Twenty-Two Goblins
Category: Children
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The Abiding Kingdom is located on the bank of the Godavari River in Twenty-Two Goblins. The story is an ancient Indian folk tale translated by Arthur Willian Ryder. King Triple-victory received a piece of fruit daily from his monk, which he put into the treasury. One day an escaped monkey slipped into the treasury and began to eat the fruit. Inside was a valuable surprise that no one could have guessed. Read this intriguing ancient tale made available to English audiences after being translated from Sanskrit.

Twenty-Two Goblins

Translated from the Sanskrit by
Arthur William Ryder

Twenty-Two Goblins


On the bank of the Godavari River is a kingdom called the Abiding Kingdom. There lived the son of King Victory, the famous King Triple-victory, mighty as the king of the gods. As this king sat in judgment, a monk called Patience brought him every day one piece of fruit as an expression of homage. And the king took it and gave it each day to the treasurer who stood near. Thus twelve years passed.

Now one day the monk came to court, gave the king a piece of fruit as usual, and went away. But on this day the king gave the fruit to a pet baby monkey that had escaped from his keepers, and happened to wander in. And as the monkey ate the fruit, he split it open, and a priceless, magnificent gem came out.

When the king saw this, he took it and asked the treasurer: “Where have you been keeping the fruits which the monk brought? I gave them to you.” When the treasurer heard this, he was frightened and said: “Your Majesty, I have thrown them all through the window. If your Majesty desires, I will look for them now.” And when the king had dismissed him, he went, but returned in a moment, and said again: “Your Majesty, they were all smashed in the treasury, and in them I see heaps of dazzling gems.”

When he heard this, the king was delighted, and gave the jewels to the treasurer. And when the monk came the next day, he asked him: “Monk, why do you keep honouring me in such an expensive way? Unless I know the reason, I will not take your fruit.”

Then the monk took the king aside and said: “O hero, there is a business in which I need help. So I ask for your help in it, because you are a brave man.” And the king promised his assistance.

Then the monk was pleased, and said again: “O King, on the last night of the waning moon, you must go to the great cemetery at nightfall, and come to me under the fig-tree.” Then the king said “Certainly,” and Patience, the monk, went home well pleased.

So when the night came, the mighty king remembered his promise to the monk, and at dusk he wrapped his head in a black veil, took his sword in his hand, and went to the great cemetery without being seen. When he got there, he looked about, and saw the monk standing under the fig-tree and making a magic circle. So he went up and said: “Monk, here I am. Tell me what I am to do for you.”

And when the monk saw the king, he was delighted and said: “O King, if you wish to do me a favour, go south from here some distance all alone, and you will see a sissoo tree and a dead body hanging from it. Be so kind as to bring that here.”

When the brave king heard this, he agreed, and, true to his promise, turned south and started. And as he walked with difficulty along the cemetery road, he came upon the sissoo tree at some distance, and saw a body hanging on it. So he climbed the tree, cut the rope, and let it fall to the ground. And as it fell, it unexpectedly cried aloud, as if alive. Then the king climbed down, and thinking it was alive, he mercifully rubbed its limbs. Then the body gave a loud laugh.

So the king knew that a goblin lived in it, and said without fear: “What are you laughing about? Come, let us be off.” But then he did not see the goblin on the ground any longer. And when he looked up, there he was, hanging in the tree as before. So the king climbed the tree again, and carefully carried the body down. A brave man’s heart is harder than a diamond, and nothing makes it tremble.

Then he put the body with the goblin in it on his shoulder, and started off in silence. And as he walked along, the goblin in the body said: “O King, to amuse the journey, I will tell you a story. Listen.”

First Goblin

The Prince’s Elopement. Whose fault was the resulting death of his parents-in-law?

There is a city called Benares where Shiva lives. It is loved by pious people like the soil of Mount Kailasa. The river of heaven shines there like a pearl necklace. And in the city lived a king called Valour who burned up all his enemies by his valour, as a fire burns a forest. He had a son named Thunderbolt who broke the pride of the love-god by his beauty, and the pride of men by his bravery. This prince had a clever friend, the son of a counsellor.

One day the prince was enjoying himself with his friend hunting, and went a long distance. And so he came to a great forest. There he saw a beautiful lake, and being tired, he drank from it with his friend the counsellor’s son, washed his hands and feet, and sat down under a tree on the bank.

And then he saw a beautiful maiden who had come there with her servants to bathe. She seemed to fill the lake with the stream of her beauty, and seemed to make lilies grow there with her eyes, and seemed to shame the lotuses with a face more lovely than the moon. She captured the prince’s heart the moment that he saw her. And the prince took her eyes captive.

The girl had a strange feeling when she saw him, but was too modest to say a word. So she gave a hint of the feeling in her heart. She put a lotus on her ear, laid a lily on her head after she had made the edge look like a row of teeth, and placed her hand on her heart. But the prince did not understand her signs, only the clever counsellor’s son understood them all.

A moment later the girl went away, led by her servants. She went home and sat on the sofa and stayed there. But her thoughts were with the prince.

The prince went slowly back to his city, and was terribly lonely without her, and grew thinner every day. Then his friend the son of the counsellor took him aside and told him that she was not hard to find. But he had lost all courage and said: “My friend, I don’t know her name, nor her home, nor her family. How can I find her? Why do you vainly try to comfort me?”

Then the counsellor’s son said: “Did you not see all that she hinted with her signs? When she put the lotus on her ear, she meant that she lived in the kingdom of a king named Ear-lotus. And when she made the row of teeth, she meant that she was the daughter of a man named Bite there. And when she laid the lily on her head, she meant that her name was Lily. And when she placed her hand on her heart, she meant that she loved you. And there is a king named Ear-lotus in the Kalinga country. There is a very rich man there whom the king likes. His real name is Battler, but they call him Bite. He has a pearl of a girl whom he loves more than his life, and her name is Lily. This is true, because people told me. So I understood her signs about her country and the other things.” When the counsellor’s son had said this, the prince was delighted to find him so clever, and pleased because he knew what to do.

Then he formed a plan with the counsellor’s son, and started for the lake again, pretending that he was going to hunt, but really to find the girl that he loved. On the way he rode like the wind away from his soldiers, and started for the Kalinga country with the counsellor’s son.

When they reached the city of King Ear-lotus, they looked about and found the house of the man called Bite, and they went to a house near by to live with an old woman. And the counsellor’s son said to the old woman: “Old woman, do you know anybody named Bite in this city?”

Then the old woman answered him respectfully: “My son, I know him well. I was his nurse. And I am a servant of his daughter Lily. But I do not go there now because my dress is stolen. My naughty son is a gambler and steals my clothes.”

Then the counsellor’s son was pleased and satisfied her with his own cloak and other presents. And he said: “Mother, you must do very secretly what we tell you. Go to Bite’s daughter Lily, and tell her that the prince whom she saw on the bank of the lake is here, and sent you with a love-message to her.”

The old woman was pleased with the gifts and went to Lily at once. And when she got a chance, she said: “My child, the prince and the counsellor’s son have come to take you. Tell me what to do now.” But the girl scolded her and struck her cheeks with both hands smeared with camphor.

The old woman was hurt by this treatment, and came home weeping, and said to the two men: “My sons, see how she left the marks of her fingers on my face.”

And the prince was hopeless and sad, but the very clever counsellor’s son took him aside and said, “My friend, do not be sad. She was only keeping the secret when she scolded the old woman, and put ten fingers white with camphor on her face. She meant that you must wait before seeing her, for the next ten nights are bright with moonlight.”

So the counsellor’s son comforted the prince, took a little gold ornament and sold it in the market, and bought a great dinner for the old woman. So they two took dinner with the old woman. They did this for ten days, and then the counsellor’s son sent her to Lily again, to find out something more.

And the old woman was eager for dainty food and drink. So to please him she went to Lily’s house, and then came back and said: “My children, I went there and stayed with her for some time without speaking. But she spoke herself of my naughtiness in mentioning you, and struck me again on the chest with three fingers stained red. So I came back in disgrace.”

Then the counsellor’s son whispered to the prince: “Don’t be alarmed, my friend. When she left the marks of three red fingers on the old woman’s heart, she meant to say very cleverly that there were three dangerous days coming.” So the counsellor’s son comforted the prince.

And when three days were gone, he sent the old woman to Lily again. And this time she went and was very respectfully entertained, and treated to wine and other things the whole day. But when she was ready to go back in the evening, a terrible shouting was heard outside. They heard people running and crying: “Oh, oh! A mad elephant has escaped from his stable and is running around and stamping on people.”

Then Lily said to the old woman: “Mother, you must not go through the street now where the elephant is. I will put you in a swing and let you down with ropes through this great window into the garden. Then you can climb into a tree and jump on the wall, and go home by way of another tree.” So she had her servants let the old woman down from the window into the garden by a rope-swing. And the old woman went home and told the prince and the counsellor’s son all about it.

Then the counsellor’s son said to the prince: “My friend, your wishes are fulfilled. She has been clever enough to show you the road. So you must follow that same road this very evening to the room of your darling.”

So the prince went to the garden with the counsellor’s son by the road that the old woman had shown them. And there he saw the rope-swing hanging down, and servants above keeping an eye on the road. And when he got into the swing, the servants at the window pulled at the rope and he came to his darling. And when he had gone in, the counsellor’s son went back to the old woman’s house.

But the prince saw Lily, and her face was beautiful like the full moon, and the moonlight of her beauty shone forth, like the night when the moon shines in secret because of the dark. And when she saw him, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. So he married her and stayed hidden with her for some days.

One day he said to his wife: “My dear, my friend the counsellor’s son came with me, and he is staying all alone at the old woman’s house. I must go and see him, then I will come back.”

But Lily was shrewd and said: “My dear, I must ask you something. Did you understand the signs I made, or was it the counsellor’s son?” And the prince said to her: “My dear, I did not understand them all, but my friend has wonderful wisdom. He understood everything and told me.” Then the sweet girl thought, and said: “My dear, you did wrong not to tell me before. Your friend is a real brother to me. I ought to have sent him some nuts and other nice things at the very first.”

Then she let him go, and he went to his friend by night by the same road, and told all that his wife had said. But the counsellor’s son said: “That is foolish,” and did not think much of it. So they spent the night talking.

Then when the time for the twilight sacrifice came, a friend of Lily’s came there with cooked rice and nuts in her hand. She came and asked the counsellor’s son about his health and gave him the present. And she cleverly tried to keep the prince from eating. “Your wife is expecting you to dinner,” she said, and a moment later she went away.

Then the counsellor’s son said to the prince: “Look, your Majesty. I will show you something curious.” So he took a little of the cooked rice and gave it to a dog that was there. And the moment he ate it, the dog died. And the prince asked the counsellor’s son what this strange thing could mean.

And he replied: “Your Majesty, she knew that I was clever because I understood her signs, and she wanted to kill me out of love for you. For she thought the prince would not be all her own while I was alive, but would leave her for my sake and go back to his own city. So she sent me poisoned food to eat. But you must not be angry with her. I will think up some scheme.”

Then the prince praised the counsellor’s son, and said: “You are truly the body of wisdom.” And then suddenly a great wailing of grief-stricken people was heard: “Alas! Alas! The king’s little son is dead.”

When he heard this, the counsellor’s son was delighted, and said: “Your Majesty, go to-night to Lily’s house, and make her drink wine until she loses her senses and seems to be dead. Then as she lies there, make a mark on her hip with a red-hot fork, steal her jewels, and come back the old way through the window. After that I will do the right thing.”

Then he made a three-pronged fork and gave it to the prince. And the prince took the crooked, cruel thing, hard as the weapon of Death, and went by night as before to Lily’s house. “A king,” he thought, “ought not to disregard the words of a high-minded counsellor.” So when he had stupefied her with wine, he branded her hip with the fork, stole her jewels, returned to his friend, and told him everything, showing him the jewels.

Then the counsellor’s son felt sure his scheme was successful. He went to the cemetery in the morning, and disguised himself as a hermit, and the prince as his pupil. And he said: “Take this pearl necklace from among the jewels. Go and sell it in the market-place. And if the policemen arrest you, say this: It was given to me to sell by my teacher.’”

So the prince went to the market-place and stood there offering the pearl necklace for sale, and he was arrested while doing it by the policemen. And as they were eager to find out about the theft of the jewels from Bite’s daughter, they took the prince at once to the chief of police. And when he saw that the culprit was dressed like a hermit, he asked him very gently: “Holy sir, where did you get this pearl necklace? It belongs to Bite’s daughter and was stolen.” Then the prince said to them: “Gentlemen, my teacher gave it to me to sell. You had better go and ask him.”

Then the chief of police went and asked him: “Holy sir, how did this pearl necklace come into your pupil’s hand?”

And the shrewd counsellor’s son whispered to him: “Sir, as I am a hermit, I wander about all the time in this region. And as I happened to be here in this cemetery, I saw a whole company of witches who came here at night. And one of the witches split open the heart of a king’s son, and offered it to her master. She was mad with wine, and screwed up her face most horribly. But when she impudently tried to snatch my rosary as I prayed, I became angry, and branded her on the hip with a three-pronged fork which I had made red-hot with a magic spell. And I took this pearl necklace from her neck. Then, as it was not a thing for a hermit, I sent it to be sold.”

When he heard this, the chief of police went and told the whole story to the king. And when the king heard and saw the evidence, he sent the old woman, who was reliable, to identify the pearl necklace. And he heard from her that Lily was branded on the hip.

Then he was convinced that she was really a witch and had devoured his son. So he went himself to the counsellor’s son, who was disguised as a hermit, and asked how Lily should be punished. And by his advice, she was banished from the city, though her parents wept. So she was banished naked to the forest and knew that the counsellor’s son had done it all, but she did not die.

And at nightfall the prince and the counsellor’s son put off their hermit disguise, mounted on horseback, and found her weeping. They put her on a horse and took her to their own country. And when they got there, the prince lived most happily with her.

But Bite thought that his daughter was eaten by wild beasts in the wood, and he died of grief. And his wife died with him.

When he had told this story, the goblin asked the king: “O King, who was to blame for the death of the parents: the prince, or the counsellor’s son, or Lily? You seem like a very wise man, so resolve my doubts on this point. If you know and do not tell me the truth, then your head will surely fly into a hundred pieces. And if you give a good answer, then I will jump from your shoulder and go back to the sissoo tree.”

Then King Triple-victory said to the goblin: “You are a master of magic. You surely know yourself, but I will tell you. It was not the fault of any of the three you mentioned. It was entirely the fault of King Ear-lotus.”

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