Raja Rasalu: The Swans (Swynnerton)

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: The Adventures of the Punjab Hero Raja Rasalu by Charles Swynnerton (1884).

Raja Rasalu and the Swans

Rasalu, in his wanderings, once came to a certain city, on the gate of which he read an inscription setting forth that Rasalu of Sialkot, the son of Sulwan, would one day appear, that he would shoot an arrow of iron one hundred feet into the air, and that his reward should be a turban one hundred feet in length.

There Rasalu determined to tarry, and one day in the presence of the inhabitants, when feats of strength were being exhibited, he took one of his arrows and shot it towards the sky. Ail the people stood still to gaze, waiting for the return of the arrow, but as it never came back, they said, "This must be the real Rasalu!" Then they wove for him a turban one hundred feet in length and proclaimed him as the real Rasalu throughout the city, and for his great strength he was held in honour of all men.

The next day he entered on his travels again, and as he was walking by a river-side, he saw a crow and his mate sitting fondly together, and he heard the female bird saying, "Please take me up to the sky."

"No one can go up to the sky," answered the male bird.

But she insisted and said: "Take me up as high into the air, then, as you can."

Saying this, she mounted up, and the male bird followed her, and both went flying skywards until they were out of sight, and Rasalu, wondering what would come of this adventure, continued his wanderings.

Now the two birds flew up so high that at last they came to a region of rain, hail, and snow, which kept falling continually, and the female bird, drenched and terrified, cried: "For God's sake, save my life and take me to some place of shelter."

"What can be done now?" said her companion. "It is your own fault; why did you not listen to good advice?"

With these words they began to descend, and, worn out with fatigue, they at last fell on to a certain island in the middle of the sea.

Then said the female crow: "Let us go and look for some place of shelter."

Searching here and there, at last they saw a swan with his mate, sitting in a nest in the midst of a tree. So the crow approached, and offered his salaams.

"What do you want, O crow?" said the swan to his unwelcome guest.

"For the sake of God," answered the crow, "be good enough to give us a corner to shelter in to save our lives."

"Although between you and me," said the swan, "there is no relationship, come in and take your rest."

On hearing this, the female swan protested vehemently. "I cannot allow the creature to come into any house of mine," cried she. "He is a mean fellow, and our kinspeople will reproach us, not to speak of our good name."

"He is asking for shelter in the name of God," said her husband, "and I am therefore bound to allow him to enter and rest."

The crow and his mate then crawled into the nest, and the swan gave them pearls to eat and whatsoever else his house afforded.

The next morning, the rain being over, the crows stepped forth and the male bird said to the swan, "Dear friend, against the wicked you should always be on your guard."

"He who will do evil shall suffer evil," answered the swan.

"True," said the crow, "but whether a man do evil or not, he should always keep the base and the unworthy at a distance."

"What do you mean by saying that?" enquired the swan.

"Do you not know," said the crow, "that in a single night you have robbed me of my swan-wife whom I have tenderly reared for twelve years? You had better give her back to me."

"Is this your return for all my kindness?" asked the swan.

"I do not know the meaning of kindness," replied the insolent crow; "give me back my wife! Otherwise, you must either fight with me, or go to the king's court for judgment."

"I have no desire to fight with you," answered the swan meekly. "Come, let us go to the court of the king!"

All the birds at once set out and came to the palace of Raja Bhoj. When they entered the court the king enquired: "Why have those four birds come here to-day? Bring them before me first!"

Then were they marshalled by officers before the judgment seat, and they said: "Sire, we have come to you for a decision ; condescend to listen!"

"What is it that you want?" asked the king.

"Enquire from the crow," said the swan.

"Nay," replied the crow, " I do not wish to say anything whatever — please ask the swan."

Then the swan stated his case:

"Struck down by storm, and rain, and driving snow,
With cries for shelter came this crafty crow;
In God's great name he proffered his request,
We gave him all we had— our place of rest;
But lo! when morning dawned, good turned to ill,
He sat and mocked us, and he mocks us still."

Then the crow stood forward, and stated his own side of the question thus:

"One day upon the river-side
I chanced to take a stroll,
And there I found some creature's egg
Within a sandy hole.
This egg I carried in my bill,
And cherished it with care,
I hatched it underneath my breast,
Till all my breast was bare.
At last, the young one burst the shell,
No useless cock was he,
Or else he might have wandered forth,
And roamed the jungle free.
It was a female, and I said,
'I will preserve her life;
When twelve years old, she'll doubtless prove
A most deserving wife.'
Then came this swan, struck down by rain,
By storm and driving snow,
And begged me for the love of God
Some pity to bestow.
I took him in without a word,
But lo! when morning came,
On score of caste he took my wife,
And vilified my name."

(1100 words)

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