Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Wonderful Treasure Horse (Ewenki)

In a far away valley, an old hunter--a widower--lived alone in a secluded hut with his beautiful daughter, Dingzhen. Besides his very modest hut, the old hunter owned a wonderful treasure horse and a magic comb.

Now this old hunter realized he didn't have much time left, and he let it be known that he wanted to see Dingzhen married before his time was up. Whoever could guess Dingzhen's name could have her as a bride, and each man would have three guesses.

The word got out, and before long, a young hunter came to the area, looking for the old hunter who had offered his daughter for marriage to he who could guess her name.

A young lady washing clothes by the river noticed the young stranger and called out to him: "Whom are you looking for, sir?" He approached and told her. "I know her name," she said. "Listen carefully. It's 'Dingzhen.'"

"Dingzhen," he repeated.

She then told him where the old hunter lived. He thanked the girl and left.

Unknown to the two, an ogre was lurking nearby, and he too had heard the name. He raced ahead to the old hunter's home. By the time the young hunter arrived, the ogre had already told the old hunter that he had come to marry his daughter.

"Wait!" cried the young hunter. "I am here to marry her!"

"I am sorry, young man," said the old hunter. "This gentleman was first." Turning to the ogre, he said, "Now you have three guesses. What is my daughter's name?"

"Ahh . . . is it Jinzhen?" the ogre asked.


"Hmm . . . then, is it Yinzhen?"

"No. You have one guess left."

"Is it . . . Dingzhen?"

Well, the old hunter heard the ogre guess correctly and had to agree to give this vile stranger his daughter's hand. As for the young hunter, he was bitterly disappointed and went off to do some hunting.

Just before Dingzhen was to move away with her new husband, the old hunter gave her his treasure horse and magic comb.

"The treasure horse and magic pearl comb will help you with any problem you may face," he said. "Always keep them with you."

Later on that same day, Dingzhen left the home she had been born in and had grown up in and headed for another valley where the ogre had his home.

On the road, the treasure horse whispered to Dingzhen: "Take care, Dingzhen. Your husband is not a man but a vicious ogre."

Dingzhen was, of course, petrified but let the horse continue.

"Listen carefully to what I tell you," said the horse. "In the ogre's home live his five sons. Each of these boys has been half eaten by his own father, and so they will be very hungry. They will approach you for food. Tell them that you will cook me, your horse, for them, but first you must have their father light a big fire. Then, holding the comb in one hand and my tail in the other, follow me into the fire. Don't be afraid, though. We won't be burned. We will both rise with the smoke and escape out of the opening of the smoke hole. Now don't forget any of this!"

"I won't," promised Dingzhen.

As soon as Dingzhen arrived at the ogre's home, a large bark hut, she saw the five sons, each with only half a body--one leg, one hand, one eye and so on. They hopped out of the hut, one by one, and towards her, moaning, each stretching his single hand and arm out to her.

"Ooh," one cried, "we are so hungry!"

"Feed us!" cried another. "Feed us now!"

"I know you are hungry, poor dears," said Dingzhen. "Go tell your father to build a nice fire inside, and I shall cook this fine horse for you."

The ogre built the fire, and then he and his five sons stepped back to watch Dingzhen cook her own horse. Dingzhen, though, took the horse's tail in one hand and the pearl comb in the other. Then both the horse and she walked right into the fire and floated up and away with the smoke out the smoke hole and into the sky.

The ogre cursed Dingzhen's trick as his sons continued to moan and groan. The ogre rushed outside his hut, but Dingzhen and the horse were nowhere to be found.

"I'll make a meal of you yet!" he screamed into the blue sky.

The treasure horse carried Dingzhen to the ridge where the young hunter was hunting rabbits.

"This is the husband for you, Dingzhen," said the horse. "It is you two who should be married."

Dingzhen told the hunter about the ogre, and, together, the three fled even farther away. The young hunter and Dingzhen married and in time had two children, a boy and a girl. They were all very happy.

Three years had passed when the ogre finally found out where Dingzhen and her family now lived. He bided his time until a day when the young hunter went away on a week-long hunting trip. Now neither the hunter nor the treasure horse, which was grazing in a nearby field, was at home, so the ogre quietly approached Dingzhen's cabin.

Dingzhen saw him and quickly grabbed her mother's pearl comb. She told the comb to save her and her children. The comb immediately changed the cabin into a huge wooden lodge supported by eight mighty pillars.

"You and the children climb up to the roof right away!" the comb ordered and they did.

The ogre's mouth wasn't wide enough to swallow Dingzhen, her children, and the wooden lodge, so out from his mouth he produced an ax and started whacking away at one of the wooden pillars.

"Treasure Horse!" cried Dingzhen. "Wherever you are, please come and save us!"

The horse heard her cry from far off and could see the danger she and her children were in. The horse then called upon a nearby tiger, fox and bear for help. The three animals came within sight of lodge and then hid in the forest.

By now the ogre had already chopped down one of the pillars, and a second one was soon ready to fall down. He was chopping away with all his might, but he was terribly exhausted. Someone was tapping him on the shoulder as he was chopping the pillar. It was the tiger.

"Yes?" asked the ogre, turning around.

"I can see that you are having quite a time in getting these pillars chopped down," said the tiger. "Why don't you lie down and take a rest and let me take over for you?"

"Oh, would you?" asked the ogre. "I'd be very grateful."

"My pleasure," said the tiger, taking the ogre's ax.

The ogre lay down on the ground and was soon fast asleep. As soon as he saw that the ogre was sleeping soundly, the tiger threw the ax where the ogre would never find it and left.

By and by, the ogre woke up and found both the tiger and the ax were gone. He was furious, but he soon produced another ax from his mouth and resumed chopping away at the pillar. He had chopped down the second pillar and was nearly finished with the third when once again someone or something tapped his shoulder. He turned around and faced the fox.

"Yes?" asked the ogre.

"Don't you look awfully tired! Why not rest and let me chop for a while?" asked the fox.

"Well, thank you, if you don't mind," said the ogre as he handed the fox the ax.

Once again, he fell asleep as soon as he closed his eyes. When he awoke, the fox and his ax were nowhere to be seen. As tired as he was, he pulled himself up and produced another ax from his mouth. He continued to chop away, cutting down the fourth pillar and starting on the fifth, when yet again his shoulder was tapped.

"Yes?" he asked, turning around to face the bear.

"Look at yourself!" said the bear. "You're all worn out! You'd better let me take your place while you rest. Come on now!"

The ogre was exhausted and simply handed over the ax to the bear. He then fell asleep on the ground in the deepest sleep yet. However, he eventually awoke and discovered the bear and the ax were long gone.

The ogre was beside himself with anger. Discovering he could no longer produce axes, the ogre then began gnawing on the fifth pillar when the treasure horse, carrying Dingzhen's husband, arrived.

"Shoot an arrow at each of his eyes, nostrils, ears and then his mouth," said the horse. "Only then will we be rid of this menace."

So Dingzhen's husband aimed carefully, and bing! bing! bing! bing! bing! bing! He let six arrows fly through the air, and each one hit its target--one in each eye, nostril and ear. And then bing!--an arrow in the ogre's mouth.

The ogre staggered forward and then fell face first to the ground, and that was the end of him!

There was now peace in the mountains, forests and valleys, and no one ever bothered Dingzhen, her husband and their children ever again.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Heilongjiang minjian gushixuan, p. 262-266

Here we have a story very typical of the folktales/fairy tales collected in Europe and analyzed by Max Luthi. The characters, like others in folktales, engage in unquestioned, self-defeating and ridiculous activities, such as marrying off a daughter to an obvious monster and continually being tricked into abandoning a much needed ax. In other words, they behave like inflexible, unthinking automatons. Luthi points out how European folktale characters time and time again perform in a gullible manner much to their detriment.

Motifs: B184, "Magic horse"; D1206, "Magic ax"; F525, "One-sided man"; G312+, "Cannibal ogres,"; H310, "Bride offered as prize"; H508.2, "Bride offered to man who can find answer to question"; N475, "Secret name overheard by eavesdropper."

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