Indian Fairy Tales: Punchkin
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Meantime the seven Princesses awoke, and when they found themselves all alone in the thick jungle they were much frightened, and began to call out as loud as they could, in hopes of making their father hear; but he was by that time far away, and would not have been able to hear them even had their voices been as loud as thunder.
It so happened that this very day the seven young sons of a neighbouring Raja chanced to be hunting in that same jungle, and as they were returning home, after the day's sport was over, the youngest Prince said to his brothers : "Stop, I think I hear some one crying and calling out. Do you not hear voices? Let us go in the direction of the sound, and find out what it is."
So the seven Princes rode through the wood until they came to the place where the seven Princesses sat crying and wringing their hands. At the sight of them the young Princes were very much astonished, and still more so on learning their story; and they settled that each should take one of these poor forlorn ladies home with him and marry her.
So the first and eldest Prince took the eldest Princess home with him and married her. And the second took the second; And the third took the third; And the fourth took the fourth; And the fifth took the fifth; And the sixth took the sixth; And the seventh, and the handsomest of all, took the beautiful Balna.
And when they got to their own land there was great rejoicing throughout the kingdom at the marriage of the seven young Princes to seven such beautiful Princesses.
About a year after this Balna had a little son, and his uncles and aunts were so fond of the boy that it was as if he had seven fathers and seven mothers. None of the other Princes and Princesses had any children, so the son of the seventh Prince and Balna was acknowledged their heir by all the rest.
They had thus lived very happily for some time, when one fine day the seventh Prince (Balna's husband) said he would go out hunting, and away he went; and they waited long for him, but he never came back. Then his six brothers said they would go and see what had become of him; and they went away, but they also did not return. And the seven Princesses grieved very much, for they feared that their kind husbands must have been killed.
One day, not long after this had happened, as Balna was rocking her baby's cradle, and whilst her sisters were working in the room below, there came to the palace door a man in a long black dress, who said that he was a Fakir, and came to beg. The servants said to him, "You cannot go into the palace - the Raja's sons have all gone away; we think they must be dead, and their widows cannot be interrupted by your begging."
But he said, "I am a holy man, you must let me in." Then the stupid servants let him walk through the palace, but they did not know that this was no Fakir, but a wicked Magician named Punchkin.
Punchkin Fakir wandered through the palace, and saw many beautiful things there, till at last he reached the room where Balna sat singing beside her little boy's cradle. The Magician thought her more beautiful than all the other beautiful things he had seen, insomuch that he asked her to go home with him and to marry him.
But she said, "My husband, I fear, is dead, but my little boy is still quite young; I will stay here and teach him to grow up a clever man, and when he is grown up he shall go out into the world, and try and learn tidings of his father. Heaven forbid that I should ever leave him, or marry you."
At these words the Magician was very angry, and turned her into a little black dog, and led her away, saying, "Since you will not come with me of your own free will, I will make you."
So the poor Princess was dragged away, without any power of effecting an escape or of letting her sisters know what had become of her.
As Punchkin passed through the palace gate the servants said to him, "Where did you get that pretty little dog?"
And he answered, "One of the Princesses gave it to me as a present." At hearing which they let him go without further questioning.
Soon after this, the six elder Princesses heard the little baby, their nephew, begin to cry, and when they went upstairs they were much surprised to find him all alone, and Balna nowhere to be seen. Then they questioned the servants, and when they heard of the Fakir and the little black dog, they guessed what had happened, and sent in every direction seeking them, but neither the Fakir nor the dog were to be found.
What could six poor women do? They gave up all hopes of ever seeing their kind husbands, and their sister, and her husband, again, and devoted themselves thenceforward to teaching and taking care of their little nephew.
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Source: Indian Fairy Tales (1890), by Joseph Jacobs, illustrated by John Batten. Weblink..
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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