Indian (Punjabi) Tale
A number of
young girls were drawing water at the village well
and telling each other their fantasies of when and
whom and how they would marry. One of them said, "My
uncle will come loaded with wedding presents and
dress me in brocade, and I'll get married in a
said, "My uncle is coming soon with a camel-load
said, "Oh, my uncle will be here in no time in a
golden carriage filled with jewels."
was the prettiest of them all and she looked
sad---she was an orphan and had no one in the world
to arrange a marriage for her or give her a dowry.
Still, not to be outdone by the others, she said,
"And my uncle will bring me dresses, sweets, and
jewels in golden plates."
disguised as a peddler selling perfumes to country
women, happened to be sitting near the well. He heard
what Bopoluchi said. He was so struck by her beauty
and spirit that he decided to marry her himself. So
the very next day, he disguised himself as a rich
farmer and came to Bopoluchi's hut with trays full of
silken dresses, sweets, and rare jewels---things he
had looted and put away.
could hardly believe her eyes, for it was just as she
even said he was her uncle, her father's long-lost
brother, and had come home to arrange his niece's
wedding with one of his sons. Bopoluchi couldn't believe
her ears, but she believed him and was ecstatic. She
packed up her few belongings and set off with the
But as they
went along the road, a crow in a tree croaked:
beware! Smell the danger in the air! It's no
uncle that relieves you. But a robber who deceives
said the girl, "that peacock screams in a funny
way. What does it say?"
nothing," said the robber. "All the
peacocks scream like that in this country."
jackal slunk across the road and began to howl:
beware! Smell the danger in the air! It's no uncle that relieves you.
But a robber who deceives you!"
said Bopoluchi, "that jackal howls in such a
funny way. What does it say?"
nothing," said the robber. "All the jackals
howl like that in this country."
traveled with him many miles till they reached the
robber's house. Once they were inside, he locked the
door and told her who he was and how he wanted to
marry her himself. She wept and wailed, but the
pitiless robber left her with his ancient crone of a
mother and went out to make arrangements for the
Bopoluchi had long, beautiful hair that reached down
to her ankles, but the mother of the robber was so
old she didn't have a hair on her head.
said the old hag, as she was getting the bridal
clothes ready, "how did you manage to get such
replied Bopoluchi, "my mother had a way of
making it grow by pounding my head in the big mortar
for husking rice. At every stroke of the pestle, my
hair grew longer and longer. It's a method that never
it will work for me, too, and make my hair
grow," said the old woman, who had always wanted
long hair and never had very much.
it will. Why don't we try it?" said Bopoluchi.
old mother put her head in the mortar, and Bopoluchi
pounded away with such force that the old woman died.
Bopoluchi dressed the dead body in the scarlet bridal
dress, seated it on the bridal chair, drew the veil
over its face, and put the spinning-wheel in front of
it, so that when the robber came home he might think
it was his bride. Then she put on the old woman's
clothes, picked up her few belongings, and stepped
out of the house as quickly as possible.
On her way
home, the robber saw her hurrying by. He had stolen a
millstone to grind the grain for the feast. She was
scared he would recognize her, but he didn't. He
thought she was some old woman hobbling along. So
Bopoluchi reached home safely.
robber came home and saw the figure in the bridal
dress sitting in the bridal chair spinning, he
thought it was Bopoluchi. He called her to help him
with the millstone, but she didn't answer. He called
again, but she still didn't answer. After calling a
few more times, he flew into a rage and threw the
millstone at her head. The figure toppled over, and
when he came close, it wasn't Bopoluchi at all but
his own old mother with her head bashed in. The
robber wept and cried aloud and beat his breast
because he thought he had killed his own mother. Soon
it became clear to him that Bopoluchi was no longer
around and had run away. He was wild with rage and
ran out to bring her back, wherever she was.
reached home, Bopoluchi knew that the robber would
certainly come after her. Every night she begged her
neighbors to let her sleep in a different house,
leaving her own little bed in her own little house
empty. But she couldn't do this forever, as she soon
came to the end of friends who would let her sleep in
their houses. So she decided to brave it out and
sleep in her own bed, with a sharp billhook next to
in the middle of the night four men crept in, and
each seizing a leg of the bed, lifted it up and
walked off. The robber himself held the leg close
behind her head. Bopoluchi was wide awake, but she
pretended to be fast asleep until they came to a
deserted spot and the thieves were off their guard.
Then she whipped out the billhook and in a flash cut
off the heads of the two thieves at the foot of the
bed. Turning around quickly, she cut off the head of
the third thief, but the robber himself ran away in a
fright and scrambled up a nearby tree like a wild cat
before she could get at him.
cried out to him, brandishing her billhook,
"Come down, if you are a man, and fight it
robber would not come down. So Bopoluchi gathered all
the sticks she could find, piled them around the
tree, and set fire to them. The tree caught fire, and
the robber, stifled by the smoke, tried to jump down
and broke his neck. After
that, Bopoluchi went to the robber's house and
carried off all the gold and silver, jewels, and
clothes that were hidden there. She had them brought
home to her village in silver and gold platters, on
camels and donkeys. She was now so rich she could
marry anyone she pleased.