Sky High: A Bengali Folktale

Bengali Folktail


Years ago, the sky was very close to earth – so close you could stand on a stool and touch it. On the horizon, where the sky seemed to meet the earth, was a little village. An old woman, gnarled and bent, lived there in her thatched, straw hut.

No one knew how old she was but she must have been ancient, for she had no family or friends left and lived alone. All day, she pottered around cleaning, scrubbing, dusting or sweeping inside and outside her hut.

One summer, the air was so dry that dust enveloped the village. Trees, rooftops, people’s noses, eyes and throats were filmed with dust. People couldn’t stop coughing, choking and sneezing. The sky too was victim to this; even the slightest breeze would raise dust and cause it to cough violently.

This did not deter the old lady. She just kept sweeping, unmindful of the dust that rose into the air in vast clouds of brown.

The hapless sky began to choke from the dust she raised. Dust tickling its nose and throat soon led to sneezes – large, loud ones that shook the earth with thunder. People ran indoors, fearful for their safety. Except the old woman who simply went on sweeping.

“ACHHOOO! Oh, this is unbearable!” exclaimed the sky. Its eyes began to water; the drops fell as rain onto the dry land below. One fat raindrop fell on the ground that the old woman had just swept.

Straightening up, the crone glared at the offender and scrubbed off the raindrop. But more and more drops followed until her doorstep was wet and slushy.

Oh the nerve of that sky! Enraged, the old woman screamed at it, cursing and threatening. But the helpless sky couldn’t stop, its eyes clogged with all the dust from her sweeping.

Maddened by this disobedience, the woman lifted her broom and smacked it on the sky. Another THWACK! And another, and another.

The poor sky couldn’t tolerate the curses, the dust and above all, the whacks from the broom. Sniffing, coughing, tears coursing down, the sky upped and flew higher and higher, beyond the reach of that awful broom, swearing never to descend. And that’s how the sky became so high!


Adapted from: