Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission | Annotated Tale

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Story of Kara and Guja, The

THERE were two brothers named Kara and Guja. Guja, who was the elder did the work at home, and Kara was ploughman.

               One day the two went to the forest to dig edible roots. After they had been thus engaged for some hours, Kara said to Guja, "Look up and see the sun's position in the heavens." Looking up he said, "Oh brother, one is rising and another is setting." They then said, "The day is not yet past, let us bestir ourselves, and lose no time." So they dug with all their might.

               After digging a long time Kara looked up and became aware that it was night. He then exclaimed, "Oh brother, it is now night, what shall we do? Come let us seek some place where we can remain until the morning." After they had wandered awhile in the forest they spied a light in the distance, and on drawing near they found that a tiger had kindled a fire, and was warming himself. Going up to the entrance to the cave they called out to the tiger, "Oh uncle, give us a place to sleep in." He answered, "Come in." So the two went in, and being hungry began to roast and eat the roots they had brought with them. The tiger hearing them eating, enquired what it was. They replied, "Oh uncle, we are roasting and eating the roots which we dug up in the forest." He then said, "Oh my nephews, I will also try how they taste." So they handed him a piece of charcoal, and as he munched it he said, "Oh my nephews, how is it that I feel it grating between my teeth?" They replied, "It is an old one that you have got, uncle." He then said, "Give me another, and I will try it." So they gave him another piece of charcoal, and after he had crunched it awhile he said, "Oh my nephews, this is as bad as the other," to which they rejoined, "Oh uncle, your mouth is old, therefore what is good to us, is the reverse to you." The tiger did not wish to try his grinders on another piece of charcoal, so the brothers were left to enjoy their repast alone.

               After they had eaten all the roots, Guja said to Kara, "What shall we eat now? Come let us eat this old tiger's tail." Kara replied, "Do not talk in that way, brother, the tiger will devour us." "Not so, brother," said Guja, "I have a great desire to eat flesh." The old tiger understood their conversation, and being afraid tried to get out of the cave, but the brothers caught hold of him, and wrenched off his tail, which they roasted in the ashes, and then ate.

               The tiger after losing his tail summoned a council of all the tigers inhabiting that part of the forest, at which they decided to kill and eat the two brothers. So they went to the cave, but Kara and Guja had fled, and had taken refuge in a palm tree which grew on the edge of a large deep tank. Not finding them in the cave the tigers, headed by him who had lost his tail, went in quest of them, and coming to the tank saw them reflected in the water, and one after another they dived in, thinking they would be able to seize them, but of course they could not catch a shadow. One of the tigers, when in the act of yawning, looked upwards, and seeing them in the tree exclaimed, "There they are. There they are." They then asked the brothers how they had managed to climb up, to which they replied, "We stood on each other's shoulders." The tigers then said, "Come, let us do the same, and we shall soon reach them." As the tailless tiger was most interested in their capture, they made him stand lowest, and a tiger climbed up and stood on his shoulders, and another on his, and so on; but before they reached the brothers, Kara called out to Guja, "Give me your sharp battle-axe, and I shall hamstring the tailless tiger." The tailless tiger forgetting himself jumped to one side, and the whole pillar of tigers fell in a heap on the ground. They now began to abuse the old tailless tiger, who fearing lest they should tear him in pieces fled into the forest.

               After the tigers had left, the two brothers descended from the palm tree, and walked rapidly away as they dreaded that the tigers might yet follow them. Towards evening they came to a village, and entering into the house of an old woman lay down to sleep. The owner of the house observing them said, "Oh my children, do not sleep to-night, for there is a demon who visits in rotation each house in the village, and each time he comes carries off some one and eats him; it is my turn to receive a visit to-night." They said, "Do not trouble us now, let us sleep, as we are tired." So they slept, but kept their weather eye open. During the night the old woman came quietly, and began to bite their arms, which they had laid aside before retiring to rest. Hearing a sound as if some one were crunching iron between his teeth, the brothers called out, "Old woman, what are you eating?" She replied "Only a few roasted peas which I brought from the chief's house." About midnight the demon came, and as he was entering the house Kara and Guja shot at him with their bows and arrows, and he fell down dead. Then they cut out his claws and tongue, and placed them in a bag. Afterwards they threw out the body of the demon into the garden behind the house.

               Now it so happened that the king had promised to give his daughter and half of his kingdom to the man who should slay the demon. Early in the morning a Dome, who was passing, discovered the body of the demon, and said within himself, "I will take it to the king and claim the reward." So running home he broke all the furniture in his house and beat his old woman saying, "Get out of this. I am about to bring the king's daughter home as my bride." He then returned quickly, and taking up the body of the demon carried it to the king, and said, "Oh sir king, I have slain the demon." The king replied, "Very well, we will enquire into it." So he commanded some of his servants to examine the body, and on doing so they found that the claws had been extracted and the tongue cut out. They reported the condition of the body to the king, who ordered the Dome to state the weapon with which he killed him. The Dome replied, "I hit him with a club on the head." On the head being examined no mark whatever was seen, so in order to arrive at the truth the king ordered all the inhabitants of the village to be brought together to the palace. He then enquired of them as to who killed the demon.

               The old woman, in whose house Kara and Guja had passed the night, stepped forward and said, "Oh sir king, two strangers came to my house yesterday evening, and during the night they slew the demon." The king said, "Where are those two men?" The old woman replied, "There they are, the two walking together." So the king sent and brought them back, and questioned them as to the slaying of the demon. They pointed out the arrow-marks on the body, and produced his claws and tongue from their bag. This evidence convinced the king that they, and not the Dome, had slain the demon. Kara and Guja were received with great favour by the king, and received the promised reward.

               The king sentenced the Dome to be beaten and driven from the village. After receiving his stripes, the Dome returned home, and gathered the shreds of his property together. He also went in search of his Dome wife and children, but they mocked him saying, "You went to marry the king's daughter, why do you come again seeking us."

               Thus Kara and Guja gained a kingdom.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Kara and Guja, The
Tale Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Book Title: Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission
Book Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Publisher: Santal Mission Press
Publication City: Pokhuria
Year of Publication: 1891
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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