Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission | Annotated Tale

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Greatest Cheat of Seven, The

A GREAT cheat married the cheating sister of seven cheats. One day his father-in-law and seven brothers-in-law came on a visit to his house. After conversing with them for a little, he invited them to accompany him to the river to bathe. He carried a fishing rod with him, and on arriving at the river cast his line into a pool, saying, "Now, fish, if you do not instantly repair to my house, I shall not be able to speak well of you." This he said to deceive the others, as before leaving home he had given a fish to his wife telling her to prepare it for dinner. When seated at table he said to his guests, "the fish we are now eating is the one I, in your presence, ordered to proceed from the river to my house this forenoon." They were greatly astonished at the wonderful properties possessed by the fishing rod, and expressed a desire to purchase it, and offered to pay five rupees for it. He accepted their offer, and they carried the wonderful fishing rod home with them.

               Next day they arranged to go a-fishing. They cast the line into a pool as they had seen the cheat do, and said, "Now fish, if you do not repair at once to our home we shall not be able to speak well of you." Having bathed they returned home, and asked to see the fish. Their wives said, "What fish? You gave us no fish. We have seen no fish. Where did you throw it down?" They now knew that their sister's husband was a cheat, so they decided to go and charge him with having deceived them.

               The cheat had notice of their coming, and quickly taking his dog with him went to hunt. He caught a hare and bringing it home gave it to his wife, and said, "When we reach the end of the street on our way home from hunting, you make the dog stand near the house with the dead hare in his mouth."

               He invited his visitors to accompany him for an hour's hunting, saying, "Come, let us go and kill a hare for dinner." So they went to the jungle, and presently started a hare. The cheat threw a stone at his dog, and frightened it so that it ran home. He called after it, "If you do not catch and take that hare home, it will not be well for you." He then said to his friends, "Come, let us return, we will find the dog there with the hare before us." They replied, "We doubt it much." "There is no mistake about it," he said, "We are certain to find both dog and hare." On reaching home they found the dog standing waiting for them with a hare in his mouth.

               His brothers-in-law were astonished beyond measure at the sagacity of the dog, and they said, "Sell this dog to us, we will pay a good price for it." He demanded ten rupees, which they gladly paid. So they returned home, and said nothing to him about his having cheated them in the matter of the fishing rod.

               One day, taking the dog with them, they went to hunt. It caught five hares, and its masters were greatly delighted with its performance.

               After this the cheat's house was accidentally burnt, and he gathering the ashes together, set out for the bazaar, there to sell them. On the way he fell in with a party of merchants who had a large bag full of silver with them. They enquired what his bag contained, to which he replied, "Gold." They agreed to pass the night in the same encampment, so having partaken of their evening meal, they lay down to sleep. At midnight the merchants rose, and exchanged the bags, and then lay down again. The cheat saw them, and chuckled within himself. In the morning the merchants made haste to leave, as they feared the cheat might find out the theft of his bag. The cheat asked them before they left to help him to lift his bag on to his bullock's back, saying, "It was to receive assistance from you that I encamped here last night." So having helped him to load his bullock they hurried away lest they should be caught. The cheat carried his treasure home, but being unable to count so much money borrowed a measure from his father-in-law, and found he had four maunds of silver.

               On returning the measure he sent along with it five seers of silver, saying, "For the ashes of my house I received four maunds of silver, if you reduce your houses to ashes and sell them, you will obtain very much more." So they foolishly burnt their houses, and collecting the ashes went to the bazaar to dispose of them. The merchants to whom they offered them directed them to go to the washermen, saying, "They will possibly buy." But they also refused, and they were compelled to return home without having effected a sale. They vowed vengeance on the cheat, and set out to find him.

               When they reached his house the cheat was on the point of starting on a journey. After mutual salutations he said, "I have just killed my second wife. I go to receive eight maunds of silver for her corpse. Dead bodies bring high prices." They said to him, "How about the ashes? We could not sell them." He replied, "You did not go far enough from home. Had you gone to a distance you would have made a good bargain."

               The cheat's youngest wife having died he washed the body, and anointed it with oil. He then put it in a large bag, and loaded it on the back of a bullock, and set out. On the way he came to a field of wheat, into which he drove the animal, and then hid himself near by. The owner of the field finding the bullock eating his wheat, beat it unmercifully with a cudgel. The cheat then came from his hiding place, and said, "Have you not done wrong in beating my bullock? If you have killed my wife, where will you flee to? I fell behind, and for that reason my ox got into your field. My wife, whom I have newly married, is weak and unable to go on foot, so I put her into a bag to carry her home on my bullock."

               Having opened the bag the wife was found dead, and her assailant stood self convicted of her murder. He gave her husband six maunds of rupees as hush money, so the cheat burnt the corpse and returned home laden with spoil.

               The cheat next sent for his brothers-in-law, and shewing them the money, said, "I killed my second wife, and got all this money by selling the corpse." They enquired, "Who are the people who buy dead bodies?" He replied, "They reside in the Rakas country."

               Then the seven brothers killed each his youngest wife, and carried the bodies to a distant country to dispose of them. When the people of that country knew the object for which they had come they said to them, "What sort of men are you hawking corpses about the towns and villages? You must be the worst, or else most stupid of men." Hearing this the brothers were dismayed, and began to take in the situation. They perceived that the cheat had again deceived them, and they retraced their steps homewards bitterly lamenting their folly. On reaching their village they cremated the remains of their wives, and from that day had no more dealings with the cheat.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Greatest Cheat of Seven, 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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