On a hot summer’s day, a goldsmith was travelling from his village, to a neighbouring town. He had to cross a stream. At this time of the year, the water wasn’t deep, so the goldsmith hitched up his mundu , and stepped into the water. As he did so, he saw a tiger upstream. It was in great distress, and was tossing its head from side to side. On and off, it let out a low moan. On seeing the goldsmith, the tiger cried out,
“ Please Swami goldsmith, I see you are carrying a bundle. Do you perchance have your tools with you? If so, I beg of you, to rid me of this nasty crab. It has taken hold of my nose.
Swami, if you only help me, I will give you immense wealth.”
The goldsmith inched forward slowly. A large black crab was dangling from the tiger’s nose. He took out the pliers from his bundle, and snapped off the legs of the crab. Then seeing it was a fleshy creature, he tied it in a corner of his mundu , hoping to make it into a delicious curry, when he reached home.
The tiger led the goldsmith into the jungle. In the hollow of a tree trunk, it had hidden a great amount of treasures collected from the people it had killed.
“ Help yourself to as much gold and precious stones you can carry,” it said, “ But remember one thing. I am the king of the forest. If the news gets around that a mere crab could cause me such misery, I will become the laughing stock of the animal world. So beware, if you breathe a word about this to anyone, I will kill you.”
When he reached home, the goldsmith’s wife was delighted to see so much gold and precious stones. But she insisted on knowing from where he had got so much wealth.
“ Stop bothering me. Isn’t it enough that I have brought you these gifts? Must you pester me about it?”
But she nagged him day and night, until he told her the story.
Now the tiger was spying on the goldsmith. It came at night, and eavesdropped on the man’s conversations with his wife. Sure enough, it heard the goldsmith telling her the story of its shame. That night, when the couple was asleep, on the verandah, it carried away their cot, into the jungle. It first shook the woman awake.
“ You inquisitive woman! Now I’ll teach you a lesson.”
It gave her a sound slap on her temple, and the woman fell down dead at its feet.
The goldsmith was still deeply asleep. The tiger moved back a few paces, then leaped forward, its paws thumping on the goldsmith’s stomach. There was a guttural belch from the goldsmith’s throat, and the tiger was alarmed.
“ What is the noise I just heard?” it asked.
With great presence of mind, the goldsmith answered, “ That was the crab which I took home and ate. It wants to know if you’re anywhere around.”
The tiger began to tremble.
“ Oh Swamy goldsmith, please don’t let it come out of your stomach. I’ll give you even more wealth than you carried away last time.”
So the goldsmith became a very wealthy man. He built a beautiful house, the very best in the district. On the lintel of the front door, his workman inscribed, “Nothing is impossible for the man who has wealth.”
One day, the King of the land was journeying through the village. Seeing such a palatial building, he was eager to inspect the building. He was very angry when he saw the proud inscription on the door.
“ Who is this vain man?” he asked.
One of the workmen told him it belonged to a goldsmith.
The next day, the King summoned the goldsmith to the palace. The man was worried, and went trembling before the king.
“ Goldsmith, I visited your house, and saw the inscription on the door. You say that nothing is impossible for a man who has wealth. I must put your brave words to the test. My only daughter lives on the seventh floor of this palace. Each floor is guarded by hefty armed guards. If you can kidnap with the princess, you shall have her in marriage. If you fail, your head will be chopped off in the market place, and then put on display.”
The goldsmith was terrified. But once again, his clever mind devised a plan.
“ Your Majesty, please give me three months time. I also need a lakh of rupees.”
“ All right,” said the King. “My treasurer will give you the money.”
The goldsmith was a fine artisan. He bought a large quantity of lac, and as much gold as he required. He made it into a beautiful peacock, which was hollow inside, and could seat two people. He dipped it into a gold solution, to make it sparkle. He then went to the next village, and brought his sister back.
“ Sister, you must pose as my wife for a few days. Spread the word that I have left the village, and won’t be coming back. Let them know you are penniless. Then take this peacock, and go begging from house to house. When you have made a round in the village, go past the palace.”
“ Don’t you worry, Brother. I’ll do as you say.”
The next morning, the goldsmith hid himself inside the peacock, and the woman pushed the cart through the streets. “ Take pity on me, you generous people,” she said, pretending to cry. “ My husband has deserted me, and I have no money to live. Please throw me a rupee.”
The sight of the golden peacock dazzled the people. When she passed the palace, the King too could not help admiring it. His daughter, who was watching from the seventh floor, sent a message to her father.
“ Please send the peacock up, so that I can touch it. It looks so beautiful even from this height.”
So the guards carried the peacock up, and the princess liked it so much, that she asked her father to buy it for her.
“ My daughter wishes to buy the peacock,” said the King to the woman. “ I will pay you handsomely.”
“ No,” said the woman, “My husband has deserted me, and this is my only livelihood.”
But the princess began to cry and beg. So the King asked the woman to leave the peacock with his daughter, at least for a short time, and he would give her a purse full of gold. She woman went away protesting.
At night, when everybody was asleep, the goldsmith opened the latch of the secret door, and stepped out. He tiptoed to the sleeping princess and touched her. She woke up with a start and would have screamed, but he asked her to be quiet.
“ Princess, I am at your mercy. Your father gave me a difficult job to do. He wants me to kidnap you from the palace. If I don’t, he will cut off my head. So please help me.”
The princess was very kind, unlike her autocratic father. She promised to cooperate. During the day, he hid himself inside the peacock. At night, he came out of his hiding place, and feasted on the food, the princess kept for him. They became good friends.
At the end of three months, the woman came back again, to take away her peacock. “Your Majesty, I must have it back,” she said.
The princess sent her servants away on different errands. Then she seated herself inside the peacock’s abdomen. The palace guards bore the peacock down and placed it in the woman’s cart.
That evening, the goldsmith visited the King.
“ Your time is up, young man. Now you will surely die.”
“ Just a minute, Your Majesty. Perhaps you should enquire if the princess is on the seventh floor.”
A servant came back to say that the maids were weeping bitterly, as they couldn’t find the princess.
The goldsmith went out to his carriage, and brought the princess before the King.
“ A clever man indeed! Now you will certainly have my daughter for your bride, and when I die, you will rule my kingdom.”
And so, the princess and the goldsmith lived happily ever after. But the tiger was never heard off, again.
A Tulu Folk Tale from South Kanara.