Until now I presented you with folktales I had translated myself – either from Mongolian or from German – and I intend to keep doing that, of course, but let’s try something different. The following tale is taken from a selection of Kashmir folktales which was first published in 1885.And you can’t know right now as you haven’t read it yet but this picture which is not even an illustration? Is a crazy fit! I’m so insanely excited that I found it.
ONE day two potters’ wives went to the jungle to get a special kind of soil, which their husbands wanted for making some pots. They carried their little infant children with them a-straddle on their hips. When they reached the place where this earth was to be found, they put down their children, a little boy and a little girl, to play together, while they filled their baskets. A kite and a crow noticed what was going on, and swooped down upon the children and carried them off. The kite killed the boy, but the crow flew away with the girl to the hollow trunk of a tree in a distant part of the jungle, and there dropped her. Instead of crying the child thought it was great fun, and so laughed and played with the bird; and the bird got very fond of her, and brought her nuts and fruit, and scraps of bread and meat sometimes, whenever it could get them. The little girl grew up and became very beautiful.
One day a carpenter chanced to visit that part of the jungle for cutting wood. “Salám,” said the girl to him. “I wish you would make me a spinning-wheel. I am here all alone, and I wish to do something.”
“Why are you here? Where is your home? Have you no more clothes than the rag you are wearing?” asked the carpenter.
“You must not ask me any questions,” replied the girl. “But please make me a spinning-wheel, and I shall be quite happy.”
The carpenter did so; and the crow stole a spindle and some cotton for the girl. So she had everything complete.
Not long after this the king of that part of the world was out a-hunting in the jungle, and as he passed by that way, his ear caught the sound of somebody spinning. “Who resides in this solitary place?” he said to one of his attendants. “I hear the sound of a person spinning. Go and see who it can be.” After a long search the men discovered the girl sitting by her wheel in the hollow of a tree, and brought her before the king. His Majesty inquired everything about her; and was so interested in her story, and fascinated by her beauty, that he begged her to accompany him to the palace, and to stay there with him as his wife.
The king had six other wives. This crow-girl was the seventh. Each of the wives had a separate apartment and special attendants. One day His Majesty, wishing to try their skill and taste, ordered all of them to decorate their rooms as nicely as they could. The six wives went to work in the ordinary way; they bought several ornaments and pictures, and had the walls of their rooms washed with ottar of roses; but the seventh wife sought an interview with her beloved crow and asked his advice on the matter. “Don’t be anxious,” said the bird, and immediately flew off and brought back in its bill an herb, which it gave her, saying, “Take this herb and rub it all over the walls of your room, and they will shine like burnished gold.” The girl obeyed, and her room shone so with gold— real gold, that one could scarcely look at it.
When the other wives of the king heard of this, they were very jealous. Notwithstanding they had washed their rooms with ottar of roses, and decorated them with the richest carpets and the most magnificent vases, yet they looked not one hundredth part as beautiful as the crow-girl’s apartment. “What have you done to your room to make it so lovely?” they asked. But the crow-girl did not tell them.
When the king inspected the rooms of the six wives, he was much pleased with them, but when he came to the crow-girl’s room he was overcome with astonishment and delight. Henceforth he made her his chief ráni, and seemed to forget all the rest.
This special notice from the king increased the hatred and jealousy of the other wives. They were wicked enough before; but now, maddened by the king’s preference for the seventh wife, they plotted to bring about her speedy death. They soon found opportunity for accomplishing their wickedness. One day they were all going to the river to bathe, when it was decided to push the crow-girl queen into the water, and to inform the king that she had been accidentally drowned. Accordingly, when they reached a deep part of the river, they shoved the woman off the bank into the water.
The king’s grief was intense when he heard the sad news. For a long time he gave up all business, shut himself in his room, and would not see any one. Fate, however, had not decreed the death of the ráni. She was not drowned, as everybody thought. Near to the part of the river where she fell, there happened to be a large tree growing out of an invisible island. She had floated to this island and climbed to the top of the tree, where she was constantly fed by her kind friend the crow.
One day some weeks afterwards, His Majesty chanced to go for an airing in his boat by the way of this tree. The crow-girl saw him, and shouting the words, “The king unjustly exposed me to danger. Come, O beloved, come here,” she discovered herself to him. On seeing his beloved ráni again, the king’s joy knew no bounds. He immediately took her into the boat and carried her to the palace. There she told him all that had occurred, and when His Majesty heard the truth of the matter, he at once gave orders for the execution of the other wives.
Text source: James Hinton Knowles: Folk-tales of Kashmir. 2nd edition. 1989.
Copyright for image: E.C. Dana @ WikiMedia Commons
What’s really interesting to me as someone currently working on transcultural knowledge transfer and who – in the process – also comes across the history of historiography and sciences as a whole, is the writing of this book. First published in 1885 by Reverent James Hinton Knowles, he not only states the name of this tale’s narrator – Lál Chand – he also mentions the exact geographical origin of this tale or at least this version – a valley by Khunamuh. And he states where he decided to translate more freely: Apparently, the direct translation of Crow-girls accusation that the king exposed her to danger should read “The king unjustly bound me”.
I find it fascinating that so little has changed in how we actually do research… Puts the whole rave about all those ‘turns’ in perspective because no matter how important most of them might have been, it would be nice to focus more on basics again. Less meta theory which can’t even be applied anymore and more actual analysis. Or what says you?