Saturday, June 28, 2014

Santal: The Jackal and the Chickens

This story is part of the Santal Folklore unit. Story source: Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas (1909).

The Jackal and the Chickens

Once upon a time a jackal and a hen were great friends and regarded each other as brother and sister, and they agreed to have a feast to celebrate their friendship, so they both brewed rice beer, and they first drank at the jackal’s house and then went to the hen’s house, and there they drank so much that the hen got blind drunk, and while she lay intoxicated, the jackal ate her up.

The jackal found the flesh so nice that he made up his mind to eat the hen’s chickens too, so the next day he went to their house and found them all crying, “Cheep, cheep,” and he asked what was the matter; they said that they had lost their mother; he told them to cheer up and asked where they slept; they told him “on the shelf in the wall.”

Then he went away, but the chickens saw that he meant to come and eat them at night, so they did not go to sleep on the shelf but filled it with razors and knives, and when the jackal came at night and felt about the shelf, he got badly cut and ran away screaming.

But a few day later he paid another visit to the chickens and condoled with them on the loss of their mother and again asked where they slept, and they told him, “In the fireplace.” Directly the jackal was gone, they filled the stove with live embers and covered them up with ashes, and went to sleep themselves inside a drum.

At night the jackal came and put his paws into the fireplace, but he only scraped the hot embers up against his belly and got burnt; this made him scream, and the chickens burst out laughing.

The jackal heard them and said, “You have got me burnt; now I am going to eat you.”

They said, “Yes, uncle, but please eat us outside the house; you did not eat our mother in her own house — take us to yonder flat rock.”

So the jackal took up the drum, but when he got to the rock, he accidentally let it fall and it broke and the chickens ran away in all directions, but the chicken that had been at the bottom of the drum had got covered with the droppings of the others and could not fly away, so the jackal thought, “Well, it is the will of heaven that I should have only one chicken; it is doubtless for the best!”

The chicken said to the jackal, “I see that you will eat me, but you cannot eat me in this state; wash me clean first.”

So the jackal took the chicken to a pool and washed it; then the chicken asked to be allowed to get a little dry, but the jackal said that if it got dry it would fly away.

“Then,” said the chicken, “rub me dry with your snout, and I will myself tell you when I am ready to be eaten,” so the jackal rubbed it dry and then proceeded to eat it, but directly the jackal got it in his mouth, it voided there, so the jackal spat it out, and it flew away.

The jackal thought that it had gone into a hole in a white ant-hill, but really it had hidden elsewhere; however, the jackal felt for it in the hole and then tried in vain to scrape the hole larger; as he could not get into the hole, he determined to sit and wait till hunger or suffocation forced the chicken to come out.  So he sat and watched, and he sat so long that the white ants ate off his hind quarters; at last he gave up and went off to the rice fields to look for fish and crabs.

There he saw an old woman catching fish, and he asked to be allowed to help her. So the old woman sat on the bank, and the jackal jumped and twisted about in the water and presently he caught a potha fish which he ate, but as the jackal had no hind quarters, the fish passed through him none the worse. Soon the jackal caught the same fish over again, and he laughed at the old woman because she had caught none. She told him that he was catching the same fish over and over again, and when he would not believe her, she told him to mark with a thorn the next one which he caught; he did so, and then found that he really was catching and eating the same fish over and over again.

At this he was much upset and asked what he should do. The old woman advised him to go to a cobbler and get patched up; so he went and killed a fowl and took it to a cobbler and offered it to him if he would put him to rights; so the cobbler sewed on a leather patch with a long leather tail which rapped on the ground as the jackal went along. Then the jackal went to a village to steal fowls and he danced along with his tail tapping, and sang:

“Now the Moghul cavalry are coming
And the Koenda Rajas.
Run away or they will utterly destroy you.”

And when the villagers heard this, they all ran away, and the jackal entered the village and killed as many fowls as he wanted.

A few days later he went again to the village and frightened away the villagers as before, but one old woman was too feeble to run away, and she hid in a pig sty, and one fowl that the jackal chased ran into this sty, and the jackal followed it, and when he saw the old woman, he told her to catch the fowl for him or he would knock her teeth out, but she told him to catch it himself, so he caught and ate it.

Then he said to the old woman, “Say Toyo,” (jackal) and she said, “Toyo.” Then he took a currypounder and knocked all her teeth out and told her again to say “Toyo,” but as she had no teeth, she said “Hoyo;” this amused the jackal immensely, and he went away laughing.

When the villagers returned, the old woman told them that it was only a jackal who had attacked the village, so they decided to kill him, but one man said, “You won’t be able to catch him; let us make an image of this old woman and cover it with birdlime and set it up at the end of the village street; he will stop and abuse her, and we shall know where he is.”

So they did this, and the next morning, when the jackal came singing along the road, they hid inside their houses. When the jackal reached the village, he saw the figure of the old woman with its arms stretched out, and he said to it, “What are you blocking my road for? Get out of the way; I knocked your teeth out yesterday: aren’t you afraid? Get out of the way or I will kick you out.”

As the figure did not move, he gave it a kick, and his leg was caught in the birdlime; then he said, “Let me go, you old hag, or I will give you a slap.” Then he gave it a slap, and his front paw was stuck fast; then he slapped at it with his other paw and that stuck; then he tried to bite the figure, and his jaws got caught also, and when he was thus helpless, the villagers came out and beat him to death, and that was the end of the jackal.



(1300 words)







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