A story from Tatterhood and other Tales edited by Ethel Johnstone Phelps, published by The Feminist Press, 1978. This story is a tale from the Punjab region of India, was is adapted by Lenora Alleyne Lang and appeared in Andrew Lang’s Olive Fairy Book. .
Kupti and Imani tells a tale of two very different sisters, the daughters of a great king. One day the king asks the princesses if they are satisfied to leave their lives and fortunes in his hands and he receives two very different answers.
Kupti, surprised at the question, says “In who’s hands would I leave them, if not yours?” Imani says “No, Indeed. If I had the chance I would make my own fortune.” The king, displeased with her answer tells Imani that she is too young to know the meaning of her words. In his anger he grants her wish.
The king gives Imani to an old, crippled beggar as a servant and theygo to live in his tumble-down hut “which was bare except for an old bedstead, two old cooking pots and an earthen jug for water, and one can not get much comfort out of such things.” Imani develops a plan and, taking the old man’s last penny, she buys some oil and some flax. With the oil she massages the beggar’s crippled leg, with the flax, on a borrowed wheel and loom, she spins and weaves a fine cloth. Her care of the beggar heals his leg and her hard work brings them a small fortune in gold.
As the story develops Imani shows industry, wisdom and even develops healing powers. Unlike most of the women in the folktales I grew up with she is a strong, kind, caring and wise heroine.
I love to read this book to 1st and 2nd year elementary students. We always have great discussions afterwards!