Friday, July 06, 2012

Episode 22: A New Challenger

In this feature, we outline the chapters of The Legend of Ponnivala as we've laid them out in the animated and print series. The sub-story descriptions are those that occur in each episode, and are drawn from our Teacher's Handbook.

An artisan holding an old a grudge against the Ponnivala family sets out to trick the ruling brothers. Spending the night in their palace, he bungles his attempt to steal the family’s prize swords. Accusing the more trusting brother of deceit, he challenges him to prove his honesty by swimming through a dangerous irrigation channel. Lord Vishnu helps the honest hero succeed.

An Artisan Develops a Secret Plan

A few artisans (family rivals from day one) have successfully hidden themselves from the heroes until now. But one foolish survivor wants to take revenge. He develops an elaborate scheme to deceive the heroes. First he cuts down a very venerable and large tree in his back yard, something his ancestors have honored for generations. His wife questions his decision but the artisan ignores her. Then he makes a very large measuring vessel made from the lovely wood. Asking his wife to buy a small amount of gold from the market, he then thinly covers the huge dish with gold foil. Now there are many bad omens. The artisan hits his head on the door frame of the house when leaving, he sees a black cat cross his path, and more. Again his wife begs him to stop and to at least wait for a more auspicious day. Again the artisan ignores her advice.

The Greedy Artisan Makes a Mistake

After walking quite a distance with a large bowl on his head, the artisan finally reaches a temple near the twin kings’ palace. The older (and more gullible) twin is sitting there. After a short conversation this brother takes pity on the artisan (alone with an expensive vessel on his head at the end of the day) and invites him to spend the night, He warns him that he may encounter thieves if he proceeds any further after dark. The artisan accepts this offer of hospitality and asks to leave his vessel in the palace storeroom. There he carefully places it next to a small lighted oil lamp. He goes to sleep in the palace room. But a big incident erupts in the middle of the night. The artisan tries to sneak into the palace armory and steal one of the heroes’ swords. Being careless, he ends up cutting himself with it instead. Then he cries out in pain. Still the gullible elder brother is tolerant and trusting …. He merely asks the artisan to go back to sleep after the maids give him a balm for his wounds.

The Elder Hero’s Honesty Is Tested

The next morning, when the artisan and he go to the storeroom to get the golden vessel they find it has been “replaced” by a simple wooden one. (In reality the gold foil has melted from the heat of the lamp). The artisan then accuses the elder hero of having stolen his vessel. Of course, the mild-mannered king denies having done anything of the sort. Now the artisan demands proof of his honesty in the form of several supernatural feats. Twice the elder twin is asked to swim through an irrigation sluice where the water is running at high speed. On the second attempt the artisan tries to hit him on the head with a stature of Lord Ganesh. The sister awakes from a dream and calls her younger brother, warning him that the elder twin is in grave danger. He rushes to the irrigation tank on horseback. Just then Lord Vishnu comes to the rescue and the hero is saved. The younger hero, meanwhile, arrives at the scene and angrily attacks both the artisan and a group of allied warrior-hunters who have also appeared and are ready to attack. As usual, the heroes' side is victorious and both brothers come through this mini war unharmed. The artisan and his hunter friends are all killed. For the moment life at the palace returns to normal.

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