13. A Dog's Daughters
A king had many wives but no children. So he went to a sage and asked for help. The sage gave him a magic mango and asked him to give it to his queens, which he did. The queens happily sat on the balcony, cut up the mango, shared the sweet flesh among themselves, and threw away the seed and the peel. A poor dog that lived under the balcony ate the peel and the seed. All the queens soon got pregnant, and so did the dog. The whole palace looked after the queens and fussed over them till they gave birth. When they went into labor and actually gave birth, alas, they gave birth to puppies, every one of them. But the poor dog whom nobody cared for somehow took longer than usual, and gave birth to two beautiful girls.
When the queens and their servants tried to take away the babies, the dog picked them up and ran away into the nearby forest. She hid them in a stone cave and brought them up. She would go into town, and when the housewives weren't looking, would steal food and clothing for her babies. They grew up to be two lovely young women.
One day, two young men went hunting in the forest and happened to sit outside the cave to rest. They heard something stirring in the cave, looked in, and found two lovely young women. The dog had gone somewhere. They fell in love with the women at once and wanted to take them home and marry them. They and their servants carried them away on horses.
The older sister, who was now called Big Honni, was quite happy to get away from the forest. The younger sister, who was now called Little Honni, was quite unhappy to leave her mother behind and to go away without telling her. So she tore pieces of her sari and left a trail behind her.
The dog was frantic when she came back to the cave and found that her children were gone. She looked everywhere till she found the trail and the smell of her daughter's sari, followed it till she reached the house of Little Honni, who was delighted to see her mother, took her in, gave her a warm bath, and looked after her. But she told no one who the dog really was.
A few days later, the dog wanted to see Big Honni, the older sister, and went to her house. Big Honni didn't want anyone to know she was born to a dog. She muttered to herself, “Look at this bitch, she has come all this way to ruin my life. Everybody will say, Big Honni is a dog's daughter, the bitch!” Then she took a stick and beat the dog till it died. She asked the servants to throw the carcass in the garbage heap.
Three days later, Little Honni came to Big Honni's house and asked her, “Mother came to see you. Where is she?”
Big Honni replied, “She came here to ruin our lives. Everyone will know we are a dog's daughters. So I beat her and threw her in the garbage heap.”
Little Honni ran to the garbage heap, picked up the dog's body, carried it home, washed it and wiped it clean, put it in a box and kept it in her bedroom without telling anyone about it. After a few days, her husband, who was watching her taking extra care about a box, asked her what was in it. She said, “Something my mother sent me.”
He was curious. He wanted it opened at once. She made excuses. She knew her secret would be out. Finally, her heart beating violently with the fear of discovery, she opened the box. She was astonished, and so was everyone else, when she found there not a dog's rotting body but a bar of pure gold.
The husband was intrigued. “You've made such a secret of your family. You've never taken me to meet them. They must be fabulously rich to send you a bar of gold as a gift. I want to meet them, and right away,” he said.
As he would take no excuses from her, she had to obey and set out on a journey. She didn't know where to go. They all went to the forest where the couple had originally met. She led the party a long way, aimlessly, through trees and bushes. What could she do? Everyone was wearied by the journey and didn't quite know what was happening or where they were going. One day, in her despair, she said to her husband, “I'm going out to do Number One,” and took a walk, looking for some way to kill herself. She found a snake hole and plunged her hand deep into it, praying that the snake inside it would bite her. But the snake did not bite her. Instead, when she took her hand out, it came out and said to her, “I'm grateful to you. You've done me a good turn.”
She didn't understand. She said, “What good turn? I put my hand in so that you could bite me and put an end to my troubles.”
“When you put your hand into my hole, it touched this ripe boil on my head and broke it. It put an end to my pain. I've been suffering from it for months. But then why did you put your hand in it? What's your sorrow?” asked the snake.
Little Honni told him her story. The snake shook its head and said, “It's my turn. I'll help you. Go north from here for a mile or so. You'll see a big house. You'll find every kind of comfort and luxury there. That will be your mother's house. When you leave after a week, on your return journey make sure to turn back and look. Then everything will be all right.”
She was very happy. She roused her party and they all rode north till they found a beautiful palatial house, with gardens, servants, and every kind of luxury. The snake was waiting for them in the form of a rich man and introduced himself as Little Honni's maternal uncle. Her mother was there too in human form. Little Honni's husband was overjoyed and greatly impressed by his wife's aristocratic “family.”
After a few days, they took leave of the mother and the uncle, who loaded them with gold and gifts. A few miles into their return journey, she remembered to look back. She and her entire party were aghast at what they saw. The palatial house they had left behind was going up in flames, and as they watched it, it burned and burned till it was a heap of smoking ashes. They went home in utter bewilderment and grief. But Little Honni was secretly happy that she would never have to go through the ordeal of taking her husband to her “mother's house” again.
When they got home, Big Honni wanted to know where they had been and how her little sister got all the gifts. Little Honni told her everything, beginning with the death of the dog, the bar of gold, her husband insisting on seeing her mother's house, the snake in the forest, the palace he created for her, everything down to the last detail.
Big Honni went home in a hurry. She found a street dog, got it killed, and put the carcass in a box. In a few days it began to rot and stink. Her husband asked her what it was and why she kept it in her bedroom. She said, “It's a gift from my mother's house.”
“Your mother's house? Where is it? You've always been secretive about it. Where's your mother? Let's go visit her. I understand your sister just visited her and came back with a lot of gold. Let's go,” said her husband.
They too set out on a journey. When they had ridden a long way into the forest, she too said, “I want to go do Number One,” and went in search of a snake hole. When she found it, she thrust her hand into it. There was an angry snake in the hole, and it stung her to death.
[NKTT, but cf. Motif T 511.1.4, Conception from eating mango (IO); Motif B 491.1, Helpful serpents; Motif Q 2, Kind and unkind.]