Once upon a time, three brothers lived in a small village in Nagaland. Tanyen was the eldest, followed by Zhoshu and Penhun. Tanyen worked day and night in the farm that the brothers had inherited from their father. The farm was a small, square plot of land. No matter how hard Tanyen worked to make ends meet, it became increasingly clear to him that he was struggling to feed his younger siblings. Even as Tanyen kept plugging away all day in the farm, his younger brothers did nothing to assist him. In fact, they would spend the entire day sleeping and gorging themselves on whatever precious little Tanyen brought home. They seemed oblivious to their financial crisis. Worse still, they seemed reluctant to even open their eyes to the impending disaster.

One day, seeing no other way out of their desperate situation, Tanyen announced to his brothers that he was planning to step out of the house to try and find some other, more productive way to earn money.

Penhun and Zhoshu found it hard to understand their elder brother’s vision. In fact, they even began to doubt his intentions. They greatly disliked the idea of their brother becoming wealthy, so they vehemently opposed his decision. Zhoshu even offered to venture out himself. Unexpectedly, Tanyen readily agreed to this proposal.

Zhoshu traveled all day and, as night fell, he decided to rest in the nearby village. He knocked on the door of perhaps the biggest house in the village, hoping that the owners would provide him with food and shelter. An old and frail lady opened the door. When asked if he could spend the night there, the old lady put forth a condition – Zhoshu first needed to remove all the stars from the lake in front of the house.

He wondered how he could remove the mere reflection of stars from the lake. Puzzled by her eccentric request, and owing to his own lazy nature, Zhoshu refused point-blank. As a result, he had to spend the night in the wilderness. He went back home next morning, empty-handed and dejected.

Saddened by his beloved brother’s failure, Penhun offered to venture out next. This time too, Tanyen readily agreed. Penhun traveled all day and decided to rest at night. He too happened to knock on the same lady’s house. Once again, the lady set forth the same condition. No less lethargic than Zhoshu, Penhun too refused to meet the senile lady’s queer condition. He returned home barehanded the following day.

Devastated by the failures of his brothers, Tanyen decided to go out in search of wealth. His fatigue took him to the doorstep of the same old lady. He too was welcomed by the same condition. However, unlike his brothers, Tanyen simply nodded and asked for a bucket. The old lady acceded to his request and handed him a bucket before going back in to sleep. Tanyen worked all night to remove the water from the lake.

The next morning, when the lady came out to fetch water from the pump, she was surprised to find Tanyen lying down on her porch. Even more surprising was the fact that he had emptied the entire lake overnight! When asked about this unbelievable feat, Tanyen calmly replied that he had simply removed the stars from the lake.

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Ananya Susarla

Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from KidsGen.