Animals play a major role in folk tales around the world, and The Legend of Ponnivala is no different! These are the main animal characters in the story:
Ponnachi — the faithful dog
Ponnachi is a tiny but very spirited female dog. She is Tangal’s main pet and in a sense serves as her symbolic substitute in key scenes. Ponnachi has poison in her teeth and the power to curse those who ignore or mistreat her. She is born of a boon and her core mission is to protect the Ponnivala family from Komban, a great wild boar. Ponnachi achieves success in a central scene. Later, she helps Tangal find her dead brothers’ bodies.
Komban — the huge boar
Komban is a huge wild boar, born of a boon from the goddess Kali. He was requested by his mother to counter a kick once received from Queen Tamarai. Said to be forty feet high and sixty feet long, Komban’s huge black body easily intimidates others. But his is also a bit of a comic character who is neither bright nor well coordinated. Komban can do magical things, such as write messages with his tusks, but in the end he succumbs to a tiny little dog.
The Seven Cows
The Seven Cows that appear in the first episode of the story initially belonged to a Chola king. He tags them as sacred so he can set them free during a famine. These creatures later die trying to jump into Kolatta’s fenced field. Shiva ensures that Tamarai dies seven times during her penance to balance this loss. Only then the great Lord grants her children, ending a seven generation curse of barrenness he once laid on her family.
The Two Parrots
The Parrots are part of a huge flock of birds that live in the Vettuva forest’s largest banyan tree. One couple are special, having descended from the gates of heaven where they nested in Queen Tamarai’s nose during her long penance. Both are supernatural in their beauty and we hear them talk. But the two become separated when the wife bird is captured by the heroes. Her husband then complains to Viratangal. This starts the great war.
The Two Cobras
The two Talking Cobras in this story are both beneficent. In Indian folklore cobras are often associated with fertility and their hoods provide protection. Here a mother cobra requests a boon from Tamarai as she starts her pilgrimage. She asks for a son to protect Tamarai’s own daughter, years later, when she will have to walk through a deep forest. The wish comes true and Tangal is befriended by her son, now king of the cobra realm.
The Blue Horses
The Blue Horses of Ponnivala are supernaturally strong and also very fast runners. Both horses are blue, and perhaps they unofficially represent power that Lord Vishnu himself lends the heroes. At the very least these two mounts provide a significant status symbol for the two brothers. Only Ponnar and Shankar ride their beloved steeds. Shambuga, always their companion, runs at supernatural speed behind these two beasts.
The Golden Goose
The Golden Goose in this story is a private pet belonging to a Sun Maiden, a semi-magical woman who lives deep in the forest and practices meditation on a high pillar. When Tangal finds her, during her long search for her dead brothers, the woman lends Tangal a lovely bird that flies Tangal to the spot where the brothers’ bodies lie. This is Tangal’s only flight, and it symbolizes her passage from the world of the living to that of the dead.