Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 10, 1899.djvu/463

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The Folklore in the Legends of the Panjah. 423

those of the male. The main cause of the differences observable lies in the low estimation in which women generally are held by the populace — a fact typified in the Legends by the belief that it is not only foolish, but socially indiscreet, to praise a woman, especially one's wife, by the ceremonial observances demanded of the women towards their male relatives, all intended to emphasise their position of subjection, and by the universal custom of the seclusion of women.

The typical heroine is emphatically a child of predesti- nation, " tabued," as it were, from birth to the hero. Her characteristics are impossible strength or skill to save the hero in trouble, as when she cuts a tigress in two ; or, on the other hand, impossible delicacy, as when she is weighed against flowers ; or she is endowed with impossible attrac- tiveness, dropping flowers when she laughs and pearls when she weeps. Her beauty is, of course, all-conquering, the animal world, the heavenly bodies, and the God of the Waters (Khwaja Khizar) succumbing to it, and like the hero, she is known by "signs" — eg., by the bubbling of the water in a well when she looks into it.

Of beneficent heroines we do not hear much in the Legends. Perhaps it is hardly to be expected that amongst the Panjabi peasantry a woman could be held to be of much assistance in life. The fairies, when they do appear, are accordingly merely messengers between this and other worlds, or they represent outside, unorthodox brides or mistresses of Rajas or heroes. But of maleficent heroines we hear a good deal, and of the victims, male and female, of their active ill-will. Calumny, born of jealousy, is the favoured method of showing it. Jealousy of a co-wife, natural enough where polygamy is practised, and of a co-wife's children, gives so commonly the spring to vin- dicative action, that the story of the calumniated wife may be looked upon as a special variety of Indian folktale, though the enmity is sometimes represented as being ex-