The Goddess of Courage
In a particular village, a shepherd had hundreds of goats but no land. Thinking that these goats would menace their fields, the villagers warned the shepherd that he should leave the village or buy some land.
So the shepherd raised a loan and bought a small strip of land. This plot was so barren that nothing but maize could be sown. It turned out that even the maize crop the shepherd raised in it was inferior.
After some time, the shepherd’s sight began to fail, and his young son took charge of the field.
One day the three deities of Harvest, Wealth and Courage came by the shepherd’s field, arguing about which one of them was the most powerful.
“Look at this field,” said the goddess of Harvest, “If only it yields a good harvest, this shepherd boy will not have a single problem. I shall enter the field and make it rich.” So saying, she sat in the maize field.
“I am the real benefactor of humanity. See what I can do to this poor boy,” said the goddess of Wealth. She turned herself into a bag of money and waited by the path.
“All your efforts are useless if I sit upon his head,” said the goddess of Courage. She at once sat upon the shepherd boy’s head. \
When Harvest sat in it, the field was utterly transformed. Maize stocks of enormous height stood thick in the area, their heads bent down with vast ears of corn. But the young shepherd got frightened at the sight because Courage was sitting on his head. He started home to report to his father that a strange disease had overtaken the maize.
The boy took the path by which lay the bag of money was. But he said to himself, “Let me see how far I can walk with my eyes shut.” He did not open his eyes until he passed the bag of money.
Reaching home, the boy told his father that the crop was ruined by some pest and suggested they sell the strip of land at any price. His blind father agreed to sell it if anyone could buy it.
The boy returned to the field and saw a stranger gazing at the unique maize crop. He was a trader. He saw many countries, but nowhere did he see maize of such quality. He approached the shepherd boy, learnt that the field belonged to him and offered to buy it at a reasonable price. Prompted by the goddess of Wealth, who was trying her best to do good to the boy, the trader offered to keep the boy in his service on monthly payments.
The trader emptied all his carts and filled them with the unique maize, leaf, stalk and car. He took the boy with him and proceeded on his journey.
Presently the caravan reached a city. The trader took specimens of his maize to the king and said, “Perhaps Your Highness never saw maize like this. I have plenty of it. I shall part with a cartload in exchange for an elephant with a howdah. If this corn were to be planted in your kingdom, your people need never starve.”
The king took one cartload of the corn and gave the trader an elephant in exchange. The trader sold another cartload to some of the wealthy landlords of the city. With this money, he dressed the boy in royal brocade to look like a prince. The trader put him on the elephant and proceeded on. He told everyone on the way that the young man riding the elephant was the king of the Land of Gold and that he was his minister. Thus they arrived at the next city.
The king of that place was already aware of the coming of the king and his minister from the Land of Gold and received them with great pomp and honour. He put them up in the palace of Mirrors and treated them grandly.
After food and rest, the trader took the boy to the king’s court. He said, “In the kingdom, even the poorest land fields such golden maize. That is why one can see nothing but gold anywhere in our land.”
The king and queen thought it would be nice if they could marry their daughter to this King of Gold. When they suggested this to the trader, he said he would find out his king’s mind.
The trader told the boy at the lodge, “you are to marry the king’s daughter. The boy refused in horror, saying that the regal ladies were shrews.
Scoundrel! You forget that you are my hireling. Disobey me, and I shall break your bones,” said the trader. He returned to the king and reported that his king consented to the marriage. But, he warned the king the wedding should take place according to the customs prevailing in our land.
On the day of marriage, a palanquin was sent to the Palace of Mirrors to fetch the bridegroom. The boy was carried out of the house, tied hand and foot, and was dumped in the palanquin by four servants. This was taken to be one of the customs of the Land of Gold.
The marriage ceremony over the bridegroom was sent to the bridal chamber.
The trader told the king, “Two soldiers shall wait outside the chamber with drawn swords and threaten to kill the bridegroom if he tries to escape before the bride arrives.” This, too, was taken to be one of the queer customs of the Land of Gold.
Looking around the gorgeously decorated and brilliantly lit bed chamber, the shepherd boy thought it must be the temple of the Goddess to whom he would be sacrificed.
He tried to run away, but the man at the gate showed him the sword and frightened him.
The princess arrived, and he thought it was the Goddess.
“Here she comes to gobble me up!” he said. In desperation, he gave the princess a mighty push and bolted out of the room.
When he reached the lodge, the trader gave him a sound thrashing and said, “Worthless wretch! I marry the princess to you, and you run away from her!”
The next day the king sent for the trader and asked him, “What made your king so angry with my daughter that he pushed her away and left her?
“Don’t you know that rain poured down like elephant trunks last night?” said the trader. Naturally, the king was indignant that such a time was chosen for him to meet the bride.”
The king ordered his purohits to be whipped for this blunder and demanded they fix the better muhurta to consummate his daughter’s marriage with the King of Gold.
The purohits apologized for their mistake and fixed another muhurat the next night. But once again, the shepherd boy ran away from his bride and got thrashed by the trader. Once again, the trader was tasked with answering the king.
“Your purohits seem to be ignorant fools. Last night it appears rain fell like elephant heads,” the trader told the king.
The purohit was again chastised, and they fixed another muhurta, the best one, on the third night.
“If you run back to the night, I shall certainly cut off your head and go my way,” the trader warned the shepherd youth.
“Either the Goddess eats me, or the trader kills me One way or the other; I am fated to die tonight,” the shepherd thought as he sat awaiting the princess.
“You must remember that the goddess of Courage was still sitting upon the poor shepherd’s head. She turned to her Two companions and asked them, “Is there any more good you can do to this poor fool?”
The goddesses of Harvest and Wealth accepted defeat and begged their companion to save their protege, and she came down from the head of the shepherd youth. Just then, the princess stepped into the chamber.
There was a remarkable change in the shepherd. He got up to see the princess and approached her. He accosted her courteously and made formal inquiries about her health. The princess was happy to find her husband so decorous and cultured.
Thanks to the goddess of Courage, the poor shepherd boy became a prince and the husband of a princess. He settled in the same place and became king after his father-in-law. The trader became his minister and served his master faithfully.
Ever since the goddesses of Harvest and Wealth walk only behind the goddess of Courage. Those whom the goddess of Courage avoids, the goddesses of Harvest and Wealth also avoid.
Chandamama July 1955 | M Ismail