Story of the Day: The Little Blackbird

I learned about this cumulative tale thanks to Dan Ashliman's collection of tales of Aarne-Thompson type 2034D. The source is Indian Folk Tales: Being Side-lights on Village Life in Bilaspore, Central Provinces by E. M. Gordon (1908). The elephant is just one "link" in the chain as it were, but I love chain tales, so I wanted to include this story in the Elephant unit.


The Little Blackbird


There was once a little blackbird (the litia) who was the proud owner of three kauries, or shells. This bird used to come to a king and say, "O king, I have three kauries, O king."

The king was so much annoyed by the continual chirping of the little bird that he ordered his servants to take the three kauries from the bird and to drive it away. But the bird would not leave the king, and so it began to say, "My wealth has made you rich, O king. My wealth has made you rich, O king."

The king then ordered that the three kauries should be returned to the little blackbird. The bird then took the three kauries, and went to the seller of parched gram (a coarse pea), and with the three kauries she bought three grains of parched gram.

Taking these, the bird flew off and sat on a new cart which a carpenter was making, and there she started eating the gram. Having eaten two grains, she was about to eat the third, when it dropped from her beak and fell into a joint of the new cart, where she could not reach it. In great distress she appealed to the carpenter to take to pieces his cart that she might get at the grain she had lost.

"You silly little thing," said the carpenter. "Do you suppose I am going to take to pieces my new cart to get at a single grain which you have dropped into the joint of the woodwork?"

The little blackbird then went to the king, and said to him that she had lost her grain, and asked him to order the carpenter to open his cart that she might get at her grain. "You silly little thing," said the king. "Do you suppose I am going to order the carpenter to open his cart that you may get one small grain?"

The little blackbird then went to the queen, and begged of her to persuade the king to order the carpenter to open the cart to let her get at the grain. But the queen also said, "Get away, you silly thing."

Then the little blackbird went to a deer and said, "Come, O deer, graze in the queen's garden, for she will not persuade the king, and the king will not order the carpenter, and the carpenter will not open the cart, and I cannot get at my grain." But the deer would give to heed to the bird, and called her "You silly little thing."

Then said the bird, "I will go to the lathi (the strong, stout stick)." To the stick she went and said, "Come, stout stick, strike the deer, for the deer will not graze in the queen's garden, and the queen will not persuade the king, and the king will not command the carpenter, and the carpenter will not open his cart, and I cannot get at my grain."

But the stick also would give no ear to the cry of the little blackbird, so she went at once to the fire, and she begged the fire to burn the stick, for the deer would not eat the queen's garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, the king would not command the carpenter, the carpenter would not break up his cart, and she could not get at her grain. But the fire also made light of the little bird's prayer.

So she went next to the lake, and implored the lake to quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain. But the lake refused to help the bird.

She then went to a place where there were thousands of rats, and to the rats she presented her prayer that they should come and fill the lake with their diggings, for the lake would not quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain. But the rats also gave no attention to the wishes of the small blackbird.

Then the bird went to a cat, and of the cat she implored that she should attack the rats, for the rats would not fill in the lake, and the lake would not quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain. But the cat also was deaf to the prayers of the small blackbird.

Then she went to the elephant, and of the elephant she implored that he would crush the cat, for the cat would not kill the rats, for the rats would not fill in the lake, and the lake would not quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain. But the elephant treated her as did all the others.


Then she went to an ant, and begged the wee ant to crawl into the elephant's ear, for the elephant would not crush the cat, for the cat would not kill the rats, for the rats would not fill in the lake, and the lake would not quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain. But the ant also gave no heed to her prayer.

Then at last she came to the crow, the most greedy of all creatures, and of the crow she begged that he should eat the ant. From sheer greed the crow consented to eat the ant, but the ant, seeing the crow about to eat it, went to crawl into the ear of the elephant, and the elephant, fearing the harm which the ant could do him, went to crush the cat, but the cat slipped away, and was about the destroy the rats, and they at once began to fill in the lake, and the lake, becoming alarmed, was about to quench the fire, when the fire began to burn the stick, and the stick began to beat the deer, so that the deer was about to destroy the queen's garden, when the queen began to persuade the king, and the king commanded the carpenter, and the carpenter opened his new cart, and the little blackbird found her grain, and happily taking it up she flew away, and quietly enjoyed her repast, and lived very happily ever after.

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