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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 580


The Sham Child

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

There was once a Raja who had two wives and each Rani had a maidservant who was the Raja’s concubine; but none of them had any children. In the course of time the ladies began to quarrel and when they appealed to the Raja, he found that the elder Rani was to blame and turned her out of the palace, and sent her to live in a palm leaf hut on the outskirts of the town. Her faithful maidservant followed her, and the two supported themselves by begging. But they barely got enough to keep body and soul together.

After a few days the maidservant asked permission of her mistress to play a trick on the Raja, by which they should at least get sufficient food. The Rani assented and the maidservant went off to the Raja and told him that the wife whom he had turned out was five months with child, and that it was a disgrace that one who was to be the mother of his heir should have to beg her bread. On hearing this the Raja somewhat relented towards the Rani, and he ordered money to be sent her sufficient to provide her with food, and had a proper house prepared for her. When the proper time arrived, the maidservant went to the Raja and told him that a son had been born; at this joyful news the Raja became still more generous and told the maidservant that she was free to take whatever was wanted for the child.

This suited the maid and her mistress excellently; so long as they could keep up the deception they lived in comfort; when the child was supposed to have grown old enough to run about, they asked for the price of some anklets with bells on them and bought a pair, and whenever the Raja passed by the house in which the Rani lived, the maidservant made her mistress rattle the anklets, and then went outside and told the Raja to listen to the anklets tinkling as his son ran about the house. The Raja would tell the maidservant not to let the boy run about too much, lest he should fall and hurt himself; then she would hurry inside and tell the Rani to stop the jingling, and then come and tell the Raja that the boy was resting in his mother’s lap; but for all this the Raja was never given an opportunity of seeing his son.

However as time went on the Raja chose a bride and arranged for his son’s wedding; the bride’s friends did not come to inspect the bridegroom; a day was fixed right off for the wedding. As this day drew near, the Rani became more and more frightened, for it seemed that her deception must at last be discovered, and she would probably be put to death. But the maidservant encouraged her and promised to devise a plan; so when the day came for them to start for the bride’s house she made a paste of ground mowah flowers and out of this fashioned an image of a child; and when the procession started off, with the Raja in a palki, and drummers, and palki-bearers, the maidservant was also carried in a palki and pretended that she was holding the child. Off they started and as it was too far to go in one day, they stopped for the night at a bazar, where there was the shrine of a saint. At midnight the maidservant arose and went to the shrine and called to the spirit (bonga) which dwelt there, and said that he must grant her a boon, and if not it would be the worse for him; the spirit asked what she wanted and she showed the paste image and said that she was going with the procession to marry her son, and somehow on the way he had been turned into paste; if the spirit would not give her another son, she would spit on him and curse him. The spirit saw that she meant what she said, and for fear of being spat upon, he produced a boy from somewhere and gave him to her. The maidservant was delighted at her success and bowed down three times in reverence to the spirit and took away the boy and put him in her palki.

The next morning they rose and reached the bride’s house and the wedding took place in due form. As they were returning, the maidservant sent on two men to warn her mistress of what had happened and to tell her to get ready a feast. So when they reached home there was a feast ready and the bride’s friends were duly entertained and dismissed. Afterwards the Raja fell out with his second wife and left the palace where she lived and came and stayed with the elder Rani, whom he had formerly turned out.

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