June 22. Story of the Day: The Happy Crow

Here is another Marathi story contributed by Prof. Smita Pawaskar. There is a version by Suniti Namjoshi here based on the story Prof. Pawaskar shared orally, and then a translation of Prof. Pawaskar's written Marathi text (you can see the Marathi text here).

I don't have a folktale type for this, but it is a wonderful series of tests, and the crow never fails!

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Once upon a time a discontented king sent his minions in search of a creature who was genuinely happy. They looked everywhere, and were about to give up, when at last they found a crow who was always cheerful. They brought him before the king.

“Huh,” said the king, “let’s see how long his cheerfulness lasts,” and he threw him into a cauldron of oil. The crow wasn’t bothered. He began to sing:
Tum tum dee.
Let’s fry a pappadum
For you and me.
Tum tee dee.

The king then threw him into a saucepan of ghee. This time the crow sang.
Tum tum dee.
Let’s make a laddu
With this ghee.
Tum tee dee.

The king couldn’t believe that the crow was still cheerful. He threw him into a cistern of water. But the crow just sang.
Tum tum dee.
Now I can splash,
Happy as can be.
Tum tee dee.

The king snorted and threw the crow into a deep ditch filled with mud. The crow stayed cheerful and sang once again.
Tum tum dee.
Let’s slide in the mud,
You and me.
Tum tee dee.

In the end the king realised that the crow was always going to make the best of a bad situation. His contentment came from within. He let the bird go and decided to follow the crow’s example.

An Alternative Ending

By now the king was so exasperated with the endlessly cheerful crow that he threw him over a cliff. The crow soared into the sky, circled and flapped and landed beside the king. He sang:
Tum tum dee.
Come fly with me
For company?
Tum tee dee.

The king couldn’t believe what was happening, and then slowly he came to his senses. “You really are a cheerful creature,” he said to the crow. “It’s because you make the best of things.  I’m going to follow your example.” The king sang:
Tum tum dee.
Dance with me,
It’s two for tea.
Tum tee dee.

The crow and the king started dancing together. At first the courtiers didn’t know what to make of this; but it looked like fun, so they joined in. And eventually the entire kingdom became a happier place for everyone.

(translated from the written text)

(photo by S. Namjoshi; crow in Pune)

Once upon a time there was a king who had a splendid kingdom and a palace which contained everything the heart could desire; but in spite of that he was unhappy. He just didn’t know how to be happy.

One day he called his Prime Minister and told him to find the happiest being in his entire kingdom and to bring this creature to him.

Well, the Prime Minister and the king’s soldiers searched everywhere for a contented being. But everyone seemed absorbed in their problems and difficulties. Whoever they asked, replied, “No, no, we are certainly not happy.”

The king’s soldiers didn’t know what to do. The king had commanded them to find a happy creature, and the king’s command had to be obeyed.

In their search for a happy creature they reached the outskirts of the town and came across a crow happily sitting on a tree and eating something. Every now and then he would fly about a little and then alight and swing on a branch. He would  make different noises, and sometimes even perch on the back of cow and play tricks on her.

“He’s a truly happy creature!” the king’s soldiers cried and they caught him and brought him before the king.

The king was surprised. “He’s just a crow!” the king exclaimed. “How can he be truly happy?”

The king decided to test him in various ways. To start with the king threw him into a cauldron of oil. The crow began to sing:  “Let’s fry papadum in oil. Let’s fry papadum in oil.”

The king couldn’t understand it. He threw him into a saucepan of ghee. The crow began to sing: “Let’s make laddus out of ghee. Let’s eat laddus made of ghee.”

The king really didn’t know what to do.  The king threw him into a cistern of water. He was sure that the crow would be in trouble now and would cry out. But the crow began to sing again: “Let’s swim happily in the water. Let’s swim happily in the water.”

The king was beside himself. “I’ve done my best to make your life miserable, but you continue happy. Let’s see how you stand the next test!”

And with that he threw him into a deep ditch filled with mud. The crow began to sing: “We’ll slide about in the mud. We’ll slide about in the mud.”

At last the king began to understand that the crow was a truly happy creature, and that his happiness came from within himself. External circumstances did not affect him. Having understood this, the king let the crow go and the crow flew away.