42. The Widow’s Son
In a little house at the edge of a village lived a widow with her only son, and they were very happy together. The son was kind to his mother, and they made their living by growing rice in clearings on the mountain side and by hunting wild pig in the forest.
One evening when their supply of meat was low, the boy said, “Mother, I am going to hunt pig in the morning, and I want you to prepare rice for me before daylight.”
So the widow rose early and cooked the rice, and at dawn the boy started out with his spear and dog.
Some distance from the village, he entered the thick forest. He walked on and on, ever on the lookout for game, but none appeared. At last when he had traveled far and the sun was hot, he sat down on a rock to rest and took out his brass box to get a piece of betel-nut. He prepared the nut and leaf for chewing, and as he did so he wondered why it was that he had been so unsuccessful that day. But even as he pondered he heard his dog barking sharply, and cramming the betel-nut into his mouth he leaped up and ran toward the dog.
As he drew near he could see that the game was a fine large pig, all black except its four legs which were white. He lifted his spear and took aim, but before he could throw the pig started to run, and instead of going toward a water course it ran straight up the mountain. The boy went on in hot pursuit, and when the pig paused he again took aim, but before he could throw it ran on.
Six times the pig stopped just long enough for the boy to take aim, and then started on before he could throw. The seventh time, however, it halted on the top of a large flat rock and the boy succeeded in killing it.
He tied its legs together with a piece of rattan and was about to start for home with the pig on his back, when to his surprise a door in the large stone swung open and a man stepped out.
“Why have you killed my master’s pig?” asked the man.
“I did not know that this pig belonged to anyone,” replied the widow’s son. “I was hunting, as I often do, and when my dog found the pig I helped him to catch it”
“Come in and see my master,” said the man, and the boy followed him into the stone where he found himself in a large room. The ceiling and floor were covered with peculiar cloth that had seven wide stripes of red alternating with a like number of yellow stripes. When the master of the place appeared his trousers were of seven colors, as were also his jacket and the handkerchief about his head.
The master ordered betel-nut, and when it was brought they chewed together. Then he called for wine, and it was brought in a jar so large that it had to be set on the ground under the house, and even then the top came so high above the floor that they brought a seat for the widow’s son, and it raised him just high enough to drink from the reed in the top of the jar. He drank seven cups of wine, and then they ate rice and fish and talked together.
The master did not blame the boy for killing the pig, and declared that he wished to make a brother of him. So they became friends, and the boy remained seven days in the stone. At the end of that time, he said that he must return to his mother who would be worried about him. In the early morning he left the strange house and started for home.
At first he walked briskly, but as the morning wore on he went more slowly, and finally when the sun was high he sat down on a rock to rest. Suddenly looking up, he saw before him seven men each armed with a spear, a shield, and a sword. They were dressed in different colors, and each man had eyes the same color as his clothes. The leader, who was dressed all in red with red eyes to match, spoke first, asking the boy where he was going. The boy replied that he was going home to his mother who would be looking for him, and added, “Now I ask where you are going, all armed ready for war.”
“We are warriors,” replied the man in red. “And we go up and down the world killing whatever we see that has life. Now that we have met you, we must kill you also.”
The boy, startled by this strange speech, was about to answer when he heard a voice near him say, “Fight, for they will try to kill you,” and upon looking up he saw his spear, shield, and sword which he had left at home. Then he knew that the command came from a spirit, so he took his weapons and began to fight. For three days and nights they contended, and never before had the seven seen one man so brave. On the fourth day the leader was wounded and fell dead, and then, one by one, the other six fell.
When they were all killed, the widow’s son was so crazed with fighting that he thought no longer of returning home, but started out to find more to slay.
In his wanderings he came to the home of a great giant whose house was already full of the men he had conquered in battle, and he called up from outside:
“Is the master of the house at home? If he is, let him come out and fight.”
This threw the giant into a rage, and seizing his shield and his spear, the shaft of which was the trunk of a tree, he sprang to the door and leaped to the ground, not waiting to go down the notched pole which served for steps. He looked around for his antagonist, and seeing only the widow’s son he roared, “Where is the man that wants to fight? That thing? It is only a fly!”
The boy did not stop to answer, but rushed at the giant with his knife; and for three days and nights they struggled, till the giant fell, wounded at the waist.
After that the widow’s son stopped only long enough to burn the giant’s house, and then rushed on looking for someone else to slay. Suddenly he again heard the voice which had told him to fight with the seven men, and this time it said, “Go home now, for your mother is grieved at your absence.” In a rage he sprang forward with his sword, though he could see no enemy. Then the spirit which had spoken to him made him sleep for a short time. When he awoke the rage was gone.
Again the spirit appeared, and it said, “The seven men whom you killed were sent to kill you by the spirit of the great stone, for he looked in your hand and saw that you were to marry the orphan girl whom he himself wished to wed. But you have conquered. Your enemies are dead. Go home now and prepare a great quantity of wine, for I shall bring your enemies to life again, and you will all live in peace.”
So the widow’s son went home, and his mother, who had believed him dead, was filled with joy at his coming, and all the people in the town came out to welcome him. When he had told them his story, they hastened to get wine, and all day they bore jars to the widow’s house.
That night there was a great feast, and the spirit of the great stone, his seven warriors, the friendly spirit, and the giant all came. The widow’s son married the orphan girl, while another beautiful woman became the wife of the spirit of the stone.