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Raja’s Son and the Merchant’s Son, The

ONCE upon a time the son of a Raja and the son of a merchant were great friends; they neither of them had any taste for lessons but would play truant from school and waste their time running about the town. The Raja was much vexed at his son's behaviour; he wished him to grow up a worthy successor to himself, and with this object did all he could to break off his friendship with the merchant's son, as the two boys only led each other into mischief; but all his efforts failed and at last he offered a reward of one hundred rupees to any one who could separate them. One of the Raja's concubines made up her mind to earn the reward, and one day she met the two boys as they were going out to bathe. The Raja's son was walking ahead and the merchant's son a little way behind; the woman ran after the merchant's son and threw her arms round him and putting her lips to his ear pretended to whisper to him and then ran away. When they met at the river the Prince asked the merchant's son what the woman had told him, his friend denied that she had said anything but for all his protestations the Prince would not believe this. They quarrelled about it for a long time and at last the Prince went home in a rage and shut himself up in his room and refused to eat or be comforted. His father sent to enquire what was the matter with him and the Prince replied that food should not pass his lips until the merchant's son had been put to death.

               Thereupon the Raja sent for some soldiers and told them to devise some means of killing the merchant's son. So they bound the youth and showed him to the Prince and said that they would take him to the jungle and kill and bury him there. They then led him off, but on the road they caught a lamb and when they got to the jungle they killed the lamb and steeped the clothes of the merchant's son in the blood that they might have something to show to the Prince and then went back leaving the boy in the jungle. They took the bloody cloth to the Prince and told him to rise and eat, but when he saw the blood, all his old friendship revived and he was filled with remorse and could not eat for sorrow. Then the Raja told his soldiers to find out some friend to comfort the Prince, and they told him that they would soon set things straight and going off to the jungle brought back the merchant's son and took him to the Prince; and the two youths forgot their differences and were as friendly as before.

               Time passed and one day the Prince proposed to his friend that they should run away and seek their fortunes in the world. So they fixed a day and stole away without telling anyone, and, as they had not taken any money, they soon had to look about for employment. They found work and the arrangement their masters made with them was this: their wages were to be as much rice each day as would go on a leaf; and if they threw up their work they were to forfeit one hand and one ear; on the other hand if their masters discharged them so long as they were willing to work for this wage the master was to lose one hand and one ear. The merchant's son was cunning enough to turn this agreement to his advantage, for every day he brought a large lotus leaf to be filled with rice; this gave him more than he could eat and he soon grew fat and flourishing, but the Raja's son only took an ordinary sal leaf to his master and the rice that he got on this was not enough to keep him alive, so he soon wasted away and died.

               Now the merchant's son had told his master that his name was Ujar: one day his master said "Ujar, go and hoe that sugar cane and look sharp about it." So Ujar went and instead of hoeing the ground dug up all the sugar cane and piled it in a heap. When the master saw his fine crop destroyed he was very angry and called the villagers to punish Ujar, but when they questioned him, Ujar protested that he was bound to obey his master's orders; he had been ordered to hoe the sugar cane, not the ground, and he had done as he was told, and so they had to let him off.

               Another day a Hindu neighbour came to Ujar's master and asked him to lend him his servant for a day. So Ujar went to the Hindu's house and there was told to scrape and spin some hemp, but Ujar did not understand the Hindu language and when he got the knife to scrape the hemp with, he proceeded to chop it all up into little pieces; when the Hindu saw what had happened he was very angry and called in the neighbours, but Ujar protested that he had been told to cut the hemp and had done so; and so he got off.

               Ujar's master had an only child and one day he told Ujar to take the child to a tank and give him a good washing, so Ujar took the child to a tank and there proceeded to dash the child against a stone in the way that washermen wash clothes; he knocked the child about until he knocked the life out of him and then carefully washed him in the tank and brought the body home and put it on the bed. Next morning the father was surprised not to hear the child running about and, going to look, found the dead body. The villagers assembled but Ujar protested that his master had told him to wash the child thoroughly and he had only obeyed orders; so they had to let him off again.

               After this the master made up his mind to get rid of Ujar, but he was in a fix: he could not dismiss him because of the agreement that if he did not continue to employ him so long as he was willing to serve for one leaf full of rice a day he was to lose a hand and an ear. So he decided to kill him, but he was afraid to do so himself for fear of being found out; so he decided to send Ujar to his father-in-law's house and get them to do the job. He wrote a letter to his father-in-law asking him to kill the bearer directly he arrived before many people knew of his coming and this letter he gave to Ujar to deliver.

               On the way however Ujar had some misgivings and he opened the letter and read it; thereupon he tore it in pieces and instead of it wrote a letter to his master's father-in-law in which his master was made to say that Ujar was a most valuable servant and they should give him their youngest daughter in marriage as soon as possible. The fraud was not found out and directly Ujar arrived he was married to the youngest daughter of his master's father-in-law. A few days later the master went to see how his plan had worked and was disgusted to find Ujar not only alive but happily married.

               So he thought that he would entice him into the jungle and kill him there; with this object he one day invited Ujar to come out hunting with him, but Ujar suspected what was up and took a hatchet with him; and directly they got to the jungle he fell behind his master and cut him down with his hatchet and then went home and told his wife's relations that his master had got tired of hunting and had gone back to his own home; no doubts were raised about his story and he lived on happily with his wife till he died at a ripe old age.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Raja’s Son and the Merchant’s Son, 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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