Santal: The Raibar and the Leopard

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

The Raibar and the Leopard

Once upon a time a raibar [matchmaker] was going backwards and forwards between two families arranging a marriage, and part of the road which he used to travel ran through a forest.

One day as he was going to the bride’s house, he took a sack with him, intending to try and get the loan of some Indian corn from the bride’s relations, but as he was passing through the piece of jungle, he suddenly met a leopard; he was terribly frightened but, collecting his wits, he addressed the animal thus: “Leopard; I beg you not to eat me; I am engaged on a work of great merit; I am making two men out of one.”

This address amazed the leopard, and he at once asked the raibar whether he could make him into two and promised that, if he could, his life should be spared.

The raibar answered readily. “Seeing that in pursuit of my profession I have made two men out of one all over the country, of course I can make you into two leopards if I try; all you have to do is to get into this sack and keep quiet; if you utter a sound, you will spoil the charm.”

“Well,” said the leopard, “I will try and see; I undertake to keep quite quiet, and if you are successful, I promise to tell the whole race of leopards to spare the lives of raibars.”

So saying, the leopard jumped into the sack and allowed the man to tie him up tightly in it. No sooner was this done than the raibar took the sack on his head and carried it to the bank of a river and, having given it two or three hearty whacks with his stick, threw it into the water. The sack went floating down the stream, and it happened that lower down a leopardess sat, watching the water, and when she saw the sack coming along, she thought that it was a dead cow floating down. So, when it came near, she jumped into the water and pulled it ashore.

She then proceeded to tear open the sack, when out jumped the first leopard; he soon explained how he came to be in the sack and declared that the raibar’s promise had been fulfilled and that she was his destined mate. The leopardess agreed, and the two set to work to tell all the other leopards what had happened and what a kindness the raibar had done them; and so it came to pass that to the present day, leopards never interfere with raibars when they are going about arranging a marriage; no one ever heard of one being injured.

Meanwhile, the raibar went on his way, rejoicing at having rid himself of the leopard. But the next year, while engaged on the business of another marriage, the raibar was passing through the same jungle when he came face to face with the very leopard that he thought he had safely disposed of; he at once took to his heels, but the leopard called out to him not to be afraid and to wait, as he had something to say to him.

So the raibar stopped, and the leopard asked whether he did not recognise him; the raibar stoutly denied all knowledge of him.

“Well,” said the leopard, “I am the leopard of whom you made two out of one, and to show my gratitude I will give you any reward you like; would you like a cow or a deer or any other animal? I will kill you one and bring it to you.”

When the raibar saw the turn that things had taken, he thought that he had better take advantage of it, so he asked for a good large nilgai. The leopard told him to come to a certain tree at noon the next day, and he would find the animal there. So they separated and the next day at noon the raibar went to the tree and found a fine nilgai waiting for him, which he and his friends took home and ate with joy.


(700 words)







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