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

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “the false tale” 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. 257 from the collection “stories of the western province and southern india”.

AT a certain city there was a poor family, it is said. In that family there were only a man called Hendrik, a female called Lusihami, and a boy called Podi-Appu. There was a brother younger than Hendrik, it is said. That person’s name was Juwan-Appu. At the time when the two brothers were getting a living in one house, they having quarrelled, Juwan-Appu in the day time went away into the country.

While the afore-said three persons are getting a living in that way, Podi-Appu’s father died. The boy was very young. While Lusihami was doing work for hire, her boy got to be a little big. At that time the boy is a boy of the size for walking about and playing.

One day, when the boy went to another house he saw that the children are playing.

Having thought,

“This boy must go for those games,”

he went there. From that day the boy goes for those games daily.

In another city there is a soothsayer. The soothsayer is a very good clever person for bringing hidden treasures, it is said, the city in which the soothsayer stayed not being included in this talk. When he was going looking in the manner of his sooth, it appeared to him that there is an outside city at which is a very great hidden treasure. For taking the hidden treasure it appeared, according to his sooth, that he must give a human demon offering (nara billak). When he looked who is the man for the human demon offering, it appeared, according to the sooth, that he must give for the demon offering Podi-Appu, being the son of the aforesaid Lusihami.

The soothsayer set off to seek this boy. What did he bring ? Plantains, biscuits, lozenges (losinjar); in that manner he brought things that gladden the mind of the child.

Having come to the district in which is the boy, walking to the places where children are playing, when walking in that district while dwelling there, one day having gone to the place where Podi-Appu and the like are playing he stayed looking on. Meanwhile, according to the soothsayer’s thought, he had in mind that Podi-Appu was good [for his purpose].

Next, the soothsayer having gone to one side, taking his medicine wallet, when he turned over and looked at the book there was mentioned that it was Podi-Appu [who should be offered].

Afterwards calling the boy near him he gave him sorts of food. Meanwhile the boy’s mind was delighted. Next, he gave him a little money.

To the boy said the soothsayer,

“Your father is lost, is it not so ?”

he asked;

“that is I,”

the soothsayer said. The soothsayer by some device or other ascertained that the person’s father[1] had left the country and gone.

Afterwards the boy, he having told that tale, went home and informed his mother.

And the mother said,

“Ane ! Son, that your father indeed was [here] is true. For this difficult time for us, if that livelihood-bringing excellent person were here how good it would be ! You go, and calling that very one return.”

Afterwards the boy having gone, came home with the soothsayer.

While both are spending the days with much happiness, one day in the morning he said,

“Son, let us go on a joumey, and having gone, come; let us go,”

he said.

[The boy] having said,

“It is good,”

with the little boy the soothsayer went away.

Well then, the boy goes and goes. Both his legs ache.

The boy says,

“Father, I indeed cannot go; carry me,”

he said.

Having said,

“It is a little more; come, son,”

while on the road in that way the boy, being [almost] unable to go, weeping and weeping went near the hidden treasure.

The soothsayer, having offered there things suitable to offer, began to repeat spells. Then the door of the hidden treasure was opened; the path was [there].

He said to the boy,

“Son, having descended into this, when you are going along it, in the chamber a standard lamp[2] is burning. Without rubbing that kettle (the round body of the lamp) with your body, having removed the lamp and immediately for the light to go out having tilted it from the top, come back bringing the lamp.”

Having said [this], he caused the boy to descend inside the hidden treasure [chamber].

The boy having descended, when he looked about the boy had not the mind to come from it.

He says,

“It will be exactly a heavenly world. I will mention an abridgement of the things that are in it: golden king-coconuts, golden oranges, golden pine-apples, golden mandarin-oranges.”

Having told him in that manner,

“I cannot make an end of them, indeed,”

he said.

The boy, plucking a great many of them and having gone into the chamber as the soothsayer said, placing the lamp on his shoulder came away near the door.

The soothsayer says,

“First give me the lamp, in order to get you to the surface.”

The boy says,

“I cannot in that way; first take me out,”

he says.

In that manner there is a struggle of the two persons there. At the time when they are going on struggling in that way, anger having, come to the soothsayer he moved the door, for it to shut. Then the boy having got into the middle of [the doorway] the door shut. The soothsayer went away.

While the boy quite alone is wriggling and wriggling about there, in some way or other again, as it was at first the door of the hidden treasure opened. The boy placing the lamp on his shoulder and having become very tired, [carried away and] put the lamp and book in his house;

and because of too much weariness fell down and went to sleep.

The soothsayer went to his village.

Western Province.



This appears to be the first part of the story of Ala-addin, transformed into a Sinhalese folk-tale; but the variant quoted below shows that the general idea is of much older date and of Indian origin. A variant from the Uva Province is nearly the same, and also ends with the boy's return home.

In the Katha Sarit Sagara (Tawney), vol. i, p. 558, an ascetic induced a King to join him in obtaining a magical sword.

Accompanied by the King, the ascetic went at night, and in the King's words,

“having by means of a bumt-ofiering and other rites discovered an opening in the earth, the ascetic said to me, ‘Hero, enter thou first, and after thou hast obtained the sword, come out, and cause me also to enter; make a compact with me to do this.’”

The King entered, found a palace of jewels, and “the chief of the Asura maidens who dwelt there” gave him a sword, the possession of which conferred the power of flying through the air and bestowed “all magical faculties.” The ascetic took it from him afterwards, but the King at last recovered it.

Footnotes and references:


The son’s father's brothers are called his fathers in Sinhalese, the father’s sisters being, however, his aunts, not mothers.


Kot vilakku panak.