|"Good morning, Brother Wolf!"
sang out Little Melon.
Once upon a time, in India, "there was an old farmer and his wife. They lived in a village. They had no children. This often made them feel sad and lonely." One day, while the farmer's wife was out picking cotton, she "saw a beautiful yellow melon growing wild on a creeper". Never had she seen such a lovely melon, "so pretty and round". But when she had picked it, she saw that it was not unblemished. In fact, "there were some holes and marks on it, which made it look like the face of a man."Still, she was sure that the melon would be sweet and tasty, so she took it home. When she got home, she cooked breakfast, making "eight big pancakes (chappatis). [Then] she tied them up in a piece of cloth, filled an earthen pot with whey and put a big pat of butter in it." This was to be the farmer's breakfast. Now she lamented, thinking of the long walk to the field and back again, saying aloud that she wished she had a sturdy child to help her. That's when she heard a voice! It said,"Mother! I will carry the breakfast for my father. Give me the bundle." So the woman put the pancakes and butter on top of her melon-child's head, and sent him off to her husband. Now the little melon "skipped out of the doorway into the narrow street outside. He skipped on and on and was soon out of sight." When he got to the field, he called out,"Father!" in "a voice loud and long". The farmer was very perplexed and said to himself,"It may have been the crow sitting up there on the neem tree or perhaps a jackal howling among the bushes yonder. I never had a son. Who could address me as father?" So he resumed ploughing. But here came a little melon, "with the pot of whey and pancakes balanced on its head and dancing on the edge of the field". When the farmer saw him he he thanked him for the food, but said that he must "take the bullocks to the stream to drink water." Now the melon offered to do this, and the man said,"Can you do that, Melon? You are so small and helpless!" But the melon was sure that he could manage, and off he went. Alas, the little melon soon was kicked off the path by the bullocks and landed in the stream. "Poor Mr. Melon was being carried helplessly along by the current." As luck would have it, he was snagged on a tree branch. He "struggled out of the water onto the dry land and was once again in high spirits." But when he asked the passersby if any had seen his bullocks they said, "Why Little Melon, your bullocks strayed into the field, and began eating the green corn." They had been put into the King's cattle pound. Now brave Little Melon "made himself a little chariot from leaves and dried twigs. He harnessed field mice" to it, and set off for the king's palace. He sang, "I made a chariot out of twigs and leaves, asked the mice to serve as steeds, fast my chariot go along, over the hill and down the vale with a merry song!" Soon he passed a wild cat who asked him where he was going. But for reply Little Melon only sang out," "I made a chariot out of twigs and leaves, asked the mice to serve as steeds, fast my chariot go along, over the hill and down the vale with a merry song!" And the cat said, "Will you not take me with you, Mr. Melon?" And jumped up onto the chariot. Soon a wolf jumped out into the path, and asked, "What is all this hurry about?" The melon called out, "Good morning, Brother Wolf!" and then sang his song. The wolf begged to be taken along, saying that he might be of help, so the melon said, "Get into my ear, Brother Wolf!" So he did, and they went rolling along. Soon they passed a fire, and it too called out in greeting. "Good morning, Brother Fire!" answered the melon, and then he sang his song. And the fire begged to come along, saying perhaps it would be useful. The melon welcomed it, so "the fire gathered itself together and went down into the ear of Little Melon". Before long, they were at the palace gate. The sentries were "astonished to see a melon in a strange chariot made of leaves and drawn by mice". Taking advantage of their surprise, Little Melon charged past. Coming upon the king he cried out,"KIng! King! Give me back my bullocks!" But the king only burst out laughing and ordered his soldiers to "Take the naughty fellow away, and shut him in the hens' coop." So this was done. And when the hens came at him, Little Melon yelled, "Fee faw, fig and fern, get out cat, it is thy turn!" So the cat jumped out and killed the hens. When the soldiers opened the coop in the morning, Little Melon jumped out and taunted the king. So the king ordered him thrown into the sheep's pen. " He will make a tasty meal for them." he said. But Little Melon only chanted, "Fee faw, fig and fern, get out wolf, it is thy turn!" and that was the end of the sheep. Once more, Little Melon ran out and taunted the king, who now ordered him shut up "in the vault under the palace". Once he was there, Little Melon chanted, "Fee faw, fig and fern, get out Fire! It is your turn!" And soon the whole palace floor was on fire. Now Little Melon rushed into the King's bedroom, and woke up his majesty, and his queen. They "ran out of their bedroom dressed in their night gowns", and Little Melon shouted, "Good evening, your majesty. Did I not warn you that I would come to get my bullcoks?" And the king begged the melon to call off the fire, saying that he was welcome to his bullocks back. But Little Melon said, "Not so soon, your highness. I will accept nothing less than the hand of the princess." So the king had to agree to this. As soon as the Queen spoke her agreement, "the fire retreated. The melon burst open with a loud bang, and out came a handsome young man, richly dressed in beautiful clothes. 'I was a prince.' said the young man, bowing low, 'A witch had turned me into a melon." The only way to break the spell was for someone to agree to let their daughter marry the round fruit. So "the prince and princess were soon married and there were great rejoicings all over the country for many days. The prince did not forget to call on the old woman and the poor farmer. He loaded them with gold and silver, and had a new house built for them in their village."
From Fairy Tales from India (1996) New Delhi: Helmkunt PressFairy Tales from India or try The Ocean of Story: Fairy Tales from India
Notes: I love that this is another carriage from large orange fruit, pulled by a team of mice! Though this has some very unique elements, it is most definitely a Cinderella story! You cannot deny the melon/pumpkin connection, the nothing-to-something special trajectory of the hero, (wow, going from a melon to marrying the King's son!) or the animal helpers.