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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

The Basket-Peddler Princess

Once upon a time, in a distant land, there was a king who had a son. Unfortunately, the young prince had lost his mother at a very early age. But he grew up to be an incredibly handsome young man, and no one in the kingdom could match his good looks.

As time passed, the king eagerly anticipated his son's wedding day, all with joyful music and dancing and lively drumming. He decided it was time for his son to find a beautiful bride from one of the neighbouring kingdoms.

To make this happen, the king entrusted a trusted slave with a portrait of his son and the task of finding an equally beautiful girl for the prince. The slave set out on a journey, travelling far and wide. After days and nights on the road, he finally stumbled upon a humble house where he found a girl of unparalleled beauty living with a poor family.

The slave was captivated by the girl's beauty and couldn't believe his luck. He compared her to the prince's portrait and was convinced that she was the perfect match. He approached the girl's father and explained his mission, praising the girl's beauty and asking for her hand in marriage to the prince.

The poor man was taken aback by the proposal. He thought, "How could a girl from our humble home ever be a suitable match for a prince?"

He suspected that the slave might be mocking him. But the slave swore by the honour of the man's daughter, insisting that she was indeed worthy of becoming the prince's bride.

Reluctantly, the man agreed, exchanging a portrait of his daughter for the prince's portrait. The slave continued his journey, reaching various places along the way. Eventually, he arrived at his home, having travelled for many days.

One evening, he sought shelter in a small village and stayed at the home of a friendly maidservant. During their conversation, the maidservant learned about the slave's mission and asked to see the prince's bride's portrait. Unbeknownst to the slave, this maidservant had a secret – she was in love with the prince.

When she saw the girl's portrait, her heart sank. She feared that once the prince married such a beautiful girl, he would forget about her. Envious, she secretly scratched the girl's portrait, damaging one of her eyes, and slipped it back into the slave's pocket.

The next morning, the slave continued his journey and eventually reached the king's palace. He presented the portrait of the girl to the king, who was delighted and informed his son about the impending marriage.

The prince returned from a hunting trip excited about his upcoming wedding. But when he took out the portrait, he noticed the scratch on the girl's eye. Despite her extraordinary beauty, the prince felt hesitant about the marriage but decided to follow his father's wishes. And so, the wedding preparations began.

However, on their first night together, the prince requested that their beds be placed apart in a dark room, and he turned off all the lights. It left the girl deeply puzzled. She worried that something was wrong with the prince but couldn't bring herself to ask. Silently, she endured the loneliness and separation, feeling increasingly anxious about her new life.

As time passed, rumours spread about the prince's bride not bearing any children, leading to gossip and speculation among the people. Frustrated by the wagging tongues and the strange behaviour of the prince, the girl decided to take matters into her own hands.

In secret, she crafted and peddled winnowing baskets, going from one house to the next. On one fateful day, she found herself at the maidservant's home, the very person responsible for her anguish. Discovering her husband seated beside the maidservant left her in a state of utter disbelief. The maidservant appeared equally surprised.

The prince's gaze was fixated upon the basket peddler. He thought she has been compelled to sell her wares due to circumstances.

He inquired, "Do you reside in this city?" The girl nodded in agreement.

The prince pressed further, "Could you tell me where you live, precisely?"

She replied, "I live in a dark house somewhere closeby."

"Dimly lit?" The prince sank into contemplation. Shortly after, he addressed the girl, "Regardless, there's something I need to discuss with you. Where should we meet?"

"I'll be waiting for you by the riverbank tomorrow," the girl replied.

The following day, she invited her maidservant to accompany her to the riverbank for a hair wash. She carried a mirror, hair oil, and soap, and, along with her maidservant, made their way to the riverside. Concealing her face behind her hair strands, she noticed the prince approaching on his horse. She turned to her maidservant and whispered, "Pass me the bottle of hair oil."

Without warning, she shattered the bottle and accidentally cut her hand with a shard. Tears welled up in her eyes. Meanwhile, the prince hurried to her side. Seeing her bleeding hand, he didn't hesitate. He tore a piece of cloth from his chador and used it to dress her wound.

The girl turned to the prince, expressing regret, "Today, our meeting was marred by this accident."

The prince reassured her, "We will have other opportunities to meet." With that, he rode back to the palace, while the girl and her maidservant took a different route home.

As night fell, the prince followed his usual routine, extinguishing the lamps and retiring to his bed. However, once his wife was convinced that he had drifted into a deep sleep, she quietly moved her bed closer to his. Suddenly, as the prince shifted in his sleep, his hand accidentally brushed against his wife's wounded hand. In response, the girl let out a startled cry:

"Oh, my goodness! Ah! You touched my injured hand."

Perplexed, the prince inquired about her hand, asking, "What happened to your hand?"

The girl responded, "Didn't the shard pierce it by the riverside?"

"A shard?" The prince was taken aback, his curiosity piqued.

"Yes, indeed," affirmed the girl.

The bewildered prince promptly rose from his bed, utterly surprised to find his wife's bed now adjacent to his own. Turning to her, he asked, "How do you know about a girl's hand being pierced by a shard by the riverside? It wasn't you, was it?"

With a gentle smile, the girl admitted, "It was indeed me."

The prince shook his head in disbelief, "You're lying to me!"

The girl calmly replied, "If you doubt my words, turn on the lights and see for yourself."

He asked the servants to leave the room and lit up the lamps. The moment his gaze fell upon his beautiful wife, he was entranced. Deep remorse filled his heart, and he held her close, apologizing, "My beloved, please forgive me. I was wrong, and I feel betrayed. When I first saw your portrait, I mistakenly noticed a flaw in your eye... I had no idea..."

The prince was both amazed and remorseful for his earlier suspicions. He held his wife close, apologizing for his past behaviour. He confessed that he had mistaken her for someone else because of the blemish he had noticed in her portrait.

The next day, the slave was summoned to the king's court, and the truth about the maidservant's deception came to light. She was brought before the king and forced to confess her wrongdoing. The king punished her severely, and justice prevailed.

In the end, the prince and his beautiful bride lived happily ever after, their love stronger than ever, and they learned never to judge a book by its cover.


Source: The Borderless Journal

Translated by Fazal Baloch; Retold by Rahman Murad, originally appeared in Quarterly Drad Gwadar, Dec 2001-Jan 2002

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