Folklore of the Santal Parganas
by Cecil Henry Bompas
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Having repaid the mahajan in his own coin the prince and the barber left those parts and journeyed to the land of the king of the jackals. They found the king of the jackals asleep in front of his cave. While he still slept the barber shaved all the hair off his tail. Then the two friends hid in the cave, drawing a cart in front of the entrance. When the jackal awoke and found that he had been shaved he concluded that there were bongas (spirits) about; and ran away in terror. After going a short distance he met a bear who asked where he was going in such a hurry. The king of the jackals said that some bongas had taken possession of his cave and shaved off his hair. The bear agreed to go back with the jackal and see if he could exorcise the spirits. Going to the cave the bear climbed on to the cart to offer a sacrifice. As he sat there the barber caught hold of his tail and held on to it while the prince began to stab the bear with a knife. The bear howled and groaned but could not get away. The king of the jackals who was looking on was delighted, for he concluded that the bongas had taken possession of the bear who would learn who they were and how they were to be exorcised. At last the bear broke free and ran away: the jackal ran after him and asked him what the bongas had told him: but the bear only said 'ugh' 'ugh' and ran into the jungle. Then the jackal met a tiger and telling his story persuaded the tiger also to try his hand at exorcising the spirits. The tiger was treated in the same way as the bear had been and ran off without giving the jackal any information.

Then the king of the jackals resolved to try himself and mounted on to the cart. But the barber stabbed him through the bamboos and killed him. Then the prince succeeded to the kingdom of the jackals, and not only so, but replaced the piece of skin which he had forfeited to the mahajan by a piece of the skin of the dead jackal.

(20)—The Mongoose Boy.

Once upon a time there was a Raja who had seven wives but no children. In hope of issue he retired to the jungle and began a course of prayers and sacrifices. While he was so engaged a Brahman came to him and told him to take a stick and with it knock down seven mangoes from a neighbouring tree, and catch them before they reached the ground: he promised that if the Ranis ate these mangoes they would bear children. The Raja did as he was directed and took the mangoes home and gave one to each of his wives.

The youngest Rani happened at the time to be sweeping out a room and so she put her mango in a niche in the wall. Just then a neighbour sent a mongoose, who was her servant, to ask for a light. While the Rani was fetching a firebrand from the hearth the mongoose saw the mango and climbing up nibbled part of it without being seen. After this the Rani ate the mango. In due time the seven Ranis each gave birth to a son: but the son of the youngest Rani was the most beautiful with a face like a mongoose. The eldest Rani was jealous of the beauty of the youngest Rani's son so one day she sent the youngest Rani to fetch some water: and during her absence took up the mongoose boy and putting a stone and a broom in its place took the child away and buried it in the pit from which the potters dig their earth. When the Raja heard that his youngest wife had given birth to nothing but a stone and a broom he was very angry and turned her out of the palace.

Meanwhile a potter had found the mongoose boy still alive and had taken him to his home. There the child grew up and became a strong boy. One day he asked the potter to make him an earthenware horse. On this horse he used to ride about, for directly he mounted it, it was endowed with life. One day the mongoose boy took his earthenware horse to water it at a tank near the palace and there his six brothers saw it and insisted that they also should have earthenware horses to ride. Horses were accordingly made for them but when they mounted, the horses would not budge an inch. Enraged at this the princes complained to their mothers. The Ranis at once suspected the identity of the potter's boy and told their sons to kill him.

So one day when the young princes met him at the tank they killed the mongoose boy and buried his body. At the place where the body was buried there grew up a bamboo of extraordinary size and a bush with sweet and beautiful flowers: many people tried to cut down the big bamboo and to pluck the beautiful flowers but every arm that was raised to do so was restrained by some unseen power. Eventually the news of this portent reached the ears of the Raja who went to see what was happening. When the Raja tried to pluck a flower he succeeded at the first attempt. The Raja then cut down the bamboo and out of it stepped the mongoose boy who told of the illtreatment which he had received at the hands of the six Ranis and their sons. The Raja wished him to come to the palace but he insisted that his mother should first be sent for. This was at once done.

Then the Raja had a wide and deep well dug and announced that a Puja was to be performed at the opening of the well. To the ceremony came the six Ranis and their sons. As they all knelt at the edge of the well doing puja the Raja had them pushed into it, so that they were all drowned. Thus the wicked were punished and the mongoose boy eventually succeeded to his father's kingdom.

(21)—The Prince and the Tigress.

Once upon a time there was a Raja who had seven sons. One day a tigress came to the palace and asked the Raja to allow one of his sons to be her servant and look after her cattle. The Raja consented and ordered his eldest son to go with the tigress. The young man took his axe and bow and arrows and went with the tigress to her cave. When he got there he asked where were the cattle which he was to tend. The tigress pointed out to him all the bears which were roaming in the jungle and said that they were her cattle. By the cave stood a large rock and the tigress told the prince to take his axe and cut it in two. The prince tried, but the rock only turned the edge of his axe and he quite failed to cut it. The tigress being thus satisfied that the prince had no superhuman powers sprang upon him and killed him and devoured his body. Then she went back to the Raja and said that she had too much work to be done, that she wished him to give her a second son. The Raja agreed, but this prince met the same fate as the first; and in succession, all the sons of the Raja, except the youngest, went with the tigress and were devoured by her. At last the youngest son went with the tigress: when bidden to cut the rock in two, he easily accomplished the task. Then the tigress knew that she had met her master and ran into her cave. Looking into the cave, the prince saw the bones of his dead brothers. Gathering the bones together, he prayed for fire to burn them, and fire fell from above and burned the bones.

Then he climbed a tree in order to be out of the reach of the tigress, and the tigress came and sat at the foot of the tree so that he could not descend. Then he prayed again and wind arose and wafted him away and set him down by a house where lived an old man and his wife. The tigress followed in pursuit, but the aged couple hid the prince and assured the tigress that he had not been seen; so the tigress returned disappointed. The prince stayed with the old people and worked on their land. One day as he was ploughing, the tigress came and killed one of the bullocks that were drawing the plough. The prince at once ran to the house to fetch his bow and arrow that he might kill the tigress. When he returned, he found that several tigers were sucking the blood of the bullock and with them a wild boar. He shot an arrow which wounded the boar. The boar maddened by the pain turned on the tigers and killed them all; including the tigress which had killed the Raja's sons.

The prince then being no longer in danger from the tigress returned to his father's palace.

(22)—The Cunning Potter.

Once upon a time there lived at the gate of a Raja's palace a Potter who had a pretty wife. The Raja fell in love with the Potter's wife and schemed to get rid of the husband. He could not bring himself to commit a cold blooded murder, but he tried to accomplish his object indirectly by setting the Potter impossible tasks which he was to accomplish on pain of death. The Raja accordingly sent for the Potter and ordered him to bring him the heads of twenty-four jackals.

The Potter went away to the jungle and began to dig a large hole in the side of a hill. A jackal presently came by and stopped to ask why he was digging the hole. The Potter said that it was going to rain fire from heaven, and that every one who had not such a shelter would be burnt. At this the jackal became very frightened; the Potter thereupon said that he was so sorry for them that he would allow the jackal and his friends to share the hole which he was digging. The jackal gratefully ran away and returned with a number of other jackals. They all went into the hole and the Potter closed the entrance. After a time the Potter looked out and said that the fire was over; he then stationed himself at the mouth of the hole and as the jackals came out he cut off their heads with a knife; in this away he beheaded twenty-three jackals; but the last jackal saw what was happening and dodged the knife and escaped. The Potter took the twenty-three heads to the Raja; but the Raja pretended to be angry and said that if the Potter did not at once procure a twenty-fourth head, he would be beheaded himself. The Potter took a pot of gur and went to a pool of water which lay in the direction in which the twenty-fourth jackal had fled. Smearing his body all over with gur, he lay down by the water and pretended to be dead. Presently the jackal which had escaped passed that way with a friend. Seeing the body the second jackal proposed at once to go and eat it; but the first jackal warned the other that there was probably some plot and related how twenty-three of his friends had lost their lives at the hands of this very Potter. But the second jackal would not listen to advice and going to the supposed corpse smelt it and then began to lick it; finding the taste of the gur very pleasant it set to work to lick the body all over beginning at the feet; it licked the feet and then the legs, when it reached his waist it was within reach of his hand and the Potter stabbed it with his knife and took the head to the Raja.

Foiled in this design, the Raja next ordered the Potter to bring him a jar of tiger's milk. Taking some loaves of bread, the Potter went into the jungle and soon found a cave in which was a pair of tiger cubs whose parents were away hunting. The Potter told the cubs that he was their uncle and gave them the bread to eat; they liked the taste of the bread very much. Then the Potter hid himself in a tree near the cave. Presently the tigress came back but her cubs refused to suck her milk as usual, the tigress asked the reason of this and the cubs said that their uncle had come and fed them with something nicer than milk and they were no longer hungry. They then pointed out the Potter in the tree and the tigress wanted to know what he had given her cubs to eat. He told her that it was bread: the tigress said that she would like to try some herself, whereupon the potter replied that he would give her some if she would first give him some of her milk. The tigress agreed and also consented that her legs should be tied while she was being milked in order that she might not be able to harm the potter. The tigress having been milked, the Potter gave her a loaf of bread and then ran away as fast as he could.

Finding that he would not be able to get rid of the Potter by any such devices, the Raja then persuaded the faithless wife to put the Potter to death. She accordingly set up an idol in her house and prayed daily to this that her husband might become blind and die. One day the Potter overheard her prayers: the next day he hid behind the idol and when the woman came and prayed he answered from behind the idol that her prayer was granted and that in two days her husband would become blind. Accordingly, two days later the Potter pretended to become blind. Then the woman sent word to the Raja that her husband was blind and that they had nothing to fear from him. The Raja accordingly came one night to visit the woman, and the Potter killed them both with an axe. He buried the body of his wife, but he was in great trouble as to how to dispose of the body of the Raja: for he knew that there would be a hue and cry when the disappearance of the Raja was discovered. At last he decided to put the body in a field of brinjals belonging to a neighbour. Towards morning, the owner of the field came to see that his property was all right, and seeing some one among the brinjals, thought that it was a thief. He accordingly hit the supposed thief on the head; and when he came to examine the body, he was shocked to find that he had, as he thought, killed the Raja. In great distress he went to consult his friend, the Potter; the Potter advised him to put the body among the buffaloes belonging to a Goala. At dawn the Goala came to look at his buffaloes and seeing the body of the Raja thought that it was a thief stealing the milk of the buffaloes: catching up a club, he inflicted a blow which caused the body to fall over. When the Goala, found that the body was that of the Raja and that he had apparently killed him, he was in great fear and went to his friend, the Potter, for advice. It was finally decided to dispose of the body by putting it down a well. The next day great search was made for the missing Raja and the body was found in the well by a Brahman. Preparations were made for the obsequies and a funeral pyre erected. The Potter saw his opportunity and digging a hole in the ground under the pyre hid himself in it. When the body had been cremated and the mourners were still collected at the spot, the Potter began to speak from the hole in which he was concealed: the bystanders thought that they heard the voice of the Raja declaring that the Potter had always been his true friend and that he desired that he should be given half the kingdom and the hand of his daughter in marriage. The supposed wishes of the late Raja were obeyed and the Potter lived in luxury for the rest of his life.


[1] This is why Santals when going to eat, move the stool that is offered to them before they sit down on it.

[2] Jaituk is a bullock given to a girl by her parents at the time of her marriage.

[3] Kisar bonga = brownie.

[4] This is quite in accordance with Ho notions. If a man buys a wife there is an implied warranty that she is to last a reasonable time. If she dies shortly after marriage a sister or cousin has to be given to replace her.


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