Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs
How the Wicked Sons Were Duped
A VERY wealthy old man, imagining that he was on the point of death, sent for his sons and divided his property among them. However, he did not die for several years afterwards; and miserable years many of them were. Besides the weariness of old age, the old fellow had to bear with much abuse and cruelty from his sons. Wretched, selfish ingrates! Previously they vied with one another in trying to please their father, hoping thus to receive more money, but now they had received their patrimony, they cared not how soon he left them--nay, the sooner the better, because he was only a needless trouble and expense. And they let the poor old man know what they felt.
One day he met a friend and related to him all his troubles. The friend sympathised very much with him, and promised to think over the matter, and call in a little while and tell him what to do. He did so; in a few days he visited the old man and put down four bags full of stones and gravel before him.
"Look here, friend," said he. "Your sons will get to know of my coming here to-day, and will inquire about it. You must pretend that I came to discharge a long-standing debt with you, and that you are several thousands of rupees richer than you thought you were. Keep these bags in your own hands, and on no account let your sons get to them as long as you are alive. You will soon find them change their conduct towards you. Salaam. I will come again soon to see how you are getting on."
When the young men got to hear of this further increase of wealth they began to be more attentive and pleasing to their father than ever before. And thus they continued to the day of the, old man's demise, when the bags were greedily opened, and found to contain only stones and gravel!
Jacobs, Joseph. Indian Fairy Tales.
London: David Nutt, 1912.
Jacobs' Notes and References
Source - Knowles, Folk-Tales of Kashmir, pp. 241--2.
Parallels - A Gaelic parallel was given by Campbell in Trans. Ethnol. Soc., ii. p. 336; an Anglo-Latin one from the Middle Ages by T. Wright in Latin Stories (Percy Soc.), No. 26; and for these and points of anthropological interest in the Celtic variant see Mr. Gomme's article in Folk-Lore, i. pp. 197--206, "A Highland Folk-Tale and its Origin in Custom."
Remarks - Mr. Gomme is of opinion that the tale arose from certain rhyming formulae occurring in the Gaelic and Latin tales as written on a mallet left by the old man in the box opened after his death. The rhymes are to the effect that a father who gives up his wealth to his children in his own lifetime deserves to be put to death with the mallet Mr. Gomme gives evidence that it was an archaic custom to put oldsters to death after they had become helpless. He also points out that it was customary for estates to be divided and surrendered during the owners' lifetime, and generally he connects a good deal of primitive custom with our story. I have already pointed out in Folk-Lore, p. 403, that the existence of the tale in Kashmir without any reference to the mallet makes it impossible for the rhymes on the mallet to be the source of the story. As a matter of fact, it is a very embarrassing addition to it, since the rhyme tells against the parent, and the story is intended to tell against the ungrateful children. The existence of the tale in India renders it likely enough that it is not indigenous to the British Isles, but an Oriental importation. It is obvious, therefore, that it cannot be used as anthropological evidence of the existence of the primitive customs to be found ip it. The whole incident, indeed, is a striking example of the dangers of the anthropological met-hod of dealing with folk-tales before some attempt is made to settle the questions of origin and diffusion.