A long time ago, in the village of Thovalai, there lived a young man named Ponnam. Ponnam was a tall man with broad shoulders and a black, curly mane. The color of his eyes went well with his jet-black hair and his skin had a light-brown tone. Ponnam was known for his generosity, and always had someone or the other tagging along with him as his guest. He did not mind if these guests were his friends, relatives or even complete strangers.

Ponnam’s nature clearly nettled his wife, and for good reason. They would often have to sleep half-full, just because they had a guest leeching off of them. No matter how many times Ponnam’s wife asked him to stop bringing guests over, he would not pay heed to her.

One day, Ponnam’s wife noticed a couple of young men approaching their modest hut as she cleaned the utensils. They were rubbing their abdomens and licking their lips. She knew instantly that Ponnam had invited them for lunch. Fed up of his behavior, she decided to take the matter into her own hands. She wasted no time in readying the mortar-and-pestle set, and adorned it with a garland of marigold. Ponnam’s wife even made a crimson mark on it using the saffron-colored paste. She then placed an oil lamp and a few grains of rice in front of the set.

As soon as the two men walked in, they were given a warm welcome. However, the peculiar set-up around the mortar and the pestle intrigued them. When they inquired about it, Ponnam’s wife answered that it was some strange deity that her husband believed in and prayed to every day. However, she said, the deity demanded human sacrifices.

The men went pale as soon as they heard this. Seeing that her plan was already working, she added that her husband often lured people into their hut saying that he would provide food to them, but often smashed the guests’ heads with the pestle, only to draw their blood and present it as a sacrifice to the ravenous deity. She said this in a feigned sad tone, expressing her anguish over having to clean the spilled blood and burying the body every day.

Visibly terrified by this point, the unwelcome guests ran for their lives. When Ponnam saw them rushing out of his house, he asked his wife what had happened. She answered defiantly that they had demanded to take the pestle, but she would have none of it.

Ponnam grabbed the pestle and ran behind them, saying that they could take it. The guests, however, thought that he was chasing them to sacrifice them to the deity. Since then, no one in the village ever dared to accept his invitation, leaving Ponnam feeling bewildered and his wife triumphant.

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Ananya Susarla

Ananya both loves to 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.