Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs
The Demon with the Matted Hair
THIS story the Teacher told in Jetavana about a Brother who had ceased striving after' righteousness. Said the Teacher to him: "Is it really true that you have ceased all striving? "--"Yes, Blessed One," he replied. Then the Teacher said: " O Brother, in former days wise men made effort in the place where effort should be made, and so attained unto royal power." And he told a story of long ago.
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was King of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as son of his chief queen. On his name-day they asked 800 Brahmans, having satisfied them with all their desires, about his lucky marks. The Brahmans who had skill in divining from such marks beheld the excellence of his, and made answer:
"Full of goodness, great King, is your son, and when you die he will become king; he shall be famous and renowned for his skill with the five weapons, and shall be the chief man in all India. On hearing what the Brahmans had to say, they gave him the name of the Prince of the Five Weapons, sword, spear, bow, battle-axe, and shield.
When he came to years of discretion, and had attained the measure of sixteen years, the King said to him:
"My son, go and complete your education."
"Who shall be my teacher?" the lad asked.
"Go, my son; in the kingdom of Candahar, in the city of Takkasila, is a far-famed teacher from whom I wish you to learn. Take this, and give it him for a fee." With that he gave him a thousand pieces of money, and dismissed him.
The lad departed and was educated by this teacher; he received the Five Weapons from him as a gift, bade him farewell, and leaving Takkasila, he began his journey to Benares, armed with the Five Weapons.
On his way he came to a forest inhabited by the Demon with the Matted Hair. At the entering of the forest some men saw him, and cried out:
"Hullo, young sir, keep clear of that wood! There's a Demon in it called he of the Matted Hair: he kills every man he sees!" And they tried to stop him. But the Bodhisatta, having confidence in himself, went straight on, fearless as a maned lion.
When he reached mid-forest the Demon showed himself. He made himself as tall as a palm-tree; his head was the size of a pagoda, his eyes as big as saucers, and he had two tusks all over knobs and bulbs; he had the face of a hawk, a variegated belly, and blue hands and feet.
"Where are you going?" he shouted. "Stop! You'll make a meal for me!"
Said the Bodhisatta: "Demon, I came here trusting in myself. I advise you to be careful how you come near me. Here's a poisoned arrow, which I'll shoot at you and knock you down!" With this menace, he fitted to his bow an arrow dipped in deadly poison, and let fly. The arrow stuck fast in the Demon's hair. Then he shot and shot, till he had shot away fifty arrows; and they all stuck in the Demon's hair. The Demon snapped them all off short, and threw them down at his feet; then came up to the Bodhisatta, who drew his sword and struck the Demon, threatening him the while. His sword--it was three-and-thirty inches long--stuck in the Demon's hair! The Bodhisatta struck him with his spear--that stuck too! He struck him with his club--and that stuck too!
When the Bodhisatta saw that this had stuck fast, he addressed the Demon. "You, Demon!" said he, "did you never hear of me before--the Prince of the Five Weapons? When I came into the forest which you live in I did not trust to my bow and other weapons: This day will I pound you and grind you to powder!" Thus did he declare his resolve, and with a shout he hit at the Demon with his right hand. It stuck fast in his hair! He hit him with his left hand--that stuck too!' With his right foot he kicked him--that stuck too; then with his left--and that stuck too! Then he butted at him with his head, crying, "I'll pound you to powder! " and his head stuck fast like the rest.
Thus the Bodhisatta was five times snared, caught fast in five places, hanging suspended: yet he felt no fear--was not even nervous.
Thought the Demon to himself: "Here's a lion of a man! A noble man! More than man is he! Here he is, caught by a Demon like me; yet he will not fear a bit. Since I have ravaged this road, I never saw such a man. Now, why is it that he does not fear?" He was powerless to eat the man, but asked him: "Why is it, young sir, that you are not frightened to death?"
"Why should I fear, Demon?" replied he. "In one life a man can die but once. Besides, in my belly is a thunderbolt; if you eat me, you will never be able to digest it; this will tear your inwards into little bits, and kill you: so we shall both perish. That is why I fear nothing." (By this, the Bodhisatta meant the weapon of knowledge which he had within him.)
When he heard this, the Demon thought: "This young man speaks the truth. A piece of the flesh of such a lion-man as he would be too much for me to digest, if it were no bigger than a kidney-bean. I'll let him go!" So, being frightened to death, he let go the Bodhisatta, saying:
"Young sir, you are a lion of a man! I will not eat you up. I set you free from my hands, as the moon is disgorged from the jaws of Rahu after the eclipse. Go back to the company of your friends and relations!"
And the Bodhisatta said: "Demon, I will go, as you say. You were born a Demon, cruel, blood-bibbing, devourer of the flesh and gore of others, because you did wickedly in former lives. If you still go on doing wickedly, you will go from darkness to darkness. But now that you have seen me you will find it impossible to do wickedly. Taking the life of living creatures causes birth, as an animal, in the world of Petas, or, in the body of an Asura, or, if one is reborn as a man, it makes his life short." With -this and the like monition he told him the disadvantage of the five kinds of wickedness, and the profit of the five kinds of virtue, and frightened the Demon in various ways, discoursing to him until he subdued him and made him self-denying, and established him in the five kinds of virtue; he made him worship the deity to whom offerings were made in that wood; and having carefully admonished him, departed out of it.
At the entrance of the forest he told all to the people thereabout; and went on to Benares, armed with his five weapons. Afterwards he became king, and ruled righteously; and after giving alms and doing good he passed away according to his deeds.
And the Teacher, when this tale was ended, became perfectly enlightened, and repeated this verse:
Whose mind and heart from all desire is free,
Thus the Teacher reached the summit, through sainthood and the teaching of the law, and thereupon he declared the Four Truths. At the end of the declaring of the Truths, this Brother also attained to sainthood. Then the Teacher made the connexion, and gave the key to the birth-tale, saying: "At that time Angulimala was the Demon, but the, Prince of the Five Weapons was I myself."
Jacobs, Joseph. Indian Fairy Tales.
London: David Nutt, 1912.
Jacobs' Notes and References
Source - The Pancavudha-Jataka, Fausböll, No. 55, kindly translated for this book by Mr. W. H. D. Rouse, of Christ's College, Cambridge. There is a brief abstract of the Jataka in Prof. Estlin Carpenter's sermon, Three Ways of Salvation, 1884, p. 27, where my attention was first called to this Jataka.
Parallels - Most readers of these Notes will remember the central episode of Mr. J. C. Harris' Uncle Remus, in which Brer Fox, annoyed at Brer Rabbit's depredations, fits up "a contrapshun, what he calls a Tar Baby." Brer Rabbit coming along that way, passes the time of day with Tar Baby, and, annoyed at its obstinate silence, hits it with right fist and with left, with left fist and with right, which successively stick to the "contrapshun," till at last he butts with his bead, and that sticks too, whereupon Brer Fox, who all this time had "lain low," saunters out, and complains of Brer Rabbit that lie is too stuck up. In the sequel Brer Rabbit begs Brer Fox that he may "drown me as deep ez you please, skin me, scratch out my eyeballs, tar out my years by the roots, en cut off my legs, but don't fling me in dat brier patch;" which, of course, Brer Fox does, only to be informed by the cunning Brer Rabbit that he had been "bred en bawn in a brier patch." The story is a favourite one with the negroes: it occurs in Col. Jones' Negro Myths of the Georgia Coast (Uncle Remus is from S. Carolina), also among those of Brazil (Romero, Contos do Brazil), and in the West Indian Islands (Mr. Lang, "At the Sign of the Ship, Longman's Magazine, Feb. 1889). We can trace it to Africa, where it occurs in Cape Colony (South African Folk-Lore Journal; vol. i.).
Remarks - The fivefold attack on the Demon and the Tar Baby is so preposterously ludicrous that it cannot have been independently invented, and we must therefore assume that they are casually connected, and the existence of the variant in South Africa clinches the matter, and gives us a landing-stage between India and America. There can be little doubt that the Jataka of Prince Five Weapons came to Africa, possibly by Buddhist missionaries, spread among the negroes, and then took ship in the holds of slavers for the New World, where it is to be found in fuller form than any yet discovered in the home of its birth. I say Buddhist missionaries, because there is a certain amount of evidence that the negroes have Buddhistic symbols among them, and we can only explain the identification of Brer Rabbit with Prince Five Weapons, and so with Buddha himself, by supposing the change to have originated among Buddhists, where it would be quite natural. For one of the most celebrated metempsychoses of Buddha is that detailed in the Sasa Jataka (Fausböll, No. 316, tr. R. Morris, Folk-Lore Journal, ii. 336), in which the Buddha, as a hare, performs a sublime piece of self-sacrifice, and as a reward is translated to the moon, where he can be seen to this day as "the hare in the moon." Every Buddhist is reminded of the virtue of self-sacrifice whenever the moon is full, and it is easy to understand how the Buddha became identified as the Hare or Rabbit. A striking confirmation of this, in connection with our immediate subject, is offered by Mr. Harris' sequel volume, Nights with Uncle Remus. Here there is a whole chapter (xxx.) on "Brer Rabbit and his famous Foot," and it is well known how the worship of Buddha's foot developed in later Buddhism. No wonder Brer Rabbit is so 'cute: he is nothing less than an incarnation of Buddha. Among the Karens of Burmah, where Buddhist influence is still active, the Hare holds exactly the same place in their folk-lore as Brer Rabbit among the negroes. The sixth chapter of Mr. Smeaton's book on them is devoted to "Fireside Stories," and is entirely taken up with adventures of the Hare, all of which can be paralleled from Uncle Remus.
Curiously enough, the negro form of the fivefold attack--" fighting with five fists," Mr. Barr would call it--is probably nearer to the original legend than that preserved in 'the Jataka, though 2000 years older. For we may be sure that the thunderbolt of Knowledge did not exist in the original, but was introduced by some Buddhist Mr. Barlow, who, like Alice's Duchess, ended all his tales with: "And the moral of that is--" For no well-bred demon would have been taken in by so simple a "sell" as that indulged in by Prince Five-Weapons in our Jataka, and it is probable, therefore, that Uncle Remus preserves a reminiscence of the original Indian reading of the tale. On the other hand, it is probable that Carlyle's Indian god with the fire in his belly was derived from Prince Five-Weapons.
The negro variant has also suggested to Mr. Batten an explanation of the whole story, which is extremely plausible, though it introduces a method of folk-lore exegesis which has been overdriven to death. The Sasa Jataka identifies the Brer Rabbit Buddha with the hare in the moon. It is well known that Easterns explain an eclipse of the moon as due to its being swallowed up by a Dragon or Demon. May not, asks Mr. Batten, the Pancavudha-Jataka be an idealised account of an eclipse of the moon? This suggestion receives strong confirmation from the Demon's reference to Rahu, who does, in Indian myth, swallow the moon at times of eclipse. The Jataka accordingly contains the Buddhist explanation why the moon--i.e. the hare in the moon, i.e. Buddha--is not altogether swallowed up by the Demon of Eclipse, the Demon with the Matted Hair. Mr. Batten adds that in imagining what kind of Demon the Eclipse Demon was, the Jataka writer was probably aided by recollections of some giant octopus, who has saucer eyes and a kind of hawk's beak, knobs on its "tusks," and a very variegated belly (gasteropod). It is obviously unfair of Mr. Batten both to illustrate and also to explain so well the Tar Baby Jataka--taking the scientific bread, so to speak, out of a poor folk-lorist's mouth--but his explanations seem to me so convincing that I cannot avoid including them in these Notes.
I am, however, not so much concerned with the original explanation of the Jataka as to trace its travels across the continents of Asia, Africa, and America. I think I have done this satisfactorily, and will have thereby largely strengthened the case for less extensive travels of other tales. I have sufficient confidence of the method employed to venture on that most hazardous of employments, scientific prophecy. I venture to predict that the Tar Baby story will be found in Madagascar in a form nearer the Indian than Uncle Remus, and I will go further, and say that it will not be found in the grand Helsingfors collection of folk-tales, though this includes 12,000, of which 1000 are beast-tales.