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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 574


The Wife Who Could Not Keep a Secret

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

Once there was a man of the Goala caste, who looked after the cattle of a rich farmer. One day a cow dropped a calf in the jungle without the Goala knowing, and at evening the cow came running to join the others, without the calf. When they got home the cow kept on lowing and the master asked whether she had had a calf; the Goala had to confess that the calf had been left in the jungle; the master scolded him well, so he took a rope and stick and went out into the night.

But when he got to the jungle he could not hear the calf, so he decided to wait where he was till the morning; he was too frightened of wild animals to stay on the ground, so he climbed a tree leaving the stick and rope at the foot of it. Soon a tiger smelt him out and came to the place. Then the stick and the rope took council together as to how they could save their master; the stick saw that it could not see in the dark and so was powerless; so the rope agreed to fight first, and it whirled itself round in the air with a whistling noise, and the tiger hearing the noise and seeing no one, got frightened, and thought that there was an evil spirit there; so it did not dare to come very near and in the morning it took itself off.

Then the Goala saw the cow come to look for her calf, so he took up the stick and rope and followed her. The cow soon found her calf and asked it whether it had not been very cold and uncomfortable all night; but the calf said “No mother, I put my foot in these four pots of rupees and they kept me warm,” The Goala heard this and resolved to see if it were true; so he dug up the earth where the calf had been lying and soon uncovered the rims of four pots full of money. But the Goala did not care to take the money home for fear his wife should talk about it; he resolved to see first whether his wife could keep a secret.

So he went home and told her to cook him some food quickly; she asked why, and he said “The Raja has a tortoise inside him and I am going to look at him.” Then his wife said that she must fetch some water, and she went off with the water pot. On the way she met several women of the village, who asked her why she was fetching water so early, and she said, “Because the Raja has a tortoise inside him and my husband is going off to see it.” In less than an hour the village was full of the news, and the rumour spread until it reached the ears of the Raja. The Raja was very angry and said that he would kill the man who started the report, unless he could prove it to be true. So he sent messengers throughout the country to trace back the rumour to its source.

One messenger found out that it was the Goala who had started the story and told him that the Raja wanted to give him a present; so he gladly put on his best clothes and went off to the Raja’s palace. But the Raja had him bound with ropes, and then questioned him as to why he had told a false story. The Goala admitted that his story was false, but explained that he had only told it to his wife, in order to see whether she could keep a secret, because he had found four pots of money. The Raja asked where the money was and the Goala said that he would show it, but he wanted to know first how much of it he was to have, for himself. The Raja promised him half; so the Goala led men to the place and they dug up the money, and the Goala kept half and became a rich man.

Moral. However friendly you are with a man do not tell him what is in your heart, and never tell your wife the real truth, for one day she will lose her temper and let the matter out.

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