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  1. The Scheming Women

The Scheming Women

A man had two wives, and the younger one was his favourite. The elder wife had a daughter named Teja and a son named Kanai, and the younger wife had a daughter named Tula.

One day the two wives went fishing. The younger one pushed the elder into the water, muttering: "As a big tortoise can you stay."

Later the tortoise came to Teja and Kanai and gave them food every day. They became healthy and strong. Their step mother noticed this and came to know the truth from her daughter, who accompanied Teja and Kanai. The stepmother then feigned to be ill and had an old lady physician tell her husband that she would be cured if she was fed on tortoise flesh. The tortoise mother came to know this. She told her children that they should not eat the flesh and must bury her legs and bone on the banks of the tank.

Two trees with flowers and fruits of exquisite beauty and taste grew up at the spot the mother tortoise was buried. The flowers and fruits of the trees came to be so very much wanted that at last the king too came to see, smell and taste them. Kanai refused to give him any fruits and flowers unless he promised to marry his sister. The king noticed that Teja was beautiful, so he agreed and married her at once.

After the marriage Teja was faced with the king's elder wife and her jealousy. The older wife used to create problems for her from the very start. But the king was always kind to Teja.

Teja's stepmother grew envious of her happiness as a queen. One day she invited Teja to come to back home on a visit, and after a few days she pushed a thorn into her neck and turned her into a starling. Her daughter Tula then put on Teja's dress and went to the king's home as her mother told her to do. The starling followed her.

Tula was almost a look-alike of Teja; so the king was unable to see it was not his wife Teja. The starling tried to tell him the truth one day he overheard her and asked the bird to alight on his shoulder. The bird flew to him. Then the king found a thorn in its neck, pulled it out, and at once Teja appeared in her real shape.

The king killed the imposter and sent the body back to the scheming mother.

(From an Assamese tale. The bird in the original is a myna, a bird in the starling family.)


Fairy tales, folktales, folk tales, stories, other tales, Literature  

Goswami, Praphulladatta. Ballads and Tales of Assam: A study of the folklore of Assam. 2nd ed. Gauhati: University of Gauhati, 1970:48-57.

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