26. A Golden Sparrow
One morning, a poor old woman was washing the small yard in front of her door so that she could draw a rangoli design on it. While she was smearing the floor with cow dung paste to prepare the ground for the design, a thorn entered her palm. The hand began to swell. She showed it to everyone. “Look how it's swollen!” she said to everyone she met.
Some people said, “Foment it.” Some others said, “Prick it with another thorn.” Others suggested medicines, herbs. Each person had his or her own remedy. But the old woman did nothing. The hand got worse. She felt a throbbing, a movement, a crackling like chutu chutu. When she looked at her hand, the painful swelling broke. It burst with a big sound, and out came a sparrow. Before she could say, “ Ayyo, a sparrow!” it chirped and hopped all over the house, laying golden eggs wherever it perched. The old woman was delighted. She put them away carefully, and sold an egg at a time and lived on the money. Soon, she pulled down her ramshackle hut and built a fine gold-plated house in its place. She began to wear good clothes, bought nice knickknacks, and got new pots and pans.
The woman next door asked her one day, “Old woman, you didn't have a thing. How did you suddenly get all this?”
“How can I tell you? I was smearing cow dung in the yard one day and a thorn went into my hand. My hand got swollen. Everyone told me what to do. Everyone had a different remedy. I did nothing. Finally, it burst and, do you know? a sparrow came out of it. It chirped and hopped all over the house and laid real golden eggs,” she said.
The neighbor thought she could do the same thing. So she gathered some cow dung. She made sure it had a thorn in it. She saw to it that a thorn went into her palm.
“Ha, I've a thorn in the right place. It'll swell by tomorrow,” she said, and waited happily. But it didn't. She got worried. Several days later it did become painful and swollen. She too showed it to everyone, like the old woman, and they all advised her the same way. All she was worried about was the sparrow that would come out of it. But there was no sign of any sparrow. In a week, it got worse. The whole hand was swollen. She writhed in agony. Finally it burst. She expected a sparrow. But all she saw was blood and pus. She waited another day for the sparrow. Then another. In a few days the hand began to rot with gangrene. When she showed it to the doctor, he said the hand would have to be cut off.
[NKTT, but cf. Motif B 103.2.1, Treasure-laying bird; Motif Q 272, Avarice punished; and Motif J 2415, Foolish imitation of lucky man.]