Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Gray Eagle (Xibo/Xibe)

There lived two brothers. One, the older of the two, was mean and selfish, and looked out for only his own welfare. The younger brother was sweet and kind and thought well of everyone, even of his own less than lovable older brother.

The time came when the older brother was to take a wife, and so he kicked his younger brother right out of their cottage.

"Go fend for yourself!" the big brother said. "Take this hulu with you. In it, you'll find some wheat seeds." He handed his younger brother a gourd. "May you prosper!" he added, with a sneer.

The younger brother thanked the older brother and departed for a desolate area. There he found a small plot of land to keep and erected a small hut. He planted his seeds. However, unknown to him, his older brother had first roasted those seeds, making them absolutely worthless.

Of course, after a period of time, the younger brother noticed that none of the seeds was sprouting. He scratched his head in wonder and still continued watering and fertilizing his little plot of land in the hope that something, anything, would grow. However, nothing did.

Fall came. The younger brother got up early to check on his barren land and, lo and behold, a thick green stalk was growing in the center of his vegetable plot!

He rubbed his eyes in amazement and ran over to the stalk. No, it wasn't a dream; the stalk was as solid as an ox bone. He was delighted. From then on he put all of his energy into nurturing this lone green stalk. Little did he know that this plant had sprouted from the one seed that had not been roasted.

And so everyday he carefully watered his plant and watched it grow and thicken.

One afternoon the younger brother spotted a great gray eagle soaring high over his land. Before he realized it, the bird had swooped down and in an instant had snatched up his green stalk, roots and all. It then slowly climbed back into the sky.

"Stop!" cried the younger brother, shouting and waving his arms much like a bird himself. "Stop, thief! Come back with my plant!" He ran panting after the eagle.

The gray eagle circled and flew to the top of a rather tall tree, where it continued to clutch its find.

"Young man," said the eagle, "please let me have this stalk. I have three babies who cry everyday for something to eat, and you can see nothing is growing or moving around here."

The young man stood still and listened.

"There are no rabbits or mice on this land," continued the eagle. "I fear for my babies. Please let me have this stalk so they may be able to eat at least something."

The young man was moved. "Please take the stalk!" he said. "I hope it will help. I am sorry I have nothing more to offer you."

"Thank you," replied the eagle. "Please be at this spot tomorrow before sunup. I shall take you to the Mountain of the Sun. There you'll find many good things to keep. Remember to bring a sack with you."

The gray eagle then flew away.

The next morning before the sun came up, the younger brother was there with a sack. After several minutes of waiting, he soon spotted the gray eagle, and this time it landed right beside him.

"Climb onto my back," she said. "Hold on tightly, and don't open your eyes until I tell you."

The younger brother did as he was told, and off they went! The air grew colder, the wind streaked through his hair, and the clouds themselves dampened his garments as they flew high into the sky.

Finally the gray eagle said, "We have arrived. Open your eyes and climb down."

The younger brother now saw nothing but gold and jewels everywhere he looked--gold mountains, rocks and pebbles, and, yes, even gold seeds, not to mention rubies, diamonds, and emeralds galore, all shimmering before him.

"Now listen carefully!" said the gray eagle. "We don't have much time. If the sun comes up while we're still here, we'll be burned alive in seconds. Go and gather into the sack whatever you like, and be ready to leave as soon as I call you."

The younger brother looked about him. Being the simple and practical man he was, he recognized the seeds as being of the most value to him. So he quickly scooped up handfuls of the gold seeds into the sack until it was full.

"Let's go back," he said to the eagle, and they both flew away with lots of time to spare before the rising of the sun.

As soon as he returned, the younger brother started planting his seeds. Before long, he had a plot full of sturdy golden wheat. His wheat sold well, and he kept replanting and selling it. With his money, he bought better land and planted whole fields with his gold seeds.

In time, the older brother decided to see how his brother was faring. He was astounded to pass by acres of golden wheat belonging to his younger brother.

"From where did all this wheat and land come?" he asked, and the younger brother then recounted the entire story about how originally only one solitary green stalk grew on his land and how the gray eagle had plucked the stalk and then later transported him to the Mountain of the Sun, the fabled land where gold, jewels and diamonds lay in abundance.

Aha! thought the older brother. One of the seeds I gave this simpleton must not have been burned.

Without saying a word, he scurried back home. He then roasted a hulu full of wheat seeds, making sure then to add one unroasted seed and mixing it in with the rest. He next sowed the seeds, watered them and waited. Sure enough, one day not long after, there appeared a green stalk as thick as an ox bone in the field where nothing else was growing.

Now, thought the older brother, all I need is a gray eagle.

When such an eagle did appear, it swooped down and, in an instant, it snatched the older brother's solitary green stalk.

"Hey, stop, thief!" cried the older brother, feigning anger. "Come back here with my plant!"

The eagle then flew around and landed atop the older brother's roof.

"Please, kind sir, " said the eagle. "Won't you let me keep this stalk? My three babies are so hungry and might die if they don't get any nourishment. This plant is the only green thing to eat within one thousand li of here. Please let me have it."

"Of course you may take it, " said the older brother, now speaking a bit more generously than he usually did.

"Oh, thank you!" said the eagle. She then added: "Be here tomorrow with a sack before sunup. I shall take you to a special place where you may find many treasures."

The gray eagle then flew off, and the older brother rubbed his hands and laughed as he thought about all the riches that he would soon have. The next morning before sunrise, the gray eagle arrived as expected.

"Hop onto my back, close your eyes, and hold on," she said, and they took off.

Upon landing, the gray eagle said, "You may open your eyes now and get off."

The older brother hopped off, his eyes bulging as he viewed all the riches that lay before him.

"You may take as much gold and other jewels as you like, but when I call you to leave, you must heed my call and come right away. If you don't . . ."

"Yes, yes, yes!" said the older brother impatiently as he scurried to gather up everything that sparkled. He was no longer listening to the gray eagle. Everything he saw, he wanted. When he saw a small mound of large gold nuggets, he dumped his sack full of gold seeds. When he came across an even larger collection of gold nuggets, he dumped the small nuggets in favor of the larger ones. Then he poured out the contents of the sack when he came across a mound of diamonds. This went on and on. The older brother just couldn't remain satisfied. He completely ignored both the many gold seeds that lay in piles all around him and the gray eagle, which was telling him to hurry.

The gray eagle was now becoming very concerned. The first rays of the sun were barely outlining the mountain peaks.

"We must leave very soon!" she said.

"In a moment, in a moment," said the older brother, weighing two different gold nuggets, one in each hand.

"We have about five minutes left!" cried the eagle. "Let's leave now!"

"Just wait a moment, will you?" answered the older brother. "I'll be with you immediately!"

The minutes dangerously passed by.

"I can't wait any longer!" shouted the eagle. "I shall not die here with you!"

The older brother said nothing. He was busily deciding whether to dump out some of the diamonds to make room for big chunks of gold.

When the man hadn't answered, the gray eagle called him once more, and there was still no reply. She immediately flew off just as half of the sun was over the mountain top.

The older brother was too busy choosing his treasures to notice the approaching dry, penetrating heat of the sun until it was too late. Not until the sun had finally hauled itself over the mountain peaks did he think about his predicament. He quickly ran for cover, but there was none. There were no structures, caves or ravines. There were no shadows of boulders for him in which to rest, just countless mounds of gold and gems.

And there, in a lonely spot, carrying enough gold and jewels in a sack to please a khan, the older brother lay down upon the jewel encrusted ground and perished, the sun eventually blanching his bones.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Xinjiang xiongdi minzu minjian gushixuan, p. 142-146

Virtually the same tale is known to Iraqi Jews as "The Mountain of the Sun" (Noy 53-56). In that version the bird is a raven. Variant of AT 555A, "Sunrise Land," and AT 511B*, "Half-Brothers and Roasted Seeds." Motifs: B552, "Man carried by bird"; B562.1.3, "Bird shows man treasure"; B580, "Animal helps human to wealth"; F62.1, "Bird carries person to upper world"; F752.1, "Mountain of gold"; Q42, "Generosity rewarded"; Q51, "Kindness to animals rewarded";and Q272, "Avarice punished."

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."

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Bird Khan (Mongol & Manchu)

In a far off place, there lived a herder and his three daughters.

Now one day the oldest daughter was out minding several cows as they grazed. She yawned, stretched and lay down to grab a few winks. When she woke up, not one cow was to be seen. She jumped up with a start and set out to look for them. She had gone up and down every single hill for miles around when she came to a forest. She walked among the densely packed pines and saw a magnificent palace standing in a clearing.

She entered the building, and though upset at having lost her cows, she marveled at the ornate interior with its marble floors, rich carpets and golden furniture. The whole palace sat eerily quiet. No one was stirring inside, or so the oldest daughter thought.

"Is there no one here?" she said aloud, more to herself. "I wonder if anyone saw where my cows went!"

"If you marry me, I shall tell you where you cows went!"

Startled, the girl looked around and asked, "Who said that?"

"I did."

She looked up and saw a bird perched upon a rafter.

"You can speak?"

"You have ears, maiden. You can hear."

For a moment, she said nothing. Then, sneering, she replied, "Marry you, a bird? What if you turn out to be a demon? No, thank you!"

She then turned, walked straight out of the palace and headed home, no longer concerned about the missing cows.

The next day the second daughter went to the palace to look for the cows. She too encountered the bird.

"Marry me!" said the bird. "I'll show you where those cows are."

"Ha! Me, marry a bird?" she laughed coldly. "That's very funny."

She too then turned around, walked out of the palace and went home.

The very next day, the youngest daughter was in the area and decided to look in and near the palace for the missing cows. While inside the palace's great hall, she too was accosted by the bird.

"Marry me!" it said. "I can lead you to the missing cows."

"I am afraid I can't marry you," she replied. "Our people have our own wedding customs."

"Ah, away with your wedding customs! Marry me and I'll lead you to the cows. What's more, I'll give you everything you see here. The entire palace shall be yours. What do you say, maiden?"

The youngest daughter thought for a moment and replied, "Well, if I must, I must. Very well, then."

They were married. Her father got his cows back, and she received everything that had been promised to her by the bird.

On their first evening as husband and wife, they entered the sleeping chamber where the bird immediately changed into a man. However, owing to the lack of light, the youngest daughter, now the bride, was unable to see her husband's face.

"Only in the evening, as soon as it is sundown, may I become a man again," he explained to her, "and as soon as day breaks, I return to being a bird. As Khan of this region, I convene a great assembly of subjects on the fifteenth of every month, and at that time, I can also appear in the day as a man to my people."

And so this is how the two newlyweds lived: the Khan was a bird in the day, and only in the dark safety of his bedchamber did he become a man. Never, though, did his wife even catch a glimpse of his face.

The fifteenth of the month came, and a huge number of subjects gathered just to see their Khan. The wife of the Khan also came to the gathering and awaited his arrival, not having a clue to his appearance. A good number of people also turned to look at the young woman who, like them, was waiting to see the Khan. She then saw an incredibly handsome young horseman on a gray steed in the midst of the crowd. He was very attractive, and the wife of the Bird Khan fell in love with him. Apparently forgetting about waiting to see the Khan, her own husband, she abruptly left after the handsome young stranger rode away. Try as she might, she could not put him out of her mind.

That very night in the dark chamber, the Khan asked his wife to tell him all about her day at the assembly.

When she had told him all about the excitement of being in the great surging crowd, he asked her, "Did you see anyone beautiful there?"

"As for women, I suppose I was beautiful enough, as there were many who were looking at me," she said. "As for men, there was one truly beautiful man, mounted on a fine gray horse."

With that, they spoke no more and went to sleep.

One month later, it was again the fifteenth. The young wife again attended the assembly, hoping once again to get a glimpse or more of the handsome young horseman. Once again, there he was, riding proudly and nobly through a path made just for him. She pressed forward to get a closer look and was now just a few feet from him. He, however, did not pay her any mind and rode out of the assembly. The young wife, her excitement for the day over, also departed.

Days passed and she could still not get him out of mind. She sought out a sorceress. Perhaps such a woman could cast a spell on the handsome horseman and make him love her as much as she loved him.

"I love that magnificent horseman with all my heart!" she confessed to the sorceress. "I love him, yet I am married to another man. What am I to do?"

"Love him? the man on the horse?" exclaimed the sorceress. "Why, that man is our Khan! How can you dare be in love with him?"

The young woman gasped and told the sorceress that the Khan was indeed her husband. She then asked the sorceress to tell her how to help her husband remain a man both day and night instead of his having to live half his life as a bird.

"Here's what you must do," said the sorceress. "Prepare some incense. Burn the incense when he enters the chamber. When he takes off his feathers and wings, burn all of them immediately. He will then not be able to become a bird again."

That very night the young woman burned incense in the chamber. Her husband, the Khan, came in and took off his feathers and wings. His wife immediately grabbed them and burnt them to complete ashes.

"What have you done?" screamed the Khan. "Oh, you foolish, foolish woman, what have you done?"

The wife was stunned; she had been expecting a different reaction.

"You have doomed me! Long ago I was fated to fight against demons, and as long as I could turn into a bird, they could never hurt me. Now you have changed all that. Now I must go out and do battle with them.

"Listen very carefully," he continued. "I must now entrust my soul to you. You must sit in the doorway of our chamber and keep guard for seven days and seven nights. During this time, you must not fall asleep for even a second, for if you do, the demons shall succeed in snatching my soul. Now take care . . . my soul will reside in the chamber under your watchful eyes . . ."

The Khan then vanished into the air.

For six days and nights, the young wife kept guard. All had been going well. Then on the evening of the seventh night, she closed her eyes but for a second or two! She awoke to find the wispy spirit of her husband floating before her.

"You just lost my soul to the demons," he sadly said. "I will now have to become their slave. Farewell . . ."

And he was gone.

The wife then dashed out to look for her husband. For years she explored every valley and mountain peak, looking for the Khan. Then, while leaving one mountain top, she thought she had heard something, perhaps an echo. She listened carefully and realized it was coming from the south. She was exhausted, cold and hungry but forced herself to go on. As the sound became more and more distinct, she knew the sound was coming from another mountain she hadn't yet climbed. She dragged herself up to the mountain top, where she could now hear the sound very clearly, the sound of her husband's voice. She then saw him; he was carrying a back-breaking amount of wooden poles.

She immediately ran over to him.

"My husband, my Khan!" she cried. "What are they doing to you?"

"They are forcing me to build a fence," he answered.

"What can I do to save you?" she asked.

"Go back and seek the one who had told you to burn my wings and feathers," he replied. "She shall know. Now be off before the demons approach and do worse harm to you than what they are doing to me!"

So the young woman went down the mountain and all the way back to her land. There, the sorceress told her to get the skin of a bird, which she did.

The sorceress cast a spell over it and returned it to her, saying, "Now take it back to our Khan at once and tell him to put it on!"

She then immediately set out again for the Far South. She climbed the mountain where she had just last spoken to her husband. And there he was, in the frost and biting, howling wind, still building a fence for his captors, the demons.

"Quick!" she called to him. "Put this on now!" She tossed him the tiny bird-skin suit.

He put it on, and the bird skin then magically stretched to cover him entirely. Once again, he was a bird! He then flew off, with his wife not far behind on foot.

From then on, they lived out the rest of their days as they had before. The Khan, however, had to remain a bird during the day, for he was never able to defeat the demons in his lifetime.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Wang, p. 284-287; Li Yonghai, p. 37-39

One of the most widespread tales is the that of the animal husband/bridegroom, in which a maiden marries a man who must remain a beast, or monster for all of the day or night. Classified as AT 425A, B and C, variations of this tale include the Russian "The Feather of Finist, the Bright Falcon" (Afanas'ev, 580-588) and the Uzbek-Jewish "The Ten Serpents" (Noy, 161-165). Perhaps the best known version is the French "Beauty and the Beast." Originally, this tale was a variant of a story from the Indian cycle of stories, The King and the Corpse, in which a king carries around nightly a speaking corpse that tells a different story each night. In Li 's translation of stories from Manchu, this story, "The Bird Husband" ("Niao zhangfu") is the seventh in the cycle. Motifs: C32.1, "Taboo against supernatural husband"; D150, "Transformation: man to bird"; L162, "Lowly heroine marries prince."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The King of All Roosters (Tatar)

In a chicken coop on a large farm, there once was a rooster which never failed to whoop it up each morning. This in itself is not strange, but this particular rooster was very noisy indeed. Come every sunrise, he'd cock-a-doodle-do from one end of the farm to the other, and, believe me, when he crowed, everybody heard it.

"Wo, wo, wo!" he'd cry. "I'm the king, the emperor, the sultan, the khan of all chickens, be they black, white, yellow, golden, red or all the above! I am your sovereign, your monarch, so obey me!"

And many chickens--hens and other roosters alike--believed him. They would gather around him, chanting, "You are our king, our emperor, our sultan, our khan! You, O Khan, are our eternal leader! May you live a long, long life!"

He'd then reply, "On earth, whose roar is louder than a lion's? Whose legs are most powerful and majestic? Whose feathered robes are most exquisite? Who is simply most awe inspiring?"

"You are the one, O Majesty!" they'd all cry back.

"And tell me, O subjects, whose crown is the largest?"

"Yours! Yours! Yours, O Majesty!"

This went on morning after morning. On one particular morning, it had happened once too often. When the cook was woken up just a bit too early on this morning by all the blustering, he muttered to himself that he had had quite enough, thank you. He stomped out to the chicken coop, grabbed the self-styled king, emperor, sultan and khan by his feet and whisked him off to the chopping block, where he was chopped up for that night's big dinner.

"Delicious!" the master of the house and farm declared as he tasted that night's chicken soup. "This chicken is tender, fresh and absolutely delicious!"

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Xinjiang minjian gushiji, p. 457-459

This is a variant of AT 114A, "The Proud Cock." Motifs: Q331.2, "Vanity punished."