The blacksmith’s wife stole the Dove’s egg, and all were punished

A dove laid an egg in the hollow of a big tree in front of the blacksmith’s house. When she flew away from her nest in search of food, the blacksmith’s wife stole the egg. The dove came back to her nest and found the egg missing. The dove knew at once that the blacksmith’s wife must have taken it. So she went to the woman and pleaded, “Give me back my egg, please.”



The blacksmith’s wife pretended that she knew nothing about it and said, “What egg are you talking about? I didn’t see any egg.” The dove was heartbroken and flew about looking for help. On the way she met a pig, who asked, “Why are you crying, little bird?” She said, “O pig, can you help me? Will you dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”

“No, not I,” grunted the pig, walking away. She then met a hunter, who asked, “Why are you in tears, little bird?” The bird said, “Will you shoot an arrow at the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”

“Why should I? Leave me out of this,” said the hunter, walking away. The dove wept some more and flew on till she met a rat, who also asked why she was in tears. The dove said, “Will you gnaw and cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?” The rat too said, “Not I,” and went his own way.



Next she met a cat, who asked, “What’s the matter, little bird?” “Will you catch the rat who wouldn’t cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”

The cat would rather mind her own business. The poor dove was beside herself with anger and grief. Her wails attracted the attention of a passing dog, who asked her what was bothering her. She said, “Will you bite the cat who wouldn’t catch the rat who wouldn’t cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”

“No, not I,” said the dog and ran away. The dove’s wails grew louder and louder. An old man with a long white beard came that way and asked the crying bird what the matter was. She said, “Grandfather, will you beat the dog who wouldn’t bite the cat who wouldn’t catch the rat who wouldn’t cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”

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The old man didn’t want to do anything of the sort and shook his head and went his way. The dove next went to the fire for help and asked it to burn the white beard of the old man, but the fire wouldn’t do it. Next the dove went to the water and asked it to put out the fire which wouldn’t burn the beard of the old man who refused to beat the dog who wouldn’t bite the cat who wouldn’t catch the rat who wouldn’t cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole the egg. Water too was unwilling to help.

Not long afterwards, the dove met an elephant and asked if he would stir up the water which wouldn’t put out the fire which refused to burn the beard of the old man who wouldn’t. The elephant said, “No, not I.” Then the dove looked about and found a black ant, who also asked her what was troubling her. “O ant! I know you can help me. Will you go into the elephant’s trunk and bite him for not stirring up the water which wouldn’t put out the fire which wouldn’t burn the beard of the old man who wouldn’t beat the dog who wouldn’t bite the cat who wouldn’t catch the rat who wouldn’t cut the bowstring of the hunter who wouldn’t shoot the pig who wouldn’t dig up the yams of the blacksmith’s wife who stole my egg?”



“Why not? Here I go,” said the ant and crawled inside the elephant’s trunk and bit it in the softest place, very hard. This made the elephant dash into the pool of water and stir it up. The water splashed and began to put out the fire, which went mad and burned the white beard of the old man, who beat the dog, who ran after the cat and bit her. The cat caught the rat, who gnawed the bowstring of the hunter’s bow. The hunter tied on a new one and shot an arrow at the pig, who went and dug up all the yams of the blacksmith’s wife. The blacksmith’s wife knew at once what she had to do and carefully put the dove’s egg back in the nest in the hollow of the big tree. That’s how the dove got her egg back.


Folktales From India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two Languages, selected and edited by A. K. Ramanujan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.

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