From childhood a peasant couple worked for a rich landlord. They had no children. The woman, who was over fifty, was very sad.

One day, when she was collecting firewood in the forest, she wanted to have a drink. But there was no spring in the neighborhood. Neither pond nor stream, suddenly at the foot of a tree she found a human skull still containing some rain water. As she could not resist the temptation she put it to her lips. She felt at once a strong feeling of well being.

Soon after that she was with child. At that juncture her husband died and all the chores fell on her. She was overwhelmed by hardships and weariness. However, in her heart of hearts she was happy. She was going to give birth to a baby.

That day arrived at long last. Alas! Where was the long wished for baby? The poor woman gave birth to a ball of flesh with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth, but neither body, nor legs, nor arms…

The poor woman gave birth to a ball of flesh with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth, but neither body, nor legs, nor arms

The poor woman gave birth to a ball of flesh with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth, but neither body, nor legs, nor arms

She was about to throw the thing away when she heard it say:
“I am a human being. Mother, Have pity on me.”

The woman was moved to tears and gave it the breast.
The landlord ordered her to bury this ball, but she refused to obey him. So she was obliged to live alone in her hut in the middle of a field of manioc.

Her child, whom she called Coconut, was highly intelligent. When she left for work she asked him to behave himself.
‘On my return I will give you a good handful of cooked rice’ she said.
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But as soon as his mother left, the ball turned into a little boy who did all the chores in the house, then turned again into his original shape and slept in his straw bed.

His mother was puzzled, but there was nothing she could do to solve the enigma.
In the meantime Coconut rolled like a ball wherever he went. At first the local people were much afraid, but they gradually got used to this abnormal child.
One day, seeing that his mother was sadder than usual, the boy asked her why.

‘When they are seven years old, children usually look after buffaloes and goats. What shall we do with the pack of goats which our master cannot find anyone to look after?’, she said.

“Mother, I can look after the goats all right. Please go and talk to the master about it’, he said.
It was quite a job for her to persuade the landlord to accept the offer. In the end, he said:
‘Tell him to come here every morning to lead the goats onto the hill and to bring them home in the evening.”

The next morning, Coconut rolled to the farm. Rain or shine, he did his work every day, and never had goats grown fat so quickly. The landlord was very pleased, because he paid boy a poor salary. “Two handfuls of cooked rice a day, that’s all!’

He had three daughters, who differed in character from one another. The eldest was naughty; the second had a heart of stone. But the youngest was as sweet as she was good.

At harvest time, when everybody was busy in the fields, the girls took turns to bring Coconut his meals on the hill…

One day it was the youngest girl’s turn to do the job. When she came to the foot of the hill she stopped, struck by the melodious tunes of a flute. Noiselessly she climbed the slope and, hiding in a thicket, she looked out. A very handsome young lad, about seventeen years old, was lying in a silk hammock. Birds perched on his shoulders while he was playing. The tune was so beautiful that the girl’s heart beat to the rhythm of the melody. She leaned against a branch. The branch broke. On hearing this noise, Coconut, for it was he, changed back into his primitive shape.

From that day the girl tried by every means to bring the best dishes to the strange boy.
Coconut loved his mother and understood her secret sadness.

“Mother,” he said to her one day, “buy a bunch of areca nuts and go to the master’s house to ask for the hand of one of his daughters*.
His mother could not help laughing:
“Who would want to marry you, my poor child?”

However, at his insistence, she agreed to go to see the landlord. Stroking his beard the landlord said:
‘How could such a monster mount an elephant?”

But on second thoughts he said:
’Tell your son that I will give him the hand of my daughter on some conditions. He must bring here a gold grain pot, ten pieces of pink flowery silk, ten fat pigs, also ten goats and ten jars of the best alcohol. I require also a tile-roofed brick house whose main beam and columns are made of silver and the other beams of copper. I will give him my daughter on these conditions.”

The poor mother returned home down-hearted. But to her stupefaction she heard her son say:
“Mother, go to the landlord and tell him I accept very willingly.”

His mother, not believing her ears, nevertheless went to give the reply. This time the landlord pondered:
“I must know which of my daughters will accept his offer.”

The two elder sisters leapt up with indignation. But the youngest girl said:
“Father, I will do what you want”.

Then, the landlord turning to the woman, agreed on the day for bringing the betrothal presents. The man added, however:
“It will cost you your life if you try to offend me.”

Coconut continued to guard the cattle, as calm and confident as before. His mother, tormented with worry, often said to him:
“How can we get out of this dilemma?

He smiled.
At last the great day arrived. The poor mother looked in vain around her. There were only some torn pieces of mats and some chipped earthen pots in the humble straw hut. Desperate, she threw herself on her pallet and dropped off to sleep.

When she woke up, she could not believe her eyes. Her bed was made of carved gu wood, and her covering was made of brocade. No more mud dwelling, but a brick house with silver columns and copper beams. In a corner was the gold grain pot, and pieces of embroidered silk. She saw the goats under the verandah, and the very fat pigs near some jars full of alcohol.

But alas! Only her son had not changed! He remained a ball as before.
He rolled out of his bed onto the ground.
“Eh! Come here!’, he said.
Twenty servants entered the room.
Dazzled, the mother looked at everything without understanding anything.
The presents were carried to the master’s house.
The mother followed.
Coconut rolled…

The master, whether he liked it or not, was compelled to comply.
That same evening Coconut organized a reception to welcome the bride to his family home.
It was the most sumptuous feast ever seen. The whole village was invited to attend.

When night came, Coconut disappeared. Everybody wondered where he was. Suddenly the couple came in. A handsome young man was standing near the bride.

When night came, Coconut disappeared. Everybody wondered where he was. Suddenly the couple came in. A handsome young man was standing near the bride.

When night came, Coconut disappeared. Everybody wondered where he was. Suddenly the couple came in. A handsome young man was standing near the bride.
– Ladies and gentlemen, my dear parents, I am Coconut. My young wife and I wish to convey to you our respectful greetings and our sincere thanks for your presence. Let’s drink a cup of alcohol together to seal forever our great friendship.

When the news of Coconut’s transformation reached the master’s house, the two sisters were eaten up with jealousy.

The young man started his studies. When the mandarin examinations were held, he easily won the first place with the title of Doctor. Unfortunately his mother died at this juncture and he had to go back to his native village.

A little while later he was appointed ambassador by royal decree. Before he left, he gave his young wife a piece of flint, a knife and two eggs and advised her to carry them with her all the time.

However, the two elder sisters became more and more jealous of their young sister and decided to kill her.

One calm night, they came to see her and asked her to go out boating. She accepted the invitation without suspecting anything. The wicked sisters took the boat to the mouth of the river where enormous fish were living. When among the huge waves, they jumped onto the shore taking the oars with them and violently shoved the boat away. Caught in the whirlpools the boat turned over.

The two sisters called for help, saying that their careless sister had drowned…
She was not drowned. The young woman did not lose her presence of mind in the belly of a big fish. With her knife she killed the fish, whose corpse floated to the surface and was thrown onto the shore. The young woman then cut some of the flesh of the fish and put the salty pieces in a hollow tree to make some pickling brine out of them. She gathered some twigs and striking the flint she made a fire to warm and feed herself.

She made herself a shelter with bamboo and leaves.
Every day she went into the forest to gather fruit and yams.

Her two eggs, which were kept in the warmth of a straw nest, finally hatched out. She had two chickens which she fed on caterpillars, and which soon became a cock and a hen.

Time went by. The river was deep and the forest dense. How to get out of them?

One evening, the young woman heard her cock cry:
‘Cock-a-doodle-do, if it is the Doctor’s boat, perhaps, he is coming to look for my mistress.”

She rushed towards the river bank. A man was standing at the prow of the boat. As the boat came nearer, the silhouette became clearer.
“Coconut”, she cried.

It was indeed he. The couple fell into each other’s arms, shedding tears of joy. Then she told him about her painful experiences.
When they were back home, Coconut asked his wife to hide in a room. Then he invited his relatives and in-law’s to a great party.

The two elder sisters, in their loveliest attire vied with each other in coquetry towards the presumed widower, pretending to bemoan their youngest sister’s tragic death.

Hardly had the guests emptied their first cups of alcohol when Coconut disappeared.
When he returned with his young wife at his side, the two wicked sisters turned pale and ran away.