Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch
Once there lived a king who had a daughter who no one wanted to marry. The king summoned all soothsayers, palmists, astrologers and fortune-tellers of the land to determine the fate of his daughter. They all came to the conclusion that the child who was in his brother’s wife’s womb would marry his daughter. The king however was hostile to his sister-in-law and did not like her at all. Moreover, by then his daughter was twenty. He also felt by the time his nephew would grow old enough to marry, his daughter would have passed the marriageable age. The king had asked his brother to divorce his wife many times, but he brusquely refused.
One day when his brother went on a hunting expedition, the king summoned his men and commanded them to take his brother’s wife to a forest and rip her belly open. The servants did exactly what the king directed them and hurried back to the palace. In the meantime, a shepherd walking nearby noticed the woman lying dead with a baby wriggled in her womb.
Ironically, the shepherd did not have any child. He extracted the baby out of mother’s womb, and carried it to a midwife to get his umbilical cord cut. The shepherd and his wife were so happy that they could barely sleep that night.
Time passed. The boy grew into a handsome youth. One day, the king set out on a hunting trip. Wandering about the jungle, thirst overwhelmed the king’s party. They went to a hamlet in search of water. The king, leading the caravan made it to the nearest wigwam which coincidently belonged to the shepherd who was out then. The shepherd’s son, who actually was king’s nephew, brought water to the members of the royal caravan. The king was stunned by appearance of the boy. He was very handsome.
He asked the young man, “Whose son are you, boy?”
The boy said, “I am the son of the shepherd.”
But the king did not believe him. He called for shepherd’s wife and inquired of her: “Who are the parents of this boy? I’ve heard you don’t have any child.”
The shepherd’s wife retorted, “O Sovereign! The boy first belongs to the Almighty Allah, and then he is my son”.
In the meantime, the shepherd arrived and noticed the king looked angry. He had barely exchanged greetings with the gathering when the king bluntly asked him, “Hey shepherd! Whose son is the boy?”
He humbly answered, “Your Majesty! He is my son”.
The king looked askance at him and said, “The boy does not resemble any of you. How come you say he is your son?” King’s anger peaked. He threatened the couple,
“Tell me the truth otherwise I will cut the boy into two halves”.
The helpless shepherd admitted: “O Honorable king! Let the lie be separated from the truth. He is not my blood but I’ve brought him up. Many years ago, I went to pasture to tend my cattle herd, I saw a woman lying on the ground with her belly ripped open and the baby was in her womb. I took the baby home. The handsome young man who is now standing before you, is the very baby whom we brought up”.
The king knew the woman was his brother’s wife and the baby was the child who the soothsayers had declared a groom for his daughter. The desire to kill the boy sprang in king’s heart in that very instant.
The king immediately wrote a letter to his vizier addressing him: “The moment this boy delivers the letter, kill him. Carry his dead body to the graveyard with great pomp and show. I will join you there”.
He gave the letter to the boy and instructed him to deliver it to the vizier. The boy set out on his mission. He reached his destination by midday. It was summertime and everyone was asleep. The young man tucked the letter in the fold of his turban and paused by the king’s palace to beat out the heat and eventually drifted off to sleep.
Heaven knows at what moment a maidservant noticed a handsome young man was lying asleep at the door. She rushed to the princess and informed. The princess followed her out of the palace. When princess’ eyes fell on the boy, she almost stunned. When she drew a little close to him, she noticed a piece of paper tucked in the fold of his turban. She gently extracted the letter and read it. She figured out her father’s handwriting and became aware of his intentions. Thus, she hurried back to the palace and addressed a new letter to the vizier. She wrote: “The moment this young man delivers you the letter, solemnize his marriage with my daughter amid great celebration before my arrival.” She scrawled her father’s signature at the bottom of the letter and tucked it back in the fold of young man’s turban.
In the evening the boy got up and walked over to the vizier and hand delivered him the letter. The vizier after having gone through the letter gazed at the handsome boy and was convinced that at last the king had found a young man who deserved to be the husband of the princess. The vizier sent for a mullah to solemnise the marriage.
Later in the day when the king leading his caravan reached the graveyard, there was nobody there. The sound of drumbeat was coming from the palace. The king sent a servant to his vizier and asked him if he had performed the task he had been told of. The vizier replied in affirmative and asked the servant to tell the king to come and see with his own eyes.
When the king arrived, he was furious. He asked the vizier for the corpse of the young man. The vizier was taken aback. He asked the king, “Whose corpse?” The king said that he had written asking him to kill the young man bearing the letter. He had further instructed he wait with his dead body at the graveyard for his return. The vizier was confounded. He went and brought the letter he had received and presented it to the king. When the king read the letter, he too was surprised to see his signature scrawled at the bottom of the letter but there was not a word about young man’s murder.
Thus, he was convinced that “Even a simurgh cannot change one’s destiny”. His daughter was destined to marry with his nephew. And what is written in the destiny cannot be changed by one’s desire.
(This folktale was originally published in Gidar-12 January 2021 retold by Sadiq Saba. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights.)
 The simurgh is a mythical bird. It is believed that whosoever has this bird will have whatever they desire for.
Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.
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