Friday, June 10, 2016

Bengal Fairy Tales: The Petrified Mansion

In addition to reading the Ramayana and Mahabharata, this class is a chance for people to get to know all kinds of Indian storytelling traditions, like the fairy tale story below which comes from Bengal Fairy Tales by F. B. Bradley-Birt (1920). Here is the page image, and the book is full of many other wonderful stories.

Note: You will see that this story resembles the European fairy tale of "Sleeping Beauty." You can read more versions of that famous fairy tale here: Sleeping Beauty.

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The Petrified Mansion

Once upon a time there was a prince who set out on his travels into foreign countries, alone, without taking with him any valuables. His sword was his only companion. He crossed mountains, seas, and rivers, and at length came to a grand mansion.

He entered it, and great was his surprise to find petrified forms of men and animals in all the apartments through which he passed. Even the weapons in the armory were not exceptions. There was in one of the halls a stone statue dressed in royal splendor, surrounded by other statues gorgeously equipped.

The lonely house greatly frightened the prince, but just as he was on the point of quitting it, he happened to notice an open door. Passing through it, he reached the presence of a very beautiful damsel reposing on a khat (bed) of gold, and surrounded by lotuses of the same metal. She lay quite motionless and was apparently dead. There was not the softest breath perceptible in her.

The prince was enamored of her beauty and sat with his eyes fixed upon her.

But one day he happened to notice a stick of gold near the girl's pillow. He took it up and was turning it round and round for inspection, when it suddenly touched her forehead, and instantly she started up, fully conscious. The whole house resounded with the clamor of human tongues, the clanking of arms, the songs of birds, and the sounds of domestic animals. It was full of life and joy. Heralds made proclamations, ministers speechified in the courtroom, and the king engaged himself in the discharge of his royal duties.

The prince was struck speechless with wonder, and the princess was equally astonished. The servants entered the room and, finding a prince-like youth seated by their master's daughter, hastened to the king with the intelligence. He hurried to the spot and, seeing the prince, asked him who he was.

The prince told him, and the royal family, with all the other inmates of the palace, acclaimed him as their deliverer. They said that the touch of a silver stick had petrified them all, and that their revival was the result of his having touched the princess with the stick of gold. In recognition of the very great service he had rendered them, the prince was rewarded with the princess's hand, and great were the rejoicings on the joyous occasion.

Meanwhile, in his own home his parents mourned for the prince as the years passed and he did not return. The queen had taken to her bed, and the king had become blind with weeping. They were disconsolate and courted death as the only termination of their great grief. The whole kingdom was overcast with sadness, which was, however, ultimately removed when one day the long-lost prince appeared with his bride. Joyous acclamations rent the air, and the royal couple, being informed of the return of their dear son, hastened out to the gate and embraced him and the princess. At the touch of the stick of gold, the king regained his sight, and the queen her health, and they lived for years in the enjoyment of great happiness.

At length, leaving the throne to his son, the king with the queen retired to spend a secluded and godly life in the depths of the forest.

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