The Bulbul And The Cotton-Tree by Anonymous

Story type: Literature

There was once a bulbul, and one day as he was flying about, he saw a tree on which was a little fruit. The bulbul was much pleased and said, “I will sit here till this fruit is ripe, and then I will eat it.” So he deserted his nest and his wife, and sat there for twelve years without eating anything, and every day he said, “To-morrow I will eat this fruit.” During these twelve years a great many birds tried to sit on the tree, and wished to build their nests in it, but whenever they came the bulbul sent them away, saying, “This fruit is not good. Don’t come here.” One day a cuckoo came and said, “Why do you send us away? Why should we not come and sit here too? All the trees here are not yours.” “Never mind,” said the bulbul, “I am going to sit here, and when this fruit is ripe, I shall eat it.” Now the cuckoo knew that this tree was the cotton-tree, but the bulbul did not. First comes the bud, which the bulbul thought a fruit, then the flower, and the flower becomes a big pod, and the pod bursts and all the cotton flies away. The bulbul was delighted when he saw the beautiful red flower, which he still thought a fruit, and said, “When it is ripe, it will be a delicious fruit.” The flower became a pod, and the pod burst. “What is all this that is flying about?” said the bulbul. “The fruit must be ripe now.” So he looked into the pod, and it was empty; all the cotton had fallen out. Then the cuckoo came and said to the angry bulbul, “You see if you had allowed us to come and sit on the tree, you would have had something good to eat; but as you were selfish, and would not let any one share with you, God is angry and has punished you by giving you a hollow fruit.” Then the cuckoo called all the other birds, and they came and mocked the bulbul. “Ah! you see God has punished you for your selfishness,” they said. The bulbul got very angry and all the birds went away. After they had gone, the bulbul said to the tree, “You are a bad tree. You are of use to no one. You give food to no one.” The tree said, “You are mistaken. God made me what I am. My flower is given to sheep to eat. My cotton makes pillows and mattresses for man.”

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Since that day no bulbul goes near a cotton-tree.

Told by Dunkní.





1. Cotton-tree, in Hindústání Semal.

2. Koel, Indian cuckoo.


Bél, a fruit; Ægle marmelos.

Bulbul, a kind of nightingale.

Chaprásí, a messenger wearing a badge ( chaprás ).

Cooly (Tamil kúli ), a labourer in the fields; also a porter.

Dál, a kind of pulse; Phaseolus aureus, according to Wilson; Paspalum frumentaceum, according to Forbes.

Dom (the d is lingual), a low-caste Hindú.

Fakír, a Muhammadan religious mendicant.

Ghee ( ghí ), butter boiled and then set to cool.

Kází, a Muhammadan Judge.

Kotwál, the chief police officer in a town.

Líchí, a fruit; Scytalia litchi, Roxb.

Mahárájá (properly Maháráj), literally great king.

Mahárání, literally great queen.

Mainá, a kind of starling.

Maund ( man ), a measure of weight, about 87 lb.

Mohur ( muhar ), a gold coin worth 16 rupees.

Nautch ( nátya ), a union of song, dance, and instrumental music.

Pálkí, a palanquin.

Pice ( paisa ), a small copper coin.

Pilau, a dish made of either chicken or mutton, and rice.

Rájá, a king.

Rakshas, a kind of demon that eats men and beasts.

Rání, a queen.

Rohú, a kind of big fish.

Rupee ( rúpíya ), a silver coin, now worth about twenty pence.

Ryot ( ràíyat ), a cultivator.

Sarai, a walled enclosure containing small houses for the use of travellers.

Sárí, a long piece of stuff which Hindú women wind round the body as a petticoat, passing one end over the head.

Sepoy ( sipáhí ), a soldier.

Wazír, prime minister.

Yogí, a Hindú religious mendicant.

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