The Story of Two Old Women

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Character Education: Fairness
Character Education: Honesty
Generosity of Spirit
Story of the Two Old Women (The)
A Bangladeshi tale: Two old women decide to share belongings. The clever one suggests a way of sharing by which only she benefits. With the advice of a friend the foolish one turns the table on the other.

Tell me a story...

In Bangladesh almost every villager knows the folktale of the Tetan Buri (clever old woman) and the Boka Buri (the foolish old woman). Two old women chummed up together. One of them was very cunning and sharp while the other one was very foolish and credulous. They shared one common wrap (Kantha), one cow and a small piece of land.

The Tetan old woman suggested that the wrap will be used by her in the night and the Boka old woman would have it in the day. The other woman agreed. The result was that in the cold night the foolish old woman shivered while the clever one slept soundly with the wrap. Regarding the cow the clever one suggested that the front portion belonged to the foolish old woman and the hind part was hers. This was agreed to. The result was the foolish old woman had to feed the cow and give her water but the other one took all the milk. When there was paddy or sugarcane grown on the small piece of the land the arrangement was that the clever one would get the portion above the ground while the part below the soil would go to the goody goody old woman. This was also agreed to. The paddy or the maize went to the clever one while the goody one had the useless roots which she had to pull out and burn to make the land ready again.

The foolish old woman was practically starving and used to beg for a little food. One day she approached the barber of another village for some food. The barber (all barbers are very clever) asked why she was begging when she had a piece of land and a cow along with another old woman. Our goody goody old woman narrated the story. The barber smiled and told her to soak the wrap in water when handing it over to the other one in the night and not to give any fodder to the cow and rather [yell at] her in the front part. He further advised her to take out the roots when the paddy was young or the maize was not ready.

The advice had the result. The old woman shivered and shivered in the night. The cow used to kick her when she would try to milk her. The crops failed and she starved too.

She saw that there are people who were more cunning. The villagers decided that there should be an arrangement which was more just to the two women.


“The Story of the Two Old Women.” Choudhury, Roy and Pranab Chandra. Folk Tales of Bangladesh. New Delhi: Sterling, ©1976. pp. 55-56.

Used with the permission of Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
“License to publish THE STORY OF THE TWO OLD WOMEN from FOLK TALES OF BANGLADESH by Roy Choudhury is given by Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.”