Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tanjin the Fiddler (Mongol)

There was once an impoverished herdsman who had a son named Tanjin. One day he summoned his son forward.

"It's high time you left the yurt," he said, "and learned a skill. Go out into the world and seek someone who can teach you something."

And so Tanjin left his father's tent. He was gone for four years. Upon his return, his father asked him, "And what skill have you learned? Perhaps you have mastered a trade! Tell me, son."

"Father," replied Tanjin, "I have learned to play the fiddle."

"The fiddle? The fiddle?" asked his father, snorting. "Why, young men your age know how to forge iron and rein horses, but you only know how to play the fiddle? What use is that?"

Tanjin thought carefully and answered, "Whoever listens to my fiddle playing shall feel relaxed and joyful."

"Fiddle playing is useless!" said his father. "Now get out and learn a proper trade!"

Once again Tanjin left his home. He wandered until he reached a great sea. He sat down on some rocks before the surf, sighed and took out his fiddle. He played a tune, and before long, a young woman rose out of the sea just a few feet in front of him. She was dressed in a rich white gown that shimmered like the very sea itself.

"I have been sent by my father to fetch you," she said. "My father loves the music you play on your fiddle."

Tanjin was completely charmed by this beautiful woman and unable to speak.

"I am the daughter of the Dragon King of the Sea," she said. "Please hurry. My father doesn't like to be kept waiting!"

"Very well."

The Princess took one of Tanjin's hands and told him to close his eyes. She then led him down the sea into her father's kingdom.

"Now open your eyes!" a deep voice thundered.

Tanjin opened his eyes and saw that he was in a magnificent crystal palace. In the center of the palace and seated on a green carpet was the King himself. Outside the palace were all the creatures of the sea.

The Princess led Tanjin up to her father and presented the young fiddler to him.

"Young man," said the King, "I enjoy your music immensely. Just go and play what you will."

Tanjin took up his fiddle and played a tune. Everyone present listened to Tanjin's music in rapture. One day turned into two, and two into three. Tanjin kept on playing.

Finally, the King exclaimed, "I could listen to this for one hundred years! Tanjin, you shall play for me for the rest of your life. I will give you your own palace and a mountain of jewels."

"Please let me go home," implored Tanjin. "I want neither a palace nor a mountain of jewels. I want to return to the land of my birth."

The king roared back, "No, I shall not let you go! You are going to play just for me!"

"No, please, Your Majesty!" cried Tanjin. "I must return to my home, to my own father!"

The King then laughed and said, "Look around you, young man. Who here could you lead you back? No one here would dare! I advise you to forget your father, your home, your land, your world. You are here now, and this is your new home. Furthermore, you shall play for me until the day you die. Now, good evening!"

With that, the King rose and departed. Tanjin was escorted to a chamber, and there, all alone, he played a mournful tune.

"Don't be sad! I'll help you," a voice whispered.

Tanjin looked up and saw the Princess herself standing before him.

"Close your eyes and take my hand. No matter what you do, don't open your eyes or let go. Now, be silent, and I shall lead you back to the surface."

So Tanjin went with the Princess, and when he was allowed to open his eyes again, he was already on the beach.

"You are free to go, Tanjin," said the Princess as she covered her eyes and sobbed.

"Why do you weep?" asked Tanjin.

The Princess replied, "I can't bear to part with you. I enjoy your music, and I want to listen to it everyday for as long as I live."

"Then stay with me and be my bride and live in my yurt," said Tanjin.

And they shortly afterwards became husband and wife. They traveled a day's journey from the sea to a great plain and settled among a field of yurts, finding a choice spot beside a well. Here they spent many happy days. They made their living through Tanjin's fiddle playing. Tanjin's melodies brightened the lives of all who lived nearby and comforted those who had had misfortunes. Whoever listened to Tanjin's music felt the need for very little else.

Now it so happened that the Great Khan and his troops were touring the plains. The Khan decided to go hunting, and while out in the field, he killed two quail.

"Take the quail over to one of those nearby yurts and have someone roast them for me," he told a retainer.

This retainer took the two birds to Tanjin's yurt and asked Tanjin's wife, the Princess, to place them on her fire. She agreed and placed them atop the stove and then attended to other things. The nobleman stared at Tanjin's wife and was overcome by her rare beauty. In fact, he let the quail burn to ashes because he could not take his eyes off the woman.

Seeing the pile of ashes, he threw his hands into the air and cried, "I'm finished!"

"Don't worry!" said the Princess. "We have two quail of our own. I will roast them for you, and you can take them to the Khan. He won't be any the wiser."

The Princess produced the two quail and roasted them. She then handed them to the grateful retainer. He thanked her and returned to the Khan's camp.

The retainer then presented the two quail to the Khan, who ate them but was somehow unable to finish them, though they were quite delicious. He then gave the leftovers to one thousand of his horsemen, who then gorged themselves all day on the flesh of these two small birds, and they as well were unable to finish their meal. The Khan knew something was not quite right. He summoned the retainer.

"How is it that neither I nor one thousand cavalrymen have been able to finish eating my two quail?" asked the Khan.

The noble retainer, his knees knocking together from fright, told the Khan the truth and about Tanjin's beautiful wife.

"Bring her husband to me," ordered the Khan.

The retainer then returned to Tanjin's yurt and told Tanjin that the Khan was waiting for him.

The Princess quickly ran up to Tanjin and whispered in her husband's ear: "The Khan will order you to give me up and to allow me to become his wife. Here's what you must do. Tell him he may not have me if he cannot locate you within the yurt on two occasions. And if he cannot locate you, he is to present to you one thousand fine horses."

Tanjin then went to the Khan's encampment and appeared before the Great Khan himself.

"Who are you?" growled the Khan.

"I am Tanjin, the husband of the woman you seek."

"Bring your wife to me. She shall live with me as my wife."

"Very well," replied Tanjin, "but you may have her on one condition. You must try to locate me twice within my yurt. If you do, she is gladly yours. If you are unable, you are to give me one thousand fine horses!"

"Why, you--!" The Khan then stopped and smiled. How hard could it be to find someone hiding in a yurt, of all places? And then, the beautiful woman would gladly go! "Very well. I agree. I shall be at your yurt shortly, so go quickly and hide!" he said.

Tanjin rushed back to his yurt. "The Khan's on his way!" he blurted. "Now what am I do do?"

The Princess motioned with her right hand, uttered a spell, and Tanjin was then transformed into a stick. She then poured some grain into a mortar and started stirring with the stick as the Khan barged in. He ransacked the yurt looking for Tanjin but could find neither head nor tail of him.

Finally he said, "All right, Tanjin, very good. I can't find you. Now listen: you are to try to find me. If you are unable to, I am the winner!" He then departed.

The Princess restored Tanjin to his human form. She said, "The Khan knows something about spells too. He'll change himself into something out of the ordinary, so look about carefully!"

Tanjin went outside and searched all over for the Khan. He saw a small tree beside the well and smiled to himself.

"Ho! What's this scrawny thing doing here? I'll chop it down for a whip handle!" he said.

"No! Don't chop me! Don't chop me! I am the Khan!" cried the tree, which then turned back into the Khan.

"I have won. Now let me have my thousand horses," said Tanjin.

"Not so fast, boy," said the Khan. "I still want one more chance to locate you within your yurt. Now get in there!"

Tanjin rushed back into his yurt, whereupon his wife turned him into a fly. When the Khan re-entered, Tanjin flew to the Khan's fur cap and nestled himself there. Once again, the Khan practically turned the yurt upside down looking for the Khan.

"All right! I cannot find you. Now, you must try to find me at the lake at sundown. If you can't, I am the winner," said the Khan, and he left the yurt.

Tanjin turned to his wife, who said, "At dusk, one hundred white sheep and black goat will be at the lake. The black goat will be the Khan."

Tanjin went down to the lake at dusk and located the black goat among the one hundred white sheep. He grabbed the goat by the horns and said, "I'm going to use your hide to make myself a nice pair of boots!"

"Let me go! Let me go!" cried the goat. "I am the Khan!" The goat then changed back into the Khan.

"Now please let me have my one thousand horses!" said Tanjin.

"No," replied the Khan, "not quite yet. We shall have a horse race here by the lake. Whoever has a horse that can run three days' distance in three hours shall be the winner. You've got twenty four hours. Now go and prepare a horse!"

Tanjin returned to his wife. "The Khan has one thousand fleet-footed horses to choose from," he said, "and we don't even have one. What shall I do now?"

"Let me go back to the sea, and then perhaps I can think clearly about what to do," said the Princess.

They returned traveled all day to return to the rocky shore where they had first met. As he had done before, Tanjin sat down on a rock and played a tune on his fiddle. The sea groaned and bubbled. From out of the foam popped the head of the Dragon King of the East Sea.

"Father! Give us a thousand-li horse!" implored the Princess.

"I shall give you a thousand-li horse," he said, "but first tell your husband to play the fiddle until the sun goes down!"

Tanjin played until dusk, and then from out of the sea came an eight-legged horse which then came to a halt beside Tanjin and the Princess. They rode the horse back to their yurt but were jostled all the way as the horse kept tripping over its own legs.

"How will this horse ever beat one of the Khan's stallions?" asked Tanjin. "An eight-legged horse! It can barely walk."

"Just manage to ride the horse to the lake and await the Khan tomorrow morning," the Princess replied.

The next morning Tanjin rode his horse over to the lake. Shortly afterwards the plain resonated from the hooves of the Khan's champion horse, a magnificent black stallion. Behind him were a thousand cavalrymen mounted on their own beautiful horses.

"Hmm...I think you would have been better off riding an old cow rather than this overgrown spider!" roared the Khan with laughter. His thousand men laughed in quick response. "Ride first, Tanjin!" he snickered. "If I'm lucky, I'll catch up!"

"No, Your Highness, you go first!" shouted Tanjin. "Don't worry about me, for I plan to catch up with you!"

The Khan then whipped his horse and galloped off, leaving behind a trail of dust. When the Khan was out of sight, Tanjin gave his horse a giddy-up and took off like a bolt of lightning. His thousand-li horse sliced through the air, mist and dust. Tanjin and his horse went all the way to the edge of the plain, near where the seashore begins, and back again to the lake. The Khan returned to the lake at noon, hours later.

"Now, Your Highness, may I please have my one thousand horses?" Tanjin asked the scarlet-faced Khan.

"No! When you make this lake boil and bubble, then and only then will I yield to you. If you are unable to do so by tomorrow, you must say goodbye to your wife," the Khan replied.

Tanjin returned to his yurt and told his wife all about the Khan's latest challenge.

She said, "Well, then, let us return again to the seashore."

So once again, they returned to the same rocky spot by the sea, and the Princess called upon her father, the Dragon King of the East Sea. As expected, the water once again bubbled and roiled and out popped the head of the King himself.

"Father! You are master over every ocean, sea, river, lake, and stream! Please help us once more!" the Princess pleaded.

"I'll grant your request if Tanjin plays for me," the King said.

Tanjin once again played his fiddle for the Dragon King of the Sea until sundown.

Once he had finished, the Princess said, "Now, Father, please enable my husband to boil a lake and allow him to enter the lake without being scalded!"

"Here are two pebbles," the King said. "Take them. When you get to the lake, Tanjin, toss in the white pebble. It will make the lake boil like water in a kettle. Place the black stone in your mouth under your tongue. As long as that black stone remains in place, you may enter the boiling lake without any harm whatsoever."

The next morning Tanjin met the Khan by the lake, which was surrounded by the mounted men of the Khan's cavalry.

"Now, Tanjin," said the Khan, "let's see you make this lake boil!"

With the black pebble already in his mouth, Tanjin tossed the white pebble into the water, which then shortly began to boil violently.

"Jump in, Tanjin, and I'll give you your one thousand horses right away!" said the Khan. "My men shall be my witnesses to my word!"

Tanjin shrugged his shoulders and jumped right in. He swam several laps and then floated contentedly on his back.

Tanjin smiled and motioned for the Khan to jump in and join him.

The Khan's mustache bristled. That upstart dog, he thought. How dare he... He also considered how dangerous it might be if he, the Khan, did not display some royal backbone in front of his men. Soldiers, after all, had been known to mutiny against much less than a timid khan challenged by a peasant boy.

"Men!" shouted the Khan. "Dismount your horses, strip off your armor, and jump in the lake after I do!"

The Khan then dove in and was followed by each one of his thousand men. The Khan and every single man except Tanjin had his flesh cooked right off his bones. Only Tanjin reached the shore alive.

Tanjin counted the Khan's horses. Not including the Khan's fine black stallion, Tanjin counted exactly one thousand horses. He mounted the black stallion and led the other horses back to the yurt.

From that day on, Tanjin and his wife led very pleasant lives; no one ever plagued them again, and Tanjin spent all his days playing fiddle for the one he loved.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Mengu minjian gushixuan, p. 46-55.

A popular worldwide collection of tales involves a mortal man who marries a supernatural wife. He then must resort to strategem, with her help, to keep her or lose after violating a taboo. Similar tales are the Southeastern Han Chinese "The Conch Shell Woman," the Northern Han Chinese "The Lady in the Painting," the Manchu "Wild Goose Island," and the Japanese "Yuki Onna" (Hearn 49-53). The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea is a dragon deity associated with Buddhism and perhaps derived from the Hindu Nagas, which were originally serpents. The cults of sea dragons gained importance during the Tang and Song dynasties. By the Song dynasty, the dragon had already become the symbol of the Chinese emperor (Song 27-28; Frederic 276-279). Variant of AT 592A*, "The Musician and the Dragon King, and AT 592A*1, "The Magic Object that Dries (Boils) the Sea." Motif: D184.1.3, "Magic horse from the water world"; D615.1, "Transformation contest between magicians"; D812.7, "Magic object received from dragon king."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nudan the Shaman (Manchu & Ewenki)

When Nudan was only twenty years of age, her husband died. She was now a young widow. In order to support her aged mother-in-law, Nudan studied to become a shaman. She eventually became very skilled at curing various illnesses. She was even able to revive those who had died, providing their souls had not settled in bucehe, the underworld, for a very long time. Knowledge of her skill spread across the land as she became more and more adept at her craft.

Soon came word that the Qing Crown Prince had been struck down by an illness. The Emperor invited two lamas to cure the Crown Prince, but he steadily grew worse and died. The Emperor was beside himself with grief but then heard that the shaman known as Nudan could bring his son back.

"Send a chair for Nudan and bring her at once!" he shouted as he dismissed the lamas.

Nudan happened to be washing clothes by the river when the Emperor's sedan chair arrived. A guard told her that she was needed at once, and so she immediately grabbed her imcin, her small tom-tom, entered the sedan chair, and left.

It so happened that the two lamas were infuriated at the thought of a shaman's aiding the Emperor. They felt grossly insulted and planned to kill Nudan before the sedan chair reached the imperial palace. And so outside they waited and waited. Nudan, however, while still far away, sensed something was up.

Just before the sedan chair came within sight of the palace gate, Nudan bid the runners to halt. She opened the door of the sedan chair, mounted her imcin, and flew into the air. She flew right over the heads of the astonished lamas and right through the gate and into the palace itself. She did not stop until she was at the very feet of the Emperor himself, who was on his throne. The Emperor was amazed but also extremely displeased. Under normal circumstances, the punishment for such an entry into the palace was death. He furiously scolded Nudan, telling her that no one but no one was to enter the imperial palace except in a respectful manner. Then he reined in his temper, for, at the moment, no one in the palace was living under a normal circumstance.

"Find my son's soul and bring him back to life!" he ordered.

Then with the magic that only shamans can understand, Nudan entered on the road to the other world, the world of the spirits, the dead. She headed for the underworld, hoping to catch up with the Crown Prince's spirit before it stayed there for good.

On the dark road to bucehe, Nudan saw her own husband. He was stirring oil in a pot over the fire by the eternity road.

"What! Have you come to join me?" he asked. "Have you come to take me back?"

"No," she said and told him how she had had become a shaman to support his mother.

"I am on a mission for the Emperor," she continued. "I must locate the Crown Prince before his soul settles permanently down here."

Her husband was angry. "Why is it that you can bring back others, but you have never tried to bring me, your own husband, back?" he asked.

"How could I?" she replied. "By the time I learned how to be a shaman, you had already been dead too long here in bucehe. Look, your body has already decayed." And indeed it had; he no longer resembled a person. "Even if I had succeeded in bringing you back, you would have never been able to live very long in that body of yours."

Her husband continued to argue, and the argument became physical. Nudan's husband stretched out his arm to bar Nudan from going any farther. They wrestled, and Nudan threw her husband down a well. She saw to it that he would be trapped there forever. Nudan could now continue her journey to find the Crown Prince; however, her violent behavior in bucehe canceled out her merit for her many previous good deeds. She would have to pay for what she had done.

Nudan continued on her way and soon spotted the Crown Prince. He was playing in a meadow. Nudan was happy and relieved. She snatched up the Crown Prince's spirit in the palm of her hand and hurried back to the world of the living. Before long, the boy's spirit reentered his body, and then the boy rose from what had been his deathbed and rejoined the living.

The Emperor was overjoyed to have his son back. He ordered a huge banquet and invited Nudan. It was at the banquet that he gave Nudan a new demand. "My younger sister has been dead for three years. Bring her back," he said.

"I can't do that," said Nudan. "She's been in bucehe too long. Her body has decayed past the point that her soul can use it."

The Emperor was furious. He thought about how Nudan had been skillful enough to enter bucehe and fly on her tom-tom; furthermore, he was not used to having his requests denied. However, in any case, what could he do? He said no more to Nudan, and the banquet ended with bitterness and frost in the air.

Later the two scheming lamas returned to the palace and spoke to the Emperor. The Emperor told them that Nudan could not bring his sister back from bucehe.

"Oh, Your Imperial Highness, she can do it! She just chooses not to," one of them said. Then, the two lamas spread other lies about Nudan.

The Emperor was outraged, for he believed the lies he was hearing. He ordered Nudan to be seized at once. Like the spirit of her husband, she was cast down a well, the mouth of which was then sealed by chains. Before long, Nudan died.

Three days after Nudan had died, a strange thing happened--the sun stopped shining its rays on the imperial palace. Every other palace in the capital but the imperial palace basked in the warm rays.

The Emperor called forth his chief soothsayer, who turned his head up toward the heavens and said, "The sun's rays are not reaching the palace, but this is not because of the clouds. Rather, it is because the wings of an enormous bird are blocking out the sunlight. Have your best archer shoot an arrow into the sky to bring this monster down."

So the Emperor did just that; he sent for a general whose skill in archery had won him great renown. The general shot an arrow up into the sky and down came a gigantic feather, an eagle feather, the likes of which could only be taken away on a cart.

The Emperor's soothsayer then looked at the feather and said to the Emperor, "This feather, Excellency, is from Nudan's spirit. She and the eagle are one in the same."

The Emperor now, of course, greatly regretted what he had done to Nudan. Standing in the courtyard of his palace, he looked up and called out to the sky: "If you are Nudan's vengeful spirit, let me make amends. Henceforth, all Manchus are to revere you and worship you as patron saint of all shamans."

No sooner had he spoken did the darkness which had engulfed the palace lift. Once again light came through the clouds.

From that day on, Manchus would observe rites for not only their ancestors but also for the eagle spirit, Nudan the Shaman. It is said that from deep down within the well Nudan was imprisoned in there can still be heard a thumping noise. And no one has yet ever been able to remove the chains from her final resting place.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Aixinjuelo, p. 88-106

The word "shaman" is originally from the Sanskrit
srmana, meaning "ascetic" (Kurath 1003-1004). Campbell, however, suggests that it is a Tungusic word for "he who knows" (157). Among the equipment common to shamans is the tom-tom, the beating of which sends the shaman into a trance and then to the realm of spirits. As shown in this story, a journey to the land of the dead is fraught with danger, with the ever envious dead always ready to pounce upon their living friends and family members (Delaby 344). In worldwide folklore, the dead are the implacable foes of the living; hence, universal tales of vampires and the invisible malevolent dead as well as the need to propitiate the dead with offerings and local taboos against defaming them or even saying their names. Moreover, Nudan not only travels to the land of the dead but also engages in a physical altercation, another taboo cognate with "tabu on fighting in fairyland," F210.1. Finally the legend also addresses the historical rivalry between Tibetan-Mongolian lamaism and Manchu shamanism, painting the lamas in a poor light. Motifs: F81,"Journey to the land of the dead."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Copper Pot (Uighur)

There was once a man who had an enormous copper pot. Since the pot was really too large, he had hardly ever had a chance to use it. So one day he somehow managed to drag the pot into a coppersmith's shop.

"Can you make this into two pots?" he asked the coppersmith.

"Of course. Come back in a week," the coppersmith replied. He had no intention, though, of doing what he had been asked to do. He intended to keep the fine copper pot for himself, come what may.

A week later, the owner of the copper pot returned to the shop.

"Are my two pots ready?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not" was the reply. "There just isn't enough copper for two nice-sized pots."

"How about fashioning one large pot and one small pot, then?"

"Yes, I can do that," replied the coppersmith. "Come back in a week."

A week later, the owner returned, expecting to pay for and to receive one large copper pot and one small copper pot.

"Well," he asked the coppersmith, "do you have my two pots?"

"No, I'm afraid not," said the coppersmith. "The quality of the copper isn't as good as I had thought. There just isn't enough for one big pot and one small pot."

"Could you then perhaps make a pot and a kettle?"

"Why, yes, I could do that," replied the coppersmith. "Come back in a week."

One week later, the owner of the copper pot returned.

"Are my pot and kettle ready now?" he asked.

The coppersmith sadly shook his head and said, "Sir, there just isn't enough copper even for a kettle."

"Well, can't you at least make a pot and a ladle, then?"

"Splendid idea. I can indeed do that. Come back in a week."

Yet another week passed. The owner returned to the shop.

"All right, coppersmith. Where are my pot and ladle?"

"My brother, " answered the coppersmith, "I am sorry to tell you that there isn't even enough copper for a ladle."

"Look," said the owner of the copper pot, "I have waited for you to make me two pots, a pot and a kettle, and a pot and a ladle. Now you tell me there isn't even enough copper for a ladle! I'm at the end of the road with you. How about a pot and, say, a small hammer?"

"Yes, absolutely! I'm sure I could that easily. Please come back in a week."

Still another week passed. Again the owner went back to the shop.

"Where are my things?" was all he said.

"O my brother," the coppersmith said, "there just isn't enough copper for even a small hammer."

The owner clenched his jaw and his nostrils flared. Normally a peaceful, even meek, man, he was now speechless. He decided it would be better just to turn around. He stormed out of the shop before his anger could get the better of him.

"I'll be back to settle accounts!" he said, glaring at the coppersmith as he left. "If not for the fact I need to go somewhere, I'd give you a sound thrashing!"

As soon as the man had left his shop, the coppersmith burst out laughing, rubbing his hands in delight. He called for his assistant.

"Did you see the man who just left?" he asked the younger man.

The assistant nodded.

"Well, he is an honest fool. I just hoodwinked him out of a valuable copper pot, and I think I can still squeeze some money out of him."

"How so?"

"We'll go to his home. I'll carry in two money sacks. I'll then demand that he pay for all the work I did on his copper pot."

"All the work?" laughed the assistant. "You didn't do any work on it at all."

"I know that; you know that; that fool doesn't know that."

"So," continued the assistant, "what do you want me to do?"

"It's very simple. This is where you come in. When you hear him ask, 'Is this enough?', answer right away, 'No! More! More!'"

The pair got on their donkeys and rode to the home of the man who owned the huge copper pot. Once they had arrived, they dismounted. The coppersmith then brazenly walked through the gate into the courtyard where the man of the house, the pot's owner, was sitting, sunning himself. He arose.

"Oh, so you wish to return my pot to me?" the owner asked.

"Don't you talk to me of pots! You owe me for all the work I've done! I spent many hours trying to do something useful with that worthless copper pot of yours. Then you had the nerve to walk off like that without paying, " spoke the coppersmith.

"I see. And how much do you suppose I owe you, coppersmith?"

"Don't ask me. You obviously don't trust me. Ask my assistant. He is standing outside the gate. Ask him if whatever you give me is enough."

The owner strode over and saw that the assistant was indeed standing in the open gateway. The owner of the pot then slammed the door of the gate in the assistant's face. He locked the door and picked up a cudgel. He returned to where the coppersmith was standing and grabbed him by the collar.

"Here! I shall give you this!" he roared and proceeded to beat the smith about the head with his stick. Then calling out to the assistant, the angry owner of the pot cried, "How's this? Is this enough?"

"No! More! More!" the assistant cried from behind the closed and locked gate.

"Very well!"

He then furiously beat the coppersmith again and again and again.

"Is this enough yet?" he cried.

"No! More! More!" was once again the reply from beyond the gate.

Finally the owner of the pot, completely worn out, opened the gate and said to assistant, "Come and get your reward."

The assistant took a long look and saw his master lying in a heap upon the flagstones.

"Owww, my head!" moaned the coppersmith.

The owner of the pot and the assistant then pulled the coppersmith up and draped him over his donkey.

"Now, go!" shouted the owner of the pot. "Make sure you have my pot ready by tomorrow, for I am going back to collect it. No more tricks or there'll be more rewards for the both of you!"

The coppermsith and his assistant rode away as fast as one can on a donkey.

On the way back, the coppersmith, now sitting upright, turned to his assistant and said, "You idiot! Why did you keep saying, 'No! More! More!' as I was beaten about the head? Just wait till we get back and I get my hands upon you!"

"How was I supposed to know you weren't getting coins but a club to your head?" the other cried. "I was just doing what--"

"Oh, shut up!"

And the pair bickered like this all the way back to the shop.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Liu, p. 56-60

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Ginseng Boy (Manchu)

There were once a man and woman who, with their only child, lived at the foot of a mountain. The boy was nicknamed Mogutou, or "Mushroom head," after his haircut.

When little Mogutou started spending the whole day playing outside and coming home late, his parents became alarmed.

One day he got up early without either washing his face or eating his porridge and was out the door when his mother stopped him.

"Where are you off to?" she asked.

"I'm going out to play!"

"Going out to play? And with whom? There are no children around here for many li," said his mother. "Stay home or else a hungry wolf might drag you away."

"But I have a friend, a little boy with a red cap."

The mother's ears perked up, and she called the father in and told him what little Mogutou had said.

The father and mother looked at each other, and then the mother said to her son, "Listen, Mogutou, here's what we want you to do. We shall give you a needle with some red thread. While you are playing with your friend, stick the needle into his red cap without letting him know you are doing so. You mustn't tell him now. We're going to play a little joke on him."

Mogutou agreed and went out to play, and his parents secretly followed him, the father carrying a spade. They then hid behind some bushes and waited and waited. Before long, a stout little boy in a red cap showed up and started playing with Mogutou. When the boy wasn't looking, Mogutou took out the needle with very long red thread and stuck it into the boy's red cap. As dusk approached, the boys parted company, each heading home. The parents then followed the red thread from the needle in the little boy's cap. The thread led the parents to the base of a huge tree. Both parents then dug up the area that the thread entered and uncovered a gigantic ginseng root. And there in its "cap" was the needle! The two grabbed the ginseng root and ran home with it.

The next morning Mogutou got up early to play. He found his parents standing over a huge pot on the stove. They were busily pouring water into the pot.

When Mogutou asked what was in the pot, his father replied, "Come and take a look." He then removed the cover. Mogutou gasped when he saw his friend, the little ginseng boy, in the pot of water.

"Your mother and I are going to cook and eat him!" laughed the father. "Then we shall be immortal. "

Mogutou began to weep at the thought that he had helped t his parents capture the ginseng boy. He stood by the doorway, head lowered, crying silently.

The mother and father put some kindling under the pot and lit it. Stirring the water and waiting for it to boil, both had the same thought.

Now, if I eat the whole ginseng root, thought the father, why, I'll become years younger. I'll be able to find a younger wife and not need to be with this ancient shriveled-up shrew!

If I eat the whole ginseng root, thought the mother, I'll turn into the most beautiful and eligible maiden around. I won't need to pay attention to this stupid, old drooling dead ghost!

"My sweet wife, " smiled the husband, "go and fetch my dear parents-in-law. There's enough here for everyone."

"Thank you, my beloved husband," replied the wife, with a smile no less oily than her husband's. "I'll only go if you go too and ask your honorable parents to come and share!"

Well, the pair inched their way towards the door, hoping one might be dumb enough to go first and leave behind all of the ginseng behind for the other. Both then went outside, the husband slowly heading west and the wife, east. Both kept looking over their shoulders to make sure the other didn't bolt inside and try to devour the ginseng boy alone.

Sniffling, Mogutou decided to rescue his friend. When both of his parents were out of sight, he dashed in the house and put out the fire. Just then, he heard his parents shouting at each other outside. They had returned.

"Well, what are you doing back here?" yelled the wife. "Where are those parents of yours?"

"I came back because I was afraid we had forgotten to put a lid on the pot. We don't want a cat dragging away our ginseng root, do we? What are you doing back here without your old ma-, uh, without your parents?"

"Oh, I came back to make sure the window was closed," answered the wife.

Just then their son appeared in the doorway with the ginseng boy.

"Let's go!" shouted Mogutou to his friend. "Run for your life!"

The two parents looked at each other, their mouths agape, but then the father recovered himself and grabbed a nearby piece of firewood for use as a club.

"Quickly! Stop them, you old fool!" he cried to his wife!

Mogutou and the ginseng boy then darted between the man and woman. The father swung the piece of wood but narrowly missed the ginseng boy. Instead he ended up hitting his own wife, who fell backwards with a huge bump on her head.

"Oh! You're a dead man!" she cried, sitting upon the ground, rubbing her poor throbbing head. "Wait till I get my hands on your skinny neck!"

"You-you d-dumb egg!" the husband argued back. "Why didn't you g-get out of the way? Who told you to put your stupid head so close to the club?"

The husband and wife stood outside, screaming at each other. And what of little Mogutou and his friend, the ginseng boy? They both ran into the forest and were never seen again.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Wu, p. 368-370

The ginseng is a root widely prized for its properties as a medicine and as a tonic. Andrew Kimmens writes that tales of ginseng roots personified as human beings occur in Jilin province (Kimmens 1-2). Kimmens also retells "The Ginseng Treasures," a variant tale in which an evil uncle tries to force his nephew into capturing a ginseng root in the form of a girl (11-18). Motif: D431.6, "Plant transformed to a person."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Woman in the Moon (Hezhe/Hezhen)

An old fisherman and his wife had a son, and when he became of age, they found him a wife. She not only had a lovely egg-shaped face but also knew how to cook, sew, fish, and gather firewood. While the son loved her dearly and the old fisherman was pleased with the match, the mother was soon not happy at all. Icy and heavy-browed, she soon came to despise the girl, looking down upon her as an upstart and a clod.

The mother-in-law resented the girl's visits to her own elderly parents and perceived every sound or movement as a sign of disrespect. In time the mother-in-law became more and more impatient and even brutal. While the father and son were away fishing, as they often were, the older woman would order her daughter-in-law to make ten trips to carry wood, scoop up water, and fry up ten pans of fish. When the fish came in, she would tell the girl to hang out ten jin of fresh fish and then collect exactly ten jin of dried fish. Let there be one jin less of dried fish or even one twig less of what the old woman thought there should be for firewood, and there would be hell to pay--the girl would be whipped.

And how did the unfortunate daughter-in-law react to all of this? Out of respect for her husband's mother, she held her tongue and refused to argue back or even to defend herself, and she only tried harder to please. But so often is the case when one tries too hard, nothing the girl did or tried to do was good enough for the mother-in-law. What soon made all of this more unbearable was the scolding and beatings only occurred when the two men were out fishing.

Early one evening the daughter-in-law managed to get away and went out by the river. She brought her buckets and intended to bring back some water. She looked at her reflection in the cool, slowly moving water. She gasped. Her once lovely face was now gaunt; her eyes were now sunken into her face and hooded; her hair was frizzled.

"What has become of me?" she cried.

She saw the full moon slowly rise over the mountains.

Looking up at the moon, she said, "If there is a god in the moon, please save me now. I have had enough!"

She then stepped off the bank and dropped like a stone towards the river below. However, before she touched the water, a cloth, much like a table cover, appeared right under her feet and stopped her from hitting the water. It then slowly rose into the air, carrying her up along with it.

"Aiii!" she screamed, grabbing onto the trunk of a willow tree. The cloth kept rising, and as it did, she steadfastly held onto the trunk, buckets and pole. The terrified young woman, along with the tree trunk, pole and buckets, flew all the way up to the moon itself. There, she was taken in by the kind moon god himself and became his wife.

When the young wife hadn't returned home, her mother-in-law went out to search for her. Cursing the young woman and yelling into the night, the mother-in-law went to the river bank. She looked up into the sky and saw the moon, and within the moon's disk, she saw her own daughter-in-law holding her two buckets on the pole and standing by the uprooted tree. This startled the old woman, and she decided to make up a story to tell her son. She hurried home.

"Where's my wife?" asked the son after returning from his fishing trip.

"You must forget all about her, my son," the mother answered.

"What do you mean?"

"She went and drowned herself in the river!"

"What?!"

"Yes, it is true," the old woman continued. "I had caught her stealing, and I suppose she couldn't own up to what she had done. We're better off without her."

Well, the son couldn't and wouldn't believe any of this, but since it was clear his wife was not going to return home, he assumed she had indeed drowned herself. He remained brokenhearted, in any case.

It was now up to the mother-in-law to do everything her daughter-in-law had done: sweep, gather firewood, dry fish, wash, cook . . . There was no rest, and she soon deeply regretted the way she had treated the girl. Of course, the regrets came too late.

The son never forgot his wife, and everyday he longed to see her. Exactly one month later, the night of the full moon, he went to where the tree had once stood by the river bank. The full moon shone brightly in the night sky, and the young man naturally looked up at the brilliant disk. There, he saw what his mother had seen the night before: his wife holding the two buckets on a pole and standing by the willow tree.

"Come back to me, my heart, my love!" he cried. "Please come back to me!"

"I cannot," she replied. "Your mother hurt me once too often, but I was rescued by the moon god. I am his wife now. Farewell." She then shouldered her pole and walked out of sight.

From then on, whenever there was a full moon, the son would set offerings of pears and grapes on the banks of the river for his wife. This is why the Hezhe people still leave offerings for the full moon even to this day.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

from Li, p. 97-101

There are Turkic-Mongolian traditions about the moon as a seducer (Roux 325-326). Motifs: A751, "Man in the moon"; A753.1.1, "Moon abducts woman"; A753.1.4, "Moon married to woman." Perhaps the most famous "lady-in-the-moon" story is the Han Chinese tale of Chang'e (sometimes translated as "Ch'ang O"), the wife of legendary archer Hou Yi, who flew up to the moon and took up residence there.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Smell of Fish and the Sound of Money (Korean)

In a small village, two homes lay side by side. One humble home belonged to the Yi family; the other, to the wealthier Jia family.

One day old Farmer Yi took ill. He lay on his bed, unable to get up.

"Son, I need to eat fish. Get me some fish," he told his oldest son.

The son then went twenty li to Black Dragon Lake, where he caught a few fishes. He rushed home as quickly as he could with his catch. His mother then cooked the fishes and made them into a delicious and nutritious soup. She fed her husband the soup, and, by and by, he soon recovered.

The man next door, Mr. Jia, heard about Yi's illness and his complete recovery by eating fish.

"Huh!" he grunted. "That poor egg of a Mr. Yi can't even afford a noodle, let alone a fish!"

He immediately stormed over to his neighbor's house and banged on the front gate.

"Yes?" asked old Yi.

"I heard you were ill and got better by eating fish," said Jia.

"That's true. What of it?"

"Did you smell any fish being cooked?" asked Jia.

"As a matter of fact, I did."

"Well, Mr. Yi, I'm here to collect some money from you."

"What?" cried the old farmer. "Money from me? What for? I don't owe you anything!"

"Well, " replied Jia, "you smelled the fish that we had been cooking. You owe us for the fish that we had bought and cooked."

"We cooked our own fish!" protested old Yi.

"Liar!" screamed the neighbor. "I demand that you pay me for my fish, or else I'll take this up with the yamen!"

"Get out," said the old farmer, slamming the gated door in the neighbor's face.

Mr. Jia did not let the matter go. He marched right down to the magistrate of the local yamen, the government house and court, and filed a complaint. A yamen runner then gave old Yi a summons to appear the next day and pay old Jia for the cost of the cooked fish the scent of which had healed him.

"Now what shall I do?" moaned the old farmer. "I don't have any money or time for this nonsense!"

"Leave it up to me, Father," replied the oldest son. He then went into town, where he borrowed a few coins from friends.

When his father had seen the coins, he asked, "What good shall these coins do us?"

"Tomorrow morning, Father, you shall see."

Early the next morning Farmer Yi and his son went straight to the yamen, where old Jia had already been waiting. The three stood before the local magistrate, a mandarin, who sat behind the judge's desk.

The magistrate turned to the young man and his father and said, "I trust you are ready to pay what you owe Mr. Jia."

"Yes, Your Honor," replied the young man. He then stretched out his arm and opened the palm of his hand, revealing four coins. Mr. Jia took a step towards the coins.

"Not so fast!" snapped young Yi, closing his fist and then shaking it. The coins, of course, jingled. Then turning to Jia, he asked, "Can you hear this sound?" He shook his closed hand once more, jingling the coins.

"Certainly I hear the sound, you idiot!" Jia replied. "I'm not hard of hearing. It is the sound of coins. Now give me my money!"

"Not so fast, not so fast!" replied young Yi. "You've already been paid."

"'Already been paid'? What are you blathering about?" sneered Jia. "Since when is listening to coins jingle the same as being paid?"

"Since when is smelling fish the same as eating fish?" retorted young Mr. Yi. "Since my father can be cured by smelling your fish, you can be paid by hearing the jingling of my money."

Mr. Jia's face turned scarlet as he choked on his words. "Why . . . !"

"The case is hereby dismissed!" said the magistrate. "Good day, gentlemen!"

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Heilongjiang minjian gushixuan, p. 237-238.

See Creeden for an American version and a list of variants from Japan, France, Burma and Africa (27-30). Motifs: J1172.3, "Payment with clink of money"; J1551, "Imaginary debt and payment."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Two Princes (Mongol & Manchu)

In a far off land called Kunnan lived two brothers, Ri'guang and Yueguang, both of whom were princes. Though they had different mothers, they were, in their hearts, true brothers through and through. Ri'guang's mother had died when he was very small, and his father, the Khan, then remarried. The new Queen was Yueguang's mother. The boys loved each other very much. Sad to say, however, Yueguang's mother was an evil, scheming woman who wanted her Yueguang to succeed as Khan.

One evening she took a potion to make herself appear gravely ill and called the Khan into her chamber.

"I am afraid I haven't much time left, my love," she sighed. "Forgive me for leaving you."

The Khan was beside himself. "Surely something can be done! I refuse to accept otherwise. No matter how much the cost or what is involved, I will find the cure for you!"

"Well, there is a cure, but it is too drastic. I need the liver of a young prince fried in sesame oil, but this is an impossible request. I could not bear to have either your Ri'guang or our Yueguang harmed," said the Queen.

The Khan was silent for some time and then spoke. He said, "If it will save your life, you shall have Ri'guang's liver fried in sesame oil," and then departed. Without a word, he personally slaughtered a lamb and took out its liver, intending to fry it in sesame oil for his queen. He could not, of course, bare to kill his own child.

Unknown to either the Khan or the Queen, Yueguang had been hiding behind the curtains and heard their entire conversation. He immediately ran into his brother's chamber.

"Brother! Brother! Wake up!" he cried and told Ri'guang what he had heard.

"Thank you, Brother, for warning me," said Ri'guang. "I will leave, but I will never forget you."

"We shall escape together," said Yueguang.

So both made their way out of the palace, hopped on their horses and galloped out into the night, not knowing where they were headed.

They crossed towering mountains, and then they somehow made it over a treacherous river. Finally, they came to a vast desert. By this time, their poor horses had been ridden to death, so the two brothers had no other choice but to cross the desert on foot. Then, perhaps, they could safely reach a community of people.

They started out on foot. After a few days, their water and food were used up, and not a drop of water or a morsel of food could be found in this raging furnace of a desert.

Yueguang could no longer walk, so Ri'guang told him to rest by a great rock while he, Ri'guang, pressed ahead to look for water. Ri'guang couldn't find an oasis or river and turned back. When he returned to the rock, Ri'guang found that his little brother had already breathed his last. Brokenhearted, the older boy buried his little brother beneath the rock and spent the night atop the small grave with his head buried in his arms.

Early the next morning, Ri'guang arose and continued his journey. He soon came to an even greater rock, a boulder, and stopped before it. There was a red door on the boulder. Not minding his manners, Ri'guang opened the door and entered this boulder-dwelling. Seated in one of its dim corners was an ancient man with a long white beard.

"Your heart is heavy with the weight of something you left buried back in the sands, " said the old one.

Ri'guang introduced himself and told the old man everything that had happened. The old man got up, took a kettle, and told Ri'guang to take him to the spot where Yueguang lay buried.

The pair arrived at the location, and together, they dug up Yueguang. The old man knelt beside Yueguang and slowly poured from the kettle a brilliant white liquid into Yueguang's mouth. Yueguang stirred and sat up just as if waking from a pleasant nap.

From that day on, the two princes lived with the old man in the boulder and studied magic and the ways of the immortals. They became like father and sons.

Now the Khan of this desert land performed a sacrifice to the local dragon god once a year to insure a good harvest, and this year a boy born in the year yan was slated to be sacrificed. In the entire khanate, not one boy born in the year yan could be found. It appeared to the Khan and his men that the year's crops were in danger, that there might not be a bountiful harvest.

"Great Khan, two young men live with the old hermit in the boulder in the desert," some busybody reported to the Khan. "I think at least one of the two was born in the year yan. He certainly looks old enough!"

The anxious Khan dispatched soldiers to the boulder in the desert. One, a captain of the guards, rudely banged on the door of the boulder, shouting, "Boy who was born in the year yan! Come out and surrender yourself!" And then he added with a cold laugh, "The Dragon God awaits you!"

From behind the door, the voice of the old hermit creaked like a cricket: "You've come to the wrong place! It is only I who live here. What would a boy be doing in a place like this?" As he spoke, he quietly led the two boys to a huge ceramic pot. Ri'guang and Yueguang clambered inside the vessel.

Before much longer, the soldiers broke down the door and entered the old man's dwelling. They turned tables and mats upside down and ripped curtains down. Finally, the captain of the guard walked over to the hermit and grabbed him.

"Where's the boy?" he asked and proceeded to pummel the old man viciously with his fists when it appeared certain the old man wouldn't answer.

Ri'guang could hear what was going on. He poked his head out of the opening of the pot and, like the prince he was, he shouted, "Stop hitting him at once in the name of my father, the Khan!"

"The Khan? You're the son of our Khan?"

Laughing, the soldiers seized Ri'guang and took him away. The old man of the boulder sank to his knees and wept.

Ri'guang was led through the gates of the palace. The Khan's daughter, the Princess, looking out from her window, saw him being taken away at sword and spear point. He is so young and handsome and innocent! she thought. She then decided to rescue him.

She approached the captain of the guard and said, "Do not let the young man be given to the Dragon God! Wherever he goes, I go, for I love him!"

Puzzled at what to do and more than a bit frightened, the captain rushed over to the Khan and told him what the Princess had said.

"What?!" roared the Khan. "If the Princess said that, then she is no longer my daughter. Go now and take her and that boy. Wrap them together in a hide and dump them into the river for the Dragon God's meal!"

This the captain of the guards did. Both Ri'guang and the Princess were wrapped together in a cowhide, rowed to the middle of the river and dropped into the water for the Dragon God's feast.

The Dragon God promptly reared himself out of the water and snatched Ri'guang and the Princess with his talons. He roared and belched steam.

"Please, Dragon God, spare the Princess!" cried Ri'guang. "I was born in the year yan! Take me! She is innocent!"

"No, no, Dragon God! Don't listen to him! Take me! Let my father pay for his own evil with me!" implored the Princess.

The Dragon God was silent. He understood what the two young people were saying, and he took pity on them. He gently deposited them on the banks of the river and then slid back into the water. He had been greatly moved by their love for each other.

Ri'guang then thanked the Princess for her effort to save his life.

The Princess left for her home, and Ri'guang did likewise, heading back to the boulder. There, he was joyfully greeted by the old white-bearded hermit and Yueguang.

When the Princess reentered the throne room, the Khan and his guards gasped and turned white. No one had ever escaped alive from the Dragon God. The Khan slowly and hesitatingly approached his daughter. He stood before her and studied her.

"Yes, it is you, Daughter," said the Khan. "You are here now because it was only the young man that the Dragon God had wanted, not you."

"That is not true," she answered. "The Dragon God let us both go because we had tried to sacrifice ourselves for each other. That is why we were both spared. It is called 'love,' Father."

The Khan then staggered backward and dropped down onto his throne. For a long time, he said nothing. Finally, he ordered his captain of the guards to appear.

"Go back to the old hermit's and fetch the two young men," he commanded. "And this time, be gentle with them!"

Soon both Ri'guang and Yueguang were standing before the Khan.

"Are you two the sons of the old hermit?"

"No, Great Khan," answered Ri'guang. "We are the sons of the Khan of Kunnan." He then told the Khan the whole story of how he and his brother had come to be in this desert khanate.

"I shall be pleased if you, Ri'guang, take the Princess as your wife, and your brother may take the Princess's little sister for his wife, " said the Khan.

And so, before long, a caravan was seen entering the Khanate of Kunnan. At the head of this caravan were two very richly dressed important personages seated on magnificently caparisoned camels. Behind them were two richly brocaded and curtained sedan chairs that contained ladies of obviously high rank. And behind them were fully armed cavalry men and many camels bearing gold, jewels, and carpets. The caravan stopped before the Khan's palace gates.

"Please tell my father the Khan that Ri'guang and Yueguang have returned," said Ri'guang, atop the lead camel, to the stupefied guard.

The Khan and his lady hastened out of the palace at the news. Both he and the Queen had never forgiven themselves for the disappearance of both Ri'guang and Yueguang. Now that he could see that they had returned alive and well, he sank to his knees and wept like a baby out of happiness. He then warmly welcomed his sons and his daughters-in-law.

The Queen, too, was overcome with emotion, and like the Khan, she knelt and wept out of shame for her acts. However, her heart then cracked in two, and she toppled to the ground, cold and lifeless.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Qiu, p. 52-59; Li Yonghai, p. 29-33.

"Ri'guang" and "Yueguang" mean, respectively, "sunbeams" and "moonbeams." This is another Hindu story from The King and the Corpse transmitted to and adapted by the Mongolians and Manchus. In Li's translation from Manchu, it is story number five, and here the old hermit is now a "lama" that lives on a mountain peak. Motifs: B11.1o, "Sacrifice of a human being to a dragon"; E102, "Resuscitation by magic liquid"; F771, "Extraordinary castle/structure"; S31, "Cruel stepmother"; and S272.1, "Flee at being sacrificed."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Clever Rabbit (Mongol)

A lamb once strayed too far behind the rest of the flock and got lost. In no time, he was spotted by a lean and hungry wolf. With one paw holding onto the helpless lamb, the wolf thought about his choices.

Shall I devour him here and now? he thought. Shall I try to drag the lamb all the way back to my cave? Or, shall I pull him into those woods over there and then eat him?

Well, the cave was out of the question, for the starving wolf simply didn't have the strength. He also couldn't eat it out in the open and run the risk of being surprised by a hunter. He opted for eating the lamb in the woods.

Turning the lamb in the direction of the trees, the wolf growled, "This way, you!"

Heading towards the woods with the wolf, the lamb spotted a rabbit peering above some bushes.

"Oh, Rabbit!" cried the lamb. "Look at the mess I am in! This wolf is going to eat me!"

"Of course I'm going to eat you , you stupid animal!" rasped the wolf. "In fact, I'm going to take you into these very woods and eat you alive!"

"Actually," said the rabbit, now sitting up on a rock, "the wolf is entirely reasonable. After all, wolves are known to eat lambs and other animals. However, Wolf, I wouldn't be too hasty if I were you."

"What do you mean?" asked the wolf.

"Hunters are about, especially in the woods, looking for game and pelts!" replied the rabbit. "Wait right here while I dash in the forest and take a good look for you and see if anyone is there."

"Fine," said the wolf, drooling, "but hurry up, though. I'm starving."

In a flash, the rabbit was gone. Unknown to the wolf, the rabbit headed straight for an abandoned hunters' camp. There, he found a small carpet and a piece of red wrapping paper from a tin of tea. He rolled up both the carpet and the wrapping paper and carried them back to the place where the wolf and the lamb were waiting.

"Well," asked the wolf, now very impatient, "did you see anyone?"

"No, no one is there," said the rabbit. "However, as an agent of our Great Khan, I am obligated to read you this announcement."

The wolf sighed with impatience.

The rabbit then sat on the carpet, now rolled out, and took out the red wrapping paper. He pretended to read from it.

"To all subjects of the Great and Mighty Khan," he solemnly said. "Seventy-seven wolf pelts are required for the Great Khan's blanket, and seventy-six have heretofore been gathered. Whosoever can lead the Great Khan's men to a wolf or its lair for the seventy-seventh wolf pelt shall be richly rewarded!"

"What!?" gasped the wolf. "Wolf pelts are . . . wolf skins!"

"The order," continued the rabbit, "is dated. . .hmm. . . let me see. Oh. It was dated yesterday."

The rabbit slowly put down the red wrapping paper, looked at the wolf and took off like a shot.

The wolf, thinking that the rabbit must be on his way to find the Khan's men, ran off in the opposite direction with the greatest of speed, though he was just about dying of hunger.

"You'll never find me, Rabbit!" he snarled. "Curse you! Curse you forever!"

He then ran off to heaven knows where, never to return to those parts again.

In time, the rabbit caught up with the lamb, still lost as ever, and helped the lamb find its flock.

"Remember, my brother lamb," he said before departing, "if you are planning to remain outside your flock, first learn to sharpen your wits!"

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)

Notes

Menggu minjian gushixuan, pp. 91-92.

The hare or rabbit has a prominent place in the pantheon of pre-Islamic deities, serving as a helper or forest spirit (Roux, 324).