Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Magic Cow, The

THERE was once a Raja who had an only son named Kara and in the course of time the Raja fell into poverty and was little better than a beggar. One day when Kara was old enough to work as a cowherd his father called him and said "My son, I am now poor but once I was rich. I had a fine estate and herds of cattle and fine clothes; now that is all gone and you have scarcely enough to eat. I am old and like to die and before I leave you I wish to give you this advice: there are many Rajas in the world, Raja above Raja; when I am dead do you seek the protection of some powerful Raja." As there was not enough to eat at home Kara had to take service as goat-herd under a neighbouring Raja; by which he earned his food and clothes and two rupees a year. Some time afterwards his father died and Kara went to his master and asked for a loan of money with which to perform his father's funeral ceremonies, and promised to continue in his service until he had worked off the loan. So the Raja advanced him five rupees and five rupees worth of rice, and with this money Kara gave the funeral feast. Five or six days later his mother died, and he again went to the Raja and asked for ten rupees more; at first the Raja refused but Kara besought him and promised to serve him for his whole life if he could not repay the loan. So at last the Raja lent him ten rupees more, and he gave the funeral feast. But the Raja's seven sons were very angry with their father because he had lent twenty rupees to a man who had no chance of paying, and they used to threaten and worry Kara because he had taken the money. Then Kara remembered how his father had said that there were many Rajas in the world, Raja above Raja, and he resolved to run away and seek service with the greatest Raja in the world. So he ran away and after travelling some distance he met a Raja being carried in a palki and going with a large party to fetch a bride for his son; and when he heard who it was he decided to follow the Raja; so he went along behind the palki and at one place a she-jackal ran across the road; then the Raja got out of his palki and made a salaam to the jackal. When Kara saw this he thought "This cannot be the greatest Raja in the world or why should he salaam to the jackal. The jackal must be more powerful than the Raja; I will follow the jackal." So he left the wedding party and went after the jackal; now the jackal was hunting for food for her young ones, and as Kara followed her wherever she went she could find no opportunity of killing a goat or sheep; so at last she went back to the cave in which she lived. Then her cubs came whining to meet her and she told her husband that she had been able to catch nothing that day because a man had followed her wherever she went, and had come right up to their cave and was waiting outside.

               Then the he-jackal told her to ask what the man wanted. So she went out to Kara and asked him and Kara said "I have come to place myself under your protection;" then she called the he-jackal and they said to him, "We are jackals and you are a man. How can you stay with us; what could we give you to eat and what work could we find for you to do?" Kara said that he would not leave them as all his hopes lay in them; and at last the jackals took pity on him and consulted together and agreed to make him a gift as he had come to them so full of hope; so they gave him a cow which was in the cave, and said to him: "As you have believed in us we have made up our minds to benefit you; take this cow, she will supply you with everything you want; if you address her as mother she will give you whatever you ask, but do not ask her before people for they would take her from you; and do not give her away whatever inducements are offered you."

               Then Kara thanked them and called down blessings on their heads and took the cow and led it away homewards. When he came to a tank he thought he would bathe and eat; while he bathed he saw a woman washing clothes at the other side of the tank but he thought that she would not notice him, so he went up to the cow and said "Mother, give me a change of clothes." Thereupon the cow vomited up some nice new clothes and he put them on and looked very fine. Then he asked the cow for some plates and dishes and she gave them; then he asked for some bread and some dried rice, and he ate all he wanted and then asked the cow to keep the plates and dishes for him; and the cow swallowed them up again.

               Now the woman by the tank had seen all that had happened and ran home and told her husband what she had seen and begged him to get hold of the wonderful cow by some means or other. Her husband could not believe her but agreed to put it to the test, so they both went to Kara and asked where he was going and offered to give him supper, and put him up for the night and give grass for his cow. He accepted this invitation and went with them to their house and they gave him the guest-room to sleep in and asked what he would have to eat, but he said that he did not want any supper,--for he intended to get a meal from the cow after every one was asleep. Then the man and his wife made a plot and pretended to have a violent quarrel and after abusing each other for some time the man flung out of the house in a passion and pretended to run away; but after going a short distance he crept back quietly to the guest-room. Hanging from the roof was the body of a cart and he climbed up into that and hid himself, without Kara knowing anything about it. When Kara thought that every one was asleep, he asked his cow for some food and having made a good meal went to sleep.

               The man watching up above saw everything and found that his wife had spoken the truth; so in the middle of the night he climbed down and led away Kara's magic cow and put in its place one of his own cows of the same colour. Early the next morning Kara got up and unfastened the cow and began to lead it away, but the cow would not follow him; then he saw that it had been changed and he called his host and charged him with the theft. The man denied it and told him to call any villagers who had seen him bring his cow the day before; now no one had seen him come but Kara insisted that the cow had been changed and went to summon the village headman and the villagers to decide the matter: but the thief managed to give a bribe of one hundred rupees to the headman and one hundred rupees to the villagers and made them promise to decide in his favour; so when they met together they told Kara that he must take the cow which he had found tied up in the morning.

               Kara protested and said that he would fetch the person from whom he had got the cow and take whichever cow he pointed out. Telling them that they were responsible for his cow while he was away, he hastened off to the cave where the jackals lived. The jackals somehow knew that he had been swindled out of the cow, and they met him saying "Well, man, have you lost your cow?" And he answered that he had come to fetch them to judge between himself and the villagers: so the jackals went with him and he went straight to the headman and told him to collect all the villagers; meanwhile the jackals spread a mat under a peepul tree and sat on it chewing pan and when the villagers had assembled the jackal began to speak, and said: "If a judge takes a bribe his descendants for several generations shall eat filth, in this world and the next; but if he make public confession, then he shall escape this punishment. This is what our forefathers have said; and the man who defrauds another shall be thrust down into hell; this also they have said. Now all of you make honest enquiry into this matter; we will swear before God to do justice and the complainant and the accused shall also take oath and we will decide fairly." Then the village headman was conscience stricken and admitted that he had taken a bribe of one hundred rupees, and the villagers also confessed that they had been bribed; then the jackal asked the accused what he had to say to this: but he persisted that he had not changed the cow; the jackal asked him what penalty he would pay if he were proved guilty and he said that he would pay double. Then the jackal called the villagers to witness that the man had fixed his punishment, and he proposed that he and his wife should go to the herd of cattle, and if they could pick out the cow that Kara claimed it would be sure proof that it was his. So the jackals went and at once picked out the cow, and the villagers were astonished and cried. "This is a just judgment! They have come from a distance and have recognised the cow at once." The man who had stolen it had no answer to give; then the jackal said: "You yourself promised to pay double; you gave a bribe of one hundred rupees to the headman and one hundred rupees to the villagers and the cow you stole is worth two hundred rupees that is four hundred rupees, therefore you must pay a fine of eight hundred rupees;" and the man was made to produce eight hundred rupees and the jackal gave all the money to the villagers except ten rupees which he gave to Kara; and he kept nothing for himself.

               Then Kara and the jackals went away with the cow, and after getting outside the village the jackals again warned Kara not to ask the cow for anything when anyone was by and took their leave of him and went home. Kara continued his journey and at evening arrived at a large mango orchard in which a number of carters were camping for the night. So Kara stopped under a tree at a little distance from the carters and tied his cow to the root. Soon a storm came up and the carters all took shelter underneath their carts and Kara asked his cow for a tent and he and the cow took shelter in it. It rained hard all night and in the morning the carters saw the tent and wondered where it came from, and came to the conclusion that the cow must have produced it; so they resolved to steal the cow.

               Kara did not dare to make the cow swallow the tent in the day time while the carters were about, so he stayed there all the next day and at night the cow put away the tent. Then when Kara was asleep some carters came and took away the cow and put in its place a cow with a calf, and they hid the magic cow within a wall of packs from their pack bullocks. In the morning Kara at once saw what had happened and went to the carters and charged them with the theft; they denied all knowledge of the matter and told him he might look for his cow if he liked; so he searched the encampment but could not see it.

               Then he called the village headman and chowkidar and they searched and could not find the cow and they advised Kara to keep the cow and calf as it must be better than his own barren cow; but he refused and said that he would complain to the magistrate and he made the headman promise not to let the carters go until he came back. So he went to a Mahommedan magistrate and it chanced that he was an honest man who gave just judgments and took no bribes, and made no distinction between the rich and the poor; he always listened to both sides carefully, not like some rascally magistrates who always believe the story that is first told them and pay no attention to what the other side say. So when Kara made his complaint this magistrate at once sent for the carters and the carters swore that they had not stolen the cow: and offered to forfeit all the property they had with them, if the cow were found in their possession.

               Then the magistrate sent police to search the encampment and the police pulled down the pile of packs that had been put round the cow, and found the cow inside and took it to the magistrate. Then the magistrate ordered the carters to fulfil their promise and put them all in prison and gave all their property to Kara. So Kara loaded all the merchandise on the carts and pack bullocks and went home rejoicing. At first the villagers did not recognise who it was who had come with so much wealth but Kara made himself known to them and they were very astonished and helped him to build a grand house. Then Kara went to the Raja from whom he had borrowed the money for his parents' funerals and paid back what he owed. The Raja was so pleased with him that he gave him his daughter in marriage and afterwards Kara claimed his father-in-law's kingdom and got possession of it and lived prosperously ever after.

               And the seven sons of his first master who used to scold him were excited by his success and thought that if they went to foreign parts they also could gain great wealth; so they took some money from their father and went off. But all they did was to squander their capital and in the end they had to come back penniless to their father.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Magic Cow, 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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