Once upon a time, a merchant lived in a village with his four sons. As he grew old, he divided his property among his sons. The first son inherited his money-lending business and the second one took over his grocery shop. Likewise, the third son got the cloth shop while the fourth son received the fields that yielded good crops.
One day, the merchant summoned his four sons and told them a secret, for he felt that his days were numbered. He told them about the jewel stones hidden under the cot. However, his sons were to take the jewels only after his demise. Also, they were to take and distribute the stones in each other’s presence.
Soon after their father’s death, the four brothers dug up the ground under the cot. Instead of four, they found only three precious stones. They suspected each other because only the four of them knew this secret. They wanted to know who had taken the missing stone, but they feared that this would only create an unnecessary rift between them.
The brothers decided to take this matter up with their king. The king asked them to stay at his guest house, promising to bring this up for discussion the following day. While enjoying the royal meal, the first brother commented that the flour in the cake tasted like blood. The second brother said that the ghee tasted stale while the other one felt that the milk used in the food resembled human milk. The youngest brother reckoned that the leaf plates smelled like cow dung. One of the attendants, who had overheard their conversation, reported this to the king.
The angry king ordered the brothers to explain their comments. The first brother requested the king to look into the matter instead. At this, the king summoned the flour supplier for an explanation. The flour seller replied that he had bought the wheat from a farmer. The farmer was summoned and interrogated. He said that a wild boar had invaded his field while he was harvesting the wheat. While the farmer had managed to boar, he had thrown away the portion of wheat stained by the animal’s blood. The king then summoned the milkman and the leaf-plate supplier. They also admitted to their fault.
Finding himself unable to resolve this issue, the king directed the brothers to see the king of Dharamur. The king of Dharamur wanted to put their intelligence to test. He showed the brothers a pot with its mouth closed and asked them to tell what it contained. The first brother shook the pot and replied that the pot seemed to contain something round. The next brother guessed that it was round in shape and red in color. The third one answered that it seemed something round in shape, red in color, and with seeds inside. The fourth brother said that it must be a pomegranate. Saying so, he broke the pot open. To everyone’s surprise, the pot contained a pomegranate indeed!
All praise for their smartness, the king of Dharamur directed them to the king of Swarngarh. On their way to the kingdom of Swarngarh, the elder brother commented that a lame camel must have walked that way. The second brother added that the camel must have had only one eye. The third one said that the camel must have lost one of its teeth. The fourth brother joined in the fun, adding that a pregnant woman must have been riding the camel.
When the king of Swarngarh came to know about this odd conversation from his messenger, he realized that it would be difficult to find the offender among the four brothers. So, the king sent them to his daughter, the princess, who lived at Dhara Nagari. The princess asked them to stay there for a night, lodging them in different rooms. The next day, she met them one by one and shared the same story with everyone.
The story was about two friends, a prince and the son of the divan, who promised to send their wives to each other on the day of their wedding. The prince got married first and sent his wife to meet his friend. On her way, the bride ran into a gang of robbers. When they asked her to remove her jewels, she told them that she was on her way to fulfill her husband’s promise to his friend. She promised to hand over her jewelry to them once she got back from there. Touched by her plea, the leader of the gang let her go.
Once she reached the divan’s place, the divan’s son welcomed her as his sister. He then presented her with new clothes and jewels. He even served her delicious food to eat, blessing her for her life ahead. On her way back, the girl met the gang of robbers again. As she started taking off her jewels, the gang’s leader asked her to not remove them. He gifted her a diamond necklace instead and told her that they were very pleased with her. The girl went back to her husband and told him what had transpired.
After telling this story to all four brothers, the princess of Swarngarh asked them their opinions on the prince, the divan’s son, the bride, and the thieves. The first, second and third brothers commented that the two friends seemed to be honest. They kept their promise. The girl also appeared honest, for she kept his husband’s word. The divan’s son also proved his honesty by treating the girl as his sister. The thieves were also honest and treated her like their daughter.
When the princess narrated this story to the fourth brother, he answered differently. He commented that the prince must have been a fool to make such a promise. He even labeled the bride a fool for blindly obeying her husband’s command. To him, it was even foolish of the divan’s son to let the princess go back to her palace. Lastly, he felt that the robbers were fools too for not making the most of that opportunity.
The princess of Swarngarh found the fourth brother to be the culprit. She asked him to return the stone, but he denied his crime. When the Princess warned him of severe punishment, he admitted to his wrongdoing and returned the precious stone. The princess put the fourth precious stone with the other three. She then called the four brothers and gave them their jewels. As promised, she did not reveal who had taken the fourth jewel and saved their relationship.
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Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more about her.
Folk tale adopted and abridged from Internet Archive.