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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 570


The Seven Brothers and the Bonga Girl

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

Once upon a time there were seven brothers who lived all alone in the jungle, far from human habitations. None of them was married and they lived on the game they killed. It chanced that a bonga maiden saw the youngest brother and fell deeply in love with him. So one day when all the brothers were away hunting, she placed in their house seven nicely cooked plates of rice.

When the brothers returned in the evening from the chase, they were astonished to find the rice waiting for them; all but the youngest said that it must be some plot to kill them and refused to touch the food, but the youngest wished to eat it. His brothers would not let him and told him to throw the rice away; so he took it outside the house, but instead of throwing it away, he ate up the whole seven plates full, without letting his brothers know. But when they went to bed that night, the youngest brother snored loudly, because he had eaten so much, and thereby his brothers guessed that he had eaten the rice, and they were very unhappy for they were sure that he was about to die. However in the morning he was none the worse; so they went out hunting as usual but the youngest brother suffered continually from thirst, the result of overeating, and this convinced his brothers that he had eaten the rice, though he denied it.

When they reached home that evening, they again found seven dishes of rice placed ready for them. And that day the youngest brother and the youngest but one ate; and the day after there was the rice again, and the three youngest ate it. Then the eldest brother said: “To-morrow I will stay behind and watch, and see who it is who brings the rice; we have no servant, if I can catch the person who is so kind to us, I will engage him as a cook for us, and we need have no more of this mystery. Do you bring back my share of the game you shoot.”

So the next morning the eldest brother stayed behind and hid himself and watched. But he could not see the bonga, though she brought the rice as usual; and when he told his brothers this, it was decided that the second brother should stay behind the next day, and see if he had better luck; and that day they all ate the rice, except the eldest brother, who said that he would never eat it, until he knew who brought it; so the next day the second brother watched but he also could not see the bonga.

One by one all the brothers watched in vain, until only the youngest one was left. Then they said to the youngest brother: “Now it is your turn and if our friend does not show himself to you, we will eat no more of his rice.” So the next day the other brothers went off to hunt and the youngest stayed at home; he did not trouble to hide himself, but sat in the house making a bow. At noon he saw the bonga girl coming with the rice on her head, but he took no notice and pretended to be looking down at something. Then the bonga came into the courtyard and put down the rice and looked about and said: “I saw something like a man here, where has he got to?” and she looked into the house and still the youngest brother kept silent; then she spoke to him and asked whether he was ill, that he had not gone hunting. He answered her that he was not ill, but had been left to watch for the person who brought them rice every day. Thereupon the bonga went outside and brought in the rice and putting it down, said: “It is I who do it. Come, wash your hands and I will give you your dinner,” but he said: “First tell me what all this means,” and she said: “It means that I want to live with you.” He objected. “How can I marry you when my brothers are not married?” She answered that if he married her, they would soon find wives for his brothers. Then she urged him to eat, but he said that if he ate one plateful, his brothers would question him, so the bonga girl went and brought an extra dish and he ate that. And as they talked together, he soon fell deeply in love with her, and promised to consult his brothers about her living with them; but he saw a difficulty which would arise if she married him, for his elder brothers would not care even to ask her for water, and thus she would be really of very little use in the house; so with some hesitation he proposed that she should marry the eldest brother and then they could all talk freely to her; but the girl would not agree to this and said that there would be no harm at all in their talking to her, provided that they did not touch her, and she would not mind giving his elder brothers water.

So they plighted their troth to each other, subject to the consent of the brothers, and towards evening the bonga girl left, promising to return on the morrow. When the brothers returned they discussed the matter and agreed that the youngest should marry the girl, provided that she promised to keep house for them. So the next day the girl came back and stayed with them; and they found wives for the other brothers, and got cattle and buffaloes and broke up land for cultivation and though the brothers did not altogether give up hunting, they became rich.

A certain jogi found out where they lived and once every year he came to ask for alms; one year he came just after the bonga girl had borne a child, so as she was doing no work, it was her sisters-in-law who brought out food for the jogi. But at this he was displeased, and said that he would only eat at the hands of the girl, who had given him food the year before. They told him that she was in child-bed and could not come out. Then he said: “Go and tell her that the Jhades Jogi has come and wants her arm tassel.” So she sent out her arm tassel to him and he put it in his bag and got up and went away. Thereupon the bonga girl arose and left her baby, and followed him, and never came back. At evening the brothers returned from hunting, and heard what had happened. They were very distressed and told their wives to look after the baby while they went in pursuit. They followed as hard as they could and caught up the Jogi on the banks of a river; then they tried to shoot him, but their arrows were powerless against him, and he by magic turned the seven brothers into stones.

So the Jogi carried off the woman to his home. He was a Raja in his own country and he had a big garden; and an old woman who looked after it used to make garlands every day and bring them to the Rani, and the Rani used to pay their weight in silver for them. In the course of time the child who was left behind grew up and when he used to play with his fellows at pitch and toss and there was any dispute about the game his playmates would say “Fatherless boy, you want to cheat!” So he asked his aunts whether it was true that he had no father and they told him that the Jhades jogi had carried off his mother, and how his father and uncles had gone in pursuit and had never returned. So the boy decided to go in search of his mother and he set off, and first he met some goatherds and he sang to them: –

                  “Ho, Ho, goatherds

                  Have you seen the Jhades Jogi

                  On this road?”

But they could tell him nothing. And then he met some shepherd boys, and he sang to them: –

                  “Ho, Ho, shepherds,

                  Have you seen the Jhades jogi

                  On this road?”

But they could tell him nothing. Then he met some boys tending buffaloes and he sang; –

                  “Ho, ho, buffalo herds,

                  Have you seen the Jhades jogi

                  On this road?”

But they could tell him nothing. Then he came to a thorn bush, with a number of rags fluttering on it, and he sang: –

                  “Ho, ho, plum bush,

                  Have you seen the Jhades jogi

                  On this road?”

And the plum tree said “The Jhades jogi brought your mother this way, and I did my best to stop them. If you don’t believe me see the rags as a proof.” And he put his hand on the tree and went on. And then he came to a squirrel which was chattering in a banyan tree, and he sang: –

                  “Ho, ho, squirrel,

                  Have you seen the Jhades jogi

                  On this road?”

And the squirrel said “I have been calling you since yesterday. The jogi brought your mother this way, go on and you will overtake them. And your father and uncles also came this road.” The boy was cheered by this news and he put his hand on the squirrel’s back and said “You are a fine fellow to give me this clue” and the marks of his fingers were imprinted on the squirrel and that is why squirrels have striped backs to the present day.

Then he went on and came to a river and he decided to sit and have his lunch there; he did not know that his father and uncles had been turned into stones in that very place, but as he sat and ate, his eyes were opened and he saw the stones weeping, and he recognised them, and he dropt a little food on each that they might eat, and pursued his way, until he came to the Jhades jogi’s kingdom, and he went to the old woman who kept the Jogi’s garden and asked to be allowed to stay with her and help her to make the garlands.

One day when he had made a garland, he tied to it a ring which had belonged to his mother. So when the old woman took the garland to the Rani, the Rani wondered why it weighed so heavy, and when she examined it she saw her own ring. Then she asked the old woman who had tied the ring there, and when she heard that a strange boy had come, she at once ran to him and recognised her own son.

Then they planned how they could kill the Jhades jogi and escape! The mother agreed to find out in what lay the life of the Jogi. So she questioned him and worried him till he told her that his life lay in a certain pumpkin vine. Then the boy went and cut down the pumpkin vine, but the Jogi did not die; then the Rani worried and worried the Jogi till he told her that his life lay in his sword; then the boy stole the sword and burnt it in a fire of cowdung, but still the Jogi did not die; then his mother again worried and plagued the Jogi till at last he told her the truth and said “In the middle of the sea is a cotton tree, and on the tree are two Bohmae birds; if they are killed I shall die.”

So the boy set off to the sea and on the road he met three old women and one had a stool stuck to her back, and one had a bundle of thatching grass stuck on her head, and the third had her foot stuck fast to a rice-pounder, and they asked him where he was going, and he told them, “to visit the shrine of the Bohmae bird”: then they asked him to consult the oracle and find out how they could be freed from the things which were stuck fast to them, and he promised to do so.

By-and-bye he came to the sea and was puzzled as to how he was to cross it. As he walked up and down the shore he saw an alligator rolling about in pain with a swollen stomach; and when it saw the boy it said “I am like to die with this pain in my stomach, how can I be cured?” and the boy proposed that it should take him to the cotton tree in the midst of the sea and there they might learn a remedy from the Bohmae birds. The alligator agreed, so the boy got on its back and was taken across the water. Then the boy sat at the foot of the cotton tree and sang: –

                  “Come down, Bohmae birds,

                  I wish to consult the oracle.”

But the birds were frightened and flew to the top of the tree. But as he went on singing, they became curious and came down and asked what was the matter, and he said “There are three old woman and one has a stool stuck to her and one a bundle of grass and one a rice pounder; how are they to be freed?” And they said “The first old woman never asked visitors to her house to take a seat; if she does so in future she will get rid of the stool,” – and as they said this they came nearer – “and the second old woman, if she saw anyone with straws sticking in their hair never offered to take them out. If she does so in future she will be freed,” and as they said this they came nearer still – “and the third old woman would not allow widows and orphans to use her rice pounder: if she does so she will be freed:” and as they said this they came quite near, and the boy seized them and broke their wings, and as he did so the Jogi’s arms were broken; then he snapped off their legs, and as he did so the Jogi’s legs were broken; and the birds screamed and the Jogi howled.

Then the alligator carried the boy back, and by the time it reached the shore it was cured of its pain. On his way back the boy told the three old women of what the birds had said; and when he got to the Jogi’s palace he twisted off the heads of the Bohmae birds and then the Jogi’s head fell to the ground.

Then he started homewards with his mother, carrying the birds and their heads; and the Jogi’s head came rolling after them. But he saw a blacksmith’s fire burning by the side of the road and he threw the birds into the fire and the Jogi’s head rolled into the fire and was burnt, and that was the end of him. When they came to the river where his father and uncles were turned into stones, he bathed in the river, and then put a cloth over the stones and they were restored to human shape; and they rubbed their eyes and said “We must have slept a long time” and were astonished when they heard how the Jogi had turned them into stones. Then they all went home and lived happily ever after.

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