Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Persian Tales: Susku and Mushu

Again even though this story is in translation, it tries to capture the charm of the original storytelling, as when the beetle Susku worries about whether a bed of dates would be all "sticky-wicky" or whether sleeping on butter would be all "greasy-weasy."

In the end you will see that the story turns into a type of "accumulation story" as each character adds a new line! For more on cumulative tales, see Wikipedia.

As in the story of the goat and the wolf, you need to know that ash is a form of Persian soup; more at Wikipedia.

Explore: For another story where the drama takes place on a very small scale, see The City of Nothing-in-the-World. For another cumulative story about a mouse, see The Sad Tale of the Mouse's Tail.

[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).

Susku and Mushu




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

There was a Mouse who was called Mushu, and a little Beetle whose name was Susku. Susku was going along one day dressed up in her very best clothes when Master Mousie came out of his hole just in front of her, and said: "Whither away, with your cotton chader and your silken vest and your golden heels?"

"I'm going off to get married, and to get married, and to eat only the finest white bread," answered she, "and to ask no favour of any man."

Then Mushu asked: "Would you marry me?"

"Well," said Susku, "if I marry you, what will you put me to sleep on?"

"On a basket of dates."

"Oh," cried she, "now, just look, how could any one sleep on anything so sticky-wicky?"

"Then I'll put you to sleep on a skin of clarified butter."

"But now, how could any one sleep on anything so greasy-weasy?"

"All right, then, I'll put you to sleep on a sack of walnuts."

"But how could any one sleep on anything so nobbly-wobbly?"

"Well, then," said Master Mousie, "I'll put you to sleep in my own little arms."

And Susku said: "Right you are."

Then she asked: "And when we quarrel what will you beat me with?"

"With the pole of the weighing-machine."

"I'll die," said Susku.

"Then," said Mushu, "I'll beat you with my own little tail."

And Susku said: "Right you are."

When they had agreed about this Susku went off to the bath. As she was coming out and was just crossing a little stream, she fell in. There was a farmer-man there who was managing the irrigation and watching the flow of the water.

Susku called out to him: "Hullo, brother, run to Master Mousie and tell him that his lover and his sweetheart is in the water, and say: 'Bring a little ladder of gold and take your sweetheart out of the water.'"

So off went the farmer and told Mushu. Master Mousie ran to the door of the greengrocer's shop and stole two carrots, and with his little teeth he cut them up and carved them out and made a little ladder of gold and carried it to the stream. And he pulled Susku up out of the water, and they got married, and he was her husband and she was his wife. And Master Mousie carried her off to his home.

One day he said: "Wife, I want some nice ash. Go and cook me a little." As soon as he had gone out Susku made the broth and put the pot on the fire and cut up some fine strips of dough and went to put them in it, but the wind came and lifted her up in the air and threw her down into the pot of ash. When poor Mushu came home he saw that Susku had fallen into the pot of broth and been drowned. And so full of sorrow was he that he went to the fireplace and began to throw ashes on his head.

Just then a crow happened to pass that way and said to Master Mousie: "What's the matter with you?" and he said: "Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot
And Mushu poured ashes on his head."

And the crow said: "Oh, I am so sorry," and gave himself a shake and shook all his feathers out and went and sat on a tree.

And the tree asked: "Crow, why have you shaken your feathers out?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
And the crow shook his feathers out."

The tree said: "Oh, I am so sorry," and gave herself a shake and shed all her leaves.

The waters came to the foot of the tree to water her. They asked: "Tree, why have you shed your leaves?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
The crow shook his feathers out,
And the tree shed her leaves."

The waters said: "Oh, we are so sorry," and they turned all muddy, and went out into the desert to water the corn. The corn asked: "Waters, why are you all muddy?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
The crow shook his feathers out,
The tree shed her leaves,
And the waters turned muddy."

Then the stalks of corn said: "Oh, we are so sorry," and they put their heads on the ground and their feet in the air.

The farmer happened to pass that way; he asked: "O stalks of corn, what are you all doing, standing on your heads?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
The crow shook his feathers out,
The tree shed her leaves,
The waters turned muddy,
And the stalks of corn stood on their heads."

Then the farmer said: "Oh, I am so sorry," and he fixed his spade in the ground and ran the handle of it right through his body.




The farmer's daughter was bringing his dinner out to him, and she said: "Daddy, how did you get like this?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
The crow shook his feathers out,
The tree shed her leaves,
The waters turned muddy,
The stalks of corn stood on their heads,
And the farmer drove a spade through his body."

Then the farmer's daughter, who had a dish of curds in her hand, said: "Oh, I am so sorry," and threw the curds all over herself and ran to her mother.

Her mother was sitting beside the griddle cooking griddle-cakes, and she said: "Darling, what have you done?"

"Haven't you heard?
Susku fell into the pot,
Mushu poured ashes on his head,
The crow shook his feathers out,
The tree shed her leaves,
The waters turned muddy,
The stalks of corn stood on their heads,
The farmer drove a spade through his body,
And your daughter was covered with curds."

Then her mother said: "Oh, I am so sorry," and cut off her two thumbs and threw them on the griddle, and they became griddle-cakes.

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


(1100 words)














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