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How Suan Became Rich Post by :Chipt Category :Short Stories Author :Dean S. Fansler Date :November 2011 Read :2125

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How Suan Became Rich

(a) How Suan became Rich
Narrated by Bonifacio Ynares, a Tagalog living in Pasig, Rizal.

Pedro and Suan were friends. Pedro inherited a great fortune from his parents, who had recently died; but Suan was as poor as the poorest of beggars that ever lived. Early one morning Suan went to his friend, and said, "I wonder if you have a post that you do not need."

"Yes, I have one," said Pedro. "Why? Do you need it?"

"Yes, I need one badly, to build my house."

"Very well, take it," said Pedro. "Do not worry about paying for it."

Suan, who had not thought evil of his friend, took the post and built his house. When it was finished, his house was found to surpass that of his friend. This fact made Pedro so envious of Suan, that at last he went to him and asked Suan for the post back again.

"Why, if I take it from its place, my house will be destroyed. So let me pay you for it, or let me look for another post in the town and get it for you!"

"No," said Pedro, "I must have my own post, for I wish to use it."

Finally Suan became so greatly annoyed by his friend's insistence, that he exclaimed, "I will not give you back your post."

"Take heed, Suan! for I will accuse you before the king."

"All right! do as you please."

"We will then go to the king Monday," said Pedro.

"Very well; I am always ready."

When Monday came, both prepared to go to the palace. Pedro, who cared for his money more than for anything else, took some silver coins along with him for the journey. Suan took cooked rice and fish instead. Noon came while they were still on the road. Suan opened his package of food and began to eat. Pedro was also very hungry at this time, but no food could be bought on the way. So Suan generously invited Pedro to eat with him, and they dined together.

After eating, the two resumed their journey. At last they came to a river. The bridge over it was broken in the middle, and one had to jump in order to get to the other side. Pedro jumped. Suan followed him, but unfortunately fell. It so happened that an old man was bathing in the river below, and Suan accidentally fell right on him. The old man was knocked silly, and as a consequence was drowned. When Isidro, the son, who dearly loved his father, heard of the old man's death, he at once made up his mind to accuse Suan before the king. He therefore joined the two travellers.

After a while the three came to a place where they saw Barbekin having a hard time getting his carabao out of the mire. Suan offered to help. He seized the carabao by the tail, and pulled with great force. The carabao was rescued, but its tail was broken off short by a sudden pull of Suan. Barbekin was filled with rage because of the injury done to his animal: so he, too, resolved to accuse Suan before the king.

When they came to the palace, the king said, "Why have you come here?"

Pedro spoke first. "I have come," he said, "to accuse Suan to you. He has one of my posts, and he won't return it to me."

On being asked if the accusation was true, Suan responded with a nod, and said in addition, "But Pedro ate a part of my rice and fish on the way here."

"My decision, then," said the king, "is that Suan shall give Pedro his post, and that Pedro shall give Suan his rice and fish."

Isidro was the next to speak. "I have come here to accuse Suan. While my father was bathing in the river, Suan jumped on him and killed him."

"Suan, then, must bathe in the river," said the king, "and you may jump on him."

When Barbekin was asked why he had come, he replied, "I wish to accuse Suan. He pulled my carabao by the tail, and it was broken off short."

"Give Suan your carabao, then," said the king. "He shall not return it to you until he has made its tail grow to its full length."

The accused and the accusers now took their leave of the king.

"Give me the carabao now," said Suan to Barbekin when they had gone some distance from the palace.

The carabao was young and strong, and Barbekin hated to give it up. So he said, "Don't take the carabao, and I will give you fifty pesos."

"No; the decision of the king must be fulfilled," said Suan. Barbekin then raised the sum to ninety pesos, and Suan consented to accept the offer. Thus Suan was rewarded for his work in helping Barbekin.

When they came to the bridge, Suan went down into the river, and told Isidro to jump on him. But the bridge was high, and Isidro was afraid to jump. Moreover, he did not know how to swim, and he feared that he would but drown himself if he jumped. So he asked Suan to pardon him.

"No, you must fulfil the decision of the king," answered Suan.

"Let me off from jumping on you, and I will give you five hundred pesos," said Isidro.

The amount appealed to Suan as being a good offer, so he accepted it and let Isidro go.

As soon as Suan reached home, he took Pedro's post from his house, and started for Pedro's house, taking a razor along with him. "Here is your post," he said; "but you must lie down, for I am going to get my rice and fish from you."

In great fright Pedro said, "You need not return the post any more."

"No," said Suan, "we must fulfil the decision of the king."

"If you do not insist on your demand," said Pedro, "I will give you half of my riches."

"No, I must have my rice and fish." Suan now held Pedro by the shoulder, and began to cut Pedro's abdomen with the razor. He had no sooner done that, than Pedro, in great terror, cried out,--

"Don't cut me, and you shall have all my riches!"

Thus Suan became the richest man in town by using his tact and knowledge in outwitting his enemies.


(b) The King's Decisions.

Narrated by José M. Hilario, a Tagalog from Batangas,
who heard the story from his father.

Once a poor man named Juan was without relatives or friends. Life to him was a series of misfortunes. A day often passed without his tasting even a mouthful of food.

One day, weakened with hunger and fatigue, as he was walking along the road, he passed a rich man's house. It so happened that at this time the rich man's food was being cooked. The food smelled so good, that Juan's hunger was satisfied merely with the fragrance. When the rich man learned that the smell of his food had satisfied Juan, he demanded money of Juan. Juan refused to give money, however, because he had none, and because he had neither tasted nor touched the rich man's food. "Let's go to the king, then," said Pedro, the rich man, "and have this matter settled!" Juan had no objection to the proposal, and the two set out for the palace.

Soon they came to a place where the mire was knee-deep. There they saw a young man who was trying to help his horse out of a mud-hole. "Hey, you lazy fellows! help me to get my horse out of this hole," said Manuel. The three tried with all their might to release the horse. They finally succeeded; but unfortunately Juan had taken hold of the horse's tail, and it was broken off when Juan gave a sudden hard pull.

"You have got to pay me for injuring my horse," said Manuel.

"No, I will not give you any money, because I had no intention of helping you until you asked me to," said Juan.

"Well, the king will have to settle the quarrel." Juan, who was not to be frightened by threats, went with Pedro and Manuel.

Night overtook the three on their way. They had to lodge themselves in the house of one of Pedro's friends. Juan was not allowed to come up, but was made to sleep downstairs.

At midnight the pregnant wife of the host had to make water. She went to the place under which Juan was sleeping. Juan, being suddenly awakened and frightened, uttered a loud shriek; and the woman, also frightened because she thought there were robbers or ghosts about, miscarried. The next morning the husband asked Juan why he had cried out so loud in the night. Juan said that he was frightened.

"You won't fool me! Come with us to the king," said the husband.

When the four reached the palace, they easily gained access to the royal presence. Then each one explained why he had come there.

"I'll settle the first case," said the king. He commanded the servant to fetch two silver coins and place them on the table. "Now, Pedro, come here and smell the coins. As Juan became satisfied with the smell of your food, so now satisfy yourself with the smell of the money." Pedro could not say a word, though he was displeased at the unfavorable decision.

"Now I'll give my decisions on the next two cases. Manuel, you must give your horse to Juan, and let him have it until another tail grows.--And you, married man, must let Juan have your wife until she gives birth to another child."

Pedro, Manuel, and the married man went home discontented with the decisions of the king,--Pedro without having received pay, Manuel without his horse, and the other man without his wife.



These two Tagalog stories, together with another, "How Piro became Rich," which is almost identical with No. 5(a), may possibly be descended directly from an old Buddhist birth-story ("Gamani-canda-jataka," No. 257),--a tale in which W. A. Clouston (see Academy, No. 796, for Aug. 6, 1887) sees the germ of the "pound-of-flesh" incident. An abstract of the first part of this Jataka will set forth the striking resemblance between our stories and this old Hindoo apologue, (21) The part of the Jataka that interests us is briefly the account of how a man was haled to the king's tribunal for injuries done unwittingly, and how the king passed judgment thereupon. The abstract follows:--

Gamani, a certain old courtier of the ruling king's dead father, decided to earn his living by farming, as he thought that the new king should be surrounded with advisers of his own age. He took up his abode in a village three leagues from the city, and, after the rainy season was over, one day borrowed two oxen from a friend, with which to help him do his ploughing. In the evening he returned the oxen; but the friend being at dinner, and not inviting Gamani to eat, Gamani put the oxen in the stall, and got no formal release from his creditor. That night thieves stole the cattle. Next day the owner of the oxen discovered the theft, and decided to make Gamani pay for the beasts. So the two set out to lay the case before the king. On the way they stopped for food at the house of a friend of Gamani's. The woman of the house, while climbing a ladder to the store-room for rice for Gamani, fell and miscarried. The husband, returning that instant, accused Gamani of hitting his wife and bringing on untimely labor: so the husband set off with Gamani's first accuser to get justice from the king. On their way they met a horse that would not go with its groom. The owner of the horse shouted to G. to hit the horse with something and head it back. G. threw a stone at the animal, but broke its leg. "Here's a king's officer for you," shouted the man; "you've broken my horse's leg." G. was thus three men's prisoner. By this time G. was in despair, and decided to kill himself. As soon as opportunity came, he rushed up a hill near the road, and threw himself from a precipice. But he fell on the back of an old basket-maker and killed him on the spot. The son of the basket-maker accused G. of murder and went along with the three other plaintiffs to the king. (I omit here the various questions that persons whom G. meets along the road beg him to take to the king for an answer.)

All five appearing in the presence of the king, the owner of the oxen demanded justice. In answer to the king's question, he at first denied having seen G. return the oxen, but later admitted that he saw them in the stall. G. was ordered to pay twenty-four pieces of money for the oxen; but the plaintiff, for lying, was condemned to have his eyes plucked out by G. Terrified at the prospect, he threw money to G. and rushed away. The judgment in the case of the second false accuser was this: G. was to take his friend's wife and live with her until she should bear another son to take the place of the child that miscarried. Again G. was bought off by the plaintiff. In the third case the owner of the horse at first denied having requested G. to hit the beast, but later admitted the truth. Judgment: G. was to pay a thousand pieces (which the king gave him) for the injured animal, but was also to tear out his false accuser's tongue. The fellow gave G. a sum of money and departed. The fourth decision was as follows: inasmuch as G. could not restore the dead father to life, he was to take the dead man's widow to his home and be a father to the young basket-maker; but he, rather than have his old home broken up, gave G. a sum of money and hurried away.

It is to be regretted that this Buddhistic birth-story was not known to Theodor Benfey, who, in his exhaustive discussion of our present cycle, particularly from the point of view of the "pound-of-flesh" incident (1 : 393-410), writes, "I may remark that this recital (i.e., of the decisions), which here borders on the comic, is based upon serious traditional legends which have to do with Buddhistic casuistry" (p. 397). Benfey's fragmentary citations are not very convincing; but this Jataka proves that his reasoning, as usual, was entirely sound.

An Indo-Persian version called the "Kází of Emessa," cited by Clouston (op. cit.), might be mentioned here, as it too has close resemblances to our stories.

While a merchant is being taken by a Jew before the king because the merchant will not pay his bond of a pound of flesh, he meets with the following accidents: (1) In attempting to stop a runaway mule, he knocks out one of the animal's eyes with a stone; (2) while sleeping on a flat roof, he is aroused suddenly by an uproar in the street, and, jumping from the roof, he kills an old man below; (3) in trying to pull an ass out of the mud, he pulls its tail off. The owner of the mule, the sons of the dead man, and the owner of the ass, go along with the Jew to present their cases before the king, whose decisions are as follows: (1') The owner of the mule, valued at 1000 dínárs, is to saw the animal in two lengthwise, and is to give the blind half to the merchant, who must pay 500 dínárs for it. As the owner refuses, he is obliged to pay the merchant 100 dínárs for bringing in a troublesome suit. (2') Merchant must stand below a roof and allow himself to be jumped on by the sons of the dead man; but they refuse to take the risk, and are obliged to pay the merchant 100 dínárs for troubling him. (3') The owner of the tailless ass is compelled to try to pull out the tail of the Kází's mule. Naturally the animal resents such treatment, and the accuser is terribly bruised. Finally, to avoid further punishment, he says that his own animal never had a tail. Hence he is forced to give the merchant 100 dínárs for bringing in a false suit.

In the "Katha-sarit-sagara" (translated by C. H. Tawney, 2 : 180-181) occurs this story:--

One day, when Brahman Devabhúti had gone to bathe, his wife went into the garden to get vegetables, and saw a donkey belonging to a washerman eating them. She took up a stick and ran after the donkey; the animal, trying to escape, fell into a pit and broke its hoof. When the master heard of that, he came in a passion, and beat and kicked the Brahman woman. Accordingly she, being pregnant, had a miscarriage; but the washerman returned home with his donkey. Her husband, hearing of it, went, in his distress, and complained to the chief magistrate of the town. The foolish man, after hearing both sides of the case, delivered this judgment: "Since the donkey's hoof is broken, let the Brahman carry the donkey's load for the washerman until the donkey is again fit for work; and let the washerman make the Bráhman's wife pregnant again, since he made her miscarry." When the Bráhman and his wife heard this decision, they, in their despair, took poison and died; and when the king heard of it, he put to death that inconsiderate judge.

The Tagalog story of "How Piro became Rich," which I have not printed here, is identical with "How Suan became Rich," with this exception, that a horse's tail, instead of a carabao's, is pulled off by the hero. And there is this addition: while travelling to the king's court, Piro hears cries for help coming from the woods. He rushes to the spot, and sees a young lady fighting a swarm of bees. Piro helps kill the bees with his stick, but, in doing so, injures the woman somewhat severely. Her father, angered, joins the accusers, and requests the king that he order Piro to cure his daughter. The king rules that if Piro is to do this, and if the young woman is to get the best care, she must become Piro's wife. For relinquishing his right to the girl, Piro receives a hundred alfonsos from the father.

All in all, the close agreement between our stories and the three Eastern versions cited above makes it reasonably certain that the "Wonderful Decisions" group in the Philippines derives directly from India.



(21) For full translation, see Jataka, ed. by E. B. Cowell (Cambridge University Press, 1895), 2 : 207-215; and FLJ 3 : 337 f. See also C. H. Tawney's discussion of the story in the Journal of Philology, 12 : 112-119.

(The end)
Dean S. Fansler's short story: How Suan Became Rich

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