Sir Buzz and the Soldier's Son
Once upon a time, there lived a young man and his widowed mother. They were desperately poor, and their situation had grown so dire that they had nothing left to eat in their humble home.
One day, the young man turned to his mother and said, "Mother, if you could spare me four shillings, I'll set off to seek my fortune in the wide world."
His mother sighed and replied, "My dear, where am I to find four shillings when we can't even afford a loaf of bread?"
The young man thought for a moment and then remembered his father's old coat. "Wait, there might be something in the pocket," he said.
To their surprise, they found six shillings hidden at the very bottom of the pocket. The young man chuckled and said, "Well, this is more than I expected. Take these shillings, Mother, and you can manage until I return. The rest will see me through until I find my fortune."
With those words, he set off on his journey. Along the way, he encountered a peculiar sight—a tigress licking her paw and moaning in pain. Fearful but compassionate, he hesitated.
The tigress spoke in a feeble voice, "Young man, if you would remove this thorn from my paw, I would be eternally grateful."
He was hesitant at first. "What if you maul me when it hurts you?" he asked.
"I shall turn around towards this tree." said the tigress. I will pat it instead. But please help me" she said, and the young man agreed.
As promised, the young man pulled out the thorn. When the tigress winced in pain, she struck a nearby tree with a powerful blow, splitting it into pieces. She turned to him and said, "Take this box as a token of my gratitude, but do not open it until you've travelled nine miles."
With the box in hand, the young man continued his journey. After five miles, he couldn't help but notice that the box had grown heavier. It became increasingly burdensome with every step. He struggled on until he had travelled eight and a quarter miles when his patience ran out.
He exclaimed, "I suspect that tigress was a witch, playing tricks on me. I can't bear this nonsense any longer. Rest there, you wretched old box! I don't care what's inside."
He tossed the box to the ground, and it burst open. Out stepped a tiny old man, only one span high, with a beard a span and a quarter long, trailing on the ground.
The little man began to scold the young man for his rough handling of the box. The young man couldn't help but chuckle at the comical sight. "What's your name, sir?" he asked.
"I am Sir Buzz!" snapped the tiny mannikin, still fuming.
The young man replied, "Well, Sir Buzz, you certainly weigh a lot for your size. But what are you doing in that box?"
"Enough of your insolence!" replied Sir Buzz. "I'm here to serve you faithfully, as instructed by my mistress."
The young man, feeling hungry, said, "Serve me then, Sir Buzz, with a meal. I have four shillings to pay for it."
In an instant, Sir Buzz whizzed away like a big bee to the nearest confectioner's shop. He stood beside a large preserving pan, his one-span height and a quarter-span beard hidden from view. In a booming voice, he demanded, "Ho! Ho! Sir Confectioner, bring me sweets!"
The confectioner looked around but couldn't see anyone. Sir Buzz, growing impatient, pinched and kicked him, shouting, "Impudent knave! Can't you see me? I was right here by the preserving pan!"
Apologizing profusely, the confectioner quickly prepared a bundle of sweets, which Sir Buzz paid for with the four shillings.
Then, Sir Buzz flew to a corn chandler's shop, hiding behind a basket of flour. Once again, he called out loudly, "Ho! Ho! Sir Chandler, bring me two hundredweight of flour!"
The corn chandler, unable to spot him, faced Sir Buzz's wrathful pinches and kicks. He finally asked, "Do you have a cart or a beast of burden? Two hundredweights of flour is quite heavy."
Sir Buzz replied, "Your questions are none of your business! Just do as you're told and tie up two hundred pounds of flour into a bundle. I'll take it with me."
The corn chandler quickly bundled up the flour and handed it to the tiny mannikin, expecting that the weight of the load would surely crush him. But to his surprise, with a whizz, Sir Buzz flew off, the shillings still jingling in his pocket. Boom! Bing! Boom!
The soldier's son couldn't help but wonder where his one-span servant had disappeared to. Suddenly, with a swift whirl, the little man alighted beside him. He wiped his brow with a handkerchief, appearing rather exhausted, and said contemplatively, "I sure hope I've brought enough, but you men have such terrible appetites!"
"More than enough, I'd say," chuckled the lad, eyeing the substantial bundles.
With Sir Buzz taking charge, they cooked up some girdle cakes. The soldier's son managed to devour three of them along with a handful of sweets, but the one-span mannikin proved insatiable, gobbling up all the rest while muttering at each mouthful, "You men have such terrible appetites—such terrible appetites!"
Their journey continued as the soldier's son and his steadfast companion, Sir Buzz, travelled a great distance. Eventually, they arrived at the grand city of the King Indra.
The King had a beautiful daughter named Princess Blossom. She was so delicate and fair that she weighed no more than five flowers. Every morning, she was meticulously weighed on golden scales, and the scale always tipped at the exact moment the fifth flower was placed on it—no more, no less.
Fate intervened, as it often does when the soldier's son caught a glimpse of the Princess Blossom by sheer chance. Instantly, he was consumed by a deep and passionate love for her. His infatuation was all-encompassing; he couldn't sleep or eat, and all day long, he pleaded with his faithful mannikin, saying, "Oh, dearest Sir Buzz! Oh, kind Sir Buzz! Carry me to Princess Blossom, so I may see and speak to her."
"Carry you?" snapped the diminutive mannikin, scoffing at the idea. "That's quite the story! Why, you're ten times my size! If anyone's doing any carrying, it should be me!"
Despite the mannikin's initial reluctance, he eventually relented when he saw the soldier's son's genuine desperation. He instructed the lad to sit on his hand, and then, with a thunderous boom, a resounding bing, and a powerful whir, they were gone, transported instantly to the very heart of the royal palace.
The hour was late, and Princess Blossom lay fast asleep. The booming entrance of the soldier's son startled her, and she was on the verge of screaming in terror. However, the young man, brimming with politeness and grace, reassured her in the most eloquent of language, urging her not to be alarmed. Their conversation soon turned to delightful, and they found themselves lost in each other's words. All the while, Sir Buzz dutifully stood guard at the door, ensuring their privacy. However, he wisely placed a brick on its end first so as not to appear overly intrusive.
As the dawn's first light began to seep through the windows, wearied from their conversation, the soldier's son and Princess Blossom succumbed to sleep. Recognizing the predicament, the ever-faithful Sir Buzz pondered his next move. "Now, what is to be done?" he wondered aloud. "If my master remains here asleep, someone will surely discover him, and disaster may follow. But if I awaken him, there's a good chance he'll refuse to leave."
Without further delay, Sir Buzz slid his hand beneath the bed, and with a bing and a boom, he whisked the soldier's son away to a vast garden just beyond the town. There, he gently set him down in the cool shade beneath the largest tree, and, with incredible strength, uprooted the second-largest tree, hoisting it over his shoulder. With a tree in tow, Sir Buzz paced back and forth, keeping a vigilant watch.
As word spread throughout the town that Princess Blossom had been abducted, the entire populace sprang into action, their curiosity piqued. Among them, the one-eyed Chief Constable arrived at the entrance to the garden.
"Who goes there?" challenged the valiant Sir Buzz, brandishing the tree with a flourish.
The Chief Constable, hindered by his lone eye and unable to discern the mannikin behind the branches, responded with resolve, "I seek the Princess Blossom!"
"I'll blossom you! Out of my garden, if you please!" yelled the one-span mannikin, his one-and-a-quarter-span beard trailing on the ground. With that, he struck the Constable's pony with the tree, sending it bolting away and nearly unseating its rider.
The beleaguered Constable wasted no time. He rushed straight to the King, gasping out his report, "Your Majesty! I am convinced that Princess Blossom, your daughter, resides in your Majesty's garden, just outside the town. There's a fearsome tree there engaged in combat."
Upon hearing this alarming news, the King swiftly assembled his cavalry and foot soldiers, and together they made their way to the garden. However, the formidable Sir Buzz, concealed behind the tree, proved an insurmountable obstacle. In the ensuing melee, half the soldiers met their end, while the rest fled in terror. The resounding clash of battle roused the young couple from their slumber, and now more convinced than ever that they could not bear to be apart, they resolved to embark on a journey together.
After the skirmish had subsided, the soldier's son, Princess Blossom, and Sir Buzz ventured forth, setting out to explore the wide world beyond. The soldier's son, euphoric over his fortune in winning the hand of Princess Blossom, confidently declared to Sir Buzz, "My fortune is assured, and I won't be needing your services anymore. You can return to your mistress."
"Pooh!" dismissed Sir Buzz. "Youth often believe such things. Have it your way, but do take this strand of hair from my beard. If you ever find yourself in dire straits, simply burn it in a fire, and I'll come to your aid."
With that, Sir Buzz let out a resounding boom and bing, departing on his own adventures, leaving the soldier's son and Princess Blossom to savour the happiness of their shared journey.
However, fate took an unexpected turn as they ventured deeper into a vast forest. Lost and disoriented, they wandered aimlessly for days, their stomachs empty and spirits waning.
Just when it seemed all hope was lost, a Brahman stumbled upon them. He appeared to be a kind and compassionate man, his words offering a glimmer of salvation. He spoke with empathy, saying, "Alas, you poor children! Come with me to my home, and I shall provide you with nourishment."
Blinded by their hunger and exhaustion, the soldier's son and Princess Blossom accepted the Brahman's offer without a second thought. They followed him to his dwelling, their gratitude masking the looming danger. The vampire, maintaining a facade of politeness, instructed them to prepare a meal while he ventured off to gather firewood. He told the couple to make themselves at home, and handed them a set of keys, cautioning them against opening the cupboard with the golden key.
Princess Blossom set about the task of preparing the meal, while the soldier's son's curiosity got the better of him. He couldn't resist the temptation to take a peek into the chests and drawers. To his astonishment, he discovered a treasure trove of exquisite jewels, sumptuous dresses, ornate cups, and gleaming platters. The wealth of gold and silver was beyond imagination.
Unable to resist the allure, the soldier's son disregarded the Brahman's caution and exclaimed, "I must see what wondrous secret lies within the cupboard with the golden key." With trembling hands, he unlocked it, revealing a macabre collection of human skulls, meticulously cleaned and polished. Dread gripped his heart as he comprehended the horrifying truth.
In a frantic panic, he rushed back to Princess Blossom, his voice quivering with fear as he whispered, "We are in grave danger! This man no Brahman, he's a vampire!" Their fear heightened as they heard the vampire approaching the door.
Just as they heard the vampire approaching the door, Princess Blossom, ever the brave one, acted swiftly. With barely a moment to spare, she thrust Sir Buzz's enchanted hair into the blazing fire. Just then, a thunderous series of booms and bings resonated through the air, growing louder and nearer.
The vampire, well aware of his impending adversary, shifted into a deluge of heavy rain, a torrential downpour in a desperate bid to drown Sir Buzz. However, the ever-resourceful mannikin transformed himself into the tempestuous storm wind, fiercely battling back the rain.
Seeing his rain ploy thwarted, the vampire morphed into a dove, but Sir Buzz, relentless as a hawk, pursued it relentlessly. The dove's transformation into a rose was a final act of desperation, and it plummeted into King Indra's lap just as he reclined in his celestial court, serenaded by dancing girls. Sir Buzz, acting with nimble wit, assumed the guise of an old musician. He approached the bard strumming a guitar and said, "Dear brother, you seem tired. Allow me to take over."
With incredible skill, he played and sang, enchanting King Indra and his court with melodies of unrivalled sweetness. The king, deeply moved, offered a reward. "Name your desire, and it shall be yours," he said.
Sir Buzz, ever humble, replied, "I seek only the rose that lies in your Majesty's lap."
King Indra, gracious in his response, said, "It is but a rose, fallen from the heavens, yet it is yours." With a graceful gesture, he tossed the rose towards the musician, and the petals fluttered to the ground. Swiftly, Sir Buzz knelt down, collecting them all. Only one petal managed to slip away, transforming into a mouse. Sir Buzz, with lightning speed, shifted into a cat, swiftly pouncing and devouring the mouse.
Meanwhile, within the vampire's hut, Princess Blossom and the soldier's son trembled with fear as they awaited the outcome of the supernatural battle. Suddenly, with a bing and a boom, Sir Buzz returned, triumphant and unscathed. He shook his head, speaking with an air of both concern and admonition, "You two are ill-prepared to fend for yourselves. It's best you return home."
With a single hand, he gathered the treasures of jewels and gold, while with the other, he gently cradled Princess Blossom and the soldier's son. In an instant, they were whisked away to their home. Their mother, who had been living on a meagre two shillings, was overjoyed to see them safe and sound.
With a resounding boom and bing, louder than ever before, Sir Buzz departed without waiting for gratitude. He disappeared from sight, never to be seen or heard from again. The soldier's son and Princess Blossom, free from danger and united in love, enjoyed their happily ever after.
Retold from "Tales of the Punjab Told by the People" by Flora Annie Steel
Original illustrations by by J. Lockwood Kipling C.I.E. included.