Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Prince Who Acquired Wisdom, The

THERE was once a Raja who had an only son and the Raja was always urging his son to learn to read and write in order that when he came to his kingdom he might manage well and be able to decide disputes that were brought to him for judgment; but the boy paid no heed to his father's advice and continued to neglect his lessons. At last when he was grown up, the Prince saw that his father was right and he resolved to go away to foreign countries to acquire wisdom; so he set off without telling anyone but his wife, and he took with him a purse of money and three pieces of gold. After travelling a long time, he one day saw a man ploughing in a field and he went and got some tobacco from him and asked him whether there were any wise men living in that neighbourhood. "What do you want with wise men?", asked the ploughman. The Prince said that he was travelling to get wisdom. The ploughman said that he would give him instruction if he were paid. Then the Prince promised to give him one gold piece for each piece of wisdom. The ploughman agreed and said. "Listen attentively! My first maxim is this: You are the son of a Raja; whenever you go to visit a friend or one of your subjects and they offer you a bedstead, or stool, or mat to sit on, do not sit down at once but move the stool or mat a little to one side; this is one maxim: give me my gold coin." So the Prince paid him. Then the ploughman said. "The second maxim is this: You are the son of a Raja; whenever you go to bathe, do not bathe at the common bathing place, but at a place by yourself; give me my coin," and the Prince did so. Then he continued, "My third maxim is this: You are the son of a Raja; when men come to you for advice or to have a dispute decided, listen to what the majority of those present say and do not follow your own fancy, now pay me;" and the Prince gave him his last gold coin, and said that he had no more. "Well," said the ploughman, "your lesson is finished but still I will give you one more piece of advice free and it is this: You are the son of a Raja; Restrain your anger, if anything you see or hear makes you angry, still do not at once take action; hear the explanation and weigh it well, then if you find cause you can give rein to your anger and if not, let the offender off."

               After this the prince set his face homewards as he had spent all his money; and he began to repent of having spent his gold pieces on advice that seemed worthless. However on his way he turned into a bazar to buy some food and the shopkeepers on all sides called out "Buy, buy," so he went to a shop and the shopkeeper invited him to sit on a rug; he was just about to do so when he remembered the maxim of his instructor and pulled the rug to one side; and when he did so he saw that it had been spread over the mouth of a well and that if he had sat on it he would have been killed [1]; so he began to believe in the wisdom of his teacher. Then he went on his way and on the road he turned aside to a tank to bathe, and remembering the maxim of his teacher he did not bathe at the common place but went to a place apart; then having eaten his lunch he continued his journey, but he had not gone far when he found that he had left his purse behind, so he turned back and found it lying at the place where he had put down his things when he bathed; thereupon he applauded the wisdom of his teacher, for if he had bathed at the common bathing place someone would have seen the purse and have taken it away. When evening came on he turned into a village and asked the headman to let him sleep in his verandah, and there was already one other traveller sleeping there and in the morning it was found that the traveller had died in his sleep. Then the headman consulted the villagers and they decided that there was nothing to be done but to throw away the body, and that as the Prince was also a traveller he should do it. At first he refused to touch the corpse as he was the son of a Raja, but the villagers insisted and then he bethought himself of the maxim that he should not act contrary to the general opinion; so he yielded and dragged away the body, and threw it into a ravine.

               Before leaving it he remembered that it was proper to remove the clothes, and when he began to do so he found round the waist of the body a roll of coin; so he took this and was glad that he had followed the advice of his teacher.

               That evening he reached the boundary of his own territory and decided to press on home although it was dark; at midnight he reached the palace and without arousing anyone went to the door of his wife's room. Outside the door he saw a pair of shoes and a sword; at the sight he became wild with rage and drawing the sword he called out: "Who is in my room?"

               As a matter of fact the Prince's wife had got the Prince's little sister to sleep with her, and when the girl heard the Prince's voice she got up to leave; but when she opened the door and saw the Prince standing with the drawn sword she drew back in fear; she told him who she was and explained that they had put the shoes and sword at the door to prevent anyone else from entering; but in his wrath the Prince would not listen and called to her to come out and be killed.

               Then she took off her cloth and showed it to him through the crack of the door and at the sight of this he was convinced; then he reflected on the advice of his teacher and repented, because he had nearly killed his sister through not restraining his wrath.



[1]  This is why Santals when going to eat, move the stool that is offered to them before they sit down on it.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Prince Who Acquired Wisdom, The
Tale Author/Editor: Bompas, Cecil Henry
Book Title: Folklore of the Santal Parganas
Book Author/Editor: Bompas, Cecil Henry
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1909
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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