Long, long ago, there was a flock of a thousand parrots that would fly far away to feed on fruits. One of the parrots was lame. He could not fly too far.

One day, the lame parrot flew over to Maliyapuram. He spotted Muttu Chettiyar’s daughter combing her hair on the seventh story of their house. While combing, one of her nails fell to the ground. The lame parrot picked it up and carried it back to his flock. The parrots scolded the lame parrot for bringing the useless nail instead of fruits. Disappointed, the lame parrot flew away, dropping the nail in the woods.

A hunter happened to find the nail on the forest floor. He sold it to a potter woman for two rupees. Next, the nail caught the eye of the prince and the minister’s son. The prince asked where the lady had gotten it from. The potter woman told him that a hunter had sold it to her.

When the prince approached the hunter, the hunter replied that he had found the nail under a banyan tree in the woods. The prince and the minister’s son noticed that a lame parrot was perched atop the tree. The prince asked the parrot where the bird had gotten the nail from.

‘Across the seven seas, the milk sea, the gold sea, the pearl sea, in the town of Maliyapuram.’

The prince and the minister’s son instantly decided to head to Maliyapuram. On their way, they came across a temple where a priest was preparing sweet pongal for the offering. The minister’s son tempted the priest with some money, urging him to keep the prince locked inside the temple until his return from Maliyapuram.

Thereafter, the minister’s son proceeded to Maliyapuram. On his way, he spotted a Palmyra tree. On top of the tree was a nest with bird offspring. When the minister’s son noticed a cobra crawling up the tree, he immediately finished it off with his sword. The baby birds thanked the minister’s son, promising to convey his gesture to their mother so she would take him to his destination.

When the mother bird arrived, the baby birds told her what had transpired in her absence. True to their word, they asked her to drop the stranger at his destination. The mother bird complied, taking the minister’s son to Maliyapuram. On the way, he collected pearls from the pearl sea.

When he reached Maliyapuram, the minister’s son walked down the main street, where Muttu Chettiyar lived. The minister’s son announced aloud, ‘pearls for sale, pearls for sale!’

Impressed, Muttu Chettiyar bought the pearls. The minister’s son used this money to build a house near Muttu Chettiyar’s place. He even built a tunnel between the merchant’s house and his. Every day, Muttu Chettiyar’s daughter would come over to cook a meal for the minister’s son. She came dressed as an old lady.

A few days later, the minister’s son invited Muttu Chettiyar and his wife for lunch. Chettiyar asked his daughter to stay home. After they left, their daughter changed her sari and went to the minister’s son’s place through the tunnel.

As the girl was serving food, Muttu Chettiyar suspected that the girl resembled her daughter. He deliberately smeared her sari with some ghee so he could check later.

Sensing the situation, the minister’s son asked the girl to change her clothes before she went back home. The girl did so and went back to her house before her parents. After getting back home, Muttu Chettiyar summoned his daughter. He felt relieved looking at his daughter’s unblemished sari.

After some days, the minister’s son informed Muttu Chettiyar that he would be leaving for his village with his wife. He also took the two feathers that he had received from the mother bird. Whenever he waved those feathers, the mother bird came flying to him and helped him to wherever he wanted to go. The minister’s son and Muttu Chettiyar’s daughter rode the bird to the temple where the prince was locked up.

After getting to the temple, the minister’s son asked the girl to tell the prince that his friend was dead. Hearing this, the dejected prince stabbed himself to death. Feeling depressed at that ghastly incident, the girl also committed suicide.

Noticing the two corpses, the priest sprinkled holy water on them. The duo woke up as if asleep. The priest then blessed the prince and the girl as they married each other and left for their kingdom.

…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 Storytelling Institute.