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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 631


Ram’s Wife

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

It is a custom among us Santals that husband and wife do not mention each other’s names; and even if a husband sometimes mentions his wife’s name in a case of urgent necessity, the wife will never speak her husband’s; in the same way a man may not mention the name of his younger brother’s wife or of his wife’s elder sister; women again may not use the name of their younger sister’s husband or their husband’s elder brother. Our forefathers have said that if any one breaks this rule his children will be born deaf or dumb; we believe this and fear to break through the custom.

There was once a man named Ram who was ploughing his field; when he got to the end he found that he had not brought the seed with him; so he called out to his wife, pretending however that he was speaking to his daughter “Seed, daughter, seed!” And she called back “What do you want it for? Are you going to sow it?” (eram = will you sow) and every time he called, she answered “Eram?” At this he lost his temper and ran up to the house and asked what she meant by speaking his name, when he told her to bring out the seed for sowing; and thereupon he proceeded to give her a good thrashing. His wife said to him “Your name is the same as the word for ‘sow,’ it is a very fine name you have got.” At this Ram laughed and asked how he could help having the name which his father and mother had given him. At this she giggled. “Then why are you hurt by it? You had better in future take out the seed corn with you and then you won’t have to call to me; if you do I shall answer you as I did to-day.”

To the present day people do not use the forbidden words; or if compelled to they spit on the ground first; even Christian converts do not like to infringe the rule if many people are present and usually speak of a person with a forbidden name as the father, or mother of such and such a child.

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