The Old Sorcerer was Outwitted

About Kathakali Mukherjee

Kathakali Mukherjee, born 1971, was a student of Sanskrit – Epigraphy and ancient Indian history. But her interest in language and literary studies led her learning another couple of European languages as well.
She worked for media libraries in Kolkata; also spent several years as technical translator, process and team manager with German and Indian software companies in Bangalore. Currently staying in Gurugram or Kolkata, she is engaged with reading and writing.
Apart from experimenting with short stories, she works on literary translation of fable and fairy tales as well as historical fictions. She is exploring the treasure trove left by esteemed Bengali and German authors between 18th-19th centuries these days.
She writes poems during her busy days when time does not permit her to sit at the writing desk.
Her blog: and
Her self-published works:
"You and me" is a collection of poems
And her effort of translating a selection of articles from Lokrahasya “Secrets of the Humankind – Satiric Articles by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay,”:

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There was a vicious sorcerer. He stole two adorable children – one boy and one girl, long back. He used to live a quiet and solitary life with them in a cave. Even the God should have been sorry that he planned to use them to practice his evil art. He had learnt the art from a sorcerer’s book. He carefully preserved that book which he considered his best treasure. He kept himself busy with practicing the black art and seldom left the cave.

But whenever he went out his cave leaving the children alone, the boy took the chance to take a look at his belongings. He discovered the place where the book of magic was hidden. He browsed through the book and learnt many chants as well as some black magic methods. He also practiced conjuring tricks that he had learnt very well.

But as you know, the old sorcerer rarely left them alone in the cave. His purpose was to keep them imprisoned till the day he wanted to sacrifice them for the sake of his black magic. The children knew that and discussed about finding a way to escape secretly.
They were lucky to have the much-awaited chance one day! The sorcerer left home in the morning. He told he would come back by the evening. The children had an entire day with themselves. The boy told to his sister, “My sister, this is perfect time! The evil man who detains us is away. Let us escape as fast as possible.” Both departed the cave and kept on walking the whole day.

It was almost evening. Returning home, the sorcerer found the children missing. He opened his book of magic straight away and started chanting to spot where the children had gone. It did not take much time for him to find them out. How long it takes for such a skilled sorcerer to chase two fleeing children when their direction is detected? He started chasing them. The children could hear his angry, roaring voice. The sister was horrified. She screamed, “Brother! Brother! We are lost now; the evil man is very close!” It was time for the brother to open up his magical skill which he had learnt from the book. He recited a quick chant – as soon as he finished, his sister transformed into a fish and himself into a large pond. The little fish was seen swimming cheerfully in the pond.

The old wicked came near the pond. He realized very well how he was deceived. He roared in anger, “Wait, Wait! I will catch you anyway!” He rushed back to his cave to bring fishing net. But by the time he returned with the net – his cave was one day away anyway – the pond and fish changed to brother and sister again. The hid themselves well in the forest and slept well. They walked from next morning till evening. The sorcerer could not anticipate anything.

Hence he came back to the spot where he noticed the pond, with his net. There was no pond any longer. He saw a green meadow there in which there could be frogs, but no fish. He was angrier than before. He threw his net down and continued following the trail of children. Instead of the book, he was carrying a magic sword this time. It showed him their correct direction.

By the evening, he almost caught the fleeing children. They could hear him snorting and roaring. The sister cried again, “Brother! Brother! We are lost now; the evil man is right behind us!”
The boy uttered another magic-spell learnt from the book. And he was transformed into a chapel beside the road, whereas his sister became the beautiful Madonna on the magnificent alter piece inside the chapel.

As the sorcerer tried to enter the chapel, he realized that he was tricked once again. He ran around it roaring terribly, but found no way to go in. The sorcerers always have an agreement with the evil – because of which they can never enter the church or chapel.
“I may not be allowed to enter, but I will be able to burn you to ashes!”  yelled he and ran towards his cave again to fetch fire.

He was running all night and in the meantime, the chapel and the wonderful alter converted to brother and sister once more. They slept whole day keeping themselves out of everyone’s sight. On the third morning, they started walking as before and walked till the end of the day. But at the same time, the evil man who had crossed a long way followed them again. With fire in hand, he came to the place where he saw the chapel. As the chapel was nowhere at sight, he threw the fire on a large stone, burning it instantly into ashes. The stars in the sky found him leaping furiously as he started chasing the runaway children once again.

Towards evening, he came very close to them. The sister hesitated for the third time thinking that there was no hope for survival. But the boy recited another magic spell learned from the book which transformed him into a thrashing ground on which farmers could thresh their grains. The little sister was changed into a tiny piece of grain that camouflaged among the grains scattered on it, as if it was lost on the threshing floor.
As the black magician approached, he understood that he had been fooled for the third time. He did not wait long, neither had he run home this time, but spoke a spell from the book which converted him into a black cock. It started picking the barley grains hurriedly. It was trying to swallow all of them at soon as possible. But the boy, now a threshing ground, spoke another spell which changed him into a jackal. The next moment it grabbed the neck of the cock and bit its head off.

The black magician’s life as well as his practice of sorcery ended. Our story also ends here.




* Sorcerers played important role in medieval era folktale –almost everywhere in the world. Technological advancement could not impress people too much till then and people in general believed in magical powers having which one can do wonders. Post crusade European folktales consider sorcery as “evil art”. On contrary, showing signs and performing miracles was considered essential to preach the new religion. Hence a line between black magic and white magic was drawn.
** Fleeing from the hands of sorcerer is popular theme of folktale not only in German speaking territories but also in India. Obvious that innocent are the target of bad people. Who but children symbolizes innocence well? Or do these stories depict an old tradition of child abuse in human societies? Whatever it is, skilful sorcery becomes the best weapon to defeat sorcerers. Even children need to learn some to save themselves. Remember the Sanskrit proverb “शठे शाठ्यं समाचरेत्l” Tit for tat?
*** Changing own form is another wonderful idea we find both in European and Indian folktales in medieval period. We find instance of persons transforming into horse, bird, and even non-living objects with the help of magical power in Bengali Nath literature and Odia folktales too.


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