Sunday, July 16, 2017

0062. A Rat's Swayamvara

From Indian Fables and Folklore by Shovona Devi, online at: Hathi Trust.

Notes. For more stories of this type, see Dan Ashliman's collection: The Mouse who Was to Marry the Sun. For more about the swayamvara tradition of the bride choice in India, see Wikipedia.

Summary: A powerful sage turns a rat into a woman, and then that woman decides she wants to marry the most powerful being in the world: who will she marry?

Read the story below:


A RAT'S SWAYAMVARA



A mighty Sage was Yagna-valkya. He would stand in water even in the coldest winter, worshipping the Sun with hands uplifted. One day, as he stood in the Ganges chanting his hymn to the Sun, a baby rat dropped into his hands from the talons of a hawk flying overhead. The Sage gave the wee creature to his wife and asked her to rear it.

"Rear a ratl" exclaimed his wife, laughing. "What a queer idea!" 

To please her the Sage turned the rat into a beautiful little girl, for such superhuman powers he had acquired by his austerities. They had no child of their own, so the woman took great delight in rearing the child. 

The girl grew up little by little till she bloomed to womanhood, and then the Sage thought of her marriage. 

"Let the girl marry the golden Sun," said the Sage to his wife. "There is none mightier than he." 

So the Sun was summoned, but the girl asked him, "Is there no one mightier than thou, O Sun?" 

The Sun was puzzled by the question. However, he said, "The Cloud seems mightier than I, O maiden, for he can obscure my brightness." 

So the Sun was dismissed, and the Cloud summoned; but the girl said to it, "Is there no one mightier than thou, O Cloud?"

The Cloud was astounded, but after a pause it made answer. "The Wind seems mightier than I, O maiden, for he drives me whither he likes." 

So the Cloud was dismissed, and the Wind summoned; and the girl repeated the same question to it. "Is there no one mightier than thou, O Wind?" 

The Wind, too, was taken aback, but said, "The Mountain seems mightier than I, O maiden, for he can stay my blast as none else can." 

So the Wind was dismissed, and Mount Himalaya summoned; and the maiden put the same query to it. "Is there no one mightier than thou, O Mountain?"

The Mountain frowned, and thus replied. "The Rat seems mightier than I, O maiden, for he bores holes through me with his teeth." 

So the Mountain was dismissed, and a jungle Rat summoned. "Marry the Rat and be happy," said the Sage to the girl, "for he is of thine own race," and he turned her back into the rat she was at first. 

So ended the Rat's Svayamvara.


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