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

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “the gourd fruit devil-dance” 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. 262 from the collection “stories of the western province and southern india”.

IN a certain country a Gamarala cut a chena, it is said. Having planted a gourd creeper in the chena, on it a gourd fruit fruited. The gourd fruit, when not much time had gone, became very large, and ripened.

The Gamarala, being unable to bring it alone, summoned several men of the village, and having given them to eat and gone with the men, and come back [after] pluc king the fruit, and cut open the “eye” (at the end of the neck), placed it [for the contents] to rot. After it rotted he [cleaned it out and] dried it, so as to take it for work (use), and put it on a high place (ihalakin).

In order to perform a devil-dance (kankariya) for the Gamarala, having given betel for it and told devil-dancers (yakdesso) to come, one day he made ready [for] the devil-dance. Having made ready that day, when they were dancing a very great rain rained, and the water was held up so that the houses were being completely submerged.

At that time all the persons of this company being without a quarter to go to, all the men crept inside the Gourd fruit, and having blocked up with wax the eye that was cut open into the Gourd fruit, began to dance the devil-dance inside it.

Then the houses, also, of the country having been submerged, the water overflowing them began to flow away. Then this Gourd fruit also having gone, went down into a river, and having gone along the river descended to the sea, and while it was going like a ship a fish came, and swallowed the Gourd fruit.

Having swallowed it, the fish, as though it was stupefied, remained turning and turning round on the water. While it was staying there, a great hawk that was flying above having come and swallowed that fish, became unconscious on a branch.

Then a woman says to her husband,

“Bolan, [after] seeking something for curry come back.”

At that time, while the man, taking also his gun, is going walking about, he met with that hawk which had swallowed the fish. He shot the hawk.

Having shot it and brought it home, he said to his wife that she was to pluck off the feathers and cook it.

Then the woman having plucked off the feathers, when she cut [it open] there was a fish [inside]. Then the woman says,

“Ade ! Bolan, for one curry there are two meats l”[1]

Taking the fish she cut [it open]; then there was a Gourd fruit. Thereupon the woman says,

“Ade ! Bolan, for one curry there are three meats !”

When she looked the Gourd fruit was dried up.

After that, having cooked those meats (or curries) and eaten, on account of hearing a noise very slightly in that Gourd fruit, taking a bill-hook she struck the Gourd fruit.

Thereupon the whole of those men being in the Gourd fruit, said,

“People, people !”

and came outside. Having got down outside, when they looked it was another country. After that, having asked the ways, they went each one to his own country. And then only the men knew that light had fallen [and it was the next day].

Western Province.



In the Katha Sarit Sagara (Tawney), vol. ii, p. 599, a fish swallowed a ship, with its crew and passengers. When it was carried by a current and stranded on the shore of Suvarnadwipa, the people ran up and cut it open, and the persons who were inside it came out alive.

In Cinq Cents Contes et Apologues (Chavannes), vol. iii, pp. 229 and 244, two infants who were thrown or fell into the water of rivers were swallowed by fishes and rescued alive after seven days, in the first instance by the child’s father, and in the second by the King of the country in which the fish had been caught.

Footnotes and references:


Eka maluwakata malu dekayi. The chief ingredients of curries are all termed malu or maliu by villagers, whether .meat, fish, or vegetables. The same word also means “curry.”