The Dove and The Serpent

The Dove and The Serpent :

You must have listened to folktales told by your mother, father or grandmother.
Where do these folktales come from?
They have been told to children, generation after generation.
Who first started them? Were they written down or told orally?
Find out from the elders in your family and from your neighbourhood.
Share a folktale you know with your friend.

Now, enjoy this folktale from Rajasthan.

A harmless little dove had made her nest in a big peepal tree, and every year she laid her eggs there. But in a hole in the trunk of that tree, there lived a cruel black serpent, and just when the young ones were growing wings, he would eat them up. The dove would request him to leave her little children alone and the serpent would say, "I promise never again to touch your children. Do not leave this nest; the next time you hatch your eggs, I shall guard the little ones from all danger." And the dove believed him. So every year, the cunning serpent fooled her.

Finally, the dove decided to leave that nest. She chose a tree far away from her earlier home. Soon, in the new nest, she laid five little pearly eggs. After some time, the egg shells cracked open and out came five rose-coloured little doves. The bird's joy knew no bounds. Soon, the little doves were growing wings when there came the heartless serpent again. He crept up the branches angrily and peeped into the nest. Spitting poison, he saw the dove sitting there, singing to her dear little ones. The dove stopped thunderstruck. This was worse than dying a thousand deaths. She looked at him, eyes glazed with fear, as he spoke: "You came here quietly, but you fool, can anyone ever run away from death? Where will you hide yourself now? The children are rosy and fat. What a feast!"

The snake was afraid of doing any wrong on an Amavas Monday, and so he slid down the tree saying, "Tomorrow, you will not be able to save your children." The snake then hid in a hole in the tree trunk.

The dove sat in her nest and tears silently trickled down her face. Just then, a crow flew down there to rest. Seeing the dove weeping, he went up to her and asked, "What is the matter, sister? Is there anything I could do for you?"

The dove sobbed loudly and told him her story. The crow was touched and decided to help her. "Don't weep," he said. “Trust me, this serpent will die tomorrow with a little cleverness on our part. Listen to my plan carefully."

The crow's words made the dove feel better and she asked him what the plan was. He said, "Invite the mongoose to dinner today. He has only to see the serpent and he will cut him to pieces."

Quickly wiping away her tears, and leaving her children in the care of the crow, the dove flew out to look for the mongoose. She found him sitting just in front of his hole. The dove said, "Brother, I shall worship the sun today. Please come with me to my home for dinner."

The mongoose happily accepted the invitation and both of them left together. The dove prepared many tasty dishes for the feast and served them to the mongoose and the crow. The mongoose said, "Sister, if I can be of any help to you, at anytime, please do let me know."

Hearing these words, the dove wept and said, “My brother, I am in great trouble. No one but you can help me." Then she told him the story of her misery and asked him to help her. "Save my children!" she begged. “My children and I shall always bless you."

The mongoose replied, "There is nothing more powerful in this world than a blessing. Even if there are a thousand serpents, they shall not touch a tiny feather of your children's wings." The dove went to sleep feeling that she and her children were safe.

With the first rays of sunlight, the serpent climbed up the tree to the nest. As he raised his hooded head and hissed loudly, the mongoose jumped on him and held him so tight by the neck that his hungry eyes stuck out. In a moment, he had been thrown down to the earth. The mongoose quickly ran down the tree, and when the serpent tried to climb up the tree again, he held on to his tail tightly. He pulled him down and beat him till his back was broken. Then, gnashing his teeth he cried, "Instead of fighting a dove and her young ones, fight with me!" And he cut the serpent into bits, and very soon an army of ants swarmed over him.

The dove thanked the mongoose saying, "I shall not be able to repay your kindness even in a hundred lives." And then, every year the dove laid pearly eggs and hatched rosy little doves, and no serpent disturbed her. Every year, she invited her brothers, the crow and the mongoose, to dinner and served them thirty-two special dishes.

Adapted from a Rajasthani folktale retold by Kamini Dinesh

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