Once upon a time, there lived a widow with her only son in the hills of Khasi. In spite of his good looks, the boy was dumb. In fact, the villagers would refer to him as “U Bieit” or idiot.

The poor mother did the menial chores to support herself and her son. When she went to work, the son would roam around the village troubling the neighbors for food. Though dim-witted, he knew how to get food.

The unhappy villagers evicted the woman and her irresponsible son from the village. The duo went around seeking accommodation in one village after another. Since everyone had heard about the boy, no one allowed them to stay in their village.

The distressed mother took her son down the hills, to the river flowing across the plains. She decided to abandon him on the river bank, hoping that some wealthy merchant sailing by would take him along. The mother gave the boy some rice cakes and asked him to stay there until she brought more the next morning.

Believing she would return the following morning, he stayed by the riverside. However, after she left, the poor boy started feeling lonely and scared. Whenever he saw a boat sailing past, he would hide behind the bushes.

A little while later, a boat with white sails passed by. The frightened boy went back to his hiding spot in the thicket. The boat belonged to a wealthy merchant.

The merchant asked his servants to bring his chest of gold nuggets and bury it by the river bank. He had no idea that a boy was hiding in the vicinity. Suddenly, it started raining heavily. The merchant, along with his servants, sailed away in a hurry after disposing of the gold nuggets.

All the while, the poor boy waited for the chance to come out and have his dinner. When the boat sailed out of sight, he pulled out the chest of gold nuggets. Mistaking the gold nuggets for delicious cakes, the boy tried to eat one of them. As he couldn’t bite through the nugget, he thought the cake needed to be baked.

He carried the chest home and handed it to his mother. Happy to get all that gold, she gave her son rice cakes to eat. The next morning, she asked him to go to the river bank and get more boxes of cakes to bake.

The poor boy, however, lost his way and wandered around in search of the chests. Pitying the poor boy, the forest fairies wanted to save him for the dangers lurking in the woods. They decided to take him to the land of fairies and provide him with whatever he needed. The fairies morphed into humans and waited for the right moment. The boy asked for some food when he spotted those strangers. The fairies shared their Hyndet bread with the boy, who ate the cakes greedily and even asked for more.

The fairies told him that if he came with them, he could not only have countless Hyndet breads, but delicious food as well. They asked him to hold on to their wings firmly and to not talk until they reached fairyland.

The fairies flew across vast forests and majestic mountains. However, all the boy could think about was food. The excitement finally got the better of him as they neared the fairyland. Forgetting that he had been forbidden from speaking, he asked how big the Hyndet breads were. The moment he opened his mouth, he lost his grip and fell to earth, dead.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

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 The Project Gutenberg.