Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Oilman’s Bullock, The

THERE was once a poor but industrious oilman; he got a log of wood and carved out an oil mill and, borrowing some money as capital, he bought mustard and sesame seed and set to work to press it; as he had no bullock he had to turn the mill himself. He was so industrious that he soon began to prosper and was able to buy a bullock for his mill. By and bye he got so rich that he was able to buy some land and a cart and pair of bullocks and was quite a considerable man in the village. One day one of his cart bullocks died and this loss was a sad blow to the oilman. However he tied up the surviving bullock in the stable along with the old oil mill bullock and fed them well. One night it chanced that one of the villagers passed by the stable and hear the two animals talking and this is what he heard.

               The young bullock said "You came to this house first, friend; what sort of treatment does one get here?"

               "Why do you ask me?" said the other. "Oh, I see your shoulder is galled and your neck shows mark of the yoke." The old bullock answered "Whether my master treats me well or ill I owe him money and have to stay here until I have paid him off. When I have paid him five hundred rupees I shall go." "How will you ever pay back such a sum?" "If my master would only match me to fight the Raja's elephant for five hundred rupees I should win the fight and my debt would be cleared; and if he does not do that I shall probably have to work for him all my life. How long do you intend to stay?" "My debt will be cleared if I work for him two years" answered the new comer.

               The man who overheard this conversation was much astonished and went off to the oilman and told him all about it. Next day the whole village had heard of it and they were all anxious for the oilman to match his bullock against the Raja's elephant; but the oilman was very frightened, for he feared that if he sent such a challenge, the Raja would be angry with him and drive him out of the country. But the leading villagers urged him and undertook to find the money if he lost, and to persuade the Raja that the oilman was mad, if he became angry with him. At last the oilman consented, provided that some of the villagers went to the Raja and proposed the match; he was too frightened to go himself. So two of the village elders went to the Raja and asked him to match his elephant against the oilman's bullock for five hundred rupees; the Raja was very much amused and at once fixed a day for the fight. So they returned and told the oilman to be ready and raised a subscription of five hundred rupees.

               The evening before the contest the oilman gave the bullock a big feed of meal and oilcake; and on the eventful morning the villagers all collected and watched him oiling its horns and tying a bell round its neck. Then the oilman gave the bullock a slap on its back and said "Take care: you are going to fight an elephant; if you owe me so much money you will win, and if not, then you will be defeated." When he said this the bullock pawed the ground and snorted and put down its head.

               Then they all set out with the five hundred rupees to a level field near the Raja's palace; a great crowd collected to see the fun and the Raja went there expecting easily to win five hundred rupees. The elephant was brought forward with vermilion on its cheeks, and a pad on its back, and a big bell round its neck, and a mahout riding it. The crowd called out "Put down the stakes:" so each side produced the money and publicly announced that the owner of the animal which should be victorious should take all the stakes. But the oilman objected to the mahout's riding the elephant; no one was going to ride his bullock. This was seen to be fair and the mahout had to get off; then the fight began. The bullock snorted and blew through its nose, and ran at the elephant with its head lowered. Then the elephant also rushed forward but the bullock stood its ground and stamped; at this the elephant turned tail and ran away; the bullock ran after it and gored it from behind until it trumpeted with pain. The crowd shouted "The Raja's elephant is beaten." And the oilman took the five hundred rupees and they all went home. From that day the oilman no longer put the bullock to work the oil mill but fed it well and left it free to go where it liked. But the bullock only stayed on with him for one month and then died.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Oilman’s Bullock, 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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