THE STORY OF FOOLISH SACHÚLÍ (Indian Fairy Tales, 1880) collected and translated by Maive Stokes

THERE once lived a poor old widow woman named Hungní, who had a little idiot son called Sachúlí. She used to beg every day. One day when the son had grown up, he said to his mother. “What makes women laugh?” “If you throw a tiny stone at them,” answered she, “they will laugh.” So one day Sachúlí went and sat by a well, and three women came to it to fill their water-jars. “Now,” said Sachúlí “I will make one of these women laugh.” Two of the women filled their water-jars and went away home, and he threw no stones at them; but as the last, who also had on the most jewels, passed him, he threw a great big stone at her, and she fell down dead, with her mouth set as if she were smiling. “Oh, look! look! how she is laughing!” said Sachúlí, and he ran off to call his mother.

“Come, come, mother,” said he, “and see how I have made this woman laugh.”

His mother came, and when she saw the woman lying dead, she was much frightened, for the dead woman belonged to a great and very rich family, and she wore jewels worth a thousand rupees. Hungní took off all her jewels, and threw her body into the well.

After some days the dead woman’s father and mother and all her people sent round a crier with a drum to try and find her. “Whoever brings back a young woman who wears a great many gold necklaces and bracelets and rings shall get a great deal of money,” cried the crier. Sachúlí heard him. “I know where she is,” said he. “My mother took off all her jewels, and threw her into the well.”

The crier said, “Can you go down into the well and bring her up?”

“If you will tie a rope round my waist and let me down the well, I shall be able to bring her up.”

So they set off towards the well, which was near Hungní’s house; and when she saw them coming, she guessed what they came for, and she ran out and killed a sheep, threw it into the well, and took out the dead woman and hid her.

The crier got some men to come with him, and they let Sachúlí down the well. “Has she got eyes?” said Sachúlí. “Of course, every one has eyes,” answered the men. “Has she a nose?” asked Sachúlí. “Yes, she has a nose,” said the men. “Has she got a mouth?” asked Sachúlí. “Yes,” said the men. “Has she a long face?”

“What does he mean?” said the men, who were getting cross. “No one has a long face; perhaps she has, though. Yes, she has a long face,” cried the men.

“Has she a tail?”

“A tail! Why no one has a tail. Perhaps, though, she has long hair. No doubt that is what he calls a tail. Yes, she has a tail.”

“Has she ears?”

“Of course, every one has ears.”

“Has she four feet?”

“Four feet!” said the men. “Why, no one has four feet. Perhaps you call her hands feet. Yes, she has four feet. Bring her up quickly.”

Then Sachúlí brought up the sheep.

The men were very angry when they saw the sheep, and they beat Sachúlí, and called him a very stupid fellow and a great liar, and they went away feeling very cross.

Sachúlí went home to his mother, who, as soon as she saw him coming, ran out and put the woman’s body back in the well, and when he got home she beat him. “Mother,” said he, “give me some bread, and I will go away and die.” His mother cooked him some bread, and he went away.

He walked on, and on, and on, a long way.

Now, some Rájá’s ten camels had been travelling along the road on which Sachúlí went, each carrying sacks of gold mohurs and rupees, and one of these camels broke loose from the string and strayed away, and the camel-drivers could not find it again. But Sachúlí met it, and caught it and took it home.

“See, mother! see what a quantity of money I have brought you!” cried Sachúlí. Hungní rushed out, and was delighted to see so much money. She took off the sacks at once and sent the camel away. Then she hid the rupees and the gold with the jewels she had taken from the dead woman. And, as she was a cunning woman, she went and bought a great many comfits and scattered them all about her house, when Sachúlí was out of the way. “Oh, look! look!” cried Sachúlí, “at all these comfits.” “God has rained them from heaven,” said his mother. Sachúlí began to pick them up and eat them, and he told all the people in the village how God had rained down comfits from heaven on his mother’s house. “What nonsense!” cried they. “Yes, he has,” said Sachúlí, “and I have been eating them.” “No comfits have fallen on our houses,” said they. “Yes, yes,” cried he, “the day my mother got all those rupees, God rained comfits on our house.” “What lies!” cried the people; “as if it ever rained comfits. Why did not the comfits rain down on our houses? Why did they fall only on your house? And what’s all this about rupees?” And then they came to see if there were any rupees or comfits in Hungní’s house, and they found none at all, for Hungní had hidden the rupees and thrown away the comfits. “There,” said they to Sachúlí, “where are your rupees? where are your comfits? What a liar you are! as if it ever rained comfits. How can you tell such stories?” And they beat him. “But it did rain comfits,” said Sachúlí, “for I ate them. It rained comfits the day my mother got the rupees.”

Now the Rájá who had lost his camel sent round the crier with his drum to find his camel and his money-bags. “Whoever has found a camel carrying money-bags and brings it and the money back to the Rájá, will get a great many rupees,” cried the crier. “Oh!” says Sachúlí, “I know where the money is. One day I went out and I found a stray camel, and he had sacks of rupees on his back, and I took him home to my mother, and she took the sacks off his back and sent the camel away.” So the crier went to find the rupees, and the people in the bazar went with him. But Hungní had hidden the rupees so carefully that, though they hunted all over her house, they could find none, and they beat Sachúlí, and told him he was a liar. “I am not telling lies,” said Sachúlí. “My mother took the rupees the day it rained comfits on our house.” So they beat him again, and they went away. Then Hungní beat Sachúlí, and said, “What a bad boy you are! trying to get me beaten and put into prison, telling every one about the rupees. Go away; I don’t want you any more, such a bad boy as you are! go away and die.” He said, “Very well, mother; give me some bread, and I’ll go.”

Sachúlí set off and took an axe with him. “How shall I kill myself?” said he. So he climbed up a tree and sat out on a long branch, and began cutting off the branch between himself and the tree on which he was sitting. “What are you doing up there?” said a man who came by. “You’ll die if you cut that branch off.” “What do you say?” cries Sachúlí, jumping down on the man, and seizing his hand. “When shall I die?” “How can I tell? Let me go.” “I won’t let you go till you tell me when I shall die.” And at last the man said, “When you find a scarlet thread on your jacket, then you will die.”

Sachúlí went off to the bazar, and sat down by some tailors, and one of the tailors, in throwing away their shreds of cloth, threw a scarlet thread on Sachúlí’s coat. “Oh,” said Sachúlí, when he saw the thread, “now I shall die!” “How do you know that?” said the tailors. “A man told me that when I found a scarlet thread on my jacket, I should die,” said Sachúlí; and the tailors all laughed at him and made fun of him, but he went off into the jungle and dug his grave with his axe, and lay down in it. In the night a sepoy came by with a large jar of ghee on his head. “How heavy this jar is,” said the sepoy. “Is there no cooly that will come and carry my ghee home for me? I would give him four pice for his trouble.” Up jumped Sachúlí out of his grave. “I’ll carry it for you,” said he. “Who are you?” said the sepoy, much frightened. “Oh, I am a man who is dead,” said Sachúlí, “and I am tired of lying here. I can’t lie here any more.” “Well,” said the sepoy, very much frightened, “you may carry my ghee.” So Sachúlí put the jar on his head, and he went on, with the sepoy following. “Now,” said Sachúlí, “with these four pice I will buy a hen, and I will sell the hen and her eggs, and with the money I get for them I will buy a goat; and then I will sell the goat and her milk and her hide and buy a cow, and I will sell her milk; and then I will marry a wife, and then I shall have some children, and they will say to me, ‘Father, will you have some rice?’ and I will say, ‘No, I won’t have any rice.’” And as he said, “No, I won’t have any rice,” he shook his head, and down came the jar of ghee, and the jar was smashed, and the ghee spilled. “Oh, dear! what have you done?” cried the sepoy. “Why did you shake your head?” “Because my children asked me to have some rice, and I did not want any, so I shook my head,” said Sachúlí. “Oh,” said the sepoy, “he is an utter idiot.” And the sepoy went home, and Sachúlí went back to his mother. “Why have you come back?” said she. “I have been dead twelve years,” said Sachúlí. “What lies you tell!” said she. “You have only been away a few days. Be off! I don’t want any liars here.”

Sachúlí asked her to give him two flour-cakes, which she did, and he went off to the jungle, and it was night. Five fairies lived in this jungle, and as Sachúlí went along, he broke his flour-cakes into five pieces, and said, “Now I’ll eat one, then the second, then the third, then the fourth, and then the fifth.” And the fairies heard him and were afraid, and said to each other, “What shall we do? Here is this man, and he is going to eat us all up. What shall we do to save ourselves? We will give him something.” So they went out all five, and said to Sachúlí, “If only you won’t eat us, we will give you a present.” Now Sachúlí did not know there were fairies in this jungle. “What will you give me?” said Sachúlí. “We will give you a cooking-pot. When you want anything to eat, all you have to do is to ask the pot for it, and you will get it.” Sachúlí took the pot and went off to the bazar. He stopped at a cook-shop, and asked for some pilau. “Pilau? There’s no pilau here,” said the shopman. “Well,” said Sachúlí, “I have a cooking-pot here, and I have only to ask it for any dish I want, and I get it at once.” “What nonsense!” said the man. “Just see,” said Sachúlí; and he said to the cooking-pot, “I want some pilau,” and immediately the pot was full of pilau, and all the people in the shop set to work to help him to eat it up, it was so good. “Oh,” thought the cook, “I must have that pot,” so he gave Sachúlí a sleepy drink. Then Sachúlí went to sleep, and while he slept the cook stole the fairy cooking-pot, and put a common cooking-pot in its place. Sachúlí went home with the cook’s pot, and said, “Mother, I have brought home a cooking-pot. If you ask it for any food you want, you will get it.” “Nonsense,” said Hungní; “what lies you are telling!” “It is quite true, mother; only see,” and he asked the pot for different dishes, but none came. Hungní was furious. “Go away,” she said. “Why do you come back to me? I want no liars here.” “Give me five flour-cakes and I will go,” said her son. So she baked the bread for him, and he set off for the jungle where he had met the five fairies, and as he went along he said, “I will eat one, and I will eat two, and I will eat three, and I will eat four, and I will eat five.” The five fairies heard him, and were terrified. “Here is this bad man again,” said they, “and he will eat us all five. Oh, what shall we do? Let us give him a present.” So they went to Sachúlí, and said, “Here is a box for you. Whenever you want any clothes you have only to tell this box, and it will give them to you; take it, and don’t eat us.” So he took the box and went to the bazar, and he stopped at the cook-shop again, and asked the cook for a red silk dress, and a pair of long black silk trousers, and a blue silk turban, and a pair of red shoes, and the cook laughed and asked how he should have such beautiful things. “Well,” said Sachúlí, “here is a box; when I ask it for the dress and trousers, and turban and shoes, I shall get them.” So the cook laughed at him. “Just see,” said Sachúlí, and he said, “Box, give me a red silk dress and a pair of long black silk trousers, and a blue silk turban, and red shoes,” and there they were at once. And the cook was delighted, and said to himself, “I will have that box,” and he gave Sachúlí a good dinner and a sleepy drink, and Sachúlí fell fast asleep. While he slept the cook came and stole the fairy box, and put a common box in its place. In the morning Sachúlí went home to his mother and said, “Mother, I’ve brought you a box. You have only to ask it for any clothes you may want, and you will get them.” “Nonsense,” said his mother, “don’t tell me such lies.” “Only see, mother; I am telling you truth,” said he. He asked the box for coats and all sorts of things—no; he got nothing. His mother was very angry, and said, “You liar! you naughty boy! Go away and don’t come back any more.” And she broke the box to pieces, and threw the bits away. “Well, mother, bake me some flour-cakes.” So she baked him the cakes and gave them to him, and sent him away. He went off to the fairies’ jungle, and as he went he said, “Now I’ll eat one, then two, then three, then four, then five.” The five fairies were very frightened. “Here is this man come back to eat us all five. Let us give him a present.” So they went to him and gave him a rope and stick, and said, “Only say to this rope, ‘Bind that man,’ and he will be tied up at once; and to this stick, ‘Beat that man,’ and the stick will beat him.” Sachúlí was very glad to get these things, for he guessed what had happened to his cooking-pot and box. So he went to the bazar, and at the cook-shop he said, “Rope, bind all these men that are here!” and the cook and every one in the shop were tied up instantly. Then Sachúlí said, “Stick, beat these men!” and the stick began to beat them. “Oh, stop, stop beating us, and untie, and I’ll give you your pot and your box!” cried the cook. “No, I won’t stop beating you, and I won’t untie you till I have my pot and my box.” And the cook gave them both to him, and he untied the rope. Then Sachúlí went home, and when his mother saw him, she was very angry, but he showed her the box and the cooking-pot, and she saw he had told her the truth. So she sent for the doctor, and he declared Sachúlí was wise and not silly, and he and Hungní found a wife for Sachúlí, and made a grand wedding for him, and they lived happily ever after.

Told by Dunkní.

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