Simla Village Tales
Alice Elizabeth Dracott writing in her Introduction to her book, Simla Village Tales, or Folk Tales from the Himalayas (1906) says,
“Himalayan folk-lore, with its beauty, wit, and mysticism, is a most fascinating study, and makes one grieve to think that the day is fast approaching when the honest rugged hill-folk of Northern India will lose their fireside tales under the influence of modern civilisation. ….
… From their cradle under the shade of ancient deodars, beside the rocks, forests and streams of the mighty Himalayan mountains, have I sought these tales to place them upon the great Bookshelf of the World.”
The similar sentiments can expressed for the folklore of indigenous people all around the world. Although we cannot hold back time and should not try these stories hold the collective wisdom, hopes, fears and experience built up over many generations, often showing the common traits of different people from all around the world through time.
Presented here is a retelling of a folktale from this collection called Kulloo, A Faithful Dog, helping out his human master. The theme of Animal Helper appears in different forms in folktales all around the world. In this case the dog remains faithful even though his master killed him and returns from death to save his life. There are other themes and principles also at play in the story which are found in stories from other cultures showing that they have much more in common with one another than often meets the eye.
Kulloo, the Faithful Dog
In the part of the world where this story is set a Bunniah is a kind of merchant or trader of various commodities and in this story there was a Bunniah who had a faithful dog named Kulloo who was his best friend. One day the Bunniah decided he needed a wife and so he married a woman. Together, they traveled to a faraway city taking Kulloo with them. On the way he developed a raging headache so he stopped by the side of the road with his head resting in his wife’s lap. While he was resting in this way he fell asleep and while he was sleeping a man who passed by on his horse stopped and asked the Bunniah’s wife if she had the means to light his pipe because he fancied a smoke. She told him “I cannot give you a light for your pipe as my husband is resting his head in my lap and I cannot move without disturbing him in his sleep.”
The man was in fact a robber who stole anything he took a fancy to and made a lot of money from stealing many things from many people.
“Slip some clothes under his head and he will not notice,” replied the man. The woman did this and her husband continued to sleep soundly while she lit the man’s pipe. Suddenly he grabbed hold of her and throwing her across his horse leapt into the saddle and carried her off.
After a while the Bunniah awoke and found his wife gone but his dog patiently and faithfully waiting by his side for him to awaken. The dog told his master what had happened and said, “Master, if we become beggars we can go from door to door without suspicion begging for food while seeking out your wife.”
The Bunniah thought this a good plan so dressing in old clothes he and his faithful dog went begging from door to door. After many days of begging the Bunniah eventually knocked on the door of the home of the abductor of his wife and it was she who answered the door. She did not recognize her husband or the dog but gave them food and money. However, Kulloo recognised her and later asked his master if he had not recognized his wife when she opened the door. His master admitted that he had not so and Kulloo led his master back to the house.
Once again the Bunniah knocked on the door and his wife opened it. This time he made himself known to her and she recognising him and invited him in but she was in a quandary. Her abductor had forced her to marry him but had given her a very high standard of living. This was, far greater than her first husband could ever have given her which she had now become accustomed to. Nevertheless, she made a great act of seeing her first husband again and invited him to dinner that evening, telling him that when her abductor had fallen asleep then he would have the chance to kill him and escape with her.
The Bunniah agreed and he and Kulloo went off intending to return later for dinner and to complete the plan. However, when they had gone she called her abductor to her and they made a plan to kill her first husband and be rid of him once and for all. They made a deep hole in the floor and placed a cover over it that would eventually collapse when weight would was placed upon it. She made sure everything was arranged it so her first husband would be seated over it as he ate.
They installed spikes into the walls and floor so that as he fell he would be impaled and killed. When the Bunniah returned for dinner their plan worked perfectly and he fell into the hole as he was eating. His wife and her abductor went off to bed laughing believing him to be dead. Although he was impaled on the spikes he was not mortally wounded but would have died had not his faithful Kulloo came and pulled out the pikes with his teeth freeing him and helping him to safety. Looking around the Bunniah saw the abductor was asleep so he hit him hard over the head killing him and made his escape taking his wife with him.
There was a lot of blood and Kulloo saw that his master left a trail for others to follow so he came along behind lapping up the blood to prevent this. Kulloo, being a wise dog, knew that his master’s wife was a wicked woman and would never rest until she had gained revenge.
Death of Kulloo
The Bunniah reclaimed his wife but she told him she would not eat or drink until Kullo was dead. Of course the Bunniah refused to kill his faithful dog but his wife was adamant and began wasting away from lack of food. The Bunniah implored her to eat but she insisted she would only do so when Kulloo was dead. As she grew weaker her insistence grew stronger and eventually the Bunniah agreed to kill his faithful dog.
Poor Kulloo, knowing he was to be killed begged his master to make sure he buried him properly making sure his head, which was to be cut off, was buried beside him, because there would come a time when he would return to save his master’s life. This the Bunniah did and his wife now ate and drank her fill but she was not satisfied and still wanted vengeance on her husband.
Return of Kulloo
She went to the local court and accused the Bunniah of being a robber and a murderer and claimed he had killed her husband and abducted her. The sentence for such crimes was death and the Bunniah was put on trial and found guilty. Just as the judge was about to sentence him to death the Bunniah thought of his faithful Kulloo and in that second the dog appeared at his side and begged to speak to the judge. The judge agreed and Kulloo revealed the entire story of how the Bunniah’s wife had been abducted and how she had plotted with her abductor to kill him. The judge believed Kulloo and dismissed the charges against his master setting him free. Thus it was for the second time that the faithful Kulloo had saved the life of his master but now having completed his task he disappeared never to be seen again.
© 12/07/2016 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
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