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

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “the seven princesses” 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. 48 from the collection “stories of the tom-tom beaters”.

Story 48 - The Seven Princesses

IN a certain country there are a King and a Queen, it is said ; there are seven Princesses [the daughters] of the King. A Prince younger than those seven is born.

The King went to a war, and having gone there the King was defeated in the war. When he returned, the royal food was not made ready for the King. Having arrived, he asked the Queen,

“Why did you not prepare the royal food for me ?”

Then the Queen said,

“I cannot bring up your children, and prepare the royal food for you also.”

The King asked,

“Why ? What have the Princesses done ?”,

The Queen replied," They go to the river, and after bathing there come back and rub oil on their heads, and comb their hair, [instead of assisting me to prepare the food].”

On account of that the King settled to behead the seven royal Princesses next day.

The Queen having cooked a bundle of rice and given it to those seven said,

“Go to any place you like, or the King will behead you to-morrow.”

After that, they went off to the river, and after sitting there and eating the bundle of rice, the seven went away.

Having gone on and on, they went to the house of a Rakshasa. When they got there the Rakshasa was not at home. The seven persons asked for and obtained a resting place from the Rakshasi (female Rakshasa).

Then the youngest Princess said,

“We have no food; give us something to cook.”

So the Rakshasi gave them a little paddy.

The youngest Princess, taking the paddy, said to the other six Princesses,

“Elder sisters, come and pound this small quantity of paddy.”

The six persons refused.

After that, the Princess having pounded it, when she went out to winnow it saw that there was a heap of human bones behind the house. The Princess bearing that in mind winnowed it, and returned without speaking about them. Then she called the Princesses to come and cook it; they did not come.

Afterwards the Princess having cooked, summoned those six persons to eat the rice. The six persons refused. Thereupon the Princess fed the six Princesses [by dividing the rice and giving each one her share of it].

Now, in the evening the seven Princesses went to sleep. There were seven girls at the house, the daughters of the Rakshasa, and the seven wore white clothes. The seven Princesses wore blue clothes. Then the youngest Princess having awoke in the night, took the seven white cloths of the seven Rakshasa girls, and put them on the Princesses, placing the dark cloths of the Princesses on the girls.

The Rakshasa having returned during the night, and having learnt from his wife of the arrival of the Princesses, put one of the girls out of those who wore the dark cloths, in a large cooking-pot, and having boiled her the Rakshasa ate his own daughter.

After seeing this, when the Rakshasa had gone to sleep, the little Princess, awaking those six Princesses, told them about it, and all the Princesses escaped together during the night. Having come to a river they remained there lying on a sandbank.

A King having come that way while they were there, asked,

“Are you Yakas or human beings ?”

The Princesses asked,

“Is it a Yaka or a human being who asks ?”

The King replied,

“It is indeed a human being who asks, not a Yaka.”

Then the Princesses said,

“We indeed are human beings, not Yakas,”

[and they told him how they had escaped from the house of the Rakshasa and had come there]*

On hearing this the King said,

“Can you go with me ?”

The Princesses having said, “We can,” went with the King to his palace, and became his Queens.[1]

On the night of the following day, a daughter of the Rakshasa, having heard how the King had taken away the Princesses,came there, and remained lying on the sandbank.

On the next day, also, the King having come that way asked,

“Are you a Yaka or a human being ?”

The Rakshasa’s daughter said,

“Is it a Yaka or a human being who asks ?”

The King replied,

“It is indeed a human being who asks, not a Yaka.”

The Rakshasa's daughter said,

“I also am indeed a human being, not a Yaka.”

Then the King said,

“If so, can you go with me ?”

The Rakshasi having said,

“I can,”

went with the King to the palace, [and also became his wife.]

After a long time had gone by, all those seven Princesses were about to have children. One night, when the Princesses were asleep, the Rakshasi plucked out the eyes of the seven Princesses by magic, without awaking them, and having done so hid all the eyes. Then when the seven Princesses, having arisen, tried to go about, they were unable to go; they found that they could not see, so they lay down again.

Afterwards the King came to awake them. ( Why, are you sleeping yet ? ” he said.

The seven Princesses replied,

“We are unable to get up ; we have no eyes.”

The King asked,

“How have your eyes become displaced ?”

The seven Princesses said,

“What has happened we do not know ; they have been plucked out while we were asleep.”

Afterwards the King having said,

“If so, go where you like,”

drove them away. The King allowed only the Rakshasi to stay.

The seven Princesses, having gone on and on, and having fallen down at a pool, gave birth to seven Princes there. Now, there was no food for the seven, so having cut up the Prince of the eldest Princess, and divided the body into seven parts, they ate for a day. On the next day, having cut up the next Princess’s Prince and divided the body they ate it. Thus, in that manner they ate the six Princes of the six persons.

On the next day they settled to cut up the Prince of the youngest Princess. Then the youngest Princess, on each of the days having put away her portions of flesh, said,

“You shall not cut up my Prince. Look, here is your flesh,”

she said, and gave them the six portions of flesh. The six persons ate them.

[The narrator did not state how they subsisted after that.] While this youngest Princess was rearing that Prince there, after the Prince went to the chena jungle one day, he met with a Vaedda. The Vaedda said,

“Let us go together to the King’s city.” [2]

The Prince said “Ha,” and went with him. There the King saw him, and being pleased with him gave him food and the like. The Prince having eaten, after he had come again to the pool the Prince’s mother asked,

“Where did you go ?”

The Prince said,

“I went to the King’s city.”

His mother asked,

“What did you go for ?”

The Prince replied,

“I went ‘simply’”

(that is, for no special purpose).

The Princess having said,

“Aha !”

while she was still there the Prince said,

“I am going to the forge.”

Having gone to the forge he said to the smith,

“Make and give me a bow and an arrow.”

The smith said,

“Cut a stick and come with it.”

So the Prince went to the chena jungle to cut a stick. There was no suitable stick, but a golden shoot had fallen down there, and having taken it he gave it to the smith. The smith said,

“This is not good ; bring another stick,”

so the Prince went and brought another stick. The smith made a good bow and arrow out of the stick, and gave them to him.

Then the Prince having taken the bow and arrow, and shot a deer, carried it to the city. After he had gone there they gave him paddy, rice, flesh, and cooking-pots, and the like for it. Then the Prince having taken them to the pool where the Princesses were, gave them to his mother the Queen.

Afterwards he shot a deer every day, and having taken it to the city carried back to the Princesses the things that he received for it.

One day having shot a deer, as he was about to take it to the city the Prince’s mother told him to carry it to the palace. While he was there the Rakshasi saw him, and having made inquiry got to know that he was the son of the youngest Princess.

So she said to him,

“Take a letter to our house for me,”

and gave it to him.

As the Prince was going that day taking the letter, it became night, so he went to a city, and asked a widow woman for a resting-place for the night.

The woman of the house said,

“Ane ! What have you come to this city for ? A Yaka has eaten all who were in this city. To-night he will be coming for my daughter.”

The Prince asked,

“How will the Yaka come ?”

The woman said,

“Four miles away he says, ‘ Hu ’; then a mile away he says, ‘ Hu'; and having come from there near the stile at the road, he says, ' Hu ’.”

The Prince asked,

“Are there Kaekuna [3] seeds here ?”

The daughter said,

“There are,”

and she gave him a sackful of them.

Then he told the daughter, whose father had been the King of the city, not to be afraid.

“If the Yaka should come I will kill him,”

he said. So the Prince went to sleep, placing a sword that he had brought at his side, and laying his head on the waist pocket of the Princess.

Afterwards the Yaka cried “Hu,” when four miles away, and tears fell from the eyes of the Princess on the breast of the Prince when she heard it. Next, the Yaka cried “Hu,” when a mile away. The Princess having spoken words to him on hearing it, he arose.

“What is it ?” he asked. The Princess said,

“The Yaka is coming.”

Then the Prince emptied the sack of Kaekuna seeds at the door, and took up his sword.

As the Yaka, having come, was springing into the doorway, he slipped on the seeds, and fell. Thereupon the Prince cut and killed the Yaka with his sword, and having put his body in a well which was there, covered it up with earth.

After the Prince had told the Princess about himself and the seven Princesses, he said,

“I must go now.”

The Princess asked him,

“What else is there in your hands ?”

The Prince replied,

“There is a letter which the Queen has ordered me to take to her home.”

The Princess having said,

“Where is it ? Let me look at it,”

took it, and when she looked at it there was written in it,

“Mother, eat the Prince who brings this letter, and eat the eyes of those seven persons.”

Then the Princess having tom up the letter, wrote another letter,

“Mother, having taken care of the Prince who brings this letter, send medicine for the eyes of those seven persons.”

Having written it she gave it into the hands of the Prince.

The Prince carrying the letter, and having taken a bundle of cooked rice to eat on the way, went to the house of the Rakshasi. As he was coming near the house he saw a Rakshasi sitting at the road. When she saw him she said,

“The flesh of that one who is coming is for me.”

The Prince asked,

“What art thou saying ?”

and gave the letter to the Rakshasi, and asked for the medicine for the eyes. After reading the letter the Rakshasi prepared abundant food for him, and gave him lodgings that day.

Next day, showing him a tree, she said,

“After you have rubbed the juice of this tree on the eyes of the persons who are blind, their eyes will become well.”

The Prince said,

“If so, tie a little of it in a packet and give me it.”

So the Rakshasi having tied up a packet of it gave him it.

Then the Prince having taken it back, rubbed it on the eyes of those seven persons, and their eyes became well.

Afterwards, the Prince having gone with them to the city where he killed the Yaka, married the Princess, and remained there.

North-western Province.



This story does not appear to have been met with among the people of Southern India, but variants are well-known in other parts of the country. In all these forms of the tale the wicked Rakshasa Queen is killed.

In Indian Fairy Stories (Ganges Valley), by Miss Stokes, there are two variants, pp. 51 and 176. In both, a demoness or Rakshasi whom the King married induced him to cause the eyes of his other seven Queens to be plucked out, and six of the infants whom they bore were eaten, the seventh being saved as in Ceylon.

In one story the boy was sent for the milk of a tigress, an eagle’s feather, and night-growing rice; in the other he went for rose-water, flowers, and a dress. A friendly Fakir in one tale, and a Princess in the other, substituted other letters for those in which the demons or ogres were instructed to kill him, so that he was well received and succeeded in his errands. In one case he got the blind Queens’ eyes, and ointment to make them as before; in the other he brought back magic water that cured them.

In Tales of the Punjab (Steel), p. 89, and Wide-Awake Stories (Steel and Temple), p. 98, the demoness Queen persuaded the King to give her the eyes of the seven Queens, which she strung as a necklace for her mother. The seventh boy, who was shooting game for the blind Queens’ food, was sent for the eyes and got thirteen, one having been eaten. The written message which requested that he should be killed was changed by a Princess. On two other journeys he obtained the Jogi’s white cow which gave milk unceasingly, and rice that bore a million-fold, by the aid of which the seven Queens became the richest people in the kingdom. After he had married the Princess who assisted him, the King heard the whole story, and killed the demoness.

In Folk-Tales of Bengal (Day), p. 117, the Rakshasa Queen, after getting the seven Queens’ eyes plucked out, ate up all the people, and no one remained to attend on the King. At last the boy offered his services. He always left before night, the time when the Ogress caught her victims. She sent him to her mother for a melon, with a letter which he tore up. He got back safely, bringing a bird in which was the life of the Ogress Queen ; when he killed it she died.

In The Indian Antiquary, vol. i, p. 170, there is a Bengal story by Mr. G. H. Damant. The Ogress or Rakshasa Queen obtained the eyes of the seven Queens from the King, and sent the boy for sea-foam, and afterwards for rice grown in Ceylon, “the home of the Rakshasas,” that ripened in one day. A Sannyasi, or Hindu religious mendicant, changed him into a kingfisher on one trip and a parrot on the other, which brought the things, being re-converted into a Prince on the way back. Lastly, he was sent to Ceylon for a cow a cubit long and half a cubit high. The King paid him heavily for getting these things, and for the last one was obliged to sell his kingdom and give the proceeds to the boy.

The Sannyasi instructed him to conciliate a Rakshasi by addressing her as “Aunt,” and to deliver a pretended message from the Ogress Queen. He was well received, and learnt that the Rakshasas’ lives were in a lemon and the Ogress Queen’s in a bird. He cut the lemon and thus killed all the Rakshasas, brought back the blind Queens’ eyes, and killed the bird, and with it the Ogress Queen.

In Folk-Tales of Hindustan, Allahabad (Shaik Chilli), p. 105, the seven Queens were thrown into a large dry well; it is not stated that their eyes were plucked out. The seventh boy got his grandfather, a carpenter, to make him a wooden flying horse. He was sent for singing-water, magic rice, and news of the Rakshasa Queen’s relatives. He met a lion, a wolf, and various other savage animals, which he appeased by addressing them as “Uncle,” “Cousin,” etc.

A kind Yogi changed his letter, and he was welcomed by the Rakshasas, whose lives he learnt were in a number of birds. These he killed, taking back a pea-hen in which lay the life of the Ogress Queen, as well as the magic water and rice. Each of the animals sent a cub with him, and on his return these performed a dance, at the end of which he killed the pea-hen and the Ogress died. The persons who had been eaten by the Ogress revived when the magic water was sprinkled on their bones. The magic rice plant, called Vanaspati, grew into a tree forty yards high, and bore cooked rice.

In Folk-Tales of Kashmir (Knowles), 2nd ed., p. 43, the seven Queens’ eyes were put out, and they were thrown into a large dry well. The seventh boy was sent for the milk of a tigress, and then to the grandparents of the Ogress Queen. A friendly Fakir having altered the messages, he was well received, got medicine that cured the blind Queens’ eyes, and also killed the birds and smashed a spinning-wheel in which were .the lives of the Ogress Queen and her relatives.

At p. 446, also, the eyes of a Queen which had been plucked out were replaced and healed.

A variant of the Western Province of Ceylon, in which there were twelve Queens, whose sight was not regained, however, has been given already. See No. 24.

Footnotes and references:


This is prosaic love-making!


Probably in order to sell deer’s flesh there.


Canarium zeylanicum.

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