Indian Fairy Tales (Stokes, 1879)/Brave Hiralalbasa
ONCE there was a Rájá called Mánikbásá Rájá, or the Ruby King, who had seven wives and seven children. One day he told his wives he would go out hunting, and he rode on and on, a long, long way from his palace. A Rakshas was sitting by the wayside, who, seeing the Rájá coming, quickly turned herself into a beautiful Rání, and sat there crying. The Rájá asked her, "Why do you cry?" And the Rakshas answered, "My husband has gone away. He has been away many days, and I think he will never come back again. If some Rájá will take me to his house and marry me, I shall be very glad." So the Rájá said, "Will you come with me?" And the Rakshas answered, "Very well, I will come." And then the Rájá took the pretended Rání home with him and married her. He gave her a room to live in. Every night at twelve o'clock the Rakshas got up and devoured an elephant, or a horse, or some other animal. The Rájá said, "What can become of my elephants and horses? Every day either an elephant or a horse disappears. Who can take them away?" The Rakshas-Rání said to him, "Your seven Ránís are Rakshases, and every night at twelve o'clock they devour a horse, or an elephant, or some other creature."
So the Rájá believed her and had a great hole dug just outside his kingdom, into which he put the seven Ránís with their children, and then he sent a sepoy to them and bade him take out all the Ránís' eyes and bring them to him. This the sepoy did. After a time the poor Ránís grew so hungry that six of them ate their children, but the seventh Rání, who was the youngest of them all, declared she would never eat her child though she might die of hunger, "for," she said, "I love him a great deal too much." God was very pleased with the seventh Rání for this, and so every day he sent her a little food which she divided with the other Ránís. And every day her little boy grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until he had become a strong lad, when, as he thought it was very dark in the hole, he climbed out of it and looked all about. Then he came back to his mothers (for he called all the seven Ránís "Mother" now), who told him he was not to clamber up out of the hole any more, for if he did, some one might kill him. "Still, if you will go," they added, "do not go to your father's kingdom, but stay near this place." The boy said, "Very well," and every day he climbed out of the hole and only went where his seven mothers told him he might go, and he used to beg the people about to give him a little rice, and flour and bread, which they did.
One day he said to his mothers, "If you let me go now to my father's kingdom I will go." "Well, you may go," they said; "but come back again soon." This he promised to do, and he went to his father's kingdom. For some time he stood daily at the door of his father's palace and then returned to the hole. One day the Rakshas-Rání was standing in the verandah, and she thought, "I am sure that is the Rájá's son." The servants every day asked the boy, "Why do you always stand at the door of the palace?" "I want service with the Rájá," he would reply. "If the Rájá has any place he can give me, I will take it."
The Rakshas-Rání said to the Rájá, "The boy standing out there wants service. May I take him into mine?" The Rájá answered, "Very well, send for him." So all the servants ran and fetched the boy. The Rakshas-Rání asked him, "Are you willing to do anything I tell you?" The boy said, "Yes." "Then you shall be my servant," she said, and first she told him he must go to the Rakshas country to fetch some rose-water for her. "I will give you a letter," she said, "so that no harm may happen to you." The lad answered, "Very well, only you must give me three shields full of money." She gave him the three shields full of money, and he took them and went home to his mothers. Then he got two servants for them, one to take care of them, and one to go the bazar. His mothers gave him food for the journey, and he left them the remainder of his money, telling them to take great care of it. He then returned to the Rakshas-Rání for his letter. She told the Rájá she was feeling ill, and would not be quite well until she got some rose-water from the Rakshas country. The Rájá said, "Then you had better send this boy for it." So she gave him a letter, in which she had written, "When this boy arrives among you, kill him and eat him instantly," and he set out at once.
He went on and on till he came to a great river in which lived a huge water-snake. When the water-snake saw him it began to weep very much, and cried out to the boy, "If you go to the Rakshas country you will be eaten up." The lad, whose name was Hírálálbásá, said, "I cannot help it; I am the Rání's servant, so I must do what she tells me." "Well," said the water-snake, "get on my back, and I will take you across this river." So he got on the water-snake's back, and it took him over the river. Then Hírálálbásá went on and on until he came to a house in which a Rakshas lived. A Rání lived there too that the Rakshas had carried off from her father and mother when she was a little girl. She was playing in her father the Sondarbásá Rájá's garden, which was full of delicious fruits, which the Rakshas came to eat, and when he saw Sonahrí Rání he seized her in his mouth and ran off with her. Only she was so beautiful he could never find it in his heart to eat her, but brought her up as his own child. Her name was Sonahrí Rání, that is, the Golden Rání, because her teeth and her hair were made of gold. Now the Rakshas who had carried her off, and whom she called Papa, had a great thick stick, and when he laid this stick at her feet she could not stir, but when he laid it at her head, she could move again.
When the Rájá's son came up, Sonahrí Rání was lying on her bed with the thick stick at her feet, and as soon as she saw the Rájá's son she began to cry very much. "Oh, why have you come here? You will surely be killed," she said. The Rájá's son answered, "I cannot help that. I am the Ránís servant, so I must do what she tells me." "Of course," said Sonahrí Rání; "but put this stick at my head, and then I shall be able to move." The Rájá's son laid the stick at her head, and she got up and gave him some food, and then asked him if he had a letter. "Yes," he answered. "Let me see it," said the Sonahrí Rání. So he gave her the letter, and when she had read it she cried, "Oh, this is a very wicked letter. It will bring you no good, for if the Rakshases see it they will kill you." "Indeed," said Hírálálbásá. And the Sonahrí Rání tore up the letter and wrote another in which she said, "Make much of this boy. Send him home quickly, and give him a jug of rose-water to bring back with him, and see that he gets no hurt." Then the Rájá's son set out again for the Rakshas-Rání's mother's house. He had not gone very far when he met a very big Rakshas, and he cried out to him, "Uncle." "Who is this boy," said the Rakshas, "who calls me uncle?" And he was just going to kill him when Hírálálbásá showed his letter, and the Rakshas let him pass on. He went a little further until he met another Rakshas bigger than the first, and the Rakshas screamed at him and was just going to fall on him and kill him, but the Rájá's son showed the letter, and the Rakshas let him pass unhurt. When Hírálálbásá came to the Rakshas-Rání's mother he showed her the letter, and she gave him the rose-water at once and sent him off. All the Rakshases were very good to him, and some carried him part of the way home. When he came to Sonahrí Rání's house she was lying on her bed with the stick at her feet, and as soon as she saw Hírálálbásá she laughed and said, "Oh, you have come back again? Put this stick at my head." "Yes," said the Rájá's son, "I've come back again, but I was dreadfully frightened very often." Then he put the stick at her head, and she gave him some food to eat. After he had eaten it he went on again, and when he came to the river the water-snake carried him across to the other side, and he travelled to his father's kingdom. There he went to the Rakshas-Rání and gave her the rose-water. She was very angry at seeing him and said, "I'm sure my father and my mother, my brothers and my sisters, don't love me one bit."
And she said to Hírálálbásá, "You must go to-morrow to the Rakshas kingdom to fetch me flowers." "I will go," said Hírálál, "but this time I must have four shields full of rupees." The Rakshas-Rání gave him the four shields full of rupees; and the Rájá's son went to his mothers' hole and bought a quantity of food for them, enough to last them all the time he should be away, and he hired two servants for them, and said good-bye to his seven mothers and returned to Mánikbásá's palace for his letter. This the Rakshas-Rání gave him, and in it she wrote, "Kill him and eat him at once. If you do not, and you send him back to me, I will never see your faces again." Hírálál took his letters and went on his way. When he reached the river the water-snake took him across to the other side, and he walked on till he came to Sonahrí Rání's house. She was lying on the bed with the stick at her feet. "Oh, why have you come here again?" she said. "How can I help coming?" said the Rájá's son. "I must do what my mistress bids me." "So you must," said the Sonahrí Rání; "but put this stick at my head." This he did, and she got up and gave him food, and asked him to let her see his letter, and when she had read it she cried, "This is a very wicked letter. If you take it with you, you will surely die." Then she tore up the letter and burnt it, and wrote another in which she said, "You must all be very good to this boy. Show him all the gardens and see that he is not hurt in any way." She gave it to Hírálál, and he begged her to ask the Rakshas, her father, where he kept his soul. Sonahrí Rání promised she would. She then turned Hírálál into a little fly and put him into a tiny box, and put the box under her pillow. When the Rakshas came home he began sniffing about and said, "Surely there is a man here." "Oh, no," said Sonahrí Rání; "no one is here but me." The Rakshas was satisfied. When Sonahrí Rání and her father were in bed she asked, "Papa, where is your soul?" "Why do you want to know?" said the Rakshas. "I will tell you another day."
The next day at nine in the morning the Rakshas went away, and Sonahrí Rání took Hírálál and restored him to his human shape, and gave him some food, and he travelled on till he reached the Rakshas-Rání's mother, whom he called Grannie. She welcomed him very kindly and showed him the garden, which was very large. The Rájá's son noticed a number of jugs and water-jars. So he said, "Grannie, what is there in all these jars and jugs?" She answered, showing them to him one by one, "In this is such and such a thing," and so on, telling him the contents of each, till she came to the water-jar in which were his mothers' eyes. "In this jar," said the Rakshas, "are your seven mothers' eyes." "Oh, grannie dear!" said Hírálál, "give me my mothers' eyes." "Very well, dear boy," said the old Rakshas, "you shall have them." She gave him, too, some ointment, and told him to rub the eyes with it when he put them into his mothers' heads, and that then they would see quite well; and he took the eyes and tied them up in a corner of his cloth. His grannie gave him the flowers, and he went back to Sonahrí Rání. She was lying on her bed with the stick at her feet, and when she saw him she laughed and said, "Oh, so you have come back again?" "Yes, I have," said Hírálál; "and I have got the flowers, and my seven mothers' eyes too." "Have you indeed?" said Sonahrí Rání. "Put this stick at my head." He did so, and she got up and gave him some food, and he told her to ask her father the Rakshas where his soul was. She promised she would, and she changed him into a little fly, and shut him up in a tiny box, and put the tiny box under her pillow. By and by home came the Rakshas, and began to sniff about, crying, "A man is here!" "Oh, no," said Sonahrí Rání; and she gave him some dinner, and when they were in bed she asked him, "Papa, where is your soul?" "I'll tell you another day," said the Rakshas. The next day, when he had gone out to find food, Sonahrí Rání took the little fly, Hírálál, and restored him to his human shape, and gave him some food and sent him on his way. When he reached the river, the water-snake took him over to the other side, and he journeyed on till he came to his father's kingdom. First he went to his mothers' hole and gave them their fourteen eyes, and he put them into their heads with the ointment which the Rakshas grannie had given him. Then he went to Mánikbásá Rájá's palace, and when the Rakshas-Rání saw him she was furious. "I am sure my father and my mother, my sisters and my brothers, do not love me one bit. I will never see their faces again. But I'll send him to them once more."
This is what she thought, but she took the flowers and said, "You must go a third time to the Rakshas country." "I will," said the boy; "only I'll not go till the fourth day from to-day, for I am very tired. And you must give me four shields full of rupees." "Good," said the Rakshas-Rání. "This time you must get me a sárí." And she gave him the four shields full of money. Then he went to his mothers, and bought them a house and got food for them, and stayed with them four days.
At the end of the four days he went to the Rakshas-Rání, who gave him a letter in which she had written, "If you do not kill and eat this boy as soon as he arrives, I will never see your faces again." The Rájá's son took the letter and set out on his journey.
When he came to the river, the water-snake took him across; and when he arrived at Sonahrí Rání's house, there she was lying on her bed with the thick stick at her feet. She said, "Oh, you have come here again, have you?" "Yes," he said, "I have come for the last time." "Put the stick at my head," said she. So he laid the stick at her head. Then she gave him some food, and just before the Rakshas came home, he bade her ask him where he kept his soul. When she saw him coming, Sonahrí Rání turned Hírálálbásá into a little fly, put him in a tiny box, and put the box under her pillow. As soon as she and the Rakshas had gone to bed, she asked him, "Papa, where do you keep your soul?" "Sixteen miles away from this place," said he, "is a tree. Round the tree are tigers, and bears, and scorpions, and snakes; on the top of the tree is a very great fat snake; on his head is a little cage; in the cage is a bird; and my soul is in that bird." The little fly listened all the time. The next morning, when the Rakshas had gone, Sonahrí Rání took the fly and gave him back his human form, gave him some food, and then asked to see his letter. When she had read it she screamed and said, "Oh! if you go with this letter you will surely die." So she tore it up into little bits and threw it into the fire. And she wrote another in which she said, "Make a great deal of this boy; see that he gets no hurt; give him the sari, for me; show him the garden; and be very kind to him." She then gave Hírálál the letter, and he journeyed on in safety till he reached his Rakshas-grannie's house.
The Rakshas-grannie was very good to him, showed him the garden, and gave him the sárí; and he then said his mother, the Rakshas-Rání, was in great trouble about her soul, and wanted very much to have it. So the Rakshas-grannie gave him a bird in which was the Rakshas-Rání's soul, charging him to take the greatest care of it. Then he said, "My mother, the Rakshas-Rání, also wants a stone such that, if you lay it on the ground, or if you put it in your clothes, it will become gold, and also your long heavy gold necklace that hangs down to the waist." Both these things the Rakshas-grannie gave to Hírálál. Then he returned to Sonahrí Rání's house, where he found her lying on her bed with the thick stick at her feet. "Oh, there you are," said Sonahrí Rání, laughing. "Yes," he said, "I have come." And he put the stick at her head, and she got up and gave him some food.
He told her he was going to fetch her Rakshas-father's soul, but that he did not quite know how to pass through the tigers and bears, and scorpions and snakes, that guarded it. So she gave him a feather and said, "As long as you hold this feather straight, you can come to no harm, for you will be invisible. You will see everything, but nothing will see you."
He carried the feather straight as she had bidden him and reached the tree safely. Then he climbed up it, took the little cage, and came down again. Though the Rakshas was far off, he knew at once something had happened to his bird. Hírálál pulled off the bird's right leg, and the Rakshas' right leg fell off, but on he hopped on one leg. Then the Rájá's son pulled off the bird's left leg, and off fell the Rakshas' left leg, but still he went on towards his house on his hands. Then Hírálál pulled off the bird's wings, and the Rakshas' two arms fell off. And then, just as the Rakshas reached the door of his house, Hírálál wrung the bird's neck, and the Rakshas fell dead. Sonahrí Rání was greatly frightened when she heard such a heavy thing fall thump on the ground so close to the house, but she could not move, for the thick stick lay at her feet. Hírálál ran as fast as he could to Sonahrí Rání. When he arrived at the door of her house he saw the Rakshas lying dead, and he went in and told Sonahrí Rání that her Rakshas-father was killed. "Nonsense," she said. "It is true," said Hírálál; "come and see." So he put the stick at her head. "I am sure you are telling a lie," said Sonahrí Rání. "I should be very glad if he were dead, for I do not like living with him, I am so afraid of him." "Indeed he's dead. Do come and see," said Hírálál. Then they went outside, and when Sonahrí Rání saw her Rakshas-father lying there dead, she was exceedingly happy, and said to Hírálál, "I will go home with you and be your wife." So they were married, and then they went into Sonahrí Rání's Rakshas-father's house and took all the money and jewels they could find. And Hírálál gave the sárí, the stone, and the necklace to Sonahrí Rání, and he took some flowers for the Rakshas-Rání.
When they came to the river, the water-snake carried them across to the other side, and they travelled on till they came to Mánikbásá Rájá's kingdom. There Hírálál went first of all to his mothers, and when they saw Sonahrí Rání they wondered who the beautiful woman could be that their son had brought home. He said to them, "This is Sonahrí Rání, my wife. But for her I should have died." Then he bought a grand house for Sonahrí Rání and his seven mothers to live in, and he got four servants for Sonahrí Rání, two to cook, and two to wait on her. The seven mothers and Sonahrí used all to sit on a beautiful, clean quilted cushion, as big as a carpet, Sonahrí Rání in the middle and the seven mothers round her, while they sewed, or wrote, and talked. Hírálál then went to the Rakshas-Rání and said, "I could not get the sárí you sent me for, so I brought you these flowers instead." When she saw the flowers she was frantic. She said, "My father, my mother, my sisters, my brothers, don't care for me, not one bit! not one scrap! I will never see their faces again—never! never! I will send some other messenger to them."
One day the Rájá's son came to Mánikbásá and said, "Would you like to see a grand sight?" Mánikbásá Rájá said, "What sight?" Hírálál said, "If you would like to see a really grand sight you must do what I tell you." "Good," answered Mánikbásá, "I will do whatever you tell me." "Well, then," said his son, "you must build a very strong iron house, and round it you must lay heaps of wood. In that house you must put your present Rání." So Mánikbásá Rájá had a very strong iron house built, round which he set walls of wood. Then he went to his Rakshas-Rání and said, "Will you go inside that iron house, and see what it is like?" "Yes, I will," answered she. The Rájá had had great venetians made for the house, and only one door. As soon as the Rakshas-Rání had gone in, he locked the door. Then Hírálál took the little bird, a cockatoo, in which was the Rakshas-Rání's soul, and showed it to the Rakshas-Rání from afar off. When she saw it she turned herself into a huge Rakshas as big as a house. She could not turn in the iron house because she was so huge. Mánikbásá was dread- fully frightened when he saw his Rání was a horrible Rakshas. Then Hírálál pulled off the bird's legs, and as the Rakshas was breaking through the iron house to seize Hírálál, he wrung the cockatoo's neck, and the Rakshas died instantly. They set fire to the walls of wood, and the body of the wicked Rakshas was burnt to fine ashes.
The Rájá's Wazír turned to the Rájá and said, "What a fool you were to marry this Rakshas, and at her bidding to send your seven wives and your seven sons away into the jungle, taking out your seven wives' eyes, and being altogether so cruel to them! You are a great, great fool!" The poor Rájá wept, and then the Wazír, pointing to Hírálál, said, "This is your seventh and youngest Rání's son." The Rájá then embraced Hírálálbásá and asked his forgiveness. And Hírálál told him his story, how he and his mothers had lived a long, long time in the hole; how six of the Ránís had eaten their children; how his mother had not had the heart to eat him; how he had got his seven mothers' eyes from the Rakshas-grannie; and lastly, how he had married Sonahrí Rání. Then the Rájá ordered seven litters for his seven Ránís, and a beautiful litter with rich cloth for Sonahrí Rání. The Rájá and his Wazír and his attendants, and his son, all went with the litters to Hírálál's house; and when the Rájá saw Sonahrí Rání he fell flat on his face, he was so struck by her beauty. For she had a fair, fair skin, rosy cheeks, blue eyes, rosy lips, golden eyelashes, and golden eyebrows, and golden hair. When she combed her hair, she used to put the hair she combed out in paper and to lay the paper on the river, and it floated down to where the poor people caught it, and sold it, and got heaps of money for it. Her sari was of gold, her shoes were of gold, for God loved her dearly. Then the Rájá rose and embraced all his wives and Sonahrí Rání, and the seven Ránís walked into the seven litters; but Sonahrí Rání was carried to hers, for fear she should soil her feet, or get hurt. Then Mánikbásá Rájá gave Hírálál's house to his Wazír, while his seven Ránís and Hírálál and Sonahrí Rání lived with him in his palace. And they lived happily for ever after.
Told by Dunkní at Simla, 26th July and 1st August 1876.
- A long piece of stuff which Hindu women wind round the body as a petticoat, passing one end over the head, like a veil.