The Singing Bone

and other tales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 780
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2011

Contents

  1. The Singing Bone (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  2. The Singing Bones (French Louisiana).

  3. The Griffin (Italy).

  4. The Dead Girl's Bone (Switzerland).

  5. The Little Bone (Switzerland).

  6. Binnorie (England).

  7. Murder Will Out (Iceland).

  8. The Silver Plate and the Transparent Apple (Russia).

  9. Little Anklebone (Pakistan).

  10. The Magic Fiddle (India).


Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Singing Bone

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

A wild boar was wreaking havoc throughout the country. No one dared venture into the forest where it ran about. With its tusks it ripped to pieces anyone who was bold enough to pursue it and attempt to kill it. Then the king proclaimed that anyone who could kill the boar would receive his daughter for a wife.

There were three brothers in the kingdom. The oldest was sly and clever; the second was of ordinary intelligence; but the third and youngest was innocent and slow witted. They wanted to win the princess, so they set forth to seek out the wild boar and kill it.

The two oldest ones went together, while the youngest one went by himself. When he entered the woods an old man approached him. He was holding a black lance in his hand, and said to him, "Take this lance and fearlessly attack the boar with it, and you will kill it." And that is what happened. He struck the boar with the lance, and it fell dead to the earth. Then he lifted it onto his shoulder, and cheerfully set off toward home.

On the way he came to a house where his brothers were making merry and drinking wine. When they saw him with the boar on his back, they called to him, "Come in and have a drink with us. You must be tired." The innocent simpleton, not thinking about any danger, went inside and told them how he had killed the boar with the black lance, and rejoiced in his good fortune. That evening they returned home together. The two oldest ones plotted to kill their brother. They let him walk ahead of them, and when they came to a bridge just outside the city, they attacked him, striking him dead. They buried him beneath the bridge. Then the oldest one took the boar, carried it to the king, claimed that he had killed it, and received the princess for a wife.

Many years passed, but it was not to remain hidden. One day a shepherd was crossing the bridge when he saw a little bone beneath him in the sand. It was so pure and snow-white that he wanted it to make a mouthpiece from, so he climbed down and picked it up. Afterward he made a mouthpiece from it for his horn, and when he put it to his lips to play, the little bone began to sing by itself:

Oh, dear shepherd
You are blowing on my bone.
My brothers struck me dead,
And buried me beneath the bridge,
To get the wild boar
For the daughter of the king.
The shepherd took the horn to the king, and once again it sang the same words. After hearing this, the king had his people dig under the bridge, and they soon uncovered the skeleton. The two wicked brothers confessed their crime and were thrown into the water. The murdered brother's bones were laid to rest in a beautiful grave in the churchyard.




The Singing Bones

French Louisiana

Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman who had twenty-five children. They were very poor. The man was good, the woman was bad. Every day when the husband returned from his work the wife served his dinner, but always meat without bones.

"How is it that this meat has no bones?"

"Because bones are heavy, and meat is cheaper without bones. They give us more for the money."

The husband ate, and said nothing.

"How is it you don't eat meat?"

"You forget that I have no teeth. How do you expect me to eat meat without teeth?"

"That is true," said the husband, and he said nothing more, because he was afraid to grieve his wife, who was as wicked as she was ugly.

When one has twenty-five children one cannot think of them all the time, and one does not see if one or two are missing. One day, after his dinner, the husband asked for his children. When they were by him he counted them, and found only fifteen. He asked his wife where were the ten others. She answered that they were at their grandmother's, and every day she would send one more for them to get a change of air. That was true, every day there was one that was missing.

One day the husband was at the threshold of his house, in front of a large stone which was there. He was thinking of his children, and he wanted to go and get them at their grandmother's, when he heard voices that were saying:

Our mother killed us,
Our father ate us.
We are not in a coffin,
We are not in the cemetery.

At first he did not understand what that meant, but he raised the stone and saw a great quantity of bones, which began to sing again. He then understood that it was the bones of his children, whom his wife had killed, and whom he had eaten. Then he was so angry that he killed his wife, buried his children's bones in the cemetery, and stayed alone at his house.

From that time he never ate meat, because he believed it would always be his children that he would eat.




The Griffin

Italy

There was once a king who had three sons. His eyes were diseased, and he called in a physician who said that to cure them he needed a feather of the griffin. Then the kind said to his sons, "He who finds this feather for me shall have my crown."

The sons set out in search of it.

The youngest met an old man, who asked him what he was doing. He replied, "Papa is ill. To cure him a feather of the griffin in necessary. And papa has said that whoever finds the feather shall have his crown."

The old man said, "Well, here is some corn. When you reach a certain place, put it in your hat. The griffin will come and eat it. Seize him, pull out a feather, and carry it to papa."

The youth did so, and for fear that someone should steal it from him, he put it into his shoe, and started all joyful to carry it to his father. On his way he met his brothers, who asked him if he had found the feather. He said, "No," but his brothers did not believe him, and wanted to search him. They looked everywhere, but did not find it. Finally they looked in his shoe and got it. Then they killed the youngest brother and buried him, and took the feather to their father, saying that they had found it. The king healed his eyes with it.

A shepherd one day, while feeding his sheep, saw that his dog was always digging in the same place, and went to see what it was, and found a bone. He put it into his mouth, and saw that it sounded and said, "Shepherd, keep me in your mouth, hold me tight, and do not let me go! For a feather of the griffin, my brother has played the traitor, my brother has played the traitor."

One day the shepherd, with his whistle in his mouth, was passing by the king's palace, and the king heard him, and called him to see what it was. the shepherd told him the story, and how he had found it. The king put it to his mouth, and the whistle said, "Papa! Papa! Keep me in your mouth, hold me tight, and do not let me go. For a feather of the griffin, my brother has played the traitor, my brother has played the traitor."

Then the king put it in the mouth of the brother who had killed the youngest, and the whistle said, "Brother! Brother! Keep me in you mouth, hold me fast, and do not let me go. For a feather of the griffin, you have played the traitor, you have played the traitor."

Then the king understood the story and had his two sons put to death. And thus they killed their brother and afterwards were killed themselves.




The Dead Girl's Bone

Switzerland

Once there was a king who died. His wife and two children, a girl and a boy, were still alive. Then one day they asked the mother which of them should someday become king. She said to them, "Dear children, go out into the woods together and look for a certain flower. The first one of you to find it will someday become king."

So the two set forth together, and while searching in the woods they separated, and the girl was the first one to find the flower. She thought she would wait for her brother, so she put the flower in her hand, closed it in God's name, and lay down in the shade.

Then the boy came to her. He had not found the flower, but when he saw it in his sister's hand, a terrible thought came to him: "I will murder my sister, take the flower home with me, and then I will become king."

That is what he thought, and that is what he did. He killed her and buried her in the woods, covering with earth so that no one would know what had happened.

Many years later a shepherd boy who was there tending his sheep found one of the girl's bones lying on the ground. He made a few holes in it like a flute, and blew into it. Then the bone began to sing ever so sadly and told the entire story how the girl had been killed by her brother. To hear the song would bring tears to your eyes.

One day a knight came by where the boy was playing the flute. He bought the flute and played it wherever he went in the land. Finally the old queen heard the knight and became very sad. She had her son removed from the throne, and she mourned for the rest of her life.




The Little Bone

Switzerland

Many years ago a wicked man lived in a pasture hut. Like other herdsmen, he spent the summer there with his cattle. He was quick tempered and arrogant. He had a poor servant boy, whom he tormented in every possible way with hard work, rough words, and cruel blows. One day he gave the boy a task to do which beyond the his strength. He was then overcome by such anger that he grabbed the boy and thrust his head into a a kettle of milk that was being boiled in order to separate it. Thus the boy died, and the herdsman threw his body into a mountain creek. Back at home he said, "The stupid boy must have been carried away by a rockslide. He went off to milk the goats, but never came back."

Many years passed, and the boys' bones hung unavenged on a cliffy bank of the mountain creek. From time to time a particularly strong rush of water would pick up one of the little bones, play with it for a while, and then leave it lying on a remote bank.

Once it happened that there was a fair in the valley. Everyone was making merry. The wicked herdsman, drugged by the wine, music, and dance, had lost all humility and good sense, and was reveling in his sinfulness. It was too hot for him inside, so he went out to the creek, which, swollen by a heavy, warm rain, was rushing by much stronger than usual. He kneeled down and took off his hat to scoop up some water. He drank the water that had run into his hat, but at the bottom he found a small white bone. He stuck it onto his hat and returned to the hall.

Suddenly the little bone began to bleed; and now everyone knew what had happened to the boy. The festivities were quickly brought to a close, and the evildoer was taken forthwith to the place of execution.




Binnorie

England

Once upon a time there were two king's daughters who lived in a bower near the bonny mill dams of Binnorie. And Sir William came wooing the eldest and won her love, and plighted troth with glove and with ring. But after a time he looked upon the youngest, with her cherry cheeks and golden hair, and his love went out to her until he cared no longer for the eldest one. So she hated her sister for taking away Sir William's love, and day by day her hate grew and grew and she plotted and she planned how to get rid of her.

So one fine morning, fair and clear, she said to her sister, "Let us go and see our father's boats come in at the bonny mill stream of Binnorie."

So they went there hand in hand. And when they came to the river's bank the youngest got upon a stone to watch for the beaching of the boats. And her sister, coming behind her, caught her round the waist and dashed her into the rushing mill stream of Binnorie.

"Oh sister, sister, reach me your hand!" she cried, as she floated away, "and you shall have half of all I've got or shall get."

"No, sister, I'll reach you no hand of mine, for I am the heir to all your land. Shame on me if I touch her hand that has come 'twixt me and my own heart's love."

"Oh sister, oh sister, then reach me your glove!" she cried, as she floated further away, "and you shall have your William again."

"Sink on," cried the cruel princess, "no hand or glove of mine you'll touch. Sweet William will be all mine when you are sunk beneath the bonny mill stream of Binnorie." And she turned and went home to the king's castle.

And the princess floated down the mill stream, sometimes swimming and sometimes sinking, until she came near the mill. Now the miller's daughter was cooking that day, and needed water for her cooking. And as she went to draw it from the stream, she saw something floating towards the mill dam, and she called out, "Father! father! draw your dam. There's something white -- a merrymaid or a milk white swan -- coming down the stream." So the miller hastened to the dam and stopped the heavy cruel mill wheels. And then they took out the princess and laid her on the bank.

Fair and beautiful she looked as she lay there. In her golden hair were pearls and precious stones; you could not see her waist for her golden girdle, and the golden fringe of her white dress came down over her lily feet. But she was drowned, drowned!

And as she lay there in her beauty a famous harper passed by the mill dam of Binnorie, and saw her sweet pale face. And though he traveled on far away he never forgot that face, and after many days he came back to the bonny mill stream of Binnorie. But then all he could find of her where they had put her to rest were her bones and her golden hair. So he made a harp out of her breast bone and her hair, and traveled on up the hill from the mill dam of Binnorie, until he came to the castle of the king her father.

That night they were all gathered in the castle hall to hear the great harper: king and queen, their daughter and son, Sir William, and all their court. And first the harper sang to his old harp, making them joy and be glad, or sorrow and weep just as he liked. But while he sang he put the harp he had made that day on a stone in the hall. And presently it began to sing by itself, low and clear, and the harper stopped and all were hushed.

And this was what the harp sung:

Oh yonder sits my father, the king,
Binnorie, oh Binnorie;
And yonder sits my mother, the queen;
By the bony mill dams o' Binnorie.

And yonder stands my brother Hugh,
Binnorie, oh Binnorie;
And by him, my William, false and true;
By the bonny mill dams o' Binnorie.

Then they all wondered, and the harper told them how he had seen the princess lying drowned on the bank near the bonny mill dams o' Binnorie, and how he had afterwards made this harp out of her hair and breast bone. Just then the harp began singing again, and this was what it sang out loud and clear:
And there sits my sister who drownèd me
By the bonny mill dams o' Binnorie.
And the harp snapped and broke, and never sang more.




Murder Will Out

Iceland

Once upon a time, in a certain churchyard, some people who were digging a grave, found a skull with a knitting-pin stuck through it from temple to temple. The priest took the skull and preserved it until the next Sunday, when he had to perform service.

When the day came, the priest waited until all the people were inside the church, and then fastened up the skull to the top of the porch. After the service the priest and his servant left the church first, and stood outside the door, watching carefully everybody that came out. When all the congregation had passed out without anything strange occurring, they looked in to see if there was any one still remaining inside. The only person they saw was a very old woman sitting behind the door, who was so unwilling to leave the church, that they were compelled to force her out.

As she passed under the porch, three drops of blood fell from the skull on to her white head-dress, and she exclaimed, "Alas, murder will out at last!"

Then she confessed, that having been compelled to marry her first husband against her will, she had killed him with a knitting-pin and married another.

She was tried for the murder, though it had happened so many years back, and condemned to death.




The Silver Plate and the Transparent Apple

Russia

There lived once a peasant with his wife and three daughters. Two of these girls were not particularly beautiful, while the third was sweetly pretty. However, as she happened to be a very good girl, as well as simple in her tastes, she was nicknamed Simpleton, and all who knew her called her by that name, though she was in reality far from being one.

Her sisters thought of nothing but dress and jewelry. The consequence was that they did not agree with their younger sister. They teased her, mimicked her, and made her do all the hard work. Yet Simpleton never said a word of complaint, but was ready to do anything. She fed the cows and the poultry. If anyone asked her to bring anything, she brought it in a moment. In fact, she was a most obliging young person.

One day the peasant had to go to a big fair to sell hay, so he asked his two eldest daughters what he should bring them.

"Bring me some red fustian to make myself a sarafan [coat without sleeves]," said the eldest.

"Buy me some yards of nankeen to make myself a dress," said the second.

Simpleton meanwhile sat in a corner looking at her sisters with great eagerness. Though she was a simpleton, her father found it hard to go away without asking her what she would like him to bring her, so he asked her too.

"Bring me, dear father," said she, "a silver plate and a transparent apple to roll about on it."

The father was rather astonished, but he said nothing and left.

"Whatever made you ask for such rubbish?" asked her sisters laughing.

"You will see for yourselves when my father brings them," said Simpleton, as she left the room.

The peasant, after having sold his hay, bought his daughters the things they had asked for, and drove home. The two elder girls were delighted with their presents and laughed at Simpleton, waiting to see what she intended doing with the silver plate and transparent apple.

Simpleton did not eat the apple, as they at first thought she would, but sat in a corner pronouncing these words, "Roll away, apple, roll away, on this silver plate. Show me different towns, fields, and woods, the seas, the heights of the hills, and the heavens in all their glory."

Away rolled the apple, and on the plate became visible, towns, one after another. Ships were seen sailing on the seas. Green fields were seen. The heights of the hills were shown. The beauty of the heavens and the setting of the sun were all displayed most wonderfully.

The sisters looked on in amazement. They longed to have it for themselves and wondered how they could best get it from Simpleton, for she took such great care of it, and would take nothing in exchange.

At last one day the wicked sisters said coaxingly to Simpleton, "Come with us, dear, into the forest and help us pick strawberries."

Simpleton gave the plate and the apple to her father to take care of and joined her sisters. When they arrived at the forest they set to work picking wild strawberries. After some time the two elder sisters suddenly came upon a spade lying on the grass. They seized it, and while Simpleton was not looking they gave her a heavy blow with the spade. She turned ghastly pale, and fell dead on the ground.

They took her up quickly, buried her under a birch tree, and went home late to their parents, saying, "Simpleton has run away from us. We looked for her everywhere but cannot find her. She must have been eaten up by some wild beasts while we were not looking."

The father, who really had a little love for the girl, became very sad, and actually cried. He took the plate and apple and locked them both up carefully in a glass case. The sisters also cried very much and pretended to be very sorry, though the real reason was that they found out that they were not likely to have the transparent apple and plate after all, but would have to do all the hard work themselves.

One day a shepherd, who was minding a flock of sheep, happened to lose one, and went into the forest to look for it, when suddenly he came upon a hillock under a birch tree, round which grew a number of red and blue flowers, and among them a reed.

The young shepherd cut off the reed and made himself a pipe. But what was his astonishment when the moment he put the pipe to his mouth, it began to play by itself, saying, "Play, play, little pipe. Comfort my dear parents, and my sisters, who so cruelly misused me, killed me, and buried me for the sake of my silver plate and transparent apple."

The shepherd ran into the village greatly alarmed, and a crowd of people soon collected round him asking him what had happened. The shepherd again put the pipe to his mouth, and again the pipe began to play of itself.

"Who killed whom, and where, and how?" asked all the people together, crowding round.

"Good people," answered the shepherd, "I know no more than you do. All I know is that I lost one of my sheep and went in search of it, when I suddenly came upon a hillock under a birch tree with flowers round it, and among them was a reed, which I cut off and made into a pipe, and the moment I put the thing into my mouth it began to play of itself, and pronounce the words which you have just heard."

It so happened that Simpleton's father and sisters were among the crowd and heard what the shepherd said.

"Let me try your pipe," said the father, taking it and putting it into his mouth.

And immediately it began to repeat the words, "Play, play, little pipe. Comfort my dear parents, and my sisters, who misused, killed, and buried me for the sake of the silver plate and transparent apple."

The peasant made the shepherd take him to the hillock at once. When they got to it they began to dig open the hillock, where they found the dead body of the unfortunate girl. The father fell on his knees before it and tried to bring her back to life, but all in vain.

The people again began asking who it was that killed and buried her, whereupon the pipe replied, "My sisters took me into the forest and slew me for the silver plate and transparent apple. If you want to wake me from this sound slumber, you must bring me the water of life from the royal fountain."

The two miserable sisters turned pale and wanted to run away, whereupon the people seized them, tied them together, and marched them off to a dark cell, where they locked them up until the king should pronounce judgement on them.

The peasant went to the palace and was brought before the king's son, and falling upon his knees before the prince, he related the whole story. Whereupon the king's son told him to take as much of the water of life from the royal fountain as he pleased. "When your daughter is well, bring her to me," continued the prince, "and also her evil-minded sisters."

The peasant was delighted. He thanked the young prince and ran to the forest with the water of life. After he had sprinkled the body several times with the water, his daughter woke up and stood before him, prettier than ever. They embraced each other tenderly, while the people rejoiced and congratulated the happy man.

Next morning the peasant went with his three daughters to the palace and was brought before the king's son.

The young prince, when he beheld Simpleton, was greatly struck with her beauty and asked her at once to show him the silver plate and transparent apple.

"What would your highness like to see?" asked the girl, bringing forward her treasures. "Would you like to know whether your kingdom is in good order, or if your ships are sailing, or whether there is any curious comet in the heavens?"

"Anything you like, sweet maiden."

Away rolled the apple round about the plate, on which became visible soldiers of different arms, with muskets and flags, drawn up in battle array. The apple rolled on, and waves rose, and ships were seen sailing about like swans, while flags waved in the air. On rolled the apple, and on the plate the glory of the heavens was displayed. The sun, moon, and stars, and various comets were seen.

The king's son was greatly astonished and offered to buy the plate and apple, but Simpleton fell on her knees before him, exclaiming, "Take my silver plate and my apple. I want no money and no gifts for them, if you will only promise to forgive my sisters."

The young prince was so moved by her pretty face and her tears that he at once forgave the two wicked girls. Simpleton was so overjoyed that she threw her arms round their necks and tenderly embraced them.

The king's son took Simpleton by the hand and said, "Sweet maiden, I am so struck by the great kindness you have shown your sisters after their cruel treatment of you, that I have decided (provided you agree to it) to have you for my wife, and you shall be known henceforth as the Benevolent Queen."

"Your highness does me great honor," said Simpleton, blushing. "But it lies in my parents' hand. If they do not object, I will marry you."

It is needless to say that neither parent objected, but gave their consent and blessing.

"I have one more request to ask your highness," said Simpleton, "and that is to let my parents and sisters live with us in the palace."

The young prince made no objection whatever to this proposal (though most probably he felt sorry for it afterwards; however, the story does not say anything about that). The sisters threw themselves at Simpleton's feet, exclaiming that they did not deserve such kindness after all that they had said and done to her.

Next day the marriage was celebrated, and crowds of people ran about everywhere crying out, "Long live our king and queen!"

From that day Simpleton was no more, but the BENEVOLENT QUEEN reigned in her stead.




Little Anklebone

Pakistan

Once upon a time there was a little boy who lost his parents; so he went to live with his auntie, and she set him to herd sheep. All day long the little fellow wandered barefoot through the pathless plain, tending his flock, playing his tiny shepherd's pipe from morn till eve.

But one day came a great big wolf, and looked hungrily at the small shepherd and his fat sheep, saying, "Little boy! shall I eat you, or your sheep?"

Then the little boy answered politely, "I don't know Mr. Wolf; I must ask my auntie."

So all day long he piped away on his tiny pipe, and in the evening, when he brought the flock home, he went to his auntie and said, "Auntie dear, a great big wolf asked me today if he should eat me, or your sheep. Which shall it be?"

Then his auntie looked at the wee little shepherd, and at the fat flock, and said sharply, "Which shall it be? Why, you, of course!"

So next morning the little boy drove his flock out into the pathless plain, and blew away cheerfully on his shepherd's pipe until the great big wolf appeared. Then he laid aside his pipe, and, going up to the savage beast, said, "Oh, if you please, Mr. Wolf, I asked my auntie, and she says you are to eat me."

Now the wolf, savage as wolves always are, could not help having just a spark of pity for the tiny barefoot shepherd who played his pipe so sweetly, therefore he said kindly, "Could I do anything for you, little boy, after I've eaten you?"

"Thank you!" returned the tiny shepherd. "If you would be so kind, after you've picked the bones, as to thread my ankle-bone on a string and hang it on the tree that weeps over the pond yonder, I shall be much obliged."

So the wolf ate the little shepherd, picked the bones, and afterwards hung the ankle-bone by a string to the branches of the tree, where it danced and swung in the sunlight.

Now, one day, three robbers, who had just robbed a palace, happening to pass that way, sat down under the tree and began to divide the spoil. Just as they had arranged all the golden dishes and precious jewels and costly stuffs into three heaps, a jackal howled. Now you must know that thieves always use the jackal's cry as a note of warning, so that when at the very same moment Little Anklebone's thread snapped, and he fell plump on the head of the chief robber, the man imagined some one had thrown a pebble at him, and, shouting "Run! run! We are discovered!" he bolted away as hard as he could, followed by his companions, leaving all the treasure behind them.

"Now," said Little Anklebone to himself, "I shall lead a fine life!"

So he gathered the treasure together, and sat under the tree that drooped over the pond, and played so sweetly on a new shepherd's pipe, that all the beasts of the forest, and the birds of the air, and the fishes of the pond came to listen to him. Then Little Anklebone put marble basins round the pond for the animals to drink out of, and in the evening the does, and the tigresses, and the she-wolves gathered round him to be milked, and when he had drank his fill he milked the rest into the pond, till at last it became a pond of milk. And Little Anklebone sat by the milken pond and piped away on his shepherd's pipe.

Now, one day, an old woman, passing by with her jar for water, heard the sweet strains of Little Anklebone's pipe, and following the sound, came upon the pond of milk, and saw the animals, and the birds, and the fishes, listening to the music. She was wonderstruck, especially when Little Anklebone, from his seat under the tree, called out, "Fill your jar, mother! All drink who come hither!"

Then the old woman filled her jar with milk, and went on her way rejoicing at her good fortune. But as she journeyed she met with the king of that country, who, having been a-hunting, had lost his way in the pathless plain.

"Give me a drink of water, good mother," he cried, seeing the jar; "I am half dead with thirst!"

"It is milk, my son," replied the old woman; "I got it yonder from a milken pond."

Then she told the king of the wonders she had seen, so that he resolved to have a peep at them himself. And when he saw the milken pond, and all the animals and birds and fishes gathered round, while Little Anklebone played ever so sweetly on his shepherd's pipe, he said "I must have the tiny piper, if I die for it!"

No sooner did Little Anklebone hear these words than he set off at a run, and the king after him. Never was there such a chase before or since, for Little Anklebone hid himself amid the thickest briars and thorns, and the king was so determined to have the tiny piper, that he did not care for scratches. At last the king was successful, but no sooner did he take hold of Little Anklebone than it began to thunder and lighten horribly, whilst the little piper himself began to sing these words:

Oh why do you thunder and lighten, dark heavens?
Your noise is as nothing to what will arise,
When the does that are waiting in vain for the milking,
Find poor Little Anklebone reft from their eyes!
Whereupon the King, seeing that it really was nothing but an ankle-bone after all, let it go.

So the little piper went back to his seat under the tree by the pond, and there he sits still, and plays his shepherd's pipe, while all the beasts of the forest, and birds of the air, and fishes of the pond, gather round and listen to his music. And sometimes, people wandering through the pathless plain hear the pipe, and then they say, "That is Little Anklebone, who was eaten by a wolf ages ago!"




The Magic Fiddle

India

Once upon a time there lived seven brothers and a sister. The brothers were married, but their wives did not do the cooking for the family. It was done by their sister, who stopped at home to cook. The wives for this reason bore their sister-in-law much ill will, and at length they combined together to oust her from the office of cook and general provider, so that one of themselves might obtain it. They said, "She does not go out to the fields to work, but remains quietly at home, and yet she has not the meals ready at the proper time." They then called upon their bonga, and vowing vows unto him they secured his goodwill and assistance; then they said to the bonga, "At midday, when our sister-in-law goes to bring water, cause it thus to happen, that on seeing her pitcher, the water shall vanish, and again slowly reappear. In this way she will be delayed. Let the water not flow into her pitcher, and you may keep the maiden as your own."

At noon when she went to bring water, it suddenly dried up before her, and she began to weep. Then after a while the water began slowly to rise. When it reached her ankles she tried to fill her pitcher, but it would not go under the water. Being frightened she began to wail and cry to her brother:

Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my ankles,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.

The water continued to rise until it reached her knee, when she began to wail again:

Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my knee,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.

The water continued to rise, and when it reached her waist, she cried again:

Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my waist,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.

The water still rose, and when it reached her neck she kept on crying:

Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my neck,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.

At length the water became so deep that she felt herself drowning, then she cried aloud:

Oh! my brother, the water measures a man's height,
Oh! my brother, the pitcher begins to fill.

The pitcher filled with water, and along with it she sank and was drowned. The bonga then transformed her into a bonga like himself, and carried her off.

After a time she reappeared as a bamboo growing on the embankment of the tank in which she had been drowned. When the bamboo had grown to an immense size, a jogi, who was in the habit of passing that way, seeing it, said to himself, "This will make a splendid fiddle."

So one day he brought an ax to cut it down; but when he was about to begin, the bamboo called out, "Do not cut at the root, cut higher up." When he lifted his ax to cut high up the stem, the bamboo cried out, "Do not cut near the top, cut at the root." When the jogi again prepared himself to cut at the root as requested, the bamboo said, "Do not cut at the root, cut higher up;" and when he was about to cut higher up, it again called out to him, "Do not cut high up, cut at the root." The jogi by this time felt sure that a bonga was trying to frighten him, so becoming angry he cut down the bamboo at the root, and taking it away made a fiddle out of it. The instrument had a superior tone and delighted all who heard it. The jogi carried it with him when he went a begging, and through the influence of its sweet music he returned home every evening with a full wallet.

He now and then visited, when on his rounds, the house of the bonga girl's brothers, and the strains of the fiddle affected them greatly. Some of them were moved even to tears, for the fiddle seemed to wail as one in bitter anguish. The elder brother wished to purchase it, and offered to support the jogi for a whole year if he would consent to part with his wonderful instrument. The jogi, however, knew its value, and refused to sell it.

It so happened that the jogi some time after went to the house of a village chief, and after playing a tune or two on his fiddle asked for something to eat. They offered to buy his fiddle and promised a high price for it, but he refused to sell it, as his fiddle brought to him his means of livelihood. When they saw that he was not to be prevailed upon, they gave him food and a plentiful supply of liquor. Of the latter he drank so freely that he presently became intoxicated. While he was in this condition, they took away his fiddle, and substituted their own old one for it. When the jogi recovered, he missed his instrument, and suspecting that it had been stolen asked them to return it to him. They denied having taken it, so he had to depart, leaving his fiddle behind him. The chief's son, being a musician, used to play on the jogi's fiddle, and in his hands the music it gave forth delighted the ears of all who heard it.

When all the household were absent at their labors in the fields, the bonga girl used to come out of the bamboo fiddle, and prepared the family meal. Having eaten her own share, she placed that of the chief's son under his bed, and covering it up to keep off the dust, reentered the fiddle. This happening every day, the other members of the household thought that some girl friend of theirs was in this manner showing her interest in the young man, so they did not trouble themselves to find out how it came about. The young chief, however, was determined to watch, and see which of his girl friends was so attentive to his comfort. He said in his own mind, "I will catch her today, and give her a sound beating; she is causing me to be ashamed before the others." So saying, he hid himself in a corner in a pile of firewood. In a short time the girl came out of the bamboo fiddle, and began to dress her hair. Having completed her toilet, she cooked the meal of rice as usual, and having eaten some herself, she placed the young man's portion under his bed, as before, and was about to enter the fiddle again, when he, running out from his hiding place, caught her in his arms. The bonga girl exclaimed, "Fie! Fie! You may be a dom, or you may be a hadi of some other caste with whom I cannot marry."

He said, "No. But from today, you and I are one." So they began lovingly to hold converse with each other. When the others returned home in the evening, they saw that she was both a human being and a bonga, and they rejoiced exceedingly.

Now in course of time the bonga girl's family became very poor, and her brothers on one occasion came to the chief's house on a visit. The bonga girl recognized them at once, but they did not know who she was. She brought them water on their arrival, and afterwards set cooked rice before them. Then sitting down near them, she began in wailing tones to upbraid them on account of the treatment she had been subjected to by their wives. She related all that had befallen her, and wound up by saying, "You must have known it all, and yet you did not interfere to save me." And that was all the revenge she took.




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Revised March 19, 2013.