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Nagoba The Snake-king

from Deccan Nursery Tales





Once upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In it there lived
a Brahman who had seven little daughters-in-law. In the fulness of
time the month of Shravan came and with it Nagpanchmi Day [12]. In
honour of the festival, one little daughter-in-law went to her
grandpapa's house, another went to her great grandpapa's house,
another went to her father's house, until at last only the youngest
daughter-in-law remained behind. Her father and mother were dead,
and she had no uncles and no aunts and no little brothers or
sisters. So the poor little daughter-in-law felt very sad and
sat down and cried in a corner. Then she remembered that it was
Nagpanchmi Day, and that it was a festival in honour of Nagoba, the
great snake-king. So she prayed under her breath, "Please, please,
snake-king, come and pretend that you have been sent to fetch me
to my father's house!" And the great snake-king heard the prayer
and felt quite sorry for the poor little daughter-in-law who was
crying in the corner. He assumed the guise of a Brahman and came to
the house where the little daughter-in-law was, and said that he had
been sent to fetch her to her father's house. Her father-in-law was
very much astonished. For he wondered why, if the new-comer really
was a relative of the little daughter-in-law, he had never paid him
a visit before. At last he asked the little daughter-in-law who the
new-comer was. She did not know in the least. But she was so overjoyed
that some one should have come for her that she at once answered,
"He is my mother's brother." Her father-in-law believed her and sent
her off in the care of Nagoba, the snake-king. Still disguised as a
Brahman, he took her to the entrance of his underground palace and
there he told her who he was. He then reassumed his true appearance,
and, expanding the mighty hood behind his head, he seated the little
girl on it and took her down to his splendid dwelling-house beneath
the earth. In the central hall he presented her to the snake-queen
and to all the snake-princes, and told them that in no circumstances
whatever were they to bite the little daughter-in-law.

One day the snake-queen was about to be confined. So she asked
the little daughter-in-law to sit by her side with the lamp in
her hand. The little daughter-in-law did so, and a little time
afterwards the snake-queen gave birth to a fresh litter of little
snake-princes. When the little daughter-in-law saw them all wriggling
about, she was frightened out of her wits. She let the lamp slip
out of her hands. It fell on the ground and burnt all the little
snakes' tails off. The snake-queen did her best to comfort them,
but the stumps of the little princes' tails ached so dreadfully that
it was ever so long before the snake-queen could put them off to
sleep. When the snake-king came home that evening, she told him what
had happened. And she was so cross with the little daughter-in-law,
that the snake-king had to promise that she should go back to her
father-in-law's house. A few days later, the snake-king assumed once
again the guise of a Brahman, and, loading the little daughter-in-law
with presents, took her back to her husband's home. In the course of
time the little snake-princes grew up, but their tails never grew
again. So their father, the snake-king, called one little prince,
No-tail; and the second little prince, Cut-tail; and the third little
prince, Dock-tail. And one day they asked the snake-queen how it was
that their tails had been broken off. She told them how the little
daughter-in-law had burnt them off by dropping the lamp on them.

The snake-princes, when they heard their mother's answer, were
terribly cross with the little daughter-in-law, and they vowed that
they would be revenged on her. So they found out where she lived,
and they sent a message to her house, saying that they were coming to
pay her a visit. But they really meant to bite her to death directly
they saw her. The little daughter-in-law was overjoyed when she heard
that the snake-princes were coming to visit her. For ever since the
snake-king had pretended to be her uncle, she always thought of little
No-tail and little Cut-tail and little Dock-tail as if they had been
her own cousins. Now it so happened that the very day on which they
were expected at the little daughter-in-law's house was Nagpanchmi
Day. The little daughter-in-law was sitting in the house all alone
waiting for little Prince No-tail, little Prince Cut-tail, and little
Prince Dock-tail. They were late in coming, so to pass the time she
drew pictures of Nagoba, the snake-king, on her dining-platform and on
the wall. When she had finished the pictures, she worshipped them and
offered them milk and food. Then she prayed to the great snake-king,
"Please please, King Nagoba, guard from all hurt, wherever they may
be, my little cousins No-tail and Cut-tail and Dock-tail." And last
of all she prostrated herself at full length before the pictures
which she had drawn on the wall and on her dining-platform.

In the meantime little Prince No-tail and little Prince Cut-tail and
little Prince Dock-tail had come up without the little daughter-in-law
noticing them. But when they saw the honour which she was paying
their father, King Nagoba, and heard the prayer which she had offered
on their behalf, they no longer wished to kill or bite the little
daughter-in-law. On the contrary, they made themselves known to
her and stayed all that day in the house and were as good and as
nice as possible. When night fell, they drank the milk which she
had offered to the snake-king. And in its place they put a necklace
with nine beautiful jewels in it. Before day broke they went away
quietly and returned to their father's palace under the ground. Next
morning when the little daughter-in-law woke up she saw the lovely
necklace lying where the milk had been. She gave a shout of delight,
and putting it round her neck, she ran all over the house showing it
to everybody. And every one was perfectly charmed with it. And the
snake-princes never again came to bite any one in that household. And
the little daughter-in-law and her husband and her father-in-law and
little Prince No-tail and little Prince Cut-tail and little Prince
Dock-tail, they all lived happily for ever so long afterwards.





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