Sherani Folk Tales

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Sherani Folk Tales, Sir Lucas King
Published in Khyber.ORG on Monday, October 24 2005 (

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Sherani Folk Tales

Sir Lucas King

Publishing Date: Monday, October 24 2005

Allah Overrules All

It is said that a certain king allowed his daughter to select her own husband, and also to go round the city to make her choice. He also gave her maiden an apple to throw at anyone preferred by the princess. While they were walking about the city, the princess glanced at a sick man, much swollen, who was crouching in a filthy place. The maiden, thinking that the princess affected him, at once threw the apple at him, and it was reported throughout the city that the princess had chosen a sick and dirty fellow. The princess felt ashamed and unable to explain that her maiden had thrown the apple without her consent.

So she committed her fate to God, and took the fellow as her husband. Her father caused the man to put on a robe and sit by her. The princess, afraid that people would jeer at her, carried her husband on her back to a jungle outside the city, and set him to sleep under a tree, while she herself sat under another tree. The sick man fell soundly asleep with his mouth open, and a snake came partly out of his mouth, leaving its tail still inside. Another snake appeared out of the root of a tree, and the two snakes talked together. That which came from the tree said to the other that it had tormented the man for a long time, but what answer could it make about this in the next world ?

The man's snake replied that it would never part from him at all, but the tree snake retorted that if anyone took leaves from its tree and gave them to the man in drink, the man's snake would come of itself out of his body, all divided into pieces. The man's snake admitted that this might be a remedy, but that the tree snake should also remember that it would be burnt if anyone should gather fuel round the tree and then set fire to it, when he would at the same time obtain the treasures of kings. After a while both snakes disappeared, one inside the man and the other into the tree root. The princess had listened to their talk, and at once cut leaves from the tree and gave her husband to drink.

The snake then came out from him, divided into pieces, and in a few days he recovered. She then gathered fuel and disposed it round the tree of the tree snake, and set fire to it. The tree snake appeared, full of sorrow, exclaiming, " He who envies his kindred reaps such a reward as this. Having brought on my kinsman's death by describing means to effect it, I am also about to be burnt alive." At last he was burnt up, and the princess and her husband dug and found the treasure. They had a fine house built, and there passed happily the rest of their lives.

The Beggar, the Hindu, & the Treasure

Narrated by Mullah Saleem

It is said that a certain faqir came to Ghazni, where every day he used to beg. One evening he heard a Hindu saying in a loud voice that he would give a hundred rupees to anyone who would work for him at night. The beggar accepted this offer, and went with the Hindu to his house and was fed full. When night came they went to a level plain, and the Hindu asked the beggar to dig at a certain spot. A stone was soon reached and removed, and a cave exposed. As there was no other way in, the Hindu suggested that the beggar should be lowered by a rope and should then fill bags with what he found inside, the bags, and then himself, being afterwards drawn up.

The beggar entered, filled the bags with gold, and told the Hindu, who drew up the bags and then closed the cave with the stone and went home. The poor beggar, left in the dark and amongst bones, had no way of escape. After a few days a hungry beast of prey began to dig towards the cave in search of bones to eat, but when it had made a hole and caught sight of a living being, it ran away. The beggar got out through the hole made, as if by Allah, for his rescue. He was so exhausted by his imprisonment in the cave that he could not walk, but at his request some passers-by took him to the town.

One evening after his recovery the beggar happened to pass before the shop of the Hindu, and heard him speak as before. He again accompanied the Hindu, and dug a hole in the same place. The Hindu asked him to enter the cave, but he refused, saying that he was engaged for outside and not inside work, and that the Hindu ought himself to go in and fill the bags, after which all should be drawn out. The Hindu then entered the cave, filled the bags with gold, and asked the beggar to raise them. This was done, but, when the Hindu's turn came, the beggar left him below, closing the mouth of the cave with the stone and going away. The beggar then passed the rest of his days in happiness.

How the Greedy Princess was Tricked

Told in November, 1891. (In a variant of this story, also collected by Sir Lucas King, the traveller pays a thousand rupees thrice for a sight of one of the lady's hands, and then buys a melon field to support himself by selling the melons. A buffoon named Khalik advises him to give away melons in the name of Allah to any who ask, and afterwards plays the part of the Thag in the story given in full)

It is said that a certain person travelled in pursuit of his trade from one part of India to another, and by trade and by barter had gathered together seven hundred rupees. On his way home he happened to pass through a certain city, where he put up for the night near the palace of a princess famed for her matchless beauty. The traveller was very desirous of seeing her, and loitered in the city for that purpose. He made the acquaintance of an attendant of the princess, to whom he disclosed his longing. The attendant told him that the princess would show a finger for a hundred rupees, and he consented to the terms. The princess showed the five fingers of one hand and two fingers of the other, and took from the traveller all the money he had gathered with so much suffering and difficulty.

After the traveller had lost his seven hundred rupees, he repented of what he had done, and lamented the past before he went to sleep. In the morning a certain man, seeing his grievous state, asked him the reason of his sorrow, took pity on him, and gave him a plot of land. He advised him to sow melons in it and, when they became ripe, to give them away in the name of "Hramzada Thag" (thag=the thief). The traveller did as he was advised, and, when nearly all the melons had been distributed, Hramzada Thag appeared and asked the traveller what he could do for him. The traveller told what had befallen him, and the Thag took him towards the royal palace.

On the way they met a shepherd, from whom they bought a lamb for a rupee. When they reached the palace they began to kill the lamb with the wrong side of the knife. The lamb complained loudly, and so did the Thag and the traveller. The princess, who saw all from the palace, ordered her attendant to kill the lamb for them, as they both seemed to be idiots. The attendant obeyed the order, and returned. The pair then began to take off the lamb's skin, the Thag pulling one way and the traveller the other, and again they disputed noisily. A second time the princess sent her attendant, who did for them what they could not do themselves, and returned. Then they lighted a fire, and put a cooking pot on it upside down, with large pieces of meat on the top. Then they complained noisily that the meat would not cook. A third time the attendant came, and cooked the meat for them.

Next they started trying to break the cooking pot in order to get out the cooked meat. The attendant, who was still there, took the meat out, put it in a bowl, and gave it to them to eat. They then said that they never ate their food from their own hands, but were accustomed to eat from the hands of their wives. That night they were on a journey ; if any woman would come and give them their food, well and good ; otherwise they must lie down hungry. The princess's heart softened for these idiots, and she called her attendant and ordered her to bring them and all their belongings into the royal palace. They were brought in, and the princess fed one, and her attendant the other. As they were without bed clothes, and the season was wintry, the princess invited them to sleep in a corner of the palace. Again they began to make a disturbance, and the princess thought that if their voices reached the sultan's ears he would certainly order them to be killed. She asked them why they were making such a noise, and they replied that they were accustomed to lying on warm beds and on account of the cold could not sleep. The princess therefore gave part of her bed to the one, and her attendant part to the other.

After a while the Thag got up and said that he was going to cry the bang (call for prayer). The attendant begged him not to do so, but he replied that if he were not allowed to call out the bang he would have to give away a thousand rupees for his failure. The princess was therefore obliged to give him that sum, and then drove them out.

The Thag gave 700 rupees to the traveller, and took 300 for himself. The story ends.

A Hard Master Outwitted

This story, which is set out in coarse detail in the original, is an interesting local variant of the well-known type of the contest between a crafty master (or mistress) and craftier servant.

There were two Shirani boys, brothers, who lived and laboured together. They grew on bad terms with each other, and there-fore separated. One of them applied to a certain person for employment, and was engaged for five rupees a month and his daily food, but with the following conditions :

  1. The platter on which he was served with food must be returned to the   master still completely covered with food, without a single empty space.
  3. Should the servant fail in his work and refuse to do it, the master would   slit his nose; similarly, if the master refused to give the servant work, the   latter would slit the master's nose.

The servant agreed to these conditions, and on the first day was sent with sheep to. graze. On his return in the evening he was given his food on a platter. He thought that, if he cut a single piece of it, the platter would be bare at some spot, and consequently he ate nothing. Three days passed thus, without his taking any food whatever, and at last he was compelled to give up work and allow the master to slit his nose. The master did so, and dismissed him. He returned to his brother and told him all that had happened.

The brother, who was somewhat the wiser of the twain, told him that he in turn would accept the employment and seek vengeance. He went to the same person and asked for service, and was engaged on the same terms. When the food was given to him on a platter, he took out a good knife and divided the food so cleverly that he could eat all the top portion, while leaving a very thin covering of food which still concealed all the platter. The master then knew the new servant was wise, and would not fail in his bargain.

Next day he was sent to plough the land. He did little or no work, and on his return killed the plough-bullocks. When his master asked why he had done this, he replied that the bullocks could not work properly, and that therefore it was useless to allow such cattle to live any longer. The master then sent him out with the master's son, to take care of the latter while he played. But the servant tormented him. One night the boy awoke and desired to go out, and the master ordered the servant to take him out. But the servant tormented him, so that he returned and went to bed. After a while the son asked his father to go out with him, but the servant was again directed to go with him and treated him as before. Again and again the son asked his father to take him out, but the servant was ordered to drag him out as he was troublesome.

The servant then treated the boy so roughly that he died. The master began to reproach the servant, who replied that he had only obeyed orders. The master could say nothing, but lamented that first he had lost his wife and now his son, and he determined to marry again. So he ordered the servant to search for a suitable bride.

The servant betrothed his master at random, and on the date fixed for the marriage the procession started. The servant informed the father of the bride beforehand that, as his master had got many enemies, his bed should be removed to the seventh (inner) room, and that the food prepared for him should consist half of salt and half of wheaten flour. The bride's father did accordingly. When the master began to eat, he complained that the food was all salt, but he was assured (by the servant) that such was the family custom, and that on this first day such food must be eaten.

After taking some food the master retired to the seventh room, and the door was locked outside, the servant being with him in the room. As the master had eaten so much salt, he became ill, but could not leave the room.... [Next morning the servant held him up to disgrace before the assembled people], and the master, ashamed, made a hole in the wall and escaped. The servant followed him, and the master, enraged at what had happened, dismissed him. The servant, according to the agreement, slit his nose, so avenging his brother, and then left him. Tit for tat!

Humor of the Great

There was a vazir named Masur who was fond of practical jests. One day he went to a peasant's dwelling where the house-holder was absent but his wife and children were at home. He sat near the fireplace and looked intently at the children, so that they were afraid and went out. While the wife was busy with her domestic affairs, he took up unobserved a pitcher of ghi (Butter made from buffalo's milk, clarified by boiling, so as to resemble oil in consistency) and poured it all into the pot which contained vegetables to be cooked and lighted a fire under it. When it was ready, and the woman, being at leisure, asked her guest to cook his food, he replied that he would be content to eat from the family pot, and, taking some vegetables out into another vessel, ate happily as much as he wanted. He then asked for a warm wrapping to sleep in. She gave him a carpet, and he went to the nearest mosque. There he put the carpet over one of the sleepers, and himself slept in another corner of the mosque.

About midnight the peasant came home and asked for food.

His wife gave him what was left in the cooking pot. While he was eating, he remarked that today she had used a great deal of ghi. She replied that she had not done so, and there was a quarrel. She then said that a guest had been sitting in the house, and might have poured the ghi while she was busy. On looking at the pitcher they found it empty. The peasant, therefore, being angry, asked where the guest had gone. She replied that he had received a carpet from her and gone to sleep in the mosque. The peasant went to the mosque and, seeing the carpet, and without making any enquiry, struck several blows with his stick on the poor fellow beneath. The humoursome vazir got up and went away, saying,-" One who eats up all the ghi deserves such a reward." In this way he caused the innocent sleeper to be beaten, but himself escaped punishment.

Literal Obedience

It is said that a certain man was engaged by a master as a servant. As they sat near the fireplace, the master told him that his duty would be to watch over the grazing flocks of sheep and goats. If a wolf appeared the servant must attack him with a stone. To show the manner of doing this the master at the same time picked up a stone. Two or three days later a wolf actually appeared while the servant was watching the flocks in the jungle. The servant, on seeing the wolf, hurried to the village, where the master asked him what was the matter? "I have come to fetch the stone which is lying near the fireplace, in order to make an attack on a wolf."

The Prince & the Goldsmith's Daughter

Narrated by Mullim Shah

It is said that a certain goldsmith had a daughter who was very beautiful. As her father did not wish to give her in marriage to anyone, she asked him to have a boat made for her. The boat was built and decorated, and she took six virgins of like age with her and went to the river to bathe. A prince with a vazirzada (vazir's son) happened to pass by, and the goldsmith's daughter, seeing him, hid herself in her vessel, forgetting, however, to take her comb and hair combings with her. The prince, seeing the comb and combings, fell in love. He went to his father and told him that he was dying for love of a certain woman whom he had seen on the banks of a river ; he asked that a vessel should be built so that he could go in search of her. The vessel was built, and the prince sailed to the town where the goldsmith's daughter lived.

The governor of the district had issued orders that travellers must always stay in the serai (caravanserai) appointed for the purpose. The prince and his companion arrived at the house of a gardener in the town, and asked for permission to stay there, which was refused. The vazirzada gave the gardener two mohurs, and then they were allowed to remain.

During talk one day the gardener mentioned that he took (every day) a garland to the goldsmith's daughter. The prince said that he would also make a garland to be taken to her with that of the gardener. The prince made his garland beautiful with jewels and other precious things, and, when it was taken to the goldsmith's daughter, she asked who was the maker of so rare a thing. The gardener replied that it was a certain person who had been put up in a particular serai. The goldsmith's daughter then sent word, with her greetings, that she would go to see him at a certain time.

The vazirzada roused the prince accordingly, but, when the time fixed drew near, the prince fell asleep, and the girl, as proof that she had come, left a leaf upon his forehead. The vazirzada enquired about her coming, but the prince replied that she had not come, although he had awaited her the whole night. The vazirzada, however, saw the leaf, and knew that it had been left as proof of her coming. The companions then begged through the gardener for a second interview, and a time was again fixed. She came according to promise. The lamps were lighted, and a stranger saw the woman and prince together and reported it to the governor, who had ordained the punishment of death for such an offence.

The governor ordered a guard to take charge of the criminals. The vazirzada heard of this, and immediately ran to the bazaar and bought some sweetmeats, which he himself in female disguise took to the serai. The men posted round at first would not let him go in, but he begged so hard, even giving them sweet-meats, that at last he forced his way in. The goldsmith's daughter then disguised herself in the dress worn by the vazirzada and went out with the empty sweetmeat dishes, the vazirzada sitting down near the prince. At daybreak a search was made, but no woman whatever was found in the serai, and the informant was punished as untruthful.

After a few days the vazirzada disguised the prince in a female dress, and took him to the goldsmith, whom he asked to lodge in his house this sister (the disguised prince), until the return of a prince to whom she was betrothed. The goldsmith at first refused, but his son induced him to agree that the apparent damsel should stay with his daughter for five days. The daughter was delighted, as she recognized the prince. She dug a pit, the mouth of which she covered and strewed with a little dust. Her brother, coming to see the guest, fell into the hole, and she buried him by heaping over him the earth. She then allowed the prince to go away, telling her father that her brother had eloped with the guest. Search was made, and presently the vazirzada and the prince (in male attire) came to the gold-smith and demanded the return of the lady, of whom the prince was said to be the husband.

The goldsmith offered many excuses and entreaties in vain, and a claim was formally made against him. The parties appeared before the governor, who heard them and decided that the goldsmith must give his daughter in marriage to the vazirzada's brother-in-law in recompense for the missing woman. The goldsmith's protests were disregarded, and his daughter was handed over to the travellers, who took her to their vessel. They sailed to their home, where on their arrival drums were beaten.

The Prince & The Shoe

While hunting a prince happened to enter a city where he saw a woman combing the hair of a sleeping and huge black demon. The woman, seeing the prince, signed to him to return later, as the demon was one thirsty for human blood. But the prince, dismounting from his horse and drawing his sword, entered and struck at the sleeping demon, cutting off both his feet. The demon cried out, and, still grasping the woman's hand, leaped into a well near by, leaving the prince on its brink. The prince returned home with a shoe left behind by the woman, and told his father of his adventure. His father had several wives, and gave the shoe to one of them, which caused a quarrel. So the father asked the prince to obtain another shoe like the one he had brought already.

The prince returned to the city, and entering its gate found the well. He went round the city, which was deserted although it was wealthy. He found a rope, which he attached to a strong beam, and then descended the well. At the bottom he found the demon lying dead and the woman sitting by him. He brought her out by means of the rope, and enquired the reason for the state of the city. She explained that the demon had brought destruction on it ; he had fallen in love with herself, the princess of the city, and to gain her had destroyed the kingdom and killed all the other human beings. Afterwards the prince and princess searched many shops for shoes, and she showed him her palaces and property. After seeing all, the prince left the princess in her palace, promising to return soon, and returned home with the shoes he had collected.

The prince went back to the city shortly, with many followers to populate it. He married the princess, and passed his life happily.

A Tale of Saint Khwaja

It is said that one of the sons of the saint Khwaja went into the hills a-hunting. On the journey he was greatly fatigued, and became ill. So he asked a boulder to carry him home, and the boulder obeyed his orders. On his way home he met his father, who, seeing him upon the boulder, foretold that he would fall from it and die. As foretold, he fell from the boulder, which still lies there.

When his sister heard of this, she ran with tears in her eyes to the spot where her brother was lying, still alive, and asked what had happened. He replied,-" I am lying here according to my father's forecast, but, if he likes, he can bring me back to life again." On hearing this, she ran to her father, and besought him to revive her brother. He replied that, if he did as she wished, all the other dead would claim to return also. She returned to her brother and repeated what her father had said, t which he answered,-" If our father chose to bring to life all the dead bodies in the tombs, he would not find it impossible."

A third time she went to her father, and made the same request as before, but he foretold that as soon as she reached her brother again she would meet the same fate, (i.e. would die). She went back to her brother, and breathed her last. The tombs in which they were buried are still to be seen. The story is ended.

Samandar & the Raja's Daughter

It is said that during the raids of Ahmad Shah on India he ordered his commander-in-chief to plunder the capital of a certain raja. Samandar Khan, the commander, on entering the royal palace, caught hold of the raja's daughter and carried her away with him on horseback. On Samandar's entering his own camp, the raja sent and complained to Ahmad Shah of Samandar's tyranny and abduction of his daughter. Ahmad Shah ordered Samandar to free the raja's daughter, but he disregarded his sultan's orders, putting his sword and shield before him (as a sign of disobedience and independence). The sultan therefore wrote to the raja that he was sorry that he was not able to comply with his request, as he could not force the return of his daughter, Samandar having fled. The camp was then removed from the raja's territory.

Samandar became accustomed to sleep with his head upon the knees of the raja's daughter. On one occasion, when he was in a sound sleep, she withdrew her knees and, putting a pillow under Samandar's head, made away on horseback. The men on duty, taking her for Samandar on a round, did not interfere with her.

After a while, when Samandar got up, he was struck with astonishment, and did not know what to do. At last he mounted the horse of one of his sepoys, and went in search of her. After going a long way, he saw her in a jungle and tried to seize her, whereon she warned him not to come near her or he would be hurt. He took no notice and drew near to her, when she wounded him and he fell senseless. She left beside him two lots of ointment, so that anyone by applying it to his wounds could cure him, while she herself went off. The raja's men came and found Samandar insensible. After a while he came to himself, and asked the men to apply the ointment to his wounds, and he was cured.

Samandar then slipped away from his camp, and started for the territory of the raja whom the girl had married. On entering it he chose a place to live, where he lighted a fire so as to pass for a saint. One evening the raja's daughter, walking in the garden with her maidens, recognized Samandar, who in disguise had lighted a fire by the roadside. Separating herself from the attendants, she quietly gave him a necklace of jewels worth a lac of rupees, and asked him to be off at once, or else he would be killed if her husband came to know about him. She then passed on. Samandar plotted with an old woman, to whom he offered the necklace if she would take him to the quarters where the raja's daughter lived with her husband. She led him there and hid him.

At night-time, when she was with her husband, he got displeased with her somehow or other, and kicked her, saying that she was worth-less, having been carried off and robbed of her modesty. He said the same words a second time, on which she sighed sorrowfully, and said,-" Would that I had married Samandar, who was very kind to me." On hearing this, Samandar sprang up, dashed the husband to pieces, and carried off the raja's daughter.

Thumbling & the Thieves

It is said that a certain Sherani woman prayed to Allah for a son "equal to a nail when sitting and equal to a fist when standing." Her request was granted. When he grew up, he took food to his father, who sat down to eat it, while the boy went on with the ploughing. As he was so small he was overwhelmed by the dung of the bull which he was driving. Mean-time two robbers reached the place. They took up the dung, and found the boy in it ; he asked them who they were and where they were going. They answered that they were thieves.

The boy accompanied them, and after a short time they all reached a village. The thieves asked the boy to go into the village and to apply his ear to a certain house to find out whether the householder was sleeping or not. The boy went, and leaving an ear in the house returned to the thieves, who asked what news he brought. He replied that he had left one of his ears in the house. Again they told him to go and see whether the villager was sleeping or not. He went and left his second ear also, telling the thieves that his ears would bring a true report after a while. The thieves then entered the village, found the householder in a sound sleep, and began to take away his things, telling the boy to grind the corn. The boy cooked bhat (a loaf) from it, and clapped this (still hot) in the mouth of the house-holder's son, who after a little struggle expired his last breath. The master of the house then got up, and seized the boy, who was standing by. The master and boy then found the thieves hidden in the branches of a certain tree. The thieves were caught, and the stolen property was recovered.


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Sherani Folk Tales, Sir Lucas King
Published in Khyber.ORG on Monday, October 24 2005 (