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

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “stories of the tom-tom beaters” 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. Part II (b) from the collection “”.

Part II (b) - Stories of the Tom-tom Beaters

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It is said in the Southern Province that all tom-tom beaters are fools.[1] In the North-western Province the same opinion is held regarding some of them. To what extent it is justified I am unable to say, but an example which supported the general notion fell under my own observation. Some jungle was being cut for an irrigation channel, at the side of an uncultivated field belonging to a tom-tom beaters’ village, and one of the men came to watch the progress of the work. I questioned him regarding eggs. He stated at first that only things which could fly laid eggs, but he admitted that this rule did not apply to crocodiles, lizards, and snakes. About bats he was not certain, but thought they do not lay eggs. Rats certainly do not lay them, he said.

I had seen a Green Bee-eater flying near us, and I observed a small hole such as this bird makes as its nest-hole, in the sandy ground.

I drew his attention to it, and he at once asserted that it was a rat-hole; of that he had no doubt whatever.

“Well then, let us see if there are any eggs in it,”

I said, knowing that it was then the breeding season of the Bee-eaters.

He looked on, smiling ironically, while I got one of my men to open the tunnel carefully. When he came to the end, there on the sand, in a little saucer-shaped cavity, were four shining, spherical white eggs of the bird.

The man was astonished, but was quite satisfied that they were rat’s eggs.

“I saw them with my two eyes,”

he said to my men, who all laughed at him.

The following stories were written for me as the foolish doings traditionally attributed to the tom-tom beaters of a village in the North-western Province. Apparently the village is at the side of a rice field.

Footnotes and references:


As in India, the tom-tom beaters were the weavers also in Ceylon, until cheap imported cloth put an end to weaving. In the Folk Tales of Bengal (Day), p. 233, the “proverbial simplicity” of weavers is mentioned, and in several stories in Indian Nights' Entertainment (Swynnerton) their foolishness is the chief theme. In the Jataka story No. 59 there is an account of a foolish tom-tom beater boy also. See also the story No. 10, in this volume.

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