Title: Ksheerer Putul [The Cheese Doll]
Author: Abanindranath Tagore
Publisher: Priyanath Dasgupta, the Indian Publishing House, 22, Cornwallis Street, Calcutta.
Printer: Printed at the Kantik Press, 22 Sukia Street, Calcutta, by Haricharan Manna.
Date & edition: 1915. First published 1896.
Price: 6 anna
One of the early classics of Bengali children’s literature, Ksheerer Putul is a fairy tale having an heirless King, his two queens –one wicked and the other good; a clever monkey and a cheese doll. Abanindranath creates an original story weaving together motifs from traditional nursery rhymes and strands of native folklore.
“Once upon a time there was a King who had two queens – Suo ranee the beloved and Duo ranee the discarded.” When the King sails the seven seas, he brings ruby bangles ‘red as blood’, anklets of ‘flame coloured gold’, a necklace strung with pearls ‘as large as the pigeon’s eggs’ and a saree ‘as blue as the sky and as light as the breeze’ for his favourite younger queen. For the elder Duo ranee, whom he had quite forgotten, he manages to buy a monkey in exchange of a cowrie from a merchant coming from the land of magicians.
The rest of the story is about how the clever monkey sets about rescuing the Duo ranee from her wretched plight. In order to reinstate the Duo ranee in her former glory, he tells the childless King that the Duo ranee will be giving birth to his son. The Duo ranee thus regains the King’s favour as well as her earlier state of comfort amidst royal luxuries. Soon after, the monkey further deceives the king by saying that a son has been born to him but that due to a curse the King cannot see the prince till his wedding day.
Finally, after ten years, when the time comes for the King to see his son, the monkey asks the Duo ranee to make a cheese doll and to dress it up like a bridegroom. On his way to the wedding party (where the King is awaiting his son along with the chosen bride), the monkey tricks and traps Ma Shashthi - the guardian goddess of all children, and forces her to replace the cheese doll with the handsomest boy child. The wedding takes place amidst great festivities after which the King and his entourage returns with the prince and the newly-wed bride.
Overwhelmed with happiness at the sight of the handsome son and a beautiful daughter-in-law, and with a little bit of Shashthi’s magic, the Duo ranee forgets her past and thinks that all her anxieties about the cheese doll must have been a weird nightmare. The King offers his kingdom to the prince as a wedding gift and the monkey is made the minister of state. The tale ends typically in happiness and rewards for the good and punishment and death for the bad: “And the younger queen? Her heart burst with jealousy and she fell down dead”.
[Translations from The Cheese Doll]
The volume carries full page illustrations in black and white
lithographic prints. The first one depicts the King’s return from his year-long voyage. The white sails of the royal ship are bellowing out in the wind as the vessel glides through the ocean. The King himself is admiring the caskets brimming with necklaces, bangles and anklets – all the priceless treasures that he has gathered for his beloved Suo ranee from strange, far-off lands.
No illustrator mentioned [Abanindranath Tagore?].
One of the first literary fairy tales in Bengali, Ksheerer Putul was written as part of the Balyagranthabali or a children’s books series. Conceived by Rabindranath Tagore around 1895, Balyagranthabali was at that time a novel venture. Aiming to produce a set of entertaining books for children the idea of such a series as well as the titles under its banner like Nadi and Shankuntala, signal an important turning point in the history of Bengali children’s books.
Urged by Rabindranath Tagore, his
wife Mrinalini Devi had taken up the
task of writing down the household
tales that had been circulating
orally among women and children. It
is said that Abanindranath Tagore
found the plot for Ksheerer Putul
in one such tale in his aunt’s
Genre: Literary fairy tale. Kunstmarchen (reinvention of a traditional folk tale).
Source: The National Library, Kolkata
Shelfmark: 182.Ob. 915.2
Pages from the book:
1. Title page
2. Page 1
References consulted for this entry
1. Tagore, Abanindranath. The Cheese Doll. Trans. Nilima Devi.
2. Mitra, Khagendranath. Shatabdir Shishu-sahitya
3. Tagore, Abanindranath, Introduction, Sat Bhai Champa. Jnanadanandini Devi.