Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Persian Tales: The Boy Who Became a Bulbul

This story is remarkably similar to the English story called The Rose Tree which you can read in the English fairy tales unit in this class. Be sure to pay attention to just how the poor boy gets his revenge on his stepmother while also rewarding his sister.

Explore: For another story about vengeance see The Wolf and the Goat. For another story about a thorn-gatherer, see The Wolf-Aunt.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Persian Tales unit. Story source: Persian Talestranslated by D.L.R. Lorimer and E.O. Lorimer and illustrated by Hilda Roberts (1919).

The Boy Who Became a Bulbul

Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.

There was a man who had a small son and daughter, and he had taken another wife, so the children had a stepmother.

One day the father and son were starting out to collect thorn-bushes for firewood, for the father was a thorn-cutter. As they were going off the stepmother said: "You two ought to lay a wager to-day and agree that whichever of you collects the more firewood should cut off the other one's head." The father and son agreed to do this.

They went out and gathered their firewood, and it happened that the boy collected more than his father. As they were going to tie up the two bundles the lad said: "Daddy, do you know, I'm awfully thirsty."

"Well, then," said the father, "run off to the stream and have a drink." No sooner had he gone off to drink than the father took some of the thorn-bushes off the boy's bundle and added them to his own.

Then they tied up their loads, and the father said: "Come, let's weigh our bundles and see who has gathered more firewood, you or I." When they weighed the loads the father's was now the heavier, so the boy lay down, and the father cut his head off.

He carried the child's head home and gave it to his wife and said: "Come and cook this," and she put the head on the fire to boil.

At mid-day the little sister came back from the mulla and said to her stepmother: "I'm very hungry."

"Well, go and lift the lid of the pot and take some of the soup from the meat that's boiling there, and come and eat it with your bread."

The little girl lifted the lid and recognised the top-knot of her brother's hair that was spinning round and round. She shut down the lid quickly and ran off crying to her teacher, and told her the whole story.

"On no account," said the mulla,  must you allow any of that soup to cross your lips. When the others have eaten it all up, you must gather your brother's bones all carefully together and wash them in rose-water, and bury them in a corner of the garden. Then plant a reed to mark the place where you have buried them. Every Friday Eve you must then go to the little grave and repeat a sura of the Qur'an, and sprinkle a little rose-water over the spot."

The girl did just as she was bid, till the seventh Friday Eve had come. On the seventh Thursday she saw a bulbul peep out of the hollow of the reed and perch on it, and the bird began to sing:

I am a bulbul, who lost my way,
Through mountains and valleys I wandered astray.
An evil father foiled me;
A wicked woman boiled me;
My sorrowing sister my bones she found,
In rose-water she washed them round,
And buried them in the garden ground.
For seven weeks she has come to pray
Beside my grave each seventh day,
And sprinkled rose-water where I lay,
Till up out of the watered earth
A bulbul at last I have come to birth.

And with that "whirr " and away he flew.

He flew to the shop of the needle-maker and sat on the ground and sang:

I am a bulbul, who lost my way,
Through mountains and valleys I wandered astray.
An evil father foiled me;
A wicked woman boiled me;
My sorrowing sister my bones she found,
In rose-water she washed them round,
And buried them in the garden ground.
For seven weeks she has come to pray
Beside my grave each seventh day,
And sprinkled rose-water where I lay,
Till up out of the watered earth
A bulbul at last I have come to birth.

The needle-maker said: "Look here, please sing that again."

"All right," said the bird, "just shut your eyes and I'll sing it again." As soon as the man had shut his eyes the bulbul seized a paper of needles and "whirr" away he flew.

Then he came and perched on the foot of his stepmother's spinning-wheel and began to sing as before:

I am a bulbul, who lost my way,
Through mountains and valleys I wandered astray.
An evil father foiled me;
A wicked woman boiled me;
My sorrowing sister my bones she found,
In rose-water she washed them round,
And buried them in the garden ground.
For seven weeks she has come to pray
Beside my grave each seventh day,
And sprinkled rose-water where I lay,
Till up out of the watered earth
A bulbul at last I have come to birth.

When he had finished his song the stepmother said: "Look here, please sing that again."

"All right, open your mouth and shut your eyes and I'll sing it again." But no sooner had she opened her mouth and shut her eyes than "whish" like lightning he clapped the paper of needles down into her throat, and "whirr" away he flew.

Then he flew to the sugar-stick-maker's shop, and sat on the floor and sang the same song. When he had got to the end of it the sweet-maker said: "Look here, please sing that again."

"All right, shut your eyes and I'll sing it again." As soon as the man had shut his eyes the bird seized a big stick of sugar-candy and "whirr" away he flew.

Then he came and perched on the foot of his sister's spinning-wheel and began to sing:
I am a bulbul who lost my way,
Through mountains and valleys I wandered astray.
An evil father foiled me;
A wicked woman boiled me;
My sorrowing sister my bones she found,
In rose-water she washed them round,
And buried them in the garden ground.
For seven weeks she has come to pray
Beside my grave each seventh day,
And sprinkled rose-water where I lay,
Till up out of the watered earth,
A bulbul at last I have come to birth.

When he had finished she said: "Look here, sing that all over again, please."

"All right," said he, "open your mouth and shut your eyes, and I'll sing it again." She did so, and "whizz" he popped the stick of sugar-candy into her mouth, and "whirr" away he flew.

And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.






(1100 words)













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