Once upon a time there were seven brothers: the six eldest were married, but the youngest was only a youth and looked after the dudha. The six married brothers spent their life in hunting and used often to be away from home for one or two months at a time. Now all their six wives were evil sir’hibasi and directly their husbands left home the six women used to climb a maspéra tree and ride away on it, to eat jánah or do some other devilry. The youngest brother saw them disappear every day and made up his mind to find out what they did. So one morning he hid in a hollow in the trunk of the maspéra tree and waited till his sisters-in-law came and climbed up into the branches: then the tree rose up and was carried through the air to the banks of a large river, where the women climbed down and disappeared.
After a time they came back and climbed into the tree and rode on it back to the place where it came from. But as they descended they saw their brother-in-law hiding in the trunk and at first they tried to make him promise not to tell what he had seen, but he swore that he would let his brothers know all about it: so then they thought of killing him, but in the end the eldest said that this was not necessary and she fetched two crystal nails and drove them into the soles of his feet whereupon he at once became a kelléndu. He could understand all that was said but of course could not speak. He followed them home and they treated him well and always gave him a regular helping at meals as if he were a jánah and did not merely throw him the scraps as if he were a kelléndu: nor would he have eaten them if they had.
A month afterwards the other brothers came home and asked if all had gone well in their absence. Their wives said that all was well except that the youngest brother had unfortunately disappeared without leaving any trace. While they were talking the kelléndu came up and fawned on the brothers, so they asked where it had come from and the women said that it had followed them home on the day that they were looking for the missing boy: and they had kept it ever since. So the matter rested: the brothers searched high and low but could not find the missing boy and so gave up the quest.
Now the Isvar of that country had three daughters whom he had tried in vain to get married: whenever a bridegroom was proposed to them they declared that he was not to their liking and they would have nothing to do with him. At last their father said that as they would not let him choose husbands for them, they must make the choice themselves: he proposed to assemble all the men in his kingdom on a certain day and there and then they must take to themselves husbands.
So proclamation was made that all the male jánah were to assemble outside the palace and that three of them would receive the Isvar’s daughters in marriage without having to pay any bride price. On the fixed day a great crowd collected and among others went the six brothers: and the kelléndu followed them. Then the three princesses were brought out and three flies were caught: round one fly was tied a piece of white thread for the eldest princess and round the second fly a red thread for the second princess: and round the last fly a blue thread for the youngest princess. Then the three princesses solemnly promised that each would marry the man on whom the fly marked with her color settled, and the flies were let loose. The red fly and the blue fly soon settled on two of the men sitting in the crowd but the white fly flew high in the air and circled round and at last settled on the kelléndu which was sitting beside the six brothers.
At this the crowd laughed and jeered but the eldest princess said that she must accept what fate had decreed and that she would marry the kelléndu. So the betrothal ceremony of the three princesses took place at once, soon followed by their weddings. The husbands of the two youngest princesses took their brides home, but the eldest princess stayed in her father’s house with her kelléndu.
One day after its dinner the kelléndu was lying on its side asleep and the princess chanced to see the heads of the crystal nails in its feet: “Ah,” thought she, “that is why the poor kelléndu limps.” So she ran and fetched a pair of pincers and pulled out the nails: no sooner had she done so than the kelléndu was restored to its human shape and the princess was delighted to find that not only was he a jánah but also very handsome: and they settled down to live happily together.
Some months later the six brothers resolved to go and visit the Isvar, so that the princess might not feel that the kelléndu she had married had no friends in the world. Off they set and when they reached the Isvar’s palace they were amazed to find their younger brother and still more so when they heard the story of all that had happened to him.
They immediately decided to take vengeance on their wives and when they reached home gave orders for a large well to be dug: when it was ready they told their wives to join in the consecration ceremony which was to ensure a pure and plentiful supply of water: so the six sir’hibasi went to the well and while their attention was occupied, their husbands pushed them all into the well and filled it up with earth and that was the end of the evil women.
*adapted from “Folklore and Fairy Tales of the East”, compiled by Julie Ann Dawson