The Three Suitors

A long, long time ago, in the ancient Indian province of Bengal, there lived a famous Governor. He was pleased, for he had a charming wife and a clever son to follow in his footsteps.

Indeed, the Governor’s only worry was his daughter, Soma. According to the custom of the land, her family must choose a man for her to marry, but she was not an easy girl to please.

Soma went to her father one day and said, “I have decided I should like to marry a magician. He must be a clever man who can create anything my heart desires.”

The Governor wondered where to find such a man, but he promised to do all he could because he loved his daughter.

Then. Soma went to her mother and said, “I can only marry a wise man. He must see into the future, the far corners of the world and people’s hearts.” Soma’s mother was a good woman and promised to pray that she might find such a man.

Finally, Soma told her brother, “I will only marry a great hero. He must be the bravest Man alive to protect me and be so famous that all other women will envy me.”

Soma’s brother loved his sister dearly and vowed to stop searching until he found such a man.

A few days later, the Governor was summoned to appear before the Sultan of Delhi. As he was preparing to make the journey, he was approached by a young magician who said he was anxious to marry his daughter.

“Show me something of your magic powers,” said the Governor. “But be quick, for I have a long journey before me.”

“I can shorten all journeys,” said the young Magician, and with a wave of his wand, he changed the Governor’s litter into a gleaming gold coach with wings. He helped the startled Governor climb aboard and mounted the coachman’s seat. In a twinkling, the carriage was soaring up into the sky and flying swiftly over fields and rivers. A few minutes later, it landed on the lawn of the Sultan’s palace.

“A marvel. I can’t believe it,” cried the Governor in delight. Come to my house on the first day next month, and you shall marry my daughter.”

At the same time this happened, a famous hero had stopped Soma’s brother and begged him for his sister’s hand.

“There is no man I cannot defeat,” the Hero said. “I fight for justice and love. My sword has beaten whole regiments of our country’s enemies.”

The Hero fought the Governor’s entire bodyguard to prove he was telling the truth. His sword spun round at the speed of light, and all the guards soon ran off into the distance.

“You are indeed the man to win my sister’s heart,” the happy brother said. “Come to our house on the first day of next month, and the wedding will occur.”

The very same day, as Soma’s mother was in the marketplace, a young man with sad eyes and wearing a long white robe covered with mystic signs came up to her.

“I am a wise man and a prophet,” he said. “I know you are looking for a man like me to marry your daughter.”

“How could you know?” asked the mother in astonishment. “I have told no one about it.”

“I can read people’s hearts like a book before my eyes,” said the Wise Man.

“That you have proven to me without doubt,” said the mother. “You must come to our house on the first day of next month, and the wedding shall occur.”

On the first day of the next month, all three suitors, wearing their best clothes, arrived at the bride’s house. They became furious when they saw each other and discovered they were all supposed to marry Soma. Soma’s parents and brother shouted at one another, too, and the servants ran among them to hear as much of the quarrel as possible. Soon half the people in the city had heard of the tale and were gossiping about the three suitors.

At last, in desperation, the Governor went to fetch his daughter so she could choose for herself, but the window of her room was wide open, and she had disappeared.

The Governor ran to the three suitors and asked them what he should do, for without a bride, there could be no wedding.

After a moment, the Wise Man said, “She has been carried away by the wicked dragon Raskin. His cave is many days’ journey from here, and it is impossible to reach at this time of the year.”

“With my magic, I will shorten the journey,” cried the Magician. He mumbled some words, waved his wand, and a grey war chariot stood before them in a flash.

Soma’s father and the three suitors climbed in, and soon they were flying high above the ground.

An hour later, they came to some mountains, and suddenly the Wise Man cried, “There is the dragon’s cave.” They glided gently down to the earth and landed by the entrance to the cave.

Snorting and blowing out smoke, the dragon rushed at them. The Wise Man and the Magician ran to hide behind a rock, but the Hero, his sword gleaming in his hand, advanced towards the beast. A terrible fight began. For three days and nights, up and down the valley, the Hero and the beast fought, until, at last, with a blow of his sword, the Hero cut off Rasikin’s head, and the dragon lay lifeless on the ground.

Then Soma, her father and the three suitors climbed into the chariot again and flew home. Try as she might. However, Soma could not make up her mind which one to marry. In despair, her father suggested they ask the most learned judge in India to decide.

The judge listened carefully to the stories of the three suitors and then gave his verdict. “Soma must marry the Hero,” he said.

The other two suitors immediately protested. “If it had not been for me,” said the Wise Man, “we would never have found her.”

“It was only because of my magic,” the Magician cried, “that we were able to get to her in time and save her life.”

“That is true,” said the judge, “but the Hero won her with his brave heart. You two, like his sword, merely helped.”

The advice was good, for Soma and her Hero lived a long and happy life forever after.

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