Bengal: The Origin of Rubies (cont.)

This story is part of the Bengali Folktales unit. Story source: Folk-Tales of Bengal by the Rev. Lal Behari Day, with illustrations by Warwick Goble (1912).

The Origin of Rubies (cont.)

The parrot replied, “Beautiful! You look quite hideous with it! What princess ever puts only one ruby in her hair? It would be somewhat feasible if you had two at least.”

Stung with shame at the reproach cast in her teeth by the parrot, the princess went into the grief-chamber of the palace and would neither eat nor drink.

The king was not a little concerned when he heard that his daughter had gone into the grief-chamber. He went to her and asked her the cause of her grief. The princess told the king what her pet parrot had said, and added, “Father, if you do not procure for me another ruby like this, I’ll put an end to my life by mine own hands.”

The king was overwhelmed with grief. Where was he to get another ruby like it? He doubted whether another like it could be found in the whole world.

He ordered the lad who had sold the ruby to be brought into his presence. “Have you, young man,” asked the king, “another ruby like the one you sold me?”

The lad replied, “No, I have not got one. Why, do you want another? I can give you lots, if you wish to have them. They are to be found in a whirlpool in the sea, far, far away. I can go and fetch some for you.”

Amazed at the lad’s reply, the king offered rich rewards for procuring only another ruby of the same sort.

The lad went home and said to his mother that he must go to sea again to fetch some rubies for the king. The woman was quite frightened at the idea and begged him not to go. But the lad was resolved on going, and nothing could prevent him from carrying out his purpose.

He accordingly went alone on board that same vessel which had brought him and his mother, and set sail. He reached the whirlpool, from near which he had formerly picked up the rubies. This time, however, he determined to go to the exact spot whence the rubies were coming out. He went to the centre of the whirlpool, where he saw a gap reaching to the bottom of the ocean. He dived into it, leaving his boat to wheel round the whirlpool.

When he reached the bottom of the ocean, he saw there a beautiful palace. He went inside. In the central room of the palace there was the god Siva, with his eyes closed and absorbed apparently in intense meditation. A few feet above Siva’s head was a platform on which lay a young lady of exquisite beauty.

The prince went to the platform and saw that the head of the lady was separated from her body. Horrified at the sight, he did not know what to make of it. He saw a stream of blood trickling from the severed head, falling upon the matted head of Siva and running into the ocean in the form of rubies.

After a little, two small rods, one of silver and one of gold, which were lying near the head of the lady, attracted his eyes. As he took up the rods in his hands, the golden rod accidentally fell upon the head, on which the head immediately joined itself to the body, and the lady got up.

Astonished at the sight of a human being, the lady asked the prince who he was and how he had got there. After hearing the story of the prince’s adventures, the lady said, “Unhappy young man, depart instantly from this place, for when Siva finishes his meditations, he will turn you to ashes by a single glance of his eyes.”

The young man, however, would not go except in her company, as he was over head and ears in love with the beautiful lady. At last they both contrived to run away from the palace and, coming up to the surface of the ocean, they climbed into the boat near the centre of the whirlpool and sailed away towards land, having previously laden the vessel with a cargo of rubies.

The wonder of the prince’s mother at seeing the beautiful damsel may be well imagined. Early next morning the prince sent a basin full of big rubies to the king through a servant. The king was astonished beyond measure. His daughter, on getting the rubies, resolved on marrying the wonderful lad who had made a present of them to her.

Though the prince had a wife whom he had brought up from the depths of the ocean, he consented to have a second wife. They were accordingly married, and lived happily for years, begetting sons and daughters.

(800 words)

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