Sunday, December 23, 2007

Big Luobo and Her Sisters (Daur)

There were once three daughters who lived with their widowed mother. The oldest was called Big Luobo; the second, Wild Luobo; and the youngest, Water Luobo.

One day while on the road to Grandmother's house, the unfortunate mother met a savage mangai, or ogre, who devoured her on the spot. The mangai then put on the mother's clothes and waited in the bushes for nightfall before approaching Big Luobo's house. He crept up to a window when it was good and dark.

"Big Luobo! Big Luobo!" he cried in his husky voice. "I've returned! Open the gate and let me in!"

Frightened, Big Luobo replied, "You're not our mother! I'm not letting you in!"

"Wild Luobo! Wild Luobo!" he cried next. "Open the gate and let me in!"

"No!" cried Wild Luobo. "You're not our mother! I won't let you in!"

"Water Luobo! Water Luobo!" cried the mangai. "Won't you please let your poor tired mother in? Those two ungrateful wretches who call themselves your sisters will let me freeze to death out here! Be a good girl and do the right thing!"

Water Luobo, the youngest child, believed the ogre was their mother, and before her sisters knew it, she had rushed to the gate and let the mangai in. The mangai then walked over to the kang, the brick oven that people sleep on, and sat right down as if it were no one else's business. However, Big Luobo noticed her mother's clothes upon the mangai and then saw the mangai spit up bits and pieces of those same clothes. She knew that her mother had met a gruesome end.

"Big Luobo," said the mangai, "tonight you shall sleep beside me on the kang."

"No," replied Big Luobo, "I don't sleep beside you anymore."

"Well, then," the mangai said, "Wild Luobo, you shall sleep beside Mother tonight."

"No," answered Wild Luobo, "I'm too old for that now."

Little Water Luobo stepped up and proudly said, "I shall sleep beside Mother tonight."

"That's a good daughter," said the monster.

Water Luobo then crawled atop the kang and snuggled down next to the mangai for what she thought would be a good night's sleep. Little did she know! Big Luobo and Wild Luobo, meanwhile, huddled down on the floor beside the kang, both keeping one eye open as the lantern lights went out for the night.

Around midnight the older girls were startled to hear kacha! kacha!

"Mother," asked Big Luobo, "what are you munching on?"

"Oh, just some radishes from Beijing that Grandmother gave me."

"Let me have one!" said Big Luobo.

"Very well," said the mangai, handing Big Luobo something thin, hard and somewhat wet.

Big Luobo and his sister looked at it and saw that it was a . . . finger! Both girls shuddered but remained silent and kept their wits about them, for they did not want to end up like poor little Water Luobo. They both got up.

"And just where do you think you two are going?" asked the mangai.

"Middle Sister and I are going out to relieve ourselves," said Big Luobo.

"Well, hurry up and come back inside. Don't make Mother have to go outside and look for you!" Then he added, "Oh, and watch out for wolves!"

Before the two girls went out the gate, Big Luobo grabbed their mother's comb case. Outside in the darkness, she opened the case and took out her mother's wooden comb.

"Wooden comb," she cried, "turn into a mighty pine forest!"

No sooner had she dropped the comb then it turned itself into a huge pine forest that blanketed the ground. The mangai by now had figured out that the two girls would not just let themselves be eaten and had, instead, escaped. He rushed outside only to find himself in the heart of a dark forest at the darkest time of night. He kept bumping into trees, but his sense of smell told him in which direction the girls were fleeing. Soon the girls could hear his furious panting nearby.

Big Luobo once again opened the comb case and this time took out a bamboo comb.

"Bamboo comb," she cried, "turn into a thick bamboo forest!"

She then dropped the comb onto the ground, and it immediately became a dense bamboo grove. The mangai, having successfully found his way through the pine forest, now found himself in an even thicker bamboo grove, and once again Big Luobo and her sister were out of his grasp. He couldn't get through densely packed bamboo stalks, so he started chewing each stalk one by one. Soon he had gnawed his way close to where the two sisters were standing.

Just before the bamboo-chomping ogre was close enough to see the two girls, Big Luobo once again reached into her mother's comb case and, this time, took out a mirror.

"Mirror, " Big Luobo cried, "turn into a great sea!"

She threw the mirror upon the ground, and it instantly turned into a huge lake of roaring white-capped waves, with the mangai on one side of the shore and she and her sister on the other. The mangai, who couldn't swim, gnashed his teeth at the thought of the two sisters possibly getting away.

"I shall eat you up!" he roared at them from across the lake. "Just you wait and see!"

The mangai then clawed open his own belly and pulled out his entrails. He tied one end of his own entrails to a sturdy bamboo stalk. He then slowly waded into the rough waters of the lake.

"I'm coming!" he shouted at the two girls.

When he was halfway across, a flock of crows spotted his raw entrails and flew down to feast upon the stringy red meat. They pecked his entrails until his intestines snapped. The evil mangai then slowly sank into the depths of the lake, never to be seen again!

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Xinjiang minjian gushiji, pp. 547-550

Versions of this tale (AT 333) are as widespread in China as they are in Europe. Essentially the Chinese variation of "Little Red Riding Hood," this story is also known to Northern and Central Han Chinese as "Lang Popo" ("Grandmother Wolf") and to the Han Chinese of Fujian and Taiwan as "Hu Gupo" ("Grandauntie Tiger," the very first story in this blog). This non-Han version, however, differs greatly with its inclusion of the magical objects used in Big Luobo's obstacle flight (motif D672). Similar magical objects are found in the Russian "Baba Yaga" (Afanas'ev 363-365). The
mangai is an eastern Siberian man-eating ogre described in some tales as looking like a huge ape that walks on two legs. As such, it might be a cognate with the mani that appears in other stories. "Luobo" means "radish."

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