Once upon a time, a boy lived as a cowherd in a village. During festivals, the villagers gifted him homemade sweets.

On the day of Bakula Amavasya, everyone prepared pithas and rice cakes. In the morning, as the boy went around grazing his cows, every house in the village gave him a lot of sweet rice cakes. After sharing some of the rice cakes with his mother, the boy took some along to eat at lunch.

In the afternoon, while resting under the banyan tree, he ate all but one rice cake. He dug up the soil near the banyan tree and buried the rice cake there as though he were planting a seed.

To his pleasant surprise, the rice-cake seed grew into a tree and began bearing rice cakes. He plucked and ate the rice cakes, even taking some for his mother back home.

One day, the boy was singing upbeat songs while devouring the rice cakes. A witch, who had morphed into an old woman, spotted him and asked him to share some rice cakes with her. The boy shook the tree branches and asked the old lady to pick as many rice cakes as she needed from the ground. The witch asked him to give her fresh rice cakes in her hands, for she didn’t want to eat the soiled rice cakes. As the boy bent over to do so, the witch grabbed his hand and pulled him inside her bag. She tied the bag and took it home.

On her way home, the witch felt thirsty and stopped to drink some water. She asked some men working in the fields to look after her bag while she was away. When the witch left, the boy called out to them. They took him out and filled the bag with some stones. The witch took the bag of stones home. She handed it to her daughter and asked her to prepare a delicious dinner. The daughter opened the bag and found nothing but stones inside.

The infuriated witch decided to punish the boy. A few days later, she disguised herself as a beggar and went over to the rice-cake tree. The boy didn’t realize who the beggar actually was and stopped to give her some rice cakes. Once again, the witch pulled him into her bag and took him home.

The witch’s daughter untied the bag and found the handsome boy inside. His thick, black hair accentuated his good looks. Since she was bald herself, she wondered how the boy got such shiny hair. The boy asked her to wash her head with goat’s milk every day. Happy at the suggestion, the girl readily set him free.

When the witch learned that her daughter had willfully set the boy free, she beat her black and blue for her carelessness. The following day, she went back to the rice-cake tree. When she pleaded with the boy to give her some rice cakes, the boy asked her to open her mouth. And once she did so, he threw a sharp crowbar down her throat, killing her instantly for good.

…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 Internet Archive.