Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission | Annotated Tale

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Gumda the Hero

THERE was once a certain fatherless lad named Gumda. His occupation was to tend the raja's goats. He, and his mother lived in a small house at the end of the street in which the raja's palace was situated. The raja's mahout was in the habit of taking his elephant along that street, and every time it passed, it rubbed itself against the wall of Gumda's house. One day at noon it so happened that Gumda was at home when the elephant was being taken to the tank to drink, and as usual he rubbed his side against the house as he passed. Gumda was incensed with the elephant for thus destroying his house, and coming out quickly, said to the mahout, "What although it is the raja's elephant! I could take hold of any person's elephant by the trunk, and throw it across seven seas." The elephant understood what Gumda had said, and he refused to go down into the water, and would not even drink. On being brought home he would not eat his grain, nor would he so much as look at water. He continued thus so long that he began to grow lean and weak. The mahout knew that it was Gumda's curse that had so affected his charge. The raja one day noticing the altered condition of his elephant, said to the mahout, "Why has the elephant become so emaciated?" The mahout replied, "Oh! raja, one day at noon Gumda abused him. He said, 'If you were not the raja's elephant, I would take you by the trunk and throw you across seven seas.' 'Every day,' he said, 'he rubs himself against my house.' Since then the elephant has refused his food and water." The raja, on hearing this, commanded that Gumda be brought before him. The messenger found him at home, and brought him into the presence of the raja who asked him, "Is it true, Gumda, that you said you would throw the elephant as you would a stone?" Gumda replied, "Yes, it is quite true that I said so. The elephant every time it passes along the street rubs itself against the wall of my house, and being angry, I said these words. Now, do with me whatsoever you please." The raja marvelled greatly on hearing Gumda's reply, and addressing him said, "Now my lad, prove your words, for prove them you must. If you succeed in thus throwing an elephant, I shall present you with a large estate." The raja appointed the tenth day following as that on which Gumda should wrestle with the elephant; and he, after receiving permission from the raja, returned home.

               The raja in the interval caused proclamation to be made to all his subjects, ordering them to be present on the day when Gumda was to meet the elephant in mortal combat. On the morning of the appointed day Gumda was found baking bread. As he did not appear punctually in the arena, the raja sent a messenger to bring him. On arriving at Gumda's house, he found him baking bread. He said to him, "Come along, the raja has asked for you." Gumda said, "Wait a little till I partake of some refreshment." He invited the messenger to be seated, and he also sat down as if to eat, but instead of eating the bread, he began to throw it at the man, and continued doing so until he had buried him under eight maunds of loaves. The poor fellow cried out, "Oh Gumda, come and release me, of a truth I am almost crushed to death under this heap of bread." He removed the bread from above him, and he immediately returned to the raja. As he was leaving the house he saw 12 maunds of cooked rice, evidently intended for Gumda's dinner. Coming into the presence of the raja he said, "Oh! raja, I saw in Gumda's house twelve maunds of cooked rice, and he threw a loaf of bread weighing eight maunds at me, which almost crushed me to death. It is quite possible that he may win."

               At length Gumda came bringing with him a sledge hammer weighing twelve maunds, and a shield of the same weight. The contest was to take place on a plain sufficiently large to accommodate an immense number of spectators.

               Then the fight began. The two combatants attacked each other so furiously that they raised such a cloud of dust as to completely conceal them from the onlookers. The elephant could not long sustain the unequal combat, and when he was beaten, Gumda seized him by the trunk, and threw him over the seas. Owing to the darkness caused by the clouds of dust, none of the thousands present noticed the elephant as he went, flying over their heads high up in the air.

               When the dust subsided, Gumda was found sitting alone, the elephant was nowhere to be seen. The raja called the victor to him, and said, "What have you done with the elephant?" Gumda replied "I flung him early in the forenoon over seven seas." Hearing his answer and not seeing the elephant, they all marvelled greatly.

               The raja then said to Gumda, "Well, you have thrown the elephant somewhere. You must now go in search of its bones." Gumda went home and said to his mother, "Make up a parcel of food for me, I am going to find the elephant's bones." She complied with his request and he set out.

               As he hurried along intent upon his quest, he found a man fishing with a Palmyra palm tree as a rod, and a full grown elephant as a bait. On seeing him Gumda exclaimed, "You are indeed a great hero." The man replied, "I am no hero, the widow's son Gumda is the great hero, for did not he fling the raja's elephant across seven seas?" Gumda said, "I am he." The fisherman said," I will go with you." Gumda replied, "Come along!"

               As Gumda and his attendant went on their way, they came to a field in which a number of men were hoeing, and their master, to shield them from the heat of the sun, stood holding over them, as an umbrella, a large Pepul tree. [1] Gumda seeing him said, "You are a hero and no mistake." The man replied, "No indeed, I am no hero. Gumda, the widow's son, threw the raja's elephant across seven seas. He is the hero." Gumda said, "I am he." "Then," said the man, "I also will go with you." "Follow me," said Gumda, and the three proceeded on their way.

               As they journeyed they fell in with two men, who were raising water from a tank for irrigating purposes by merely singing. When Gumda saw them, he exclaimed, "You two are heroes indeed." They answered, "What do you see heroic in us? There is one hero, Gumda by name, he threw a raja's elephant across seven seas." Gumda said, "I am he." The men exclaimed, "We also will follow you." Gumda said, "Follow." And the five men went forth to search for the elephant's bones.

               On and on they went until they reached the sea, which they crossed, and entered the primeval forest beyond. Selecting a suitable place they encamped, and began the search for the elephant's bones. The first day the fisherman was left in the camp to cook the food, while the others went out into the forest. Near by a certain jugi raja resided in a cave in a rock. He came to the camp just as the food was cooked, and said to the fisherman, "Give me some rice to eat." He declined, and the jugi raja then said, "Will you give me rice, or will you fight with me?" He replied, "I have prepared this food with difficulty and prefer fighting to giving it up." So they fought, and the jugi raja was victor. He laid a heavy stone on the breast of the cook, and then devoured all the food. There had been twelve maunds of rice prepared, and he left none. After a long time he released his victim, and then went his way. Being released the fisherman set about preparing more food, but before it was ready, his companions returned and seeing the pot still on the fire, they enquired why he had not made haste with his cooking. He replied, "I have not been idle, I have spent all the time in cooking." He did not tell them about the jugi raja having been at the camp.

               The next day another of the company remained as cook, while the others went out to search in the forest for the elephant's bones. The jugi raja again visited the camp, and the scene of the previous day was re-enacted. But he also did not speak of the visit of the jugi raja to the others when they returned. In this way the jugi raja encountered each in turn till only Gumda was left, and he remained in the camp to cook. When he had got the rice cooked, the jugi raja made his appearance and said, "Will you fight with me, or will you give up the food?" Gumda replied, "I will not give you the food. I have spent much time in cooking it, and when those who have gone in search of the elephant's bones return, what shall I set before them, if I give it to you now? You have played this trick every day, and have put my companions to much trouble, but to-day we have met." So they fought. Gumda overpowered the jugi raja, and killed him with the stone he used to put upon the breast of those whom he vanquished. He then espoused the jugi raja's wife, and took possession of his kingdom. Gumda's companions held him in great awe, because each in turn had been conquered by the jugi raja, but Gumda had experienced little difficulty in putting him to death.

               Gumda became raja of that country, and when he had settled his affairs, he sent for his mother to come and reside with him. The raja, whom Gumda had previously served, sought his friendship, and withdrew his command to Gumda to search for the elephant's bones until he found them. The prowess of Gumda caused him to deprecate his anger. He said, "If I offend him, he will kill me as he did the jugi raja, and take my wife and kingdom, as he did his."



[1] Ficus religiosa, Willd. one of the hugest of India’s many huge trees.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Gumda the Hero
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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