Sandrembi and Chaisra were two stepsisters who had lost their father and lived with their mothers. While Chaisra was the only child, Sandrembi had a younger brother as well. Chaisra’s mother harbored ill feelings for Sandremi’s mother and always looked for an opportunity to belittle her and her children.
One day, on a fishing trip, Chaisra’s mother failed to catch any fish. On the other hand, Sandrembi’s mother caught plenty of fish. Chaisra’s jealous mother filled Sandrembi’s mother’s basket with venomous snakes. On their way back home, the group decided to rest under a fig tree. Initially, Chaisra’s mother plucked ripe fruits and dropped some of them for the others to eat. After dropping the fruits for a while, she started dropping the snakes from Sandrembi’s mother’s basket for her to eat. Her plan worked, and Sandrembi’s mother died on the spot.
Chaisra’s old lady returned home alone and told Sandrembi that her mother had decided to stay back to catch more fish. Weeping bitterly, Sandrembi went to bed on an empty stomach. In her sleep, she dreamed of her mother, who informed Sandrembi that Chaisra’s mother had murdered her and that she had now become a turtle. She asked her daughter to catch the turtle and keep it in the kitchen pitcher for five days, following which the turtle would regain its human form.
The next day, Sandrembi caught the turtle and brought it home. She kept the turtle in the kitchen pitcher. Chaisra’s mother found the turtle in the pitcher and asked Sandrembi to boil it in water. Chaisra and her mother ate the turtle and threw the bones out.
Sandrembi’s mother reappeared in her dream. She asked her daughter to collect the bones and keep them in a basket for seven days. Sandrembi did so. However, curiosity got the better of her as she opened the basket on the sixth day. To her dismay, a swallow flew out of the basket, into the vast sky.
Several years later, Sandrembi and Chaisra went to fetch water from a nearby well. Chaisra always wore exquisite clothes, but Sandrembi always had worn-out garments on. A king, who was passing by, requested Sandrembi to give him some water to drink. Sandrembi asked the king to get the water from Chaisra instead. However, the king left without getting the water. The following day, Chaisra’s mother asked her daughter as to why she had torn clothes on while Sandrembi wore lovely clothes. It emerged that the king had married Sandrembi and taken her to his palace.
That, however, did not deter Chaisra’s mother from wishing harm upon Sandrembi. She invited Sandrembi to a grand feast at her home. The king allowed his wife to go. As planned, Chaisra’s mother killed Sandrembi. She then disguised Chaisra as Sandrembi and sent her to the palace.
Meanwhile, the real Sandrembi transformed into a dove and started visiting the palace garden on a daily basis. When the king heard the mysterious dove singing, he asked the dove if it would eat grains from his hands. The dove asked the king to keep it in a cage for seven days, after which it would change into human form.
After the king went hunting, Chaisra cooked the dove. Upon returning, the enraged king asked Chaisra to throw the dove’s bones out. A mango tree grew up from the soil where the dove’s bones were dumped, bearing one fruit. The gardener plucked the mango and took it home. On the seventh day, the mango turned into Sandrembi.
The shocked gardener narrated this extraordinary event to the king. Determined to put an end to this cycle once and for all, the king handed swords to both the girls and asked them to fight it out. Nothing happened to Sandrembi when Chaisra struck her with the sword. However, one strike from Sandrembi’s sword was enough to down Chaisra. With her sworn enemy gone for good, Sandrembi led a happy life with the king.
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Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at email@example.com to know more about her.
Folk tale adopted and abridged from E-Pao.