Bengal: The Origin of Rubies

You may be surprised to find that the god Shiva makes an appearance in this story; for more about Shiva, see Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

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

There was a certain king who died, leaving four sons behind him, with his queen. The queen was passionately fond of the youngest of the princes. She gave him the best robes, the best horses, the best food, and the best furniture. The other three princes became exceedingly jealous of their youngest brother and, conspiring against him and their mother, made them live in a separate house and took possession of the estate.

Owing to overindulgence, the youngest prince had become very wilful. He never listened to any one, not even to his mother, but had his own way in everything.

One day he went with his mother to bathe in the river. A large boat was riding there at anchor. None of the boatmen were in it. The prince went into the boat and told his mother to come into it. His mother besought him to get down from the boat, as it did not belong to him. But the prince said, “No, mother, I am not coming down; I mean to go on a voyage, and if you wish to come with me, then delay not but come up at once, or I shall be off in a trice.”

The queen besought the prince to do no such thing, but to come down instantly. But the prince gave no heed to what she said and began to take up the anchor. The queen went up into the boat in great haste, and the moment she was on board, the boat started and, falling into the current, passed on swiftly like an arrow.

The boat went on and on till it reached the sea. After it had gone many furlongs into the open sea, the boat came near a whirlpool, where the prince saw a great many rubies of monstrous size floating on the waters. Such large rubies no one had ever seen, each being in value equal to the wealth of seven kings.

The prince caught hold of half a dozen of those rubies, and put them on board. His mother said, “Darling, don’t take up those red balls; they must belong to somebody who has been shipwrecked, and we may be taken up as thieves.” At the repeated entreaties of his mother, the prince threw them into the sea, keeping only one tied up in his clothes. The boat then drifted towards the coast, and the queen and the prince arrived at a certain port where they landed.

The port where they landed was not a small place; it was a large city, the capital of a great king. Not far from the place, the queen and her son hired a hut where they lived. As the prince was yet a boy, he was fond of playing at marbles. When the children of the king came out to play on a lawn before the palace, our young prince joined them. He had no marbles, but he played with the ruby which he had in his possession. The ruby was so hard that it broke every taw against which it struck.

The daughter of the king, who used to watch the games from a balcony of the palace, was astonished to see a brilliant red ball in the hand of the strange lad and wanted to take possession of it. She told her father that a boy of the street had an uncommonly bright stone in his possession which she must have, or else she would starve herself to death.

The king ordered his servants to bring to him the lad with the precious stone. When the boy was brought, the king wondered at the largeness and brilliancy of the ruby. He had never seen anything like it. He doubted whether any king of any country in the world possessed so great a treasure. He asked the lad where he had got it. The lad replied that he got it from the sea.

The king offered a thousand rupees for the ruby, and the lad, not knowing its value, readily parted with it for that sum. He went with the money to his mother, who was not a little frightened, thinking that her son had stolen the money from some rich man’s house. She became quiet, however, on being assured that the money was given to him by the king in exchange for the red ball which he had picked up in the sea.

The king’s daughter, on getting the ruby, put it in her hair, and, standing before her pet parrot, said to the bird, “Oh, my darling parrot, don’t I look very beautiful with this ruby in my hair?”

(700 words)

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