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the_girl_who_found_helpers.

Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas.
Age Rating 8 to 10.

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Once upon a time there were seven brothers, and they were all married, and they had one sister who was not married. The brothers went away to a far country for a whole year, leaving their wives at home. Now the wives hated their sister-in-law and did their best to torment her. So one day they gave her a pot full of holes and told her to bring it back full of water; and threatened that if she failed she should have no food. So she took the pot to the spring and there sat down and cried and sang:-- "I am fetching water in a pot full of holes, I am fetching water in a pot full of holes, How far away have my brothers gone to trade." After she had cried a long time, a number of frogs came up out of the water and asked her what was the matter, and she told them that she must fill the pot with water, and was not allowed to stop the holes with clay or lac. Then they told her not to cry, and said, that they would sit on the holes and then the water would not run out; they did this and the girl dried her eyes and filled the pot with water and took it home. Her sisters-in-law were much disappointed at her success, but the next day they told her to go to the jungle and bring back a bundle of leaves, but she was to use no rope for tying them up. So she went to the jungle and collected the leaves and then sat down and cried and sang:--



"I am to fetch leaves without a rope I am to fetch leaves without a rope How far have my brothers gone to trade?" and as she cried a _buka sobo_ snake came out and asked why she was crying, and when she told it, it said that it would coil itself round the leaves in place of a rope. So it stretched itself out straight and she piled the leaves on the top of it and the snake coiled itself tightly round them and so she was able to carry the bundle home on her head. Her sisters-in-law ran to see how she managed it, but she put the bundle down gently and the snake slipped away unperceived. Still they resolved to try again; so the next day they sent her to fetch a bundle of fire wood, but told her that she was to use no rope to tie it with. So she went to the jungle and collected the sticks and then sat down and cried:-- "I am to bring wood without tying it, I am to bring wood without tying it, How far have my brothers gone to trade?"



and as she cried a python came out and asked what was the matter, and when it heard, it told her not to cry and said that it would act as a rope to bind up the sticks; so it stretched itself out and she laid the sticks on it and then it coiled itself round them and she carried the bundle home. As the sisters-in-law had been baffled thus, they resolved on another plan and proposed that they should all go and gather sticks in the jungle; and on the way they came to a _machunda_ tree in full flower and they wanted to pick some of the flowers. The wicked sisters-in-law at first began to climb the tree, but they pretended that they could not and kept slipping down; then they hoisted their sister-in-law into the branches and told her to throw down the flowers to them. But while she was in the tree, they tied thorns round the trunk so that she could not descend and then left her to starve. After she had been in the tree a long time, her brothers passed that way on their return journey, and sat down under the tree to rest; the girl was too weak to speak but she cried and her tears fell on the back of her eldest brother, and he looked up and saw her; then they rescued her and revived her and listened to her story; and they were very angry and vowed to have revenge. So they gave their sister some needles and put her in a sack and put the sack on one of the pack-bullocks. And when they got home, they took the sack off gently and told their wives to carry it carefully inside the house, and on no account to put it down. But when the wives took it up, the girl inside pricked them with the needles so that they screamed and let the sack fall. Their husbands scolded them and made them take it up again, and they had to carry it in, though they were pricked till the blood ran down.



Then the brothers enquired about all that had happened in their absence, and at last asked after their sister, and their wives said that she had gone to the jungle with some friends to get firewood. But the brothers turned on them and told how they had found her in the _machunda_ tree and had brought her home in the sack, and their wives were dumbfounded. Then the brothers said that they had made a vow to dig a well and consecrate it; so they set to work to dig a well two fathoms across and three fathoms deep; and when they reached water, they fixed a day for the consecration; and they told their wives to put on their best clothes and do the _cumaura_ (betrothal) ceremony at the well. So the wives went to the well, escorted by drummers, and as they stood in a row round the well, each man pushed his own wife into it and then they covered the well with a wooden grating and kept them in it for a whole year and at the end of the year they pulled them out again. * * * * * Another version of this story gives three other tasks preliminary to those given above and begins as follows:-- Once upon a time there was a girl named Hira who had seven brothers. The brothers went away to a far country to trade leaving her alone in the house with their wives; these seven sisters-in-law hated Hira and did what they could to torment her; one day they sowed a basketful of mustard seed in a field and then told her to go and pick it all up; she went to the field and began to lament, singing:-- "They have sown a basket of mustard seed! Oh, how far away have my brothers gone to trade."



As she cried a flock of pigeons came rustling down and asked her what was the matter, and when they heard, they told her to be comforted; they at once set to work picking up the mustard grain by grain and putting it into her basket; soon the basket was quite full and she joyfully took it home and showed it to her sisters-in-law. Then they set her another task and told her to bring them some bear's hair that they might weave it into a hair armlet for her wedding. So she went off to the jungle and sat down to cry; as she wept two bear cubs came up and asked what was the matter; when she told her story they bade her be of good cheer and took her into their cave and hid her. Presently the mother bear came back and suckled her cubs, and when they had finished they asked their mother to leave them some of her hair that they might amuse themselves by plaiting it while she was away. She did so and directly she had gone off to look for food, the cubs gave the girl the hair and sent her home rejoicing. The sisters-in-law were only made more angry by her success and plotted how to kill her, so they ordered her to bring them some tiger's milk that they might make it into curds for her wedding. Then she went off to the jungle and began to weep, singing:-- "I brought the hair of a bear: How far away have my brothers gone to trade."



At the sound two tiger cubs came running up and asked what was the matter; they told her to be comforted and they would manage to give her what she wanted; and they took her and hid her near where they were lying. Presently the tigress came back and suckled her cubs and as she did so she declared that she smelt a human being, but the cubs laughed at her and said that it must be they whom she smelt; so she was satisfied, and as she was leaving them they asked her to leave some of her milk in an earthern pot so that they might have something to drink if she were long in coming back. The tigress did so and directly she was gone the cubs gave the milk to the girl who took it home.--The story then continues as before.

       



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