Indian Fairy Tales (Stokes, 1879)/The Princess who loved her Father like Salt

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XXIII.

THE PRINCESS WHO LOVED HER FATHER LIKE SALT.


IN a country there lived a king who had seven daughters. One day he called them all to him and said to them, "My daughters, how much do you love me?" The six eldest answered, "Father, we love you as much as sweetmeats and sugar;" but the seventh and youngest daughter said, "Father, I love you as much as salt." The king was much pleased with his six eldest daughters, but very angry with his youngest daughter. "What is this?" he said; "my daughter only loves me as much as she does salt!" Then he called some of his servants, and said to them, "Get a palanquin ready, and carry my youngest daughter away to the jungle." The servants did as they were bid; and when they got to the jungle, they put the palanquin down under a tree and went away. The princess called to them, "Where are you going? Stay here; my father did not tell you to leave me alone in the jungle." "We will come back," said the servants; "we are only going to drink some water." But they returned to her father's palace.

The princess waited in the palanquin under the tree, and it was now evening, and the servants had not come back. She was very much frightened and cried bitterly. "The tigers and wild beasts will eat me," she said to herself. At last she went to sleep, and slept for a little while. When she awoke she found in her palanquin some food on a plate, and a little water, that God had sent her while she slept. She ate the food and drank the water, and then she felt happier, for she thought, "God must have sent me this food and water." She decided that as it was now night she had better stay in her palanquin, and go to sleep. "Perhaps the tigers and wild beasts will come and eat me," she thought; "but if they don't, I will try to-morrow to get out of thta jungle, and go to another country."

The next morning she left her palanquin and set out. She walked on, till, deep in the jungle, she came to a beautiful palace, which did not belong to her father, but to another king. The gate was shut, but she opened it, and went in. She looked all about, and thought, "What a beautiful hou$e this is, and what a pretty garden and tank!"

Everything was beautiful, only there were no servants nor anybody else to be seen. She went into the house, and through all the rooms. In one room she saw a dinner ready to be eaten, but there was no one to eat it. At last she came to a room in which was a splendid bed, and on it lay a king's son covered with a shawl. She took the shawl off, and then she saw he was very beautiful, and that he was dead. His body was stuck full of needles.

She sat down on the bed, and there she sat for one week, without eating, or drinking, or sleeping, pulling out the needles. Then a man came by who said to her, "I have here a girl I wish to sell." "I have no rupees," said the princess; "but if you will sell her to me for my gold bangles, I will buy her." The man took the bangles, and left the girl with the princess, who was very glad to have her. "Now," she thought, "I shall be no longer alone."

All day and all night long the princess sat and pulled out the needles, while the girl went about the palace doing other work. At the end of other two weeks the princess had pulled out all the needles from the king's body, except those in his eyes.

Then the king's daughter said to her servant-girl, "For three weeks I have not bathed. Get a bath ready for me, and while I am bathing sit by the king, but do not take the needles out of his eyes. I will pull them out myself." The servant-girl promised not to pull out the needles. Then she got the bath ready; but when the king's daughter had gone to bathe, she sat down on the bed, and pulled the needles out of the king's eyes.

As soon as she had done so, he opened his eyes, and sat up. He thanked God for bringing him to life again. Then he looked about, and saw the servant-girl, and said to her, "Who has made me well and pulled all the needles out of my body?" "I have," she answered. Then he thanked her and said she should be his wife.

When the princess came from her bath, she found the king alive, and sitting on his bed talking to her servant. When she saw this she was very sad, but she said nothing. The king said to the servant maid, "Who is this girl?" She answered, "She is one of my servants." And from that moment the princess became a servant-girl, and her servant-girl married the king. Every day the king said, "Can this lovely girl be really a servant? She is far more beautiful than my wife.

One day the king thought, "I will go to another country to eat the air." So he called the pretended princess, his wife, and told her he was going to eat the air in another country. "What would you like me to bring you when I come back?" She answered, "I should like beautiful sárís and clothes, and gold and silver jewels." Then the king said, "Call the servant-girl and ask her what she would like me to bring her." The real princess came, and the king said to her. "See, I am going to another country to eat the air. What would you like me to bring for you when I return?"

"King," she answered, "if you can bring me what I want I will tell you what it is; but if you cannot get it, I will not tell you." "Tell me what it is," said the king. "Whatever it may be I will bring it you." "Good," said the princess. "I want a sun-jewel box." Now the princess knew all about the sun-jewel boxes, and that only fairies had such boxes. And she knew, too, what would be in hers if the king could get one for her, although these boxes contain sometimes one thing and sometimes another.

The king had never heard of such a box, and did not know what it was like; so he went to every country asking all the people he met what sort of box was a sun-jewel box, and where he could get it. At last one day, after a fruitless search, he was very sad, for he thought, "I have promised the servant to bring her a sun-jewel box, and now I cannot get one for her; what shall I do?"

Then he went to sleep and had a dream. In it he saw a jungle, and in the jungle a fakír who, when he slept, slept for twelve years, and then was awake for twelve years. The king felt sure this man could give him what he wanted, so when he woke he said to his sepoys and servants, "Stay here in this spot till I return to you; then we will go back to my country."

He mounted his horse and set out for the jungle he had seen in his dream. He went on and on till he came to it, and there he saw the fakír lying asleep. He had been asleep for twelve years all but two weeks: over him were a quantity of leaves, and grass, and a great deal of mud. The king began taking oft all the grass, and leaves, and mud, and every day for a fortnight when he got up he cleared them all away from off the fakír. When the fakír awoke at the end of the two weeks, and saw that no mud, or grass, or leaves were upon him, but that he was quite clean, he was very much pleased, and said to the king, "I have slept for twelve years, and yet I am as clean as I was when I went to sleep. When I awoke after my last sleep, I was all covered with dirt and mud, grass and leaves; but this time I am quite clean."

The king stayed with the fakír for a week, and waited on him and did everything for him. The fakír was very much pleased with the king, and he told this to him: "You are a very good man." He added, "Why did you come to this jungle? You are such a great king, what can you want from me?" "I want a sun-jewel box," answered the king* "You are such a good man," said the fakír, "that I will give you one."

Then the fakír went to a beautiful well, down which he went right to the bottom. There, there was a house in which lived the red fairy. She was called the red fairy not because her skin was red, for it was quite white, but because everything about her was red—her house, her clothes, and her country. She was very glad to see the fakír, and asked him why he had come to see her. "I want you to give me a sun-jewel box," he answered. "Very good," said the fairy, and she brought him one in which were seven small dolls and a little flute. "No one but she who wants this box must open it," said the fairy to the fakir. "She must open it when she is quite alone and at night." Then she told him what was in the box.

The fakír thanked her, and took the box to the king, who was delighted and made many salaams to the fakír. The fakir told him none but the person who wished for the box was to open it; but he did not tell him what more the fairy had said.

The king set off on his journey now, and when he came to his servants and sepoys, he said to them he would now return to his country, as he had found the box he wanted. When he reached his palace he called the false princess, his wife, and gave her her silks and shawls, and sárís, and gold and silver jewels. Then he called the servant-girl—the true princess—and gave her her sun-jewel box. She took it, and was delighted to have it. She made him many salaams and went away with her box, but did not open it then, for she knew what was in it, and that she must open it at night and alone.

That night she took her box and went out all by herself to a wide plain in the jungle, and there opened it. She took the little flute, put it to her lips, and began to play, and instantly out flew the seven little dolls, who were all little fairies, and they took chairs and carpets from the box, and arranged them all in a large tent which appeared at that moment. Then the fairies bathed her, combed and rolled up her hair, put on her grand clothes and lovely slippers. But all the time the princess did nothing but cry. They brought a chair and placed it before the tent, and made her sit in it. One of them took the flute and played on it, and all the others danced before the princess, and they sang songs for her. Still she cried and cried. At last, at four o'clock in the morning, one of the fairies said, "Princess, why do you cry?" "I took all the needles out of the king, all but those in his eyes," said the princess, "and while I was bathing, my servant-girl, whom I had bought with my gold bangles, pulled these out. She told the king it was she who had pulled out all the other needles and brought him to life, and that I was her servant, and she has taken my place and is treated as the princess, and the king has married her, while I am made to do a servant's work and treated as the servant." "Do not cry," said the fairies. "Everything will be well for you by and by."

When it was close on morning, the princess played on the flute, and all the chairs, sofas, and fairies became quite tiny, and went into the box, and the tent disappeared. She shut it up, and took it back to the king's palace. The next night she again went out to the jungle-plain, and all happened as on the night before.

A wood-cutter was coming home late from his work, and had to pass by the plain. He wondered when he saw the tent. "I went by some time ago," he said to himself, "and I saw no tent here." He climbed up a big tree to see what was going on, and saw the fairies dancing before the princess, who sat outside the tent, and he saw how she cried though the fairies did all they could to amuse her. Then he heard the fairies say, "Princess, why do you cry?" And he heard her tell them how she had cured the king, and how her servant-girl had taken her place and made her a servant. "Never mind, don't cry," said the fairies. "All will be well by and by." Near morning the princess played on her flute, and the fairies went into the box, and the tent disappeared, and the princess went back to the palace.

The third night passed as the other two had done. The wood-cutter came to look on, and climbed into the tree to see the fairies and the princess. Again the fairies asked her why she cried, and she gave the same answer.

The next day the wood-cuttter went to the king. "Last night and the night before," he said, "as I came home from work, I saw a large tent in the jungle, and before the tent there sat a princess who did nothing but cry, while seven fairies danced before her, or played on different instruments, and sang songs to her." The king was very much astonished, and said to the wood-cutter, "To-night I will go with you, and see the tent, and the princess, and the fairies."

When it was night the princess went out softly and opened her box on the plain. The wood-cutter fetched the king, and the two men climbed into a tree and watched the fairies as they danced and sang. The king saw that the princess who sat and cried was his own servant-girl. He heard her tell the fairies all she had done for him, and all that had happened to her; so he came suddenly down from the tree, and went up to her and took her hand. "I always thought you were a princess, and no servant-girl," he said. "Will you marry me?"

She left off crying, and said, "Yes, I will marry you." She played on her flute, and the tent disappeared, and all the fairies, and sofas, and chairs went into the. box. She put her flute in it, as she always did before shutting down the lid, and went home with the king.

The servant-girl was very vexed and angry when she found the king knew all that had happened. However, the princess was most good to her, and never treated her unkindly.

The princess then sent a letter to her mother, in which she wrote, "I am going to be married to a great king. You and my father must come to my wedding, and must bring my sisters with you."

They all came, and her father and mother liked the king very much, and were glad their daughter should marry him. The wedding took place, and they stayed with her for some time. For a whole week she gave their servants and sepoys nice food cooked with salt, but to her father and mother and sisters she only gave food cooked with sugar. At last they got so tired of this sweet food that they could eat it no longer. At the end of the week she gave them a dinner cooked with salt. Then her father said, "My daughter is wise though she is so young, and is the youngest of my daughters. I know now how much she loved me when she said she loved me like salt. People cannot eat their food without salt. If their food is cooked with sugar one day, it must be cooked with salt the next, or they cannot eat it."

After this her father and mother and sisters went home, but they often came to see their little daughter and her husband.

The princess, the king, and the servant-maid all lived happily together.


Told by Múniyá.