Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hornbill Girl

Horn-bill Girl

A Meitei Folktale Retold

Piyainu was a kindhearted girl, the only daughter of a trader. She lived with her parents in a village in the ancient land of Meitrabak. They were a small but happy family. Unfortunately, Piyainu's mother passed away when she was still very young and her father remarried.

One day, Piyainu's father left for trade. He would be gone for all of three months, and it was the first time since her mother's death that he'd ventured out again for such a long time. Piyainu was sad to see him go, as he doted on her and her little stepbrother.

Piyainu's stepmother started showing her true colors as soon as her father left. She made Piyainu do all the housework. As soon as she woke up, Piyainu had to water the plants in the garden, get flowers for morning worship, sweep and mop the floor and the courtyard and then wash, cook and clean the dishes. She longed to play with her little step brother, but her step mother made sure she was busy all day long. She was never happy with what Piyainu did, no matter what, finding faults with her over trivial matters too. One day, she went so far as to deny Piyainu any meal. She even prevented her from coming indoors and made her sleep outside, near the dog's den. Her little step brother managed to get her some food saying it was for the dog on the first day, but soon her step mother found out and stopped that too.

Piyainu spent the night outside on an empty stomach, crying bitterly. She missed her mother so much and even her father, for her stepmother wouldn't have dared to do anything like this had he been around. As she cried, she saw flocks of horn-bill flying by. She addressed them, "Oh dear friends, please share some of your feathers with me." And they obliged by shedding some of their feathers which she collected in a basket. Days went by, and her step mother still had not relented -- Piyainu would spend the night out in the open even after doing all the household chores all by herself. However, she now had a purpose, as she looked forward to seeing the horn-bill return home every evening and request them to share their feathers.

When her basket was full of feathers, she made herself wings and put them on. She waited for the horn-bill to fly past her house. As soon as she saw them, she cried, "Dear friends, please take me with you, as I no longer want to be human, I would like to join your flock!" And she narrated her story to them in tears. The horn-bill took pity on her and accepted her into their flock, and helped her fly away with them. Her step brother saw her just as she was joining the flock and cried out, "Sister! where are you going? Please take me with you!" But she said, "Dear brother, stay home, for now I am a bird but you are still a human. Take care of Mother and Father and watch for me when I fly by!" and flew off. Her brother cried, but all in vain, as she soon disappeared over the horizon with the horn-bill.

When her father returned home a few weeks later, he learnt all about what had happened. He was very sorry and reprimanded Piyainu's step mother. He then watched out for the horn-bill to fly by and as soon as he saw them, he called out, "Oh dear birds, is my Piyainu among you?" He did find her eventually and she flew down on his arms but refused any food. "Dear father, I am now truly a horn-bill for I have eaten their food and stayed with them. They were my friends when humans were not, and they accepted me as their family when my own disowned me. So I am sorry, but I cannot come back ever again. Please forgive mother." Saying this, she flew away, never to be seen again.





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