Bedtime Stories in English - The Lonely Mountain And The Coconut Tree

 The Lonely Mountain And The Coconut Tree

How kind is the coconut tree! It gives us fruit which contains in it both food and drink! And it keeps giving us plenty of fruit the whole year through! No wonder that it is like this, for the girl who became the first coconut tree was so kind and graceful. She was not exactly a human being, but a kind of nymph, the daughter of the king of mountains, Smeru. Her name was Ratna. Ratna's father had made a circle of hills around her so that she can never go out beyond his own realm. But Ratna was ever eager to go and see the wide world. She heard from the birds who flew into her hill home about the many wonders of the world, the rivers, the lakes, the green fields, the forests, so on and so forth. The more she heard, the more eager she grew to see them. But her father said, "You are protected by me as long as you are here. There are giants and demons outside the hills. Even human beings are hardly better. Once you come to their notice, one of them may lead you away!" It was Ratna's birthday. Smeru invited many young gods to his house for a feast. He wanted to have a close look at these gods so that he could decide which one of them would be a good match for Ratna.

That night, taking advantage of the festive atmosphere, Ratna slipped out of the hills. She planned to return in an hour before anybody had begun to miss her. That was her first-ever outing. Once she saw the valleys and the silver brooks and the wood, she forgot the time. It was a moonlit night. She went close to a lovely lake and touched its water. It was so refreshingly cool. She entered the lake and had a dip in it. She felt wonderful. Then she came out and sat on a slab of stone and looked at the horizon. At some distance there was a beautiful mansion Many torches were lighted on its towers and music was heard. Suddenly she remembered that her father and the guests must be looking for her. She must go back into her citadel of hills. Tears came to her eyes at the thought and she sobbed. "What ails you, sweet one?" The voice surprised Ratna. She saw a handsome young man standing before her. "Who are you?" the young man asked. Ratna told him who she was. The young man clapped his hands with joy. Then he told her who he was. "Do you see that mansion lighted the torches? That is our palace. It is my birthday today. But, like you, I also don't like so many people jostling around me. That is why I am here, in solitude. But look at the reward I got! I met you!" exclaimed the young man. He was the prince of the land. His father was not only the king of kings but also a great wizard. "Now, tell me, why did you shed tears?" asked the prince. "It is because I love this world with all its splendors. But I have to go back into the circle of hills which is my home!" she said.

The prince stood thoughtful for a moment and then said, "To be frank, I loved you the very moment I saw you. I am a human being and you are something like a nymph. Will you marry me? If you do, you can stay with me. We will wander through the world and be happy together. There are many marvels for you to see." Ratna liked the idea. "If you tell my father, he may agree," she said. The prince accompanied Ratna to her father's citadel. By then the guests had departed and Smeru was mad with anxiety because Ratna was missing. In no time his anxiety turned into anger when he saw the prince and learned why he had come. "You wish to marry my daughter, do you? Well, why not! You are the future king and by marrying you, my daughter becomes the future queen. So far all is well. But I must be sure that you are capable of protecting my daughter and your kingdom. You have to go through a test," said Smeru. "I am willing to do anything for your satisfaction," humbly said the prince. "Very well. Do you see that mountain there in the west? That obstructs the sunset from my sight. You must remove it in the course of one night, to a spot a mile away. But you must do so before the cocks begin to crow indicating morning," said Smeru very gravely. "If the cocks crow before you have finished the work, you'd turn into a hill yourself." "O father, must you set such an impossible condition before him?" protested Ratna. "He has to do something spectacular if he aspires to the hand of a nymph-like you!" commented Smeru.

The prince took leave of them. He told his father, the king, all about it. The king said, "I will pass on to you the most powerful secret I know as a wizard. I believe that would make you successful in the test." He gave the prince a magic shovel and taught him a certain hymn. The prince went near the hill and chanted the hymn and grew bigger and bigger. When he was satisfied that he had grown big enough to handle the mountain, he stopped. Then he applied the magic shovel to it. Huge chunks went off at the touch of the shovel and rested at the place Smeru pointed out. It was not yet morning. The prince was sure that he would finish the work at least an hour before the dawn. In fact, only one shovelful of rock was there, when, alack, there was heard a crowing and the next moment all the cocks of the locality began crowing. "O Ratna!" cried out the prince. The next moment he changed into a mountain. "Father! why did you do that?" asked Ratna in a voice choking with anguish. Then she ran towards her prince who had turned into a mountain. "O gods, let me be with him!" she sent her prayers to heaven. When she came near the mountain, she changed into a coconut tree. For a long long time, the mountain and the coconut tree formed a beautiful and lovely scene on the horizon. The tall tree saw the world to its heart's content and, by its fruit, taught everybody the virtues of kindness and compassion.

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