Once upon a time there lived a couple who had long been married, but had no child. Every Sunday they went to church and begged God to give them a son. They even asked the witches in their town why God would not give them a child. The witches told them that they would have one after a year, but that when born he would be no longer than a span. Nevertheless the couple gave thanks.
After a year a son was born to them. He was very small, as the witches had foretold, but he was stronger than any one would expect such a small child to be. “It is strange,” said a neighbor. “Why, he eats more food than his stomach can hold.” The boy grew larger and larger, and the amount of food he ate became greater and greater. When he became four feet tall, his daily requirements were a cavan of rice and twenty-five pounds of meat and fish. “I can’t imagine how so small a person can eat so much food,” said his mother to her husband. “He is like a grasshopper: he eats all the time.”
Carancal, as the boy was called, was very strong and very kind-hearted. He was the leader of the other boys of the town, for he could beat all of them in wrestling.
After a few years the family’s property had all been sold to buy food for the boy. Day after day they became poorer and poorer, for Carancal’s father had no other business but fishing. So one day when Carancal was away playing, the wife said to her husband, “What shall we do with Carancal? He will make us as poor as rats. It is better for us to tell him to go earn his living, for he is old enough to work.”
“No, it is a shame to send him off,” said the father, “for we asked God for him. I will take him to the forest and there kill him; and if the neighbors ask how he died, we will say that an accident befell him while cutting trees.”
Early the next morning his father led Carancal to the forest, and they began to cut down a very big tree. When the tree was about to fall, Carancal’s father ordered the son to stand where the tree inclined; so that when it fell, Carancal was entirely buried. The father immediately went home, thinking that his son had surely been killed; but when he and his wife were talking, Carancal came home with the big tree on his shoulders.
“Father, father, why did you leave me alone in the forest?” said the obedient boy.
The father could not move or speak, for shame of himself. He only helped his son unload the heavy burden. The mother could not speak either, for fear Carancal might suspect their bad intentions toward him. Accordingly she and her husband planned another scheme.
The next day Carancal was invited by his father to go fishing. They rowed and rowed until they were far out into the blue sea. Then they put their net into the water. “Carancal, dive down and see that our net is sound,” said the father. Carancal obeyed. In about a minute the water became red and began to foam. This made the old man think that his son had been devoured by a big fish, so he rowed homeward. When he reached home, his wife anxiously asked if Carancal was dead; and the husband said, “Yes.” They then cooked their meal and began to eat. But their supper was not half finished when Carancal came in, carrying a big alligator. He again asked his father why he had left him alone to bring such a big load. The father said, “I thought you had been killed by a large fish.” Carancal then asked his mother to cook him a cavan of rice, for he was tired from swimming such a long distance.
The couple were now discouraged; they could not think of any way by which to get rid of Carancal. At last the impatient woman said, “Carancal, you had better go out into the world to see what you can do toward earning your own living. You know that we are becoming poorer and poorer.” . . .
“Mother,” interrupted the boy, “I really did not wish to go away from you; but, now that you drive me as if I were not your son, I cannot stay.” He paused for a moment to wipe the tears from his cheeks. “You know that I love you; but you, in turn, hate me. What shall I do? I am your son, and so I must not disobey you. But before I depart, father and mother, please give me a bolo, a big bolo, to protect myself in case of danger.”
The parents willingly promised that he should have one, and after two days an enormous bolo five yards long was finished. Carancal took it, kissed the hands of his parents, and then went away with a heavy heart.
When he had left his little village behind, he did not know which way to go. He was like a ship without a rudder. He walked and walked until he came to a forest, where he met Bugtongpalasan. Carancal asked him where he was going; and Bugtongpalasan said, “I am wandering, but I do not know where to go. I have lost my parents, and they have left me nothing to inherit.”
“Do you want to go with me?” said Carancal.
“Yes,” said Bugtongpalasan.
“Let us wrestle first, and the loser will carry my bolo,” said Carancal as a challenge. They wrestled; and Bugtongpalasan was defeated, so he had to carry the big bolo.
Then they continued their journey until they met Tunkodbola, whom Carancal also challenged to a wrestling-match. Tunkodbola laughed at Carancal, and said, “Look at this!” He twisted up a tree near by, and hurled it out of sight.
“That is all right. Let us wrestle, and we will see if you can twist me,” said Carancal scornfully. So they wrestled. The earth trembled, trees were uprooted, large stones rolled about; but Tunkodbola was defeated.
“Here, take this bolo and carry it!” said Carancal triumphantly; and they continued their journey.
When they reached the top of a mountain, they saw a big man. This was Macabuhalbundok. Carancal challenged him; but Macabuhalbundok only laughed, and pushed up a hill. As the hill fell, he said, “Look at this hill! I gave it only a little push, and it was overthrown.”
“Well, I am not a hill,” said Carancal. “I can balance myself.” They wrestled together, and Carancal was once more the winner.
The four companions now walked on together. They were all wandering about, not knowing where to go. When they were in the midst of a thick wood, they became hungry; so Carancal, their captain, ordered one of them to climb a tall tree and see if any house was nigh. Bugtongpalasan did so, and he saw a big house near the edge of the forest. They all went to the house to see if they might not beg some food.
It was a very large house; but all the windows were closed, and it seemed to be uninhabited. They knocked at the door, but no one answered. Then they went in, and found a table covered with delicious food; and as they were almost famished, they lost no time in devouring what seemed to have been prepared for them. After all had eaten, three of them went hunting, leaving Bugtongpalasan behind to cook more food for them against their return.
While Bugtongpalasan was cooking, he felt the earth tremble, and in a short time he saw a big giant ascending the stairs of the house, saying, “Ho, bajo tao cainco,” which means “I smell a man whom I will eat.” Bugtongpalasan faced him, but what could a man do to a big giant? The monster pulled a hair out of his head and tied Bugtongpalasan to a post. Then he cooked his own meal. After eating, he went away, leaving his prisoner in the house.
When the three arrived, they were very angry with Bugtongpalasan because no food had been prepared for them; but they untied him, and made him get the meal. Tunkodbola was the next one left behind as cook while the others went hunting, but he had the same experience as Bugtongpalasan. Then Macabuhalbundok; but the same thing happened to him too.
It was now the turn of Carancal to try his wit, strength, and luck. Before the three left, he had them shave his head. When the giant came and saw that Carancal’s head was white, he laughed. “It is a very fine thing to have a white head,” said the giant. “Make my head white, too.”
“Your head must be shaved to be white,” said Carancal, “and it is a very difficult thing to shave a head.”
“Never mind that! I want to have my head shaved,” said the giant impatiently.
Carancal then got some ropes and wax. He tied the giant tightly to a post, and then smeared his body with wax. He next took a match and set the giant’s body on fire. Thus the giant was destroyed, and the four lived in the house as if it were their own.
Not long afterwards a rumor reached their ears. It was to this effect: that in a certain kingdom on the other side of the sea lived a king who wanted to have a huge stone removed from its place. This stone was so big that it covered much ground. The prize that would be given to the one who could remove it was the hand of the king’s prettiest daughter.
The four set out to try their strength. At that time there were no boats for them to sail on, so they had to swim. After three weeks’ swimming, they landed on an island-like place in the sea, to rest. It was smooth and slippery, which made them wonder what it could be. Carancal, accordingly, drew his bolo and thrust it into the island. How fast the island moved after the stroke! It was not really an island, but a very big fish. Fortunately the fish carried the travelers near the shores of the kingdom they were seeking.
When the four arrived, they immediately presented themselves to the king, and told him that they would try to move the stone. The king ordered one of his soldiers to show them the stone. There a big crowd of people collected to watch the four strong men.
The first to try was Bugtongpalasan. He could hardly budge it. Then Tunkodbola tried, but moved it only a few yards. When Macabuhalbundok’s turn came, he moved the great stone half a mile; but the king said that it was not satisfactory. Carancal then took hold of the rope tied to the stone, and gave a swing. In a minute the great stone was out of sight.
The king was very much pleased, and asked Carancal to choose a princess for his wife. “I am not old enough to marry, my lord,” said Carancal sadly (sic!). “I will marry one of my companions to your daughter, however, if you are willing.” The king agreed, and Bugtongpalasan was made a prince.
The three unmarried men lived with Bugtongpalasan. By this time they were known not only throughout the whole kingdom where they were, but also in other countries. They had not enjoyed a year’s hospitality in Bugtongpalasan’s home when a letter addressed to the four men came. It was as follows:—
I have heard that you have superhuman strength, which I now greatly need. About a week ago a monster fish floated up to the shore of my town. It is decaying, and has a most offensive odor. My men in vain have tried to drag the fish out into the middle of the sea. I write to inform you that if you can rid us of it, I will let one of you marry my prettiest daughter.
After Carancal had read the letter, he instantly remembered the fish that had helped them in travelling. The three companions made themselves ready, bade Bugtongpalasan good-by, and set out for Walangtacut’s kingdom. They traveled on foot, for the place was not very far away.
In every town they passed through, the people cried, “Hurrah for the strong men!” The king received them with a banquet, and all the houses of the town were decorated with flags. In a word, every one welcomed them.
After the banquet was over, the three men marched with the king and all his counselors, knights, dukes, and the common people to where the decaying fish lay. In this test, too, Carancal was the only successful one. Again he refused to marry; but as the princess was very anxious to have a strong man for her husband, Tunkodbola was chosen by Carancal, and he became her husband.
The fame of the strong men was now nearly universal. All the surrounding kings sent congratulations. The heroes received offers of marriage from many beautiful ladies of the neighboring kingdoms.
One day when Carancal and Macabuhalbundok were talking together, one of them suggested that they go on another journey. The other agreed, and both of them made preparations. But when they were about to start, a letter from another king came, addressed to Carancal. The king said in his letter that a great stone had fallen in his park. “It is so big that I thought it was the sky that fell,” he wrote. “I am willing to marry you to my youngest daughter if you can remove it from its present place,” said the king.
The two friends accepted the invitation, and immediately began their journey. They traveled by land and sea for many a day. At last they reached the place. There they found the same stone which they had removed before. As he knew that he could not move it far enough, Macabuhalbundok did not make any attempt: Carancal was again the one who did the work.
Once more Carancal refused to marry. “I am too young yet to marry,” he said to the king. “In my place I will put my companion.” So Macabuhalbundok was married.
Carancal remained a bachelor, for he did not wish to have a wife. The three princes considered him as their father, though he was younger than any of them. For a long time Carancal lived with each of them a year in rotation. Not long after the marriage of Macabuhalbundok, the father-in-law of Bugtongpalasan died, and so Bugtongpalasan became the king. Then the following year Tunkodbola’s father-in-law died, and Tunkodbola became also a king. After many years the father-in-law of Macabuhalbundok died, and Macabuhalbundok succeeded to the throne. Thus Carancal was the benefactor of three kings.
One day Carancal thought of visiting his cruel parents and of living with them. So he set out, carrying with him plenty of money, which the three kings had given him. This time his parents did not drive him away, for he had much wealth. Carancal lived once more with his parents, and had three kings under him.