellow, whose wife got on very well with him and did all the house work very nicely, but she would never speak a single word to him. As nothing he tried would make her speak, the madcap at last hit on a plan of taking her on a long journey. But even when he told his wife that she must come with him to a far country, she did not utter a word. When all was ready for a start the madcap bathed his feet and took a lota of water into the house and pouring it out, prayed to the spirit of his grandfather thus “Grandfather, grant that my wife may speak; if you do not fail me in this, I will make offerings to you on my return; grant that we may come back together happily; teach her to speak to me soon.”

Then he set out with his wife and they travelled on until they entered a dense forest, where there was no sign of human habitation. As they went on, the tailor birds and babblers began to chatter and scream at them. The madcap got angry at this and called out to the birds that if they did not stop, he would chase them and go on chasing them for a day and a night. Then he sat down and watched them. His wife stood waiting by his side, and soon she began to wonder what she would do and where she would go, if her husband really went in chase of the birds. So at last she spoke to him and said “Come, get up; we must make haste out of this jungle.” Directly the words were out of her mouth, the madcap knelt down and bowing to the ground said “I thank you, Grandfather”. Then he rose and went on with his wife.

Presently they met a bear; the madcap called out “You brute of a bear, what do you mean by coming to meet us like this? I will chase you and go on chasing you till to-morrow morning.” But his wife besought him to come along and not leave her. Directly she spoke, the madcap cried “Bravo” and kneeling down thanked his grandfather. They went on and presently a jackal crossed their path; the madcap cursed it and vowed that he would chase it all the night. Again his wife urged him to come on and again the madcap knelt down and thanked his grandfather; but his wife did not know why he did so, nor did she trouble to ask.

Just as they reached the edge of the forest they saw a leopard and this also the madcap threatened to chase. “Then go and chase it,” said his wife, who now felt safe. So he went in pursuit of the leopard, but after going a little way he lost sight of it and went back to where his wife was. “What has become of all your boasting?” said she. “You have not chased it till to-morrow morning.” “No,” said the madcap “I have killed it; if you don’t believe me, come and see.” But she did not want to go back into the jungle and said no more about it. As his wife had broken her silence the madcap saw no use in going further and they turned homewards; all the way his wife went on chatting and singing along with him. When he reached home he sacrificed a number of goats to his grandfather, and lived happily with his wife ever after.

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