This is a story of long, long ago.
Surya the sun god had a very beautiful daughter. She was tall, with long golden hair that almost touched her toes. And she was gentle as the soft, wispy white clouds that float by on clear blue day.
Though she loved her home in the sky, each morning, as brightness spread across the heavens, she came down earth, to the wonderful green forests that grew there.
She walked among the trees all day. She sang with the birds. She played hide-n-seek with the small creatures and listened to the stories the big beasts had to tell. And when evening came, she returned to her palace far away beyond the twinkling stars.
When she grew up she married a handsome prince. He loved her very much, and often told her to be careful in the forest. Especially far inside, where the branches were so wide and the leaves so thick, it was as dark as night. For a wicked witch lived there.
But one day the princess lost her way. Deeper and deeper into the forest she went. It was dark and damp and she soon got tired. She was about to sit down when suddenly she heard a loud, crunching noise. And there, right in front of her, was the witch!
She was ugly and creepy, with big yellow eyes and long green nails. The princess was so frightened that she turned around and ran. She ran and ran, but each time she looked back, the witch was there, right behind her.
When she could run no more, she jumped into a nearby pool and changed herself into a lovely yellow lotus. The witch, who was scared of the water, could not get in. So she sat at the edge, guarding the flower. She sat there all night and all day. She did not eat and she did not sleep.
When the princess did not come home, the prince was very worried. He went to look for her. He searched the palace gardens, but she was not there. He sent his guards all over the kingdom, but no one had seen her. He asked Surya and he asked Chandra the moon, but they too had no news of her. He roamed all over but could not find her.
He was very sad. He wondered what could have happened to her, and made up his mind to look for her till he found her.
One afternoon as he was riding through the forest he came to the pool. He saw the beautiful flower there and wanted to have it. So he went into the water and plucked it. But the wicked witch was right there, watching him.
She asked him for the flower but he would not give it. She tried to snatch it, and she tried to frighten him so he would drop it. But he held it tight. When she could not get it in any way, she became so angry that she with a swish of her magic wand she burnt the flower to cinders. And thinking she had killed the princess, she went away.
But from the ashes of the flower grew a wonderful tree. Its leaves were bright green, its flowers pale and its fruit, golden-yellow. As the first fruit fell to the ground, it burst. And from it arose the princess.
The prince was surprised. He was so happy that he invited everyone to the palace to celebrate. There was a big feast, and there was music and singing and dancing.
The next day the prince and princess went to the forest again, to gather the rest of the wonderful fruit. They planted its seeds all over their kingdom. Soon the rains came and tiny seedlings burst out of the ground. They became bigger and stronger each year.
In time, the trees grew tall and wide. Then one spring they were covered with pale, feathery blossoms. And by summer their branches were laden with fruit, golden as the sun. Luscious, delicious, scrumptious mangoes!
And ever since, each year as the weather becomes warm, the trees are loaded with mangoes. They are the best you can ever find, anywhere.
Folktale retold by Meera Joshi