Sunday, February 22, 2009

How the Farmer Deceived the Demon

Very many years ago, in a far-away land where the trees never changed
their green leaves and where the birds always sang, there lived
on an island a farmer with a large family. Though all alone on the
island and knowing nothing of people in the outer world, they were
always happy,--as happy as the laughing rills that rippled past their
home. They had no great wealth, depending from year to year on the
crops which the father raised. They needed no money, for they lacked
nothing; and they never sold their produce, for no people were near
to buy.

One day in the middle of the year, after the crops were well started,
a loud, unusual roar was heard. Suddenly a stiff gale blew up from
the southwest, and with it came clouds which quickly hid the entire
sky. The day turned to night. The birds ceased to sing and went to
their nests. The wild beasts ran to their caves. The family sought
shelter in the house from a heavy downpour of rain which continued
for many days and nights. So long did it last that they became very
anxious about the condition of things around them.

On the eighth day the birds again began to sing, and the sun was,
as usual, bright. The farmer arose early and went out to look at his
fields, but, lo! his crop was all destroyed. He went back to the house
and told the family that the water-god was angry and had washed away
all that he had hoped to have for the coming year.

What were they to do? The supply in the house was getting low and it
was too late to raise another crop. The father worried night and day,
for he did not know how he could keep his children from starvation.

One day he made a long journey and came into a place that was strange
to him. He had never before seen the like of it. But in the midst of
a broad meadow he saw a tree with spreading branches like an elm,
and as his legs and back were stiff from walking, he went over and
sat down under it. Presently, looking up, he discovered that on the
tree were large red fruits. He climbed up and brought some down,
and after satisfying his hunger he fell asleep.

He had not slept long when he was awakened by a loud noise. The owner
of the place was coming. He was fearful to look upon. His body was like
that of a person, but he was of enormous size; and he had a long tail,
and two horns growing out of his head. The farmer was frightened and
did not know what to do. He stood motionless till the master came up
and began to talk to him. Then he explained that he had come there
in search of food to keep his family alive. The monster was delighted
to hear this, for he saw that he had the man and the man's family in
his power. He told the traveller that in return for a certain promise
he would help him out of his troubles.

The demon, as he was called by some travellers to that land, showed
the farmer a smooth, round stone, which, he said, gave its possessor
the power of a magician. He offered to lend this to the farmer for
five years, if at the expiration of that time the farmer and family
would become his slaves. The farmer consented.

Then the demon was glad. He said to the farmer, "You must squeeze
the stone when you wish to become invisible; and must put it in your
mouth when you wish to return to human form."

The man tried the power of the magic stone. He squeezed it, and
instantly became invisible to the demon; but he bade him farewell,
and promised to meet him in the same place at the appointed time.

In this invisible form the man crossed the water that washed the shore
of the island on which he lived. There he found a people who lived in
communities. He wanted something to eat, so he went into the shops;
but he found that a restaurant owned by a Chinaman was the one to
which most people of the city went. He put the stone in his mouth,
thus appearing in visible form, and, entering the restaurant, ordered
the best food he could find. He finished his meal quickly and went
out. The waiter, perceiving that he did not pay, followed him. The man
had no money; so he squeezed the stone and shot up into the air without
being seen. The Chinaman, alarmed by the cry of the waiter, came out
and ran in all directions, trying to find and catch the man. No one
could find him; and the people thought he must indeed be a fast runner
to escape so quickly, for they did not know of the gift of the demon.

Not far from that place he saw groups of men and women going in and out
of a large building. It was a bank. The farmer went in to see what he
could find. There he saw bags of money, gold and silver. He chuckled
with joy at this opportunity. In order to use his hands freely, he put
the stone in his mouth; but before he could fill all his pockets with
money, he was discovered by the two guards, who began to pound him on
the head. He struggled to save his life, and finally took the stone
out of his mouth and squeezed it. Instantly he vanished from their
sight; but he was vexed at the beating he had received, so he carried
off all the gold they had in the bank. The people inside as well as
outside the building became crazy. They ran about in all directions,
not knowing why. Some called the firemen, thinking the bank was on
fire; but nothing had happened, except that the farmer was gone and
the two guards were "half dead frightened." They danced up and down
the streets in great excitement, but could not utter a word.

Straight home went the farmer, not stopping by the way. His wife and
children were awaiting him. He gave them the money, and told them
all about the fortune which he had gotten from the man on their own
island,--told all his secrets. Prosperous they became, and with the
money which he had brought they purchased all they needed from the
city just opposite them.

The time passed so pleasantly that the man was surprised to discover
that his promise would be due in two more days. He made preparations
to go back to the land of his master. Arrived there, he met the same
monster under the same tree. The demon was displeased to see the
old man alone, without the family which also had been promised. He
told the man that he would shut him in a cave and then would go and
capture those left at home.

But the farmer would not go to the cave. The demon tried to pull him
into a deep hole. Both struggled; and at last the farmer squeezed
the magic stone and disappeared. He took a green branch of the tree
and beat the demon. The demon surrendered. He begged for mercy.

The farmer went home, and from that day thought no more of the
demon. He knew that while he held the stone the monster would never
come to trouble him. And the family lived on in peace and happiness,
as they had done before the water-god became angry with them.

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