Mr Monkey and Mr Fox
(Assamese Folktale from Burhi Aair Sadhu)
Once upon a time there were a fox and a monkey. They made friends and planned to feast together.
One day they were wondering where they could get food to eat and then hid themselves on a road across a jungle. Then they saw a few men on the road carrying on their shoulders loads of milk, molasses, bananas, sugarcane for a marriage. Seeing that the fox said to the monkey, “Friend, we must have the things the men are carrying; let’s think up something. You hide in a bush on the road a little away from here. I’ll hide in a nearby bush. As soon as they get near us I’ll shout “hu-wa” and you’ll shout “khu-wa”. Know for sure, when they suddenly hear our “hu-wa”, “khu-wa” they’ll drop the goods and run away.
With this plan in mind the monkey and the fox kept themselves hidden. As soon as the men drew nearer they heard the shouts of “hu-wa” and “khu-wa” and taking fright at the thought of a tiger or a bear they just dropped the loads and ran for their life. Seeing the men scattered to the four winds, the fox and the monkey began jumping up and down with extreme excitement, and carrying the things took off into the forest.
The monkey said to the fox, “Friend, if we sit to eat here and the men come back in search of their goods and find us, they’ll beat us to pulp and take the things away. So let’s do one thing. I’ll climb up this tall tree with the things and you wait on the ground. Also, you don’t know how to climb a tree. Sitting up there I’ll eat my share and I’ll drop your share of things one by one. So lift the things for me and I’ll take them up.”
The fox agreed and began to lift the things for the monkey and the monkey began to store them on the branch of the tree. After arranging the things nicely and properly the monkey sat comfortably on a branch and began to feast freely.
The monkey had a banana and dropped the peel and said, “Friend, there goes a banana, catch it.”
Then he drank the milk and had the curd and dropped the bamboo tube and the pot, and said, “Friend, here goes your share of your milk, catch.”
Then he had the sugar-cane and dropped the chewed pulp ---and said, “Friend, here goes your sugarcane, catch it.”
Finding the monkey eat up everything by cheating him the fox bit the tree and scratched the ground in anger. Then he left the place with a heavy heart.
One day the monkey saw the fox the sitting beside a big nest of wasp and asked, “Friend, what are you doing here?”
The fox replied, “Hey friend, see my poor fate, the king has appointed me the attendant of his drum. That’s why I’m sitting here, keeping an eye on it.”
The monkey said, “Please, friend, do let me beat it for once.”
The fox replied, “Sorry, friend, I can’t. The king will cut me into two pieces if he comes to know about it. Can’t you hear, it’s humming of its own?”
The monkey said, “But let me beat the drum very softly-only for once. The king won’t hear. I’m dying for it.”
“Fine, friend. How can I say no to you? Strike it ever so lightly, then.” Saying this the fox immediately took off.
As soon as the monkey gleefully struck at the hornet’s nest, the hordes of hornets attacked him from all sides and stung him in every part of his body. The monkey’s face became swollen like a big basket. Losing his wit, the monkey writhed in pain and cried out to his friend, “O, friend, please come sharp, or else I’m dead.”
The fox answered from a distance, “Don’t you remember how you had the bananas and threw the skins to me. This is how I pay you back.”
The monkey cried, “Friend, save me, I’m dead.”
The fox replied, “Don’t you remember how you had the milk and threw the empty pot to me? This is my revenge.”
The monkey cried out, “O, friend, please come or else I’m dead.”
The fox said, “Don’t you remember how you had the sugarcane and threw me just the chewed pulp? This is my revenge.” Saying thus the fox departed, leaving the monkey there to his fate.
Long after this incident one day the monkey saw the fox keeping watch over a patch of arum plants. The monkey had, meanwhile, forgotten everything about his misadventure with the hornets.
So he drew near and asked Mr. Fox, “What are you doing here, friend? What are these plants?”
The fox looked at the monkey with a smile and said, “This is a patch of a very special kind of sugarcane of the King himself. I’ve been appointed attendant by the royal house. So I’m keeping an eye on the patch. How can I help it? This is King’s order.”
The word sugarcane made the monkey’s mouth water and he said, “Friend, won’t you let me have a tiny one?”
“How could you make such a request? How can I let you have the King’s sugarcane? If the King hears about it, he’ll not only kill me but also kill my children.”
The greedy monkey persisted, “Please friend, I crave for it. Let my have just one quietly. The King will never know.”
The fox said, “All right, if you insist so much –let whatever happens happen to me-but just have only one, not more.”
As soon as he got the nod the greedy monkey pulled out a big clump of arum and began chewing it. The arum plant caused severe itching in his mouth and he cried out in pain, “Save me friend, I’m dead.”
The fox replied, “This is a favour for the skins of the bananas you threw at me.”
The monkey pleaded, “Friend, I’m dead.”
The fox replied, “This is my revenge for the pulp of the sugarcane that you had thrown at me.”
The monkey pleaded once more, “O friend, save me, I’m ruined.”
The fox said, “Don’t you remember how you had the molasses and left for me the empty pot? This is my revenge for that.”
Then the fox left the place.
A long time after this incident the monkey, when one day he was loitering, saw Mr. Fox sitting beside a well. The opening of the well was covered with cobweb. The monkey, who had, meanwhile, forgotten altogether the two previous incidents, asked the fox, “Friend, what are you doing here?”
The fox said, “What to do my friend! I’m always pressed into the service of the royal house. This is the queen’s sedan chair which she got as a wedding gift. I’m assigned to keep an eye on it. So I’m here.”
The monkey said, “It must be a great fun to ride on a royal sedan chair. Please let me take a little ride.”
The fox said, “No, no, I can’t allow. If somehow the King gets to see the slightest sign of anybody riding on it he’ll immediately get rid of me.”
The monkey said, “How could he? I’ll just gently get in and get down. Please, please, my friend, allow me to ride on just for once.”
The fox said, “Well, if you so insist quickly get into it before you are seen by anybody.”
Eager to savour the comfort of the royal sedan chair the monkey, without wasting a moment, rushed onto the cobweb cover and plunged headlong into the well.
(Translated from Assamese by Madan Sarma and Gautam K. Borah)
( Dr. Madan Sarma is Professor, Dept of English and Foreign Languages, Tezpur University. He can be reached at - email@example.com
Dr Gautam K. Borah is Professor, Dept of English and Foreign Languages, Tezpur University. )
This tale has been taken from "Burhi Aair Sadhu"- a collection of Assamee folktales, collected by Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa and published in 1911.