Raja Rasalu: The Dice and the Cricket

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel, with illustrations by J. Lockwood Kipling (1894).

The Dice and the Cricket

NOW, after he had reigned a while in Hodinagari, Rasalu gave up his kingdom and started off to play chaupur with King Sarkap. And as he journeyed there came a fierce storm of thunder and lightning, so that he sought shelter and found none save an old graveyard, where a headless corpse lay upon the ground. So lonesome was it that even the corpse seemed company, and Rasalu, sitting down beside it, said:

"There is no one here, nor far nor near,
Save this breathless corpse so cold and grim;
Would God he might come to life again —
'Twould be less lonely to talk to him."

And immediately the headless corpse arose and sat beside Raja Rasalu. And he, nothing astonished, said to it:

"The storm beats fierce and loud,
The clouds rise thick in the west;
What ails thy grave and shroud,
O corpse! that thou canst not rest?"

Then the headless corpse replied:

"On earth I was even as thou,
My turban awry like a king,
My head with the highest, I trow,
Having my fun and my fling,
Fighting my foes like a brave,
Living my life with a swing.
And, now I am dead,
Sins, heavy as lead,
Will give me no rest in my grave!"

So the night passed on, dark and dreary, while Rasalu sat in the graveyard and talked to the headless corpse.

Now when morning broke, and Rasalu said he must continue his journey, the headless corpse asked him whither he was going and when he said "to play chaupur with King Sarkap," the corpse begged him to give up the idea saying, "I am King Sarkap's brother, and I know his ways. Every day, before breakfast, he cuts off the heads of two or three men, just to amuse himself. One day no one else was at hand, so he cut off mine, and he will surely cut off yours on some pretence or another. However, if you are determined to go and play chaupur with him, take some of the bones from this graveyard and make your dice out of them, and then the enchanted dice with which my brother plays will lose their virtue. Otherwise he will always win."

So Rasalu took some of the bones lying about and fashioned them into dice, and these he put into his pocket. Then, bidding adieu to the headless corpse, he went on his way to play chaupur with the King.

Now, as Raja Rasalu, tender-hearted and strong, journeyed along to play chaupur with the King, he came to a burning forest, and a voice rose from the fire saying, "Oh, traveller! for God's sake save me from the fire!"

Then the Prince turned towards the burning forest, and, lo! the voice was the voice of a tiny cricket. Nevertheless, Rasalu, tender-hearted and strong, snatched it from the fire and set it at liberty.

Then the little creature, full of gratitude, pulled out one of its feelers and, giving it to its preserver, said, "Keep this, and should you ever be in trouble, put it into the fire, and instantly I will come to your aid."

The Prince smiled, saying, "What help could you give me?" Nevertheless, he kept the hair and went on his way.

(600 words)

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