Once there lived a weaver in a small village in one of the big kingdoms in North India. One day he brought home some jaggery to eat while he lay dreaming up the big things in life. As he lay on his cot, eating and dreaming, dreaming and eating, some of the jaggery fell on to the floor. Immediately a swarm of flies swooped in on the crumbs on the floor and the man, with all the rage that he could summon up on that hot afternoon, brought his palm down on the flies.

As he looked to see the impact of his hard whack on the floor, he was very pleased. Thirty, at the very least, squashed flies were his reward. The weaver was very proud and he felt that he who could kill 30 flies with one swat ought to be made for better things than weaving. So he left his job, his home and his village and headed for the king’s palace.

The king asked him his name and what he could do. “Tees Mar Khan, I am a slayer of 30,” he said. Impressed the king made him a soldier in his force.

Soon there came a day when a tiger strayed into the kingdom. Upon seeing him the townsfolk ran helter-skelter and the tiger began attacking all he could see. The king had to do something to help his panicked people and so he summoned the bravest soldier in his force.

Kill the tiger, he told Tees Mar Khan who stood quaking in his boots. But he could not let his fear show on his face and so he announced with aplomb, “I have killed 30. What is the tiger in front of me?”

As he sped out of the palace, Tees Mar Khan began formulating a plan in his head. He would go to the washerman’s shed where he would untie his donkey from the pole and then go home and collect his belongings and flee the town. Meanwhile as he headed towards the shed, the skies opened up.

Rain poured down on the panicked town that the tiger had stumbled into. Inside the washerman’s shed where his donkey was tied a crowd had gathered, people were huddled together to keep themselves dry and perhaps also safe from being attacked on the streets alone. When Tees Mar Khan entered looking for the donkey, he was stunned to see so many people. Everyone turned to him, looking in askance as to what was he doing there when he ought to be saving the town.

Quickly regaining his composure, he said, “I am not afraid of any tiger-shiger. It is these droplets of water that I need protection from, the tapkua I fear more than any beast.” Now, unseen by any of those gathered, in the darkness of the moment, the tiger had stepped into the shed also. When he heard this boast, he was a bit intrigued. Who was this beast called Tapkua that this brave man was talking about? What animal was fiercer than him?

So he quietly crept up to the man and stood by his side till the rain subsided. And as the skies began to clear, Tees Mar Khan spotted his opportunity and with a rope that he had carried with him, leashed the washerman’s donkey in a neat loop and slipped out of the shed.

All the way home, he saw people looking at him strangely. He merely walked on, in a hurry to get away from the town before being found out by the king. Upon reaching his home, he slipped the donkey to a pole outside and ran in to get his bundle of belongings. When he came out, he was astonished to see a crowd and the king standing there too.

He started to make some excuses when the king reached out and hugged him. Braver than any man he knew, even humble, the king called him and pointed to the tiger tied to the pole outside his home. Tees Mar Khan nearly fainted at the sight and was even trembling on the inside when he thought of having walked home with the tiger.

Soon after the kingdom was invaded by one of its enemies. And the king asked for his bravest soldier on the field. Tees Mar Khan who had never got on a horse ever before was given one of the finest steeds from the stable and sent to battle. The brave slayer of 30 clung to the horse for dear life and waited at the end of the troops when he heard his name being yelled by the entire rank and file. In panic, he nudged his horse who was a veteran of many battles. In a flash the horse charged forward at lightning speed, Tees Mar Khan on its back. On the way a big tree offered him a ray of hope, but Tees Mar Khan’s horse was in such a hurry that the tree came off roots and all in his arms as he tried to jump off.

The enemy watched in bafflement as they saw the horse, man and tree racing towards them. What strength must a man have to uproot an entire tree? No man was brave enough to face this giant, slayer of 30, tiger hunter and now tree uprooter and the enemy fled the field.

Tees Mar Khan lived a happy life thereafter. The king rewarded him handsomely and gave him his daughter in marriage too and the stories that he told his grandchildren are even being told today.

(This folktale has many versions and is told with different endings in different parts of the country. This one is from North India but even in that region, people have heard it differently from different sources)

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Location: Pan India

Source: The Blue Lotus: Myths and Folktales of India, Meena Arora Nayak