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The Miserly Old Woman

A folktale from India, retold by Rohini Chowdhury

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Once, in a tiny village, there lived a rich and miserly old woman. She was so mean and so miserly that she would not spend a paisa of her money if she could help it. Her house was the most ramshackle in the village, her clothes were old and ragged, and she lived on the most frugal of diets.

She had no friends because she trusted no one. 'They are after my money!' she would say to herself and turn away anyone who tried to be friends with her. She had no family because, fed up of her miserly ways, they had all moved away. So she lived all alone.

She didn't trust the banks, so she kept her money hidden away in her house - no one knew where. None of the villagers had entered her house in decades - she wouldn't let anyone enter. 'They're after my money!' she would say, and shut the door on their faces.

The villagers would whisper amongst themselves about her fabulous wealth, and wonder to whom it would go once she died, for children she had none. One day a young man on his way to the city in search of a fortune was passing through the village. He heard the villagers talking amongst themselves about the rich old woman.

'This is a good way to make my fortune!' thought the young man. 'I will make the old woman leave all her money to me!'

He picked up his bundle and walking up to the old woman's house knocked at her door.

'Go away!' cried the old woman.

'Aunt, don't you recognize me?' said the young man. 'I am your long-lost nephew. Don't you remember me?'

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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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