66. Three Magic Objects
Three brothers lived in utter poverty. One day, it got so bad that they couldn't find anything to eat. So they sat in a row on the riverbank, their heads in their hands, three pictures of utter despair. God took pity on them, appeared to them, and asked why they were so miserable. They told him that they were poor and hungry. God gave each of them a gift: he gave one a gun, another a cap, and the third a wheel. “Make use of these and try to make a living,” he said, before he vanished.
The brother with the gun and the one with the wheel found ways of making a living. But the brother with the cap didn't know what to do with it. An idea occurred to him. Why not marry the king's daughter?So he put on his cap and found to his surprise that it made him invisible. He went to the palace and made love to all the servantmaids. When they wondered who or what this was that gave them so much pleasure, he suddenly took off his cap and made himself visible. Just as he was showing off, the king's men caught him, snatched the cap from him, beat him up, and threw him out. He came crying to his brother who had the gun. The brother gave him his gun. Then he sneaked back into the palace with it and started pointing it at the servants, but they ganged up on him, overpowered him, took his gun away from him, and threw him out again.
This time he went to the second brother, who gave him his magic wheel. He disguised himself as a bangle-seller and came to the palace sitting on his wheel. Hawking his wares, he shouted, “Bangles, bangles, does any one want the world's very best bangles?”
The queen and her attendants called him in and tried the bangles on, very pleased with their colors and shapes. The princess too wanted them. So she came to the cart and climbed into it. As he slipped the bangles on her wrist, he said to his magic wheel, “Take us home!” and the wheel at once flew into the sky. The princess was quiet till they were halfway there and then she said to him, “I'm very thirsty. Could we stop somewhere?” He thought that she would run away if he let her go anywhere. So he himself climbed down the wheel and went to fetch water. But she was very clever. As soon as he turned his back, she said to the wheel, “Take me home!” and it took her back to her palace. As he came back with the water, both wheel and princess were gone. He felt helpless. He broke down and cried.
A holy man who was passing by asked him what the matter was. The man told him his story and said, “I cry because I've nothing in the world. I've lost my brothers' gun and wheel and my own magic cap. I've nowhere to go.”
The holy man asked the poor fellow to stay with him in his banana grove. After a few days, he began to trust the stranger. One day, the holy man called out to him and said, “You can eat the fruit of all these trees except one,” pointing to one particular tree.
He was quite good for a few days and did as he was told. But one day he stood under the forbidden tree and thought, “Why did he say I shouldn't eat the fruit of this tree?” and plucked a banana and ate it. It was delicious, but as soon as he had finished eating it, horns grew on his head. Terrified, he ran to the holy man, who screamed, “You didn't listen to me! You ate the fruit! That's what happens to people who eat from that tree!”
But soon he relented. He went into the yard, brought back some herbs, and poured their juice into his guest's ear. At once, the horns dropped off. Now the young man knew how to get rid of the horns.
At the first opportunity, he plucked a basketful of the bananas from the forbidden tree, made his way back to the palace, and sold them all. The fruit looked lovely and everyone bought some. After he had sold them, he quickly slipped away and went home. Now everyone who ate the fruit had horns growing on their heads—men, women, and children. They had now only one thought, one worry: how to get rid of the horns.
The king had to cancel all engagements because he couldn't appear in public with his horns. A few days later, the young man went around hawking, “Antidote for horns, antidote for horns!”
Everyone in the palace flocked to him. The king hurriedly called him to his presence and begged of him, “We'll give you anything. Get rid of my horns.”
The young man said, “Give me back my gun, my wheel, and my cap. And give me your daughter in marriage.”
The king ordered all the magic objects to be returned to him at once. The young man poured the juice of the holy man's herbs into everyone's ears and the horns clattered to the floor. There was a gala wedding and he came home with his bride to his brothers in the aerial cart built around his wheel. He became a rich man and lived with his wife a happy life.
[AT 566, The Magic Objects and the Wonderful Fruits.]