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

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “the five lies quite like truth” 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. 255 from the collection “stories of the western province and southern india”.

Story 255 - The Five Lies quite like Truth


A CERTAIN King sent for his Minister and informed him that if he could not tell him next morning five lies so closely resembling the truth that he would believe them, he should be beheaded.

The Minister weint home with a sorrowful heart; he refused to eat or drink, and threw himself on his bed.

His wife came and inquired the reason for such behaviour.

“What has a dying man to do with eating and drinking ?”

he replied,

“to-morrow morning I must die;”

and then he told her what the King had said.

His wife answered,

“Don’t be afraid; I will tell you what to say to the King;”

and she persuaded him to take his food as usual.

She then related to him this story:—In a certain country there were four friends, a carpenter, a goldsmith, an areka-nut seller, and a dried-fish seller. The three latter persons decided to go and trade, and for that purpose they requested the carpenter to build them a ship The carpenter did so; and understanding that large profits were to be made in other countries, he also decided to join them.

The four men then wished to engage a servant to cook for them on board the ship, but they had considerable difficulty in finding one. At last they met with a youth who lived with an old woman named Hokki, who had adopted him as her son. The youth was willing to go, and as there was no one at home to take charge of the old woman after he left, it was settled that she should accompany them.

Then they all sailed away, the goldsmith taking a number

1 This story appeared in The Orientalist, vol. ii, p. 54.

of hair-pins (konda-kuru) for sale, and the other traders taking areka-nnts (puwak) and sun-dried fish (karawala). After going some distance the ship ran on a rock and was totally wrecked, and all the party were drowned.

In his next life the carpenter became a Barbet, which bores holes in trees, looking for a good tree with which to build a ship.

The goldsmith became a Mosquito, which always comes to the ears and asks for the hair-pins (kuru-kuru) that he lost.

The dried-fish seller became a Darter, and constantly searches for his dried-fish in the water.

The areka-nut seller became a Water-hen (Gallinula phœnicura), and every morning calls out,

“Areka-nuts [amounting] to a ship [-load], areka-nuts !”

(a good imitation of the cry of the bird, Kapparakata puwak’, puwak’).

And the cook became a Jackal, who still always cries for his mother, “Seek for Hokki, seek” (Hokki hoya, hoya, the beginning of the Jackal's howl).

Next morning the Minister told the story to the King, who fully believed the whole of it. The Minister then explained that it was pure fiction, whereupon the King instead of cutting off his head gave him presents of great value.

Matara, Southern Province.



I met with a story of this kind among the Mandinko of the Gambia, in West Africa, and as it is unpublished I give it here. It was related in the Mandinka language, and translated by the clerk on the Government river steamer, the Mansa Kilah.