Santal: The Raja's Dream (cont.)

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

The Raja's Dream (cont.)

In the morning, the Gosain told the Raja’s son to go to a blacksmith and have a shield made of twelve maunds of iron and with its edge so sharp that a leaf falling on it would be cut in two. So he went to the blacksmith and had a shield made, and took it to the Gosain.

The Gosain said that they must test it, and he set it edgewise in the ground under a tree and told the Raja’s son to climb the tree and shake some leaves down. The Raja’s son climbed the tree and shook the branches, but not a leaf fell. Then the Gosain climbed up and gave the tree a shake and the leaves fell in showers and every leaf that touched the edge of the shield was cut in two. Then the Gosain was satisfied that the shield was rightly made.

Then the Gosain told the Raja’s son that further on in the jungle he would find a pair of snakes living in a bamboo house, and they had a daughter whom they never allowed to come out of the house; he must fix the sharp shield in the door of the house and hide himself in a tree, and when the snakes came out, they would be cut to pieces; then, when the snakes were dead, he was to go to their daughter and she would show him where to find the golden animals.

So the Raja’s son set out and about noon he came to the home of the snakes, and he set the shield in the doorway as the Gosain had said, and at evening, when the snakes tried to come out of the house, they were cut to pieces. When her father and mother were dead, the daughter came out to see what had happened, and the Raja’s son saw that she was very beautiful. He went to her and began to talk, and it did not take them long to fall in love with each other. The snake maiden soon forgot her father and mother, and she and the Raja’s son lived together in the bamboo house many days.

The snake maiden strictly forbade him to go anywhere to the west or south of the house, but one day he disobeyed her and wandered away to the west. After going a short distance, he saw golden leopards dancing, and directly he set eyes on them, he himself was changed into a golden leopard and began to dance with the others.

The snake maiden soon knew what had happened, and she followed him and led him back and restored him to his own shape.

A few days later, the Raja’s son went away to the south and there he found golden snakes dancing on the bank of a tank and directly he saw them, he too became a golden snake and joined the dance. Again the snake maiden fetched him back and restored him to his own form.

But again the Raja’s son went out to the south-west, and there he saw golden monkeys dancing under a banyan tree, and when he saw them he became a golden monkey; again the snake maiden brought him back and restored him to human shape.

After this, the Raja’s son said that it was time for him to go back home. The snake maiden asked why he had come there at all, and then he told her all about the Raja’s dream and said that as he had found the animals he would now go home.

“Kill me first,” said the snake maiden; “you have killed my parents and I cannot live alone here.”

“No, I will not kill you; I will take you with me,” answered the Raja’s son, and the snake maiden gladly agreed. Then the Raja’s son asked how he was to take the golden animals with him, for so far he had only seen where they were. The snake maiden said that if he faithfully promised never to desert her, nor take another wife, she would produce the animals for him when the time came. So he swore never to leave her, and they set out for his home.

When they reached the place where the third Gosain lived, the Raja’s son said that he had promised to visit the Gosain on his homeward journey and show him the golden animals, but he did not know what to do, as he had not got the animals with him. Then the snake maiden tied three knots in his cloth and bade him untie them when the Gosain asked to see the animals. So the Raja’s son went to see the Gosain, and the Gosain asked whether he had brought the golden leopard and snake and monkey.

“I am not sure,” answered the other, “but I have something tied up in my cloth,” and he untied the three knots and found in them a clod of earth, a potsherd and a piece of charcoal. He threw them away and went back to the snake maiden and asked why she had put worthless rubbish in his cloth.

“You had no faith,” said she; “if you had believed, the animals would not have turned into the clod and the potsherd and the charcoal.”

So they journeyed on till they came to the second Gosain, and he also asked to see the golden animals, and this time the Raja’s son set his mind hard to believe and, when he untied the knots, there were a golden leopard and a golden snake and a golden monkey. Then they went on and showed the animals to the first Gosain, and then went to the house where his mother lived.

When the appointed day came, the Raja’s son sent word to his father to have a number of booths and shelters erected in a spacious plain, and to have a covered way made from his mother’s house to the plain, and then he would show the dancing animals.

So the Raja gave the necessary orders, and on the day fixed, all the people assembled to see the fun. Then the Raja’s son set the three animals on the ground, and his wife remained hidden in the covered way and caused the animals to dance. The people stayed watching all day till evening and then dispersed.

That night all the booths and shelters which had been erected were changed into houses of gold, and when he saw this, the Raja left his younger wife and her children and went and lived with his first wife.

(1100 words)

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