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Tales of the Punjab   By: (1847-1929)

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To the Little Reader

Sir Buzz The Rat's Wedding The Faithful Prince The Bear's Bad Bargain Prince Lionheart and his Three Friends The Lambkin Bopoluchi Princess Aubergine Valiant Vicky, the Brave Weaver The Son of Seven Mothers The Sparrow and the Crow The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal The King of the Crocodiles Little Anklebone The Close Alliance The Two Brothers The Jackal and the Iguana The Death and Burial of Poor Hen Sparrow Princess Pepperina Peasie and Beansir The Jackal and the Partridge The Snake woman and King Ali Mardan The Wonderful Ring The Jackal and the Pea hen The Grain of Corn The Farmer and the Money lender The Lord of Death The Wrestlers The Legend of Gwashbrari, the Glacier Hearted Queen The Barber's Clever Wife The Jackal and the Crocodile How Raja Rasalu Was Born How Raja Rasalu Went Out Into the World How Raja Rasalu's Friends Forsook Him How Raja Rasalu Killed the Giants How Raja Rasalu Became a Jogi How Raja Rasalu Journeyed to the City of King Sarkap How Raja Rasalu Swung the Seventy Fair Maidens, Daughters of the King How Raja Rasalu Played Chaupur with King Sarkap The King Who Was Fried Prince Half a Son The Mother and Daughter Who Worshipped the Sun The Ruby Prince

Notes to the Tales


Many of the tales in this collection appeared either in the Indian Antiquary , the Calcutta Review , or the Legends of the Punjab . They were then in the form of literal translations, in many cases uncouth or even unpresentable to ears polite, in all scarcely intelligible to the untravelled English reader; for it must be remembered that, with the exception of the Adventures of Raja Rasalu, all these stories are strictly folk tales passing current among a people who can neither read nor write, and whose diction is full of colloquialisms, and, if we choose to call them so, vulgarisms. It would be manifestly unfair, for instance, to compare the literary standard of such tales with that of the Arabian Nights , the Tales of a Parrot , or similar works. The manner in which these stories were collected is in itself sufficient to show how misleading it would be, if, with the intention of giving the conventional Eastern flavour to the text, it were to be manipulated into a flowery dignity; and as a description of the procedure will serve the double purpose of credential and excuse, the authors give it, premising that all the stories but three have been collected by Mrs. F. A. Steel during winter tours through the various districts of which her husband has been Chief Magistrate.

A carpet is spread under a tree in the vicinity of the spot which the Magistrate has chosen for his darbar , but far enough away from bureaucracy to let the village idlers approach it should they feel so inclined. In a very few minutes, as a rule, some of them begin to edge up to it, and as they are generally small boys, they commence nudging each other, whispering, and sniggering. The fancied approach of a chuprasi , the 'corrupt lictor' of India, who attends at every darbar , will however cause a sudden stampede; but after a time these become less and less frequent, the wild beasts, as it were, becoming tamer. By and by a group of women stop to gaze, and then the question 'What do you want?' invariably brings the answer 'To see your honour' ( ap ke darshan ae ). Once the ice is broken, the only difficulties are, first, to understand your visitors, and secondly, to get them to go away. When the general conversation is fairly started, inquiries are made by degrees as to how many witches there are in the village, or what cures they know for fever and the evil eye, etc . At first these are met by denials expressed in set terms, but a little patient talk will generally lead to some remarks which point the villagers' minds in the direction required, till at last, after many persuasions, some child begins a story, others correct the details, emulation conquers shyness, and finally the story teller is brought to the front with acclamations: for there is always a story teller par excellence in every village generally a boy... Continue reading book >>

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