Long, long ago, there lived three brothers in a small town. Everyone called the youngest brother “Hucchayya”, or “fool”. However, he didn’t care about it and went about his routine.

Now, Hucchayya wasn’t particularly skilled when it came to keeping things secret. If anyone in town wanted to spread news like wildfire, they would share it with Hucchayya and ask him to keep it confidential. Hucchayya would then go around the town telling everyone what he was supposed to keep under wraps.

Some time later, Hucchayya’s two brothers got married and divided the entire property between themselves. They didn’t bother giving anything to their foolish brother. They also asked him to spend six months each at their residences. Displeased with this idea, Hucchayya requested his brothers to give him his share of the inheritance.

The two brothers gave him an aged ox whose days were numbered. Hucchayya stayed with the ox in the backyard. He pampered the old ox by feeding it as best as he could. He never forgot to fill a bucket with water so the ox would never have to be thirsty. Interestingly, Hucchayya always found time to talk to the ox, who responded by shaking its head, twitching its ears, or swishing its tail that chased the flies away. The ox licked Hucchayya with its wet tongue when it wanted to feed on some fresh, green grass. Hucchayya even named the ox. He called the animal Basavakumara, or the ox-prince.

One day, the ox stop responding to Hucchayya. Its tail also stopped moving. As he saw his brothers heading to the nearby town to sell their cows, Hucchayya also took the ox along to sell him off. However, as expected, he couldn’t sell the aged ox, so he brought the animal back.

On his way home, he saw a tree swaying in the wind, clickety-click. Hucchayya assumed that the tree was asking him how much he wanted for the old ox. He replied he wouldn’t settle for anything less than twenty-five rupees. The tree once again swayed in the wind. Taking it as an affirmative answer, he tied the ox to the tree trunk and told the tree that he would be back the following day to collect the money.

Over dinner, the brothers asked him about the ox. Hucchayya told them that he had sold the ox for twenty-five rupees. The next day, he went to the tree to get the money. He couldn’t find the ox there. When he asked the tree for money, it swayed its branches as usual.

When the brothers re-inquired about the money, he said that he had actually sold the ox to a tree and he would get the money the day after. The brothers told him off for his foolishness.

The next morning, Hucchayya went over to the tree and demanded the money for the ox. Clickety-click, the tree rocked as usual. Angered at this, he chopped the tree down with his axe. The old tree crashed down, spilling the treasure hidden underneath. Collecting the treasure in his cloth bag, Hucchayya rushed home and showed it to his brothers. He told them about the gold and silver he had found under the tree. The three brothers rushed back to the old tree. They gathered the treasure and asked Hucchayya not to tell anyone about it.

On their way home with the treasure, the three brothers ran into the village priest, who asked them about the bundles they were carrying. The brothers replied that the bags contained the pulses and sprouts they had collected from the fields.

Hucchayya didn’t want to lie, so he showed the priest the gold and silver they were carrying. He got angry when the priest took a handful out of their newfound wealth. He hit the priest wit his axe, killing him with a single blow. The two eldest brothers dumped the corpse into a nearby pit and went home. They came back at night and buried the body securely. Then, the brothers dumped a decaying ram into the pit.

A couple of days later, people started looking for the missing priest. Hucchayya honestly told them that he had killed the priest and thrown his body into a nearby pit.

People found the decaying remains of a ram in the pit. They labeled Hucchayya a fool for talking nonsense. Even when he told them about the gold and silver that the tree harbored underneath, no one believed him.

With the treasure, the three brothers led a happy and prosperous life.

Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Β Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Kannada to English.