Tuesday's Tales - India

Have come up with a couple of ideas to get me rear in gear and start posting regularly, which I keep saying I’ll do and then run out of steam.  I’m hoping that by picking certain days for certain ‘things’, regular posting will become easier.  Of course, I then procrastinate further by insisting on finding a title that ‘goes’ with certain days!! 

So, today I shall start with ‘Tuesday’s Tales’.  I have a few books on folk tales from around the world ... As I haven’t got any from Malaysia, I'll start with one from South India, as my paternal grandparents were from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.  I like this story, it always makes me smile, especially the beginning and the part with the horse …  By the way, a 'chattee-maker' is a potter.

The Valiant Chattee-Maker

Once, during a violent thunderstorm, a tiger sought shelter close to the wall of a poor old woman’s hut.  Her hut was in a tumble-down state, with rain dripping through many holes in the roof.  She kept running from one hole to another, dragging first one thing and then another out of the way of the rain.  As she did so, she kept saying, “Oh, this is so tiresome.  I’m sure the roof is going to come down.  If an elephant or a tiger were to walk in now, he wouldn’t frighten me half as much as this perpetual dripping.”  She continued to drag her bed and other things around the room, to get them out of the way of the rain. 

The tiger, who was crouching down outside, heard what she’d said and thought, ‘This old woman says she would not be afraid of an elephant, or even a tiger.  It is this perpetual dripping that frightens her more.  What can this ‘perpetual dripping’ be?  It must be something dreadful.’  Hearing her dragging all the things around the room, he said to himself, “What a terrible noise!  That must be the ‘perpetual dripping’.”

At that moment, a chattee-maker, who was searching for his stray donkey, came down the road.  He’d drunk a little more toddy than usual for the night was cold.  As the lightning flashed he saw a large animal lying down by the old woman’s hut and mistook it for his donkey.  Running up to the tiger, he grabbed it by the ear and began beating and kicking it.

“You wretched creature,” he cried, “is this the way you serve me, making me come out and look for you in such dreadful weather, and on such a dark night as this?  Get up or I’ll break every bone in your body.”  Having worked himself up into a terrible rage, he went on scolding and hitting the tiger.  The beast did not know what to make of this and began to feel frightened, saying to himself, ‘This must be the ‘perpetual dripping’; no wonder the old woman said it frightens her for it gives very hard blows.’

Believing it to be his donkey, the chattee-maker forced the tiger to carry him home, tied its forefeet together and fastened him to a post in front of his house and went to bed.

The next morning, the chattee-maker’s wife looked out the window and was astonished to find, not their donkey, but a tiger tied to the post.  She woke her husband.  “Do you know what animal you brought home last night?”

“Yes, the donkey,” he said.

“Come and see.” She showed him the tiger tied to the post.  The chattee-maker was as surprised as his wife and checked to see if he was injured but he wasn’t.

News of the chattee-maker’s exploit spread through the village and all the people came to see him and to hear how he had caught the tiger.  Soon, a deputation was sent to the Rajah with a letter detailing the chattee-maker’s daring act.

His curiosity piqued, the Rajah set off with his lords and attendants to see for himself.  When he learnt that the tiger had been the terror of the countryside, the Rajah was determined to confer every possible honour on the valiant chattee-maker.  So he gave him houses and lands, and money, made him lord of his court, and conferred on him the command of ten thousand horse.

Shortly afterwards, a neighbouring Rajah, who had long had a quarrel with this one, announced his intention of going to war with him; he had already gathered a great army and was ready to invade the country.

No one knew what to do.  The Rajah sent for his generals who told him that the country was so ill-prepared to oppose the enemy that it was too hopeless and they would rather not take the responsibility of the chief command.  Then some of his people said to the Rajah, “You have given command of ten thousand horse to the valiant chattee-maker who caught the tiger.  Why not make him Commander-in-Chief?  A man who could catch a tiger and tie him to a post must be more courageous and clever than most.”

So the Rajah sent for the chattee-maker and said to him, “In your hands I place all the power of the kingdom; you must put our enemies to flight.”

“So be it,” answered the chattee-maker, “but before I lead the whole army against the enemy, allow me to go by myself and examine their position, and, if possible, to find out their numbers and strength.”

The Rajah consented and the chattee-maker returned home to his wife.  “They have made me Commander-in-Chief, which is a difficult post for me because I shall have to ride at the head of the army, and you know I have never ridden a horse in my life.  But the Rajah has given me permission to go first alone and investigate the enemy’s camp.  So go and fetch me a quiet pony and I will start tomorrow morning.”

However, before the chattee-maker could leave, the Rajah sent a most magnificent charger, richly caparisoned, for the chattee-maker to ride to the enemy’s camp.  The chattee-maker was frightened almost out of his life, for the charger was powerful and spirited and he felt sure that, even if he did manage to get on it, he would promptly tumble off.  But he did not dare refuse it for fear of offending the Rajah.  So he sent a message of thanks then said to his wife, “I cannot go on the pony now, but how am I going to ride this?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Once you are on it, I will tie you firmly on so that you cannot tumble off.  If you start at night then no one will see that you are tied on.”

“Very well,” he said.

That night his wife brought the horse to the door and the chattee-maker said, “I can never get into that saddle, it is so high up.”

“You must jump,” said his wife.

He tried to jump several times but each time he tumbled down again.  “I always forget when I am jumping, which way I ought to turn.”

“Your face must be toward the horse’s head,” she said patiently.

“Of course,” he said.  After many trials, in which he tumbled down very often, for the horse was fresh and did not like standing still, the chattee-maker got into the saddle.  His wife hurriedly tied his feet to the stirrups, and put another rope around his waist and fastened that to the horse’s body and neck.

When the horse felt all these ropes about him he could not imagine what kind of creature had got on his back, and he began kicking and prancing and finally set off full gallop.  Away went the horse, away went the chattee-maker, over hedges, ditches, rivers, taking a most indirect route as the chattee-maker had no idea how to make the horse go the way he wanted, until they came in sight of the enemy’s camp.

When the chattee-maker saw the enemy camp looming before him, he thought they would catch him and very likely kill him.  In a desperate attempt to free himself, he grabbed a young banyan-tree with all his might as the horse shot past it.  But the horse was strong and fast, and the soil around the tree was loose, so when the chattee-maker seized it, the tree came up by the roots, and he now rode with a tree in his hand.

When the enemy soldiers saw him coming, they believed they saw a giant of a man on a mighty horse, so strong that he could tear up the trees, he was that angry, and they believed the entire army of the opposing Rajah was made up of such men.  The panic-stricken army convinced the invading Rajah to leave a letter proposing terms of peace and to flee with them.

By the time the chattee-maker, almost dead from fatigue, reached the camp, it was deserted.  The ropes had, by this time, come loose and he fell to the ground.  The horse stood still, too tired with its long run to go further.  On recovering his senses, the chattee-maker was surprised to find the camp empty.  On entering the principal tent, he found the letter for his Rajah.

So he took the letter and returned home as fast as he could, leading the horse for he was afraid to mount him again.  It didn’t take him long for this time he took the more direct route home.  His wife ran out to meet him, overjoyed at his speedy return.  As he was too tired after his wonderful and terrible ride, he told her to find a messenger and send the letter to the Rajah at once, along with the horse.  That way he wouldn’t be obliged to ride the horse to the palace door, for the last thing he wanted was to tumble off in front of the Rajah.

The next day, the chattee-maker went to the palace, and when the people saw him coming, they said, “This man is as modest as he is brave; after having put our enemies to flight, he walks simply to the door, instead of riding here in state, as any other man would” … little knowing that the chattee-maker only walked because he was afraid to ride.

The Rajah greeted him and paid him all possible honour.  Terms of peace were agreed between the two countries, and the chattee-maker was rewarded for all he had done, and he lived very happily all the rest of his life.