Authors: Soham Saha
Tags: #bengali, #children 0 to 12, #bengali classics, #sukumar ray, #upendrakishore
To my loving
parents, who bought me my first fairy tale book, and opened the
pathway to never ending awe.
Text copyright © 2013 by Soham Saha.
Cover Art © 2013 by Soham Saha.
Project: Bengal Moves West
In a lazy summer
afternoon, I heard my aunt telling her little girl a story to put
her to sleep. I remembered my childhood days, when I took delight
in these stories myself. With my interest rekindled, I decided to
re-read the collections of Bengali folk tales, first in Bangla, my
native tongue, and then in English, just for the sake of it. I was
browsing through collections of folk tales in the library in the
National University of Singapore, and was stunned when I realized
that so far, there had not been any attempt at making a child
friendly, yet exclusive collection of Bengali folk tales in
I decided to carry out
the task myself.
from Bengal” is a collection of stories originating in Bengal,
which have entertained millions of Bengali children for
generations. Some of these stories have appeared in collections of
Indian folk tales,
but this would be the
first time an organized collection of Bengal's folk tales (in
English) has been made.
While retelling the
stories, I tried to keep the original Bengali essence of the
stories intact while keeping the stories fluid. I had in my mind
not the critical reader, but the curious children whom these
stories were originally told for. I remember the endless nights I
spent reading these stories, and hope that my young readers would
share at least a part of that joy.
searching for the stories, I went through various collections of
Bengali folk tales, the most notable of which are "Tuntunir
Golpo"(Tales of Tuntuni) by Upendrakishore Ray, and “Thakumar
Jhuli" (Tales from Grandmother) by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar,
both bestsellers in the Bangla language.
I express my
gratitude to all the writers who took the effort of telling and
retelling the stories to the newer generations of Bengal, making
this collection possible.
Soham Saha is
a writer of literary and speculative fiction, whose works have
appeared in science fiction anthologies published
He is a founder of
Project: Bengal Moves West, an endeavour to translate Bengal’s best
works in literature to English. ‘Folktales from Bengal’ is the
first in the series.
Follow him at
If you have suggestions,
critiques, or want a particular Bengali title translated to
English, drop him an email at [email protected]
Once upon a time, a fat
greedy king used to live in a magnificent palace. At a corner of
the palace was the royal garden, and in the garden grew a small
eggplant bush. Tuntuni happened to live in that bush in her tiny
One day, the king had all
his gold coins washed, and spread out in his garden to dry. Once
the laundered money was dry, his people picked it up and stored it
in the vault. But somehow, one little gold piece rolled under the
bush. Tuntuni saw the little coin sparkling in the sun, picked it
up, and stowed it in her nest. How happy she was! “I am rich,” she
thought, “Rich indeed, because the same gold the king has got, I
have it in here, have I not?”
She was so happy, she
the eggplant vine,
What was the king’s
wealth is now mine.
All the gold the king has
Tuntuni’s got, has she
The king heard the song
from his throne, and asked his courtmen, “What is that crazy bird
singing about? What is in her nest?”
A court man said, “Your
majesty, the bird is claiming that she possesses the same wealth
that you do.”
To this, the king roared
out laughing, and said to the guards, “See what the bird has in her
The guard went to the
garden, peeked into the nest, and reported to the king, “She has a
gold coin in there.”
my coin. Bring it back this instant.”
And so the guard broke
down Tuntuni’s nest and seized the coin.
Oh how poor
is the king,
To rob little Tuntuni of
The king heard her and
said, “What a stubborn bird it is! Go give it back the
Tuntuni was delighted
having got her coin back. she sang aloud –
What is the
king, man or chicken,
One song I sang, and he
A king and a coward, how
it is funny,
A chirp from me, and he
returned my money.”
The king could not
believe his ears, so he asked his courtmen, “What’s the bird saying
singing a four liner now. She thinks you got scared and so gave her
back her money.”
audacity!” The king shook in anger. ”Bring the bird to me this
The guards went to the
jungle and caught the bird. The king, clutching Tuni in his fist,
went to the inner palace to meet his seven queens. He gave the bird
to the oldest of them, and said, “Fry this bird up. I am going to
When the king left, the
queens were intrigued by the little bird. “What a pretty little
bird!” Everyone wanted to hold it. They flicked its nose, pulled
its wings, and pinched its belly. As Tuntuni was passed from hand
to hand, she slipped and flew away.
to happen now?” They shuddered. “The king is going to chop our
heads off if he hears about this.”
Thinking about what to do
now, the queens paced about the inner palace. Suddenly, one of them
spotted a small frog jumping by. She had an idea. “Let’s fry this
up and serve to the king. But nobody must know.” A few minutes
later, the frog was fried and served to the king.
The king was very happy,
having eaten the meal, and went back to his throne, while suddenly,
Tuntuni flew in the window, and sang,
Oh King, you
Thought you ate me? You
ate a frog.”
The moment he heard this,
the king belched and threw up. Then he spat and gurgled. Then he
called the executioner, and told him to cut the seven queens’ noses
off. And it was no sooner said than done.
Oh you evil,
Hear me tweet and hear me
Cut the noses off your
Is there no end to your
The king yelled in
frustration, “Catch it. Catch the stupid bird. I am going to
swallow it whole.”
The soldiers caught her
Water was brought. The
king took in a mouth full of water, put Tuntuni in his mouth, and
swallowed her whole with a ‘gulp’.
At last, I
shut her up,” said the king, but as soon as he finished the
sentence, he hiccupped, and Tuntuni flew out his mouth.
escaping. Get her.” The king shouted. And two hundred men ran in
pursuit. Within hours, the bird was caught again.
The king said to the
executioner, “This time, you stand guard in front of me. If she
escapes this time, cut her in two.” The executioner stood guard,
and the king swallowed Tuntuni again, this time clasping his mouth
shut, so she couldn’t escape.
Inside the king’s belly,
the poor bird struggled and squirmed. She writhed and turned and
swirled and twirled, until the king could hold her in no longer. He
hurled Tuntuni out, along with everything else he had eaten that
The courtmen said,
“Quick, slash her before she can escape.” Tuntuni flew, and the
sword came down. But the executioner misses, cutting the king’s
There was a big rustle.
“Call the doctor,” some shouted. “Hang the executioner!” shouted
others. By the time the doctor came and dressed the king’s wound,
Tuntuni was sitting on the window, out of anyone’s
Oh you cruel
and greedy king,
Losing your nose was a
I’ll take my leave now; I
think it’s time,
I hope your punishment
fit your crime.”
With that, she flew far,
far away from the kingdom, never to be seen again.
When the soldiers went to
the eggplant bush, all they could find was her broken nest, and the
gold coin, glinting in the moonlight.
Tuntuni was dancing about
in an eggplant bush when she got pricked on her nose by a thorn.
The prick soon grew into a huge boil, right under the nose, and
this made her worried.
What’s going to happen
now? What am I going to do? Tuntuni went about asking people. And
everyone she asked told her to go to the king’s healer.
Tuntuni went to the
king’s healer, and tweeted, “Healer, o Healer, please fix my
The healer replied
haughtily, his nose held high, “I treat the king and the queen.
What makes you think I’ll treat you? Not in this life, and not in
about that.” Tuntuni replied.
She flew to the king.
“King, o King. Why won’t your healer treat my boil? Off with his
Hearing this, the king
clutched his huge belly, and rolled over his bed, shaking with
laughter. But he did not scold the healer.
Tuntuni was very angry
now. She went to the mouse.
Mouse. Are you home?”
Who is it?
Tuntuni, is that you? Come on, take a seat. I’ll cook you some
rice, and make your bed. Won’t you have dinner with me?” said the
dinner. But on one condition.” said Tuntuni.
And what is
king is asleep, you must go and use your sharp teeth to jab his fat
The mouse bit his tongue
and held his ears. “Bite the king! O dear, I cannot do
Tuntuni was not one to
give up. She went to the cat. “Mrs. Cat. Are you home?”