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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 564


The Mongoose Boy

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

Once upon a time there was a Raja who had two wives. By his first wife he had six sons, but the second wife bore only one son and he was born as a mongoose. When the six sons of the elder wife grew up, they used to jeer at their mongoose brother and his mother, so the Raja sent his second wife to live in a separate house. The Mongoose boy could talk like any man but he never grew bigger than an ordinary mongoose and his name was Lelsing.

One day the Raja called all his sons to him and said that he wished, before he died, to divide his property among them. But the sons said that they had rather he did not do so then; they wished to go abroad and see the world, and if he would give each of them some capital to start, with, they would go abroad and trade and even if they did not make much profit they would have the advantage of seeing the world.

So the Raja gave his six sons twenty rupees each to start business with; but when Lelsing also asked for some money, his brothers jeered at him and declared that he certainly could not go with them, for he would only get eaten up by some dog. Lelsing made no answer at the time but afterwards he went to his father alone and begged again for some money. At last the Raja, though he scarcely believed that Lelsing would really go out trading, gave him ten rupees.

The six brothers made everything ready and one morning set out on their travels, without saying anything to Lelsing. But Lelsing saw them start and followed after them, and as the brothers were resting in the middle of the day they looked back and saw Lelsing galloping along to overtake them. So they all travelled together for three or four days, till they came to a great jungle and camped on its outskirts. There they debated how long they should stay away from home and they decided that they would trade for six months and then go back.

The next morning they entered the jungle, and as they travelled through it, the six brothers managed to give Lelsing the slip, so that when they came out of the forest they found themselves at Nilam bazar, but Lelsing after wandering about for some time came out at Sujan bazar.

The six brothers bought sun-horses at Nilam bazar, and began to trade. But Lelsing at Sujan bazar looked about for someone who would engage him as a servant. No one would employ a mongoose, and Lelsing was in despair, for he had very little money. At last he began to enquire whether anyone would sell him a cheap horse, and learnt that the horse market was at Nilam bazar; so he went to Nilam bazar and there found his brothers trading, but he did not make himself known to them. He tried to buy a horse but they were all too highly priced for him, so at last he had to be content with buying a donkey for three rupees and some articles to trade with.

When the six months expired, the brothers went home; and a little after them came Lelsing, leading his donkey, his brothers laughed at him but the Raja did not laugh; and Lelsing showed his father and mother what profits he had made by his trading, which his brothers declined to do. The Raja was pleased with Lelsing for this and declared that, in spite of his shape, he was a man and a Raja. It only made his brothers more angry with him to hear Lelsing praised.

Two or three years later there was a famine in the land. Lelsing foresaw it and he dug a large hole in the floor of his house and buried in it all the grain on which he could lay his hand. The famine grew severe, but Lelsing and his mother always had enough to eat from their private store. But his brothers were starving and their children cried from want of food. Lelsing had pity on them and sent his mother with some rice for them to eat. The Raja and his sons were amazed that Lelsing should have rice to give away, and they went to his house to see how much he had; but they found the house apparently empty, for they did not know of the store buried in the ground. Puzzled and jealous the brothers made up their minds to burn down Lelsing’s house. So one night they set fire to it, and it was burnt to ashes: the store buried in the ground was however uninjured.

Lelsing put the ashes of his house into sacks and, loading them on his donkey, set out to sell them. As he found no buyers, he rested for the night under a tree by the road side. Presently a band of merchants with well loaded pack-bullocks came to the place. “You must not camp here” called out Lelsing to them “I have two sacks of gold coin here and you may take an opportunity to steal them. If you are honest men, you will go to a distance.” So the merchants camped a little way off, but in the middle of the night they came and carried off Lelsing’s sacks, leaving two of their own in their place, and hurried on their way. In the morning Lelsing made haste to carry home the sacks which had been changed, and when he came to open them he found them full of rice and rupees. He sent his mother to borrow a measure from his brothers with which to measure the rupees; and when he returned it, he sent it to them full of rupees.

His brothers came running to know where he had found so much money. “I got it by selling the ashes of my house” said Lelsing “and it is a pity that I had only one house; if I had had more houses, I should have had more ashes, and should have got more money still.” On hearing this the brothers at once made up their mind to burn their own houses, and take the ashes for sale. But when they did so and took the ashes for sale from village to village they were only laughed at for their pains, and in the end had to throw away the ashes and come back empty handed. They were very angry at the trick which Lelsing had played on them and decided to kill him and his mother; but when they went to the house to do the murder, Lelsing happened to be away from home and so they were only able to kill his mother.

When Lelsing came home he found his mother lying dead. He placed the body on his donkey and carried it off to burn it on the banks of the Ganges. As he went, he saw a large herd of pack bullocks coming along the road. He quickly propped the body of his mother against a tree which grew by the road and himself climbed into its branches, and when the bullocks came up he began to call out “Take care, take care: you will have my sick mother trampled to death.” But the drivers were too far behind to hear what he said. When they came up, he climbed down from the tree and charged them with having allowed their bullocks to kill his mother. The drivers had no wish to face a charge of murder; and in the end, to secure their release, they made over to Lelsing all their bullocks, with the merchandise which they were carrying.

Lelsing threw his mother’s corpse into some bushes, and drove the laden bullocks home. Naturally his brothers wanted to know where he had got such wealth from, and he explained that it was by selling the dead body of his mother and he was sorry that he had only one to dispose of. At once his brothers went and killed all their wives, and took the corpses away to sell; but no one would buy and they had to return disappointed.

Another trick that Lelsing played his brothers was this: he used to mix rupees in the food he gave his donkey, and these passed out in the droppings; and Lelsing took care that his brothers should know of it. They found no rupees in the dung of their horses, and consulted Lelsing as to the reason why. He told them that if they gave their horses a blow with an axe while they ate their grain, they would find rupees in the dung. The brothers did as they were advised, but the only result was that they killed all their horses.

More and more angry, the brothers resolved to kill Lelsing by guile. So they went to him and said that they had found a wife for him, and would take him to be married. When the procession was ready, Lelsing got into a palki. His brothers made the doors of the palki fast and carried him off towards a deep river, into which they meant to throw him, palki and all.

When they reached the river, they put the palki down and went to look for a suitably deep pool. Lelsing found that he was outwitted, and began to weep and wail. Just then a shepherd came by, driving a flock of sheep and asked what was the matter. Lelsing cried out that they were going to marry him against his will, but that anyone who would take his place in the palki could marry his bride. The shepherd thought that this would be a great opportunity to get a wife without spending any money on the marriage, and readily changed places with Lelsing, who drove away the flock of sheep. The brothers soon came back and, picking up the paiki, threw it into the river and went home, thinking that they had at last got rid of Lelsing.

But four or five days later Lelsing appeared, driving a large flock of sheep. His brothers asked him, in amazement where he had come from, “You threw me” said Lelsing “into a shallow pool of the river where there were only sheep, but in the deeper parts there are cattle and buffaloes as well. I can take you to fetch some of them if you like. You take your palkis to the bank of the river, – for I cannot carry you all – and then shut yourselves inside and I will push you into the water.” So the brothers took their palkis to the river side and shut themselves in, and each called out “Let me have the deepest place, brother.” Then Lelsing pushed them in one by one and they were all drowned. Then he went home rejoicing at the revenge which he had taken for their ill treatment of him.

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