Once upon a time, there lived a greedy goldsmith in a remote village. And it wasn’t just the goldsmith. Even the other villagers had become greedy and evil over time. Meanwhile, the goldsmith continued to lead a prosperous life, getting incredibly fat due to his great appetite.

The goldsmith had just one friend in the entire village – a cowherd. Every evening, the duo would go out for a walk.

One evening, the goldsmith went over to the cowherd’s and asked the latter to come along for their routine evening walk. Tired after grazing his cattle all day, the cowherd declined his friend’s request. However, the goldsmith forced him to come along nonetheless.

The cowherd no longer seemed keen on going on those evening walks after slaving away in the fields from dawn till dusk. He discussed this issue with another cowherd, who suggested that killing the goldsmith’s wife might be a good idea. This would make the goldsmith regard the cowherd as his enemy and the two men wouldn’t have to spend time together. Besides, in the absence of a proper criminal law, the cowherd could walk away unscathed.

One evening, the cowherd went to the goldsmith’s house with a big stick. He knew that his friend’s wife was usually alone at home at this time. With the stick, he hit her hard on the head, making sure that she breathed her last.

When the goldsmith came back home, he found his wife dead. He carried her to the dark lane outside their house and made her corpse sit against the wall of the house. The goldsmith then waited in the courtyard in the dark.

A little while later, a passerby found someone sitting in the dark. He greeted the shadowy figure but did not hear back from it. He greeted her again and again but to no avail. Even when he was shouting out his greetings, the corpse did not respond.

Incensed at this rudeness, the passerby hurled a large stone at the dead woman. The goldsmith’s already dead wife fell to the ground.

The goldsmith, who had been waiting all this while in the dark, charged at the man and nabbed him, alleging that he had killed his wife. Shocked at this, he offered the goldsmith a thousand gold coins to avoid getting into trouble. The goldsmith readily agreed and also forced the stranger to bury his wife before letting him go.

With these unexpected riches, the goldsmith began to lead a lavish life. When the other villagers inquired about this, the goldsmith replied that he had sold his dead wife for a thousand gold coins.

The foolish villagers all rushed back to their homes and mercilessly throttled their wives to death. They then set off to sell their corpses. However, whoever heard of their ghoulish expectations simply laughed it off and asked them to head to the cemetery instead.

When it dawned on the villagers that the goldsmith had, in fact, tricked them, they all went to his house, dragged him to the river bank, and dumped him into the deep river. They wanted to drown him to his bitter death. Since the goldsmith didn’t know how to swim, the villagers were pretty sure that that would indeed be the case.

Meanwhile, carried downstream by the strong current, the goldsmith was lucky to stumble upon a thick tree bark floating just underneath the surface of the river water. Holding on to the bark tight, he moved along the rushing waters that carried him three miles outside of the dreaded village.

As he reached the shore, the goldsmith found a fat buffalo grazing on the greens. He safely rode the buffalo back home.

Surprised at his safe return, the villagers inquired as to what had become of him. The goldsmith replied that he had found meadows, pastures and buffaloes under the river they had tossed him in. The greedy villagers once again fell for the goldsmith’s story.

They tied stones to their feet and neck and, one by one, jumped into the deep river. As the villagers began to drown, some of them desperately waved their hands in a last-ditch attempt to resurface. At this, the goldsmith yelled at the remaining villagers that the waving guy had found a buffalo, urging them to join him.

Soon, all the foolish villagers had drowned themselves in the deep river. The greedy goldsmith returned to the village and took everything into his possession.

The goldsmith spent the rest of his life in the most luxurious fashion. His lethargic lifestyle made him even fatter, so much so that he could hardly move an inch. One day, a stroke consumed him, but no one in the village could care less – there just wasn’t anyone around to do so.

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Kalai

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 Fairytalez.