Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Raja Rasalu: The Second and Third Games (Jacobs)

Story source: Indian Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, with illustrations by John D. Batten (1912).

The Second and Third Games

Then the second game began, and once more Dhol Raja, the rat, upset the pieces, and Rasalu, losing the game, gave up his faithful steed. Then Bhaunr, the Arab steed, who stood by, found voice, and cried to his master,

"Sea-born am I, bought with much gold;
Dear Prince! trust me now as of old.
I'll carry you far from these wiles—
My flight, all unspurr'd, will be swift as a bird,
For thousands and thousands of miles!
Or if needs you must stay; ere the next game you play,
Place hand in your pocket, I pray!"

Hearing this, Raja Sarkap frowned, and bade his slaves remove Bhaunr, the Arab steed, since he gave his master advice in the game.

Now, when the slaves came to lead  the faithful steed away, Rasalu could not refrain from tears, thinking over the long years during which Bhaunr, the Arab steed, had been his companion.

But the horse cried out again,

"Weep not, dear Prince! I shall not eat my bread
Of stranger hands, nor to strange stall be led.
Take thy right hand, and place it as I said."

These words roused some recollection in Rasalu's mind and when, just at this moment, the kitten in his pocket began to struggle, he remembered all about the warning, and the dice made from dead men's bones.

Then his heart rose up once more, and he called boldly to Raja Sarkap, "Leave my horse and arms here for the present. Time enough to take them away when you have won my head!"

Now, Raja Sarkap, seeing Rasalu's confident bearing, began to be afraid and ordered all the women of his palace to come forth in their gayest attire and stand before Rasalu so as to distract his attention from the game. But he never even looked at them and, drawing the dice from his pocket, said to Sarkap, "We have played with your dice all this time; now we will play with mine."

Then the kitten went and sat at the window through which the rat Dhol Raja used to come, and the game began.

After a while, Sarkap, seeing Raja Rasalu was winning, called to his rat, but when Dhol Raja saw the kitten he was afraid and would not go further. So Rasalu won, and took back his arms.

Next he played for his horse, and once more Raja Sarkap called for his rat, but Dhol Raja, seeing the kitten keeping watch, was afraid. So Rasalu won the second stake, and took back Bhaunr, the Arab steed.

Then Sarkap brought all his skill to bear on the third and last game, saying,

"Oh moulded pieces! favour me to-day!
For sooth this is a man with whom I play.
No paltry risk—but life and death at stake;
As Sarkap does, so do, for Sarkap's sake!"

But Rasalu answered back,

"Oh moulded pieces! favour me to-day!
For sooth it is a man with whom I play.
No paltry risk—but life and death at stake;
As Heaven does, so do, for Heaven's sake!"

So they began to play, whilst the women stood round in a circle, and the kitten watched Dhol Raja from the window. Then Sarkap lost, first his kingdom, then the wealth of the whole world, and lastly his head.

Just then, a servant came in to announce the birth of a daughter to Raja Sarkap, and he, overcome by misfortunes, said, "Kill her at once! For she has been born in an evil moment, and has brought her father ill luck!"

But Rasalu rose up in his shining armour, tender-hearted and strong, saying, "Not so, oh king! She has done no evil. Give me this child to wife, and if you will vow, by all you hold sacred, never again to play chaupur for another's head, I will spare yours now!"

Then Sarkap vowed a solemn vow never to play for another's head, and after that he took a fresh mango branch and the new-born babe, and, placing them on a golden dish, gave them to Rasalu.

Now, as he left the palace, carrying with him the new-born babe and the mango branch, he met a band of prisoners, and they called out to him,

"A royal hawk art thou, oh King! the rest
But timid wild-fowl. Grant us our request,—
Unloose these chains, and live for ever blest!"

And Raja Rasalu hearkened to them and bade King Sarkap set them at liberty.

Then he went to the Murti Hills and placed the new-born babe, Kokilan, in an underground palace and planted the mango branch at the door, saying, "In twelve years the mango tree will blossom; then will I return and marry Kokilan."

And after twelve years, the mango tree began to flower, and Raja Rasalu married the Princess Kokilan, whom he won from Sarkap when he played chaupur with the King.

(800 words)








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