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Tulisa, the Wood-Cutter's Daughter facts for kids

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Tulisa, the Wood-Cutter's Daughter is an Indian legend from the Somadeva Bhaṭṭa. The tale concerns a woodcutter's daughter who hears a voice at a fountain: "Will you be my wife?" On the third time she refers the voice to her father - a woodcutter -, to whom the voice promises great wealth. The voice turns out to be that of a serpent king whom Tulisa meets at night but never sees. Soon after the daughter's marriage, her father becomes rich, arousing the jealousy of neighbours. After many turns the story culminates with Tulisa and her husband prince Basnak Dau clothed in royal robes.


French folklorist Emmanuel Cosquin claimed that the tale was first collected in 1833, from a washerwoman in Benares (Varanasi). An English language version of the tale, published in 1842, in The Asiatic Journal, claimed that the tale was "a great favourite amongst the people of Hindustan".


Tulisa, the beautiful daughter of a poor woodcutter (Nur Singh, or Nursingh), approaches a fountain, when she hears a voice, with a most strange proposition: "Will you marry me?". Not knowing whose voice it is, she pays no heed. The episode repeats a few times, and she tells her father of the curious happening.

Her would-be suitor is the Prince (or King) of Snakes, Basnak Dau, and promises riches to Tulisa's father, in exchange for his daughter hand in marriage. She relents to the proposal and moves into a splendid palace. Tulisa marries the mysterious owner of the voice, under the condition that she may never see her husband when he comes to the bridal bed, at night, and that she must not receive any visitor.

At a certain point, she helps a squirrel, who tells her it will return the favor in the future. One day, an old lady was helped by Tulisa into the palace. In conversation with the mistress of the house, the old lady persuades Tulisa into asking the name of her husband. The fateful day arrives: when Tulisa asks him the question, he answers his name is "Basnak Dau", and suddenly the palace and the prince vanish, and leave her there, alone.

Tulisa returns to her parents, once again in poverty. One day, she receives the visit of the grateful squirrel, and learns of the mystery of her husband: he is the Prince of Snakes, dethroned by his own mother. If she succeeds in taking the eyes from the snake that coils around the Queen's neck, by a specific bird, the Queen will be defeated and the true King restored.

Tulisa and the squirrel arrive at the palace of the Queen of the Serpents in order to fulfill the tasks assigned to her, thanks to the squirrel's help.

Alternate titles

The story is also known as The Tale of Tulisa, The Wood-cutter's Daughter and Die Holzbauer Tochter.


The tale was published in the West in German as Tulisa and Basnak Dau in Hermann Brockhaus' selections from the Somadeva Bhaṭṭa (Leipzig, 1843) and widely distributed through Ausland magazine (also 1843), and published in English in sources such as Household Tales from the East in The Dublin University Magazine in 1869.

The tale was also translated to Czech and published in some editions of literary supplement Česká Včela (cs) in 1844 (in segmented format), with the title Drwoštěpowa dcera.

The tale was also translated into German by Franz Hoffmann with the title Die Tochter des Holzfällers (Ein Märchen aus Hindostan).

A later compilation of fairy tales named the tale The Wood-Cutter's Daughter and the Mysterious Voice.

Similarities with European folktales

Later commentators saw common elements with Cupid and Psyche.

German scholar Johann Georg von Hahn, in his book Griechische und Albanesische Märchen acknowledged the story of Tulisa as a striking parallel to that of Cupid and Psyche.

Folklorist Joseph Jacobs, in his book Europa's Fairy Book, mentioned the tale of Tulisa as having some sort of connection to the Graeco-Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche, as written by Apuleius in The Golden Ass. In the commentaries about his reconstruction of the widespread tale of The Unseen Bridegroom (Aarne-Thompson-Uther index ATU 425B), he notices many similarities between both stories: the invisible husband; the violation of taboo; the mother-in-law's tasks; the wife's triumph at the end.

German philologist Ludwig Friedländer listed The Tale of Tulisa as part of the "Cupid and Psyche" cycle of stories (which later became known as "The Search for the Lost Husband").

Folklorists Johannes Bolte and Jiri Polivka, in their Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- u. hausmärchen der brüder Grimm, Second Volume, listed the tale of Tulisa as a variant of German folktale The Singing, Springing Lark, collected by the Brothers Grimm. The German story is itself a variant of the Cupid and Psyche myth.

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