Somewhere in India in a village on the edge of a forest, a golden bell rang out from the temple twice a day to scare away bad spirits.
The villagers thought the bell was their most precious possession and took it in turns to clean it and make it sparkle and shine, but a golden bell attracts attention and, one night, a greedy robber decided to steal it.
The robber carried it into the forest, but he didn’t get far because the jangling of the bell aroused the curiosity of a hungry tiger, which chased him. The robber dropped the bell in terror and ran for his life.
That same night, a troop of mischievous monkeys found the bell and carried it to their forest hideaway.
When the villagers woke the next morning and realised the golden bell had gone missing, they thought it was a bad omen.
“Oh, woe!” they cried. “Now we will have no good luck at all – the bad spirits will haunt us forever.”
That night, when the villagers went to bed, the monkeys started to ring their new bell. They liked its jingle, so they took it in turns to play it. The clang of the bell carried through the still night air and, as the monkeys got more excited, the clangs got louder until every villager had been woken.
“Oh, woe!” they wept. “We knew it! The bad spirits are haunting us now.”
The monkeys loved their new bell and got quite good at playing tunes on it, so every night the same thing happened. Soon, the villagers were quaking with fear at the thought of what the bad spirits might do next. Some packed up their belongings to move to another village.
“It can only get worse,” they said.
But there was one young woman who wasn’t afraid. She thought they were being silly. “I don’t believe this has anything to do with bad spirits!” she decided.
One night, nobody could sleep as the bell was so loud. The villagers stood in the square, worrying about what the bad spirits would do next, so the young woman said, “Let me get rid of the bad spirits. I will make an offering to the gods. Fill my basket with as many fruits and nuts as you can and I will go into the forest.”
The villagers were grateful for her courage and piled her basket with the sweetest fruits and tastiest nuts they could find. As they watched her walk into the forest and towards the sound of the bell, they shivered with fear.
However, the young woman wasn’t afraid. She followed the moonlit path deep into the trees, following the tuneful melody. She even whistled along with it. It was a catchy tune.
Finally, she stepped into a clearing and found a troop of monkeys playing with the bell, and she couldn’t help laughing out loud. They were queuing up to ring it. Some were using twigs to play the bell like a drum and some were pulling funny faces at it, using its shiny surface as a mirror.
“So you’re our bad spirits!” she said.
Quickly, she scattered the contents of her basket around the clearing.
The monkeys abandoned the golden bell straight away and rushed over to the feast. While they were busy filling their tummies, the young woman took the bell and set off for home again.
When the villagers saw her emerge from the trees with the golden bell, they rushed to thank her. They were amazed by her bravery.
“Did you see the spirits?” they asked. “Were they terrifying?”
“Not exactly,” said the young woman, and she explained everything. “You see, there’s usually a perfectly simple explanation for even the strangest things – and nothing to be frightened of at all.”
The villagers still thought she was incredibly brave and wise too. As a reward, they made her the guardian of their golden bell.
They were never again bothered by bad spirits or even musical monkeys, which the young woman thought was a great pity.