The Robbers Get Robbed
Once, in a far-off kingdom, there was a mighty and wealthy king who was the envy of all. He'd won battles against many rival kings and believed he was invincible. Over time, he became careless about the state of his army, thinking no one could ever defeat him.
Meanwhile, a powerful neighboring king was secretly building a formidable force. Seeing the king's complacency, he decided it was time for a showdown. Their armies clashed on a vast plain, fighting fiercely for several days. Initially, it appeared to be a fair match, but ultimately, the wealthy king was defeated, and his forces scattered. The victorious king took over the city, sending the queen and her two sons into exile with nothing.
The queen, left destitute, struggled to make ends meet, often surviving on meager rations. Her sons resorted to begging to help her. One day, the queen advised her elder son to gather firewood in the nearby forest to sell. He went to the woods, but while cutting wood, he saw a gang of robbers approaching. Fearing for his life, he hid up a tree, watching them carefully.
The robbers set up their camp by a small hut in the forest. To the boy's surprise, they had a peculiar way to open the hut's door using a secret chant. Inside, he glimpsed heaps of treasures: gold, silver, jewels, and many precious items. Eager to seize this chance, he memorized the chant, planning to return after the robbers left.
The next day, the boy secretly made his way back to the forest. When he recited the chant, the hut's door obediently swung open. With excitement, he collected as much treasure as he could, filling a sack, and then departed, leaving the robbers' loot intact.
When he brought his newfound riches home, his mother was elated. She urged her younger son to try his luck in the forest too. Following his brother's footsteps, he went to the jungle, climbed a tree near the hut, and waited for the robbers.
As night fell, the robbers returned with more loot, but they were astounded to find their treasure partly gone. Furious and vowing vengeance, they searched for any intruders nearby. The younger prince up in the tree quivered in fear as he listened to their threats.
The next morning, when the robbers left, the younger prince couldn't resist the temptation. He repeated the chant to open the hut's door, but when he entered, the door closed behind him and wouldn't open. Fear engulfed him as he realized he was trapped in the robbers' hideout.
Desperation set in, and he longed for freedom. However, the robbers' return loomed ominously, leaving him trapped within the hut.
The elder prince, unaware of his brother's predicament, returned to retrieve more treasure, finding the hut closed. In sheer determination, he collected valuable items, only to discover his brother's remains outside. Grief-stricken, he gathered the pieces and buried them.
Upon the robbers' return, they found that someone had taken the rest of their treasure. Eager to locate the thief, they made their way to the city and learned about the queen and her elder son, who'd recently acquired wealth. They set a plan to befriend the young prince, infiltrate their household, and eventually exact their revenge.
One of the robbers successfully infiltrated their lives, pretending to be a friend. However, the prince's sharp-witted mother detected something amiss, and her vigilance paid off when she uncovered a hidden dagger on the imposter. Realizing the truth, she danced a graceful, deadly dance with a sword and saved her son.
Their enemy was gone, but peace finally embraced their lives. The young prince married, becoming a prosperous banker, and their troubles became mere memories of the past.
Source: Folk Tales of Kashmir (1893)