Village Folk-tales of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), vol. 1-3

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “how they killed the great-bellied tambi” is gathered from oral sources sources, tracing its origin to ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka). These tales are often found to contain similarities from stories from Buddhism and Hinduism. This is the story nr. 251 from the collection “stories of the western province and southern india”.

Story 251 - How they killed the Great-bellied Tambi


IN a certain country there was a King, it is said. This King’s palace haying been dug into by three dexterous thieves, they stole and got the goods.

. Having seized these very three robbers, for the purpose of effecting their trial they brought them into the presence of the King. When the King asked these three robbers if they committed the robbery or not, they said that they committed the robbery. “If you thus committed the robbery are ye guilty or not guilty persons ?” he asked. Thereupon they gave notice that they were not guilty persons.

When he asked,

“How is that ?”

[they said that], as it was easy for them to dig into [the wall], because when the mason built the palace the mortar had been put in loosely, the mason was the guilty person owing to his doing that matter.

Thereupon the King having summoned the mason, when he asked him whether, because he put in the mortar loosely, he was guilty or not guilty, he gave notice that he was not guilty.

When he asked again,

“How is that ?”

the mason said thus,

“I had appointed a labourer to mix the lime. Owing to his inattention when doing it the mortar had become loose. Because of that, the labourer is the guilty person,”

the mason said.

Thereupon having summoned the said labourer, he asked him whether because he put the mortar in loose (i.e., improperly mixed) he was guilty or not guilty. Then he gave notice that he was not the guilty person. How is that ? While he was staying mixing the lime, having seen a beautiful woman going by that road, because his mind became attached to her the work became neglected. The labourer said that the woman was the guilty person.

Thereupon having summoned the woman, just as before he asked whether, regarding the circumstance that having gone by that road she caused the neglect of the labourer’s work, she was guilty or not guilty. She, too, said that she was not guilty. Why was that ? A goldsmith having promised some of her goods, through her going to fetch them because he did not give them on the [appointed] day, this fault having occurred owing to her doing this business, the goldsmith was the guilty person.

Thereupon having summoned the goldsmith, when he asked him just as before he was not inclined to give any reply. Because of that, the King, having declared the goldsmith the guilty person, commanded them to kill the goldsmith by [causing him to be] gored by the tusk of the festival tusk elephant. He ordered them to kill this goldsmith, having set him against a large slab of rock, and causing the tusk elephant to gore him through the middle of the belly.

Well then, when the executioner was taking the goldsmith he began to weep.

When [the King] asked him why that was, the goldsmith said thus,

“Two such shining clean tusks of the King’s festival tusk elephant having bored a hole through my extremely thin body and having struck against the stone slab, will be broken. Because of sorrow for that I wept,”

he gave answer.

“What is proper to be done concerning it ?”

the King asked.

Then the goldsmith says,

“In the street I saw an extremely great-bellied Tambi. If in the case of that Tambi, indeed, the tusk elephant gore the belly, no wound will occur to the two tusks,”

the goldsmith said.

Thereupon the King having summoned the great-bellied Tambi, caused the tusk elephant to gore him through his belly.

The goldsmith and the whole of the aforesaid [persons} welrt away in happiness.

Western Province.



In The Indian Antiquary, vol. XX, p. 78, a South-Indian variant was given by Natesha Sastri. In order to commit robbery, a thief made a hole through a wall newly built of mud which slipped down oti his neck and killed him. His comrade found the body, and reported that the owner of the house had murdered him. The owner blamed the cooly who built the wall; he blamed the cooly who used too much Water in mixing the Qtud; he attributed it to the potter’s makifcg too large a mouth for the Water-pot; he blamed a dancing-girl for passing at the time and distracting his attention. She in turn laid the blame on a goldsmith who had not re-set in time a jewel which she gave him; he blamed a merchant who had not supplied it in time, though often demanded. He being unintelligent Could offer no excuse, and was therefore impaled for causing the Chief’s death.

Footnotes and references:


Moorman, a Muhammadan trader.