Cinderella #362 The Story of Hanchi
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Once upon a time, in Kannada, there was a girl named Hanchi. Her mother was an old woman. She had a brother, who was not very observant. For example, he had never noticed that Hanchi's hair was golden. "One day, when both of them were grown up and Hanchi was a lovely young woman", he noticed her hair and fell instantly in love. He demanded to marry his sister. His mother, however, was shocked and instead tricked him into going into town. She told him to shop for "all the rice and flour and lentils" for the wedding feast that he could find. Meanwhile, back at home, she called Hanchi to her and said, "Daughter, the time has come for you to leave me. You're as good as dead to me after this day. You are too beautiful to live here in safety." So the mother gave her "a mask of clay" and made her put it on. She told her to "Never remove the mask from your face, till you situation is better." And Hanchi put it on and left. Then the mother poisoned herself and died. When her son returned, "he found his sister gone and his mother dead; he went mad and became a wandering madman." But Hanchi wandered on, "eating at noon and by moonlight". One day she came to a town where she was befriended by an old woman. This lady soon discovered that Hanchi could make "dishes of sweet rice" like no one else. So Hanchi cooked, and the woman invited all of her friends over to sample the food. Everyone marveled at the masked cook. One night, when Hanchi thought she was alone, she removed the mask to take a bath. But, "the youngest son of the Saukar" was present, and happened to observe her when "he peeped into the bath house and saw her in all her beauty. He was still young", and so fled. Yet he "fell deeply in love with the glory that was her hair and decided at once to make her his wife." But when he told this news to his mother she would not hear of it, and promised instead to seek him a fine, more suitable wife. Just then Hanchi walked by and in a heat of passion, the young man snatched her mask away. Then "the mother was struck dumb by her extraordinary beauty" and agreed at once to the wedding. For a brief time, "the newlyweds were as happy as doves". The influence of a self-styled "holy man, called Guruswami" threw things out of balance. Guruswami was "the rich man's chief counselor and had a reputation for secret lore and black arts of many kinds." He lusted after Hanchi himself, and decided to charm her. He summoned the girl for a so-called spriritual ritual, then tried to hypnotize her and feed her drugged fruits. But she would not eat them, nor submit to his suggestions. In fact, she tossed the drugged plantains into the drainage dtich, where "a she-buffalo" who was "in heat" was drawn like a magnet to Guruswami with irresistible love. She chased him down and "he was badly mauled by the amorous buffalo." The second time he came to call on her and she actually opened the door. But "instead of caresses he received hard blows from inanimate vessels which were" attracted by his magical spells. When he sent her enchanted betel nuts the next day, she "threw the nuts at the broomstick in the corner." When he came calling that evening, he opened the door and got "a thorny broomstick into his greedy arms instead." So he conceived a plot against her. Going to her chambers when she was not in, he carefully placed "plantains, almonds,betel leaves, and nuts." Then he ran to tell her family that Hanchi was "a whore". He said that he had "surprised her with a lover," Then, "with righteous indignation, Guruswami showed them the hidden clothing and the telltale cheroot stubs and betel pieces". They proved her sinfulness, he claimed, and ordered her capture.Then he imprisoned her and beat her, but still, she would not confess to her supposed crimes. As for her family, apparently they would follow like sheep anyone who flashed some fancy words. Poor Hachi! Her very own family had her "dragged out, shut up in a box and handed over to Guruswami." He had a truly nefarious plan for getting his revenge on this girl. He told his servants that there were "ferocious mad dogs in the box" and that they were to be drowned next day. He had the box delivered to the home of an old who happened to live on the riverbank. So the servants left the box there and told the old lady the most horrific things they could think of so that she would not dare to open the box. But as soon as they had left, the old woman "heard peculiar noises coming from the box". In fact she recognized her own name! So she "pried open the lid and to her great astonishment found Hanchi crouching inside the box." The poor thing was miserable, cramped, cold, hungry. She fed Hanchi all that she cared to eat, and dressed her in warm, clean clothing. As the girl told her story, "the old woman listened carefully and her mother-wit soon found a way out." Leaving Hanchi resting comfortably, the dame went to town and procured a mad dog, bound and muzzled. Once she had transported it home and put it into the box, she made sure to unbuckle the dog's muzzle. Soon Guruswami arrived to take possession of the box. "He came perfumed and singing", planning to have his way with captive Hanchi. Then he shoved the old woman out of her own home, locked the door from the inside to ensure privacy, and opened the crate. Didn't he get a surprise when "a hideous dog, foaming at the mouth...sprang upon him and mangled him horribly with its bites." He spat curses upon himself in his pitiful attempt to atone to a god who he believed had "transformed a woman into a dog" to teach him a lesson. The horrified neighbors came upon the bloody spectacle and killed the dog but Guruswami was already done for. He died after being "fatally infected with the dog's lunacy". Now it was up to the old woman to help Hanchi clear her name. So she secretly had the girl prepare sweet rice and other delicacies and invited the whole town to a feast. Everyone said that the food was delicious, and that the smell and taste was identical to the way that wicked Hanchi had used to prepare. But "instead of a reply, the old woman presented Hanchi in flesh and blood.' She told the true story of Guruswami, and all agreed that the wicked man and come to the end he deserved. They begged Hanchi's pardon for their own past ignorance and cruelty. She forgave them, of course. Her "good days had begun; her luck had turned and brought her every kind of happiness from that day."
From: Dundes, A. (1983) Cinderella: A Casebook. (p.263, contributed by A.K. Ramanujan) New York: Wildman Press
Notes: What a very satisfying ending Hanchi's abuser comes to! I especially enjoyed the prelude to his ultimate demise involving the rabid she-bufflao! This story had clear elements of Catskin, or Cap O' Rushes, as the incestous relationship threatened (here by brother, not father) is what causes the girl to flee. Notice the Baba-Yaga like character of the old woman, and that a cow, (water buffalo) aids the girl. And how does she aid the girl... This story is evocative of the Ramayana for its totally over the top imagery and moral teachings.