Goblins: The Three Lovers

The stories that this goblin tells are "riddling" stories where there is some kind of puzzle or paradox at the end of the story that needs to be explained. So, at the end of each story, he asks the king a question: if the king does not know the answer, the goblin will tell another story as they continue on their way; if the king knows the answer and does not tell, then his head will explode; if the king tells the correct answer, the goblin jumps back into the sissoo tree. The king — who is very wise — of course is able to answer each riddle correctly again and again, which means that again and again he has to go fetch the goblin out of the tree. Ten times... twenty times... more! You can see all the stories listed here — Twenty-Two Goblins — and the story you are about to read below is the second story in the series.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Twenty-Two Goblins unit. Story source: Twenty-Two Goblins, translated by Arthur W. Ryder, with illustrations by Perham W. Nahl (1917).

The Three Lovers who brought the Dead Girl to Life.
Whose wife should she be?

On the bank of Kalindi River is a farm where a very learned Brahman lived. And he had a very beautiful daughter named Coral. When the Creator fashioned her fresh and peerless loveliness, surely he must have despised the cleverness he showed before in fashioning the nymphs of heaven.

When she had grown out of childhood, there came from the city of Kanauj three Brahman youths, endowed with all the virtues. And each of them asked her father for her, that she might be his own. And though her father would rather have died than give her up to anyone, he made up his mind to give her to one of them. But the girl would not marry any one of them for some time because she was afraid of hurting the feelings of the other two. So they stayed there all three of them day and night, feasting on the beauty of her face, like the birds that live on moonbeams.

Then all at once Coral fell sick of a burning fever and died. And when the Brahman youths saw that she was dead, they were smitten with grief. But they adorned her body, took it to the cemetery, and burned it.

And one of them built a hut there, slept on a bed made of her ashes and got his food by begging. The second took her bones and went to dip them in the sacred Ganges river. And the third became a monk and wandered in other countries.

And as he wandered, the monk came to a village called Thunderbolt and was entertained in the house of a Brahman. But when he had been honoured by the master of the house and had begun to eat dinner there, the little boy began to cry and would not stop even when they petted him. So his mother took him on her arm and angrily threw him into the blazing fire. And being tender, he was reduced to ashes in a moment.

When the monk saw this, his hair stood on end, and he said: "Alas! I have come into the house of a devil. I will not eat this food. It would be like eating sin."

But the master of the house said to him: "Brahman, I have studied to good purpose. See my skill in bringing the dead to life." So he opened a book, took out a magic spell, read it, and sprinkled water on the ashes. And the moment the water was sprinkled, the boy stood up alive just as before. Then the monk was highly delighted and finished his dinner with pleasure.

And the master of the house hung the book on an ivory peg, took dinner with the monk, and went to bed. When he was asleep, the monk got up quietly, and tremblingly took the book, hoping to bring his darling Coral back to life.

He went away and travelled night and day until he finally reached the cemetery. And he caught sight of the second youth, who had come back after dipping the bones in the Ganges. And he also found the third youth, who had made a hut and lived there, sleeping on the girl's ashes.

Then the monk cried: "Brother, leave your hut. I will bring the dear girl back to life." And while they eagerly questioned him, he opened the book, and read the magic spell, and sprinkled holy water on the ashes. And Coral immediately stood up, alive. And the girl was more beautiful than ever. She looked as if she were made of gold.

When the three youths saw her come back to life like that, they went mad with love and fought with one another to possess her.

One said: "I brought her to life by my magic spell. She is my wife."

The second said: "She came to life because of my journey to the sacred river. She is my wife."

The third said: "I kept her ashes. That is why she came to life. She is my dear wife."

~ ~ ~

"O King, you are able to decide their dispute. Tell me. Whose wife should she be? If you know and say what is false, then your head will split."

When the king heard this, he said to the goblin: "The man who painfully found the magic spell and brought her back to life, he did only what a father ought to do. He is not her husband. And the man who went to dip her bones in the sacred river, he did only what a son ought to do. He is not her husband. But the man who slept with her ashes and lived a hard life in the cemetery, he did what a lover ought to do. He deserves to be her husband."

When the goblin heard this answer of King Triple-victory, he suddenly escaped from his shoulder and went back. And the king wished to do as the monk had asked him, so he decided to go back and get him.

Great-minded people do not waver until they have kept their promises, even at the cost of life.

(900 words)