Sagas from the Far East; or, Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Gold-Spitting Prince, The


When the Well-and-wise-walking Khan found that he had missed the end and object of his journey, he forthwith set out again, without loss of time, or so much as returning to his Master and Teacher, Nâgârg'una, but taking only a meal of his cake which never diminished; thus, with similar toils and fears as the first time, he came again at last to the cool grove where lay the child-dead, and among them the Siddhî-kür. And the Siddhî-kür rose up before him, and clambered up the mango-tree. And when the Well-and-wise-walking Khan had summoned him with proud sounding words to come down, threatening that otherwise he would hew down the tree with his axe "White Moon," the Siddhî-kür came down, rather than that he should destroy the mango-tree. Then he bound him again in his bag of many colours, in which was place to stow away an hundred, and bound the mouth thereof with the cord woven of an hundred threads of different tints, and bore him along to offer to his Master and Teacher, Nâgârg'una.

               But at the end of many days' journey, the Siddhî-kür said,--

               "Now, in truth, is the length of this journey like to weary us even to death, as we go along thus without speaking. Wherefore, O Prince! let me entreat thee beguile the way by telling a tale."

               But the Well-and-wise-walking Khan, remembering the words of his Master and Teacher Nâgârg'una, which he spoke, saying, "See thou open not thy lips to speak by the way," remained silent, and answered him never a word. Then the Siddhî-kür, when he found that he could not be brought to answer him, spake again in this wise: "If thou wilt not tell a tale, then, at least, give some token by which I may know if thou willest that I should tell one, and if thou speak not, at least nod thine head backwards towards me; then will I tell a tale."

               So the Well-and-wise-walking Khan nodded his head backwards towards the Siddhî-kür, and the Siddhî-kür told this tale, saying,--


LONG ages ago there was a far-off country where a mighty Khan ruled. Near the source of the chief river of this country was a pool, where lived two Serpent-gods (1), who had command of the water; and as they could shut off the water of the river when they pleased, and prevent it from overflowing and fertilizing the country, the people were obliged to obey their behest, be it what it might. Now, the tribute they exacted of the country was that of a full grown man, to be chosen by lot, every year; and on whoso the lot fell, he had to go, without redemption, whatever his condition in life. Thus it happened one year that the lot fell on the Khan himself. In all the kingdom there was no one of equal rank who could be received instead of him, unless it had been his only son. When his son would have gone in his stead, he answered him, "What is it to me if the Serpents devour me, so that thou, my son, reignest in peace?" But the son said, "Never shall it be that thou, my Khan and father, shouldst suffer this cruel death, while I remain at home. The thought be far from me. Neither will the land receive harm by my death; is not my mother yet alive? and other sons may be born to thee, who shall reign over the land." So he went to offer himself as food to the Serpent-gods.

               As he went along, the people followed him for a long stretch of the way, bewailing him; and then they turned them back. But one there was who turned not back: it was a poor man's son whom the Prince had all his life had for his friend; he continued following him. Then the Prince turned and said to him, "Walk thou according to the counsels of thy father and thy mother, and be prosperous and happy on the earth. To defend this noble, princely country, and to fulfil the royal word of the Khan, my father, I go forth to be food to the Serpent-gods."

               But the poor man's son refused to forsake him. "Thou hast loaded me with goodness and favours," he said, as he wept; "if I may not go instead of thee, at least I will go with thee." And he continued following the Prince.

               When they got near the pool, they heard a low, rumbling, horrible sound: it was the two Serpent-gods talking together, and talking about them, for they were on the look-out to see who would be sent to them this year for the tribute. The old gold-yellow Serpent was telling the young emerald-green Serpent how the Prince had come instead of his father, and how the poor man, who had no need to come at all, had insisted on accompanying him.

               "And these people are so devoted in giving their lives for one another," said the young emerald-green Serpent, "and have not the courage to come out and fight us, and make an end of paying this tribute at all."

               "They don't know the one only way to fight us," answered the gold-yellow old Serpent; "and as all the modes they have tried have always failed, they imagine it cannot be done, and they try no more."

               "And what is the one only way by which they could prevail against us?" inquired the young emerald-green Serpent.

               "They have only to cut off our heads with a blow of a stout staff," replied the old gold-yellow Serpent, "for so has Shêsa, the Serpent-dæmon, appointed."

               "But these men carry shining swords that look sharp and fearful," urged the young emerald-green Serpent.

               "That is it!" rejoined the other: "their swords avail nothing against us, and so they never think that a mere staff should kill us. Also, if after cutting off our heads they were to eat them, they would be able to spit as much gold and precious stones as ever they liked. But they know nothing of all this," chuckled the old gold-yellow Serpent.

               Meantime, the Prince had not lost a word of all that the two Serpents had said to each other, for his mother had taught him the speech of all manner of creatures. So when he first heard the noise of the Serpents talking together, he had stood still, and listened to their words. Now, therefore, he told it all again to his follower, and they cut two stout staves in the wood, and then drew near, and cut off the heads of the Serpents with the staves--each of them one; and when they had cut them off, the Prince ate the head of the gold-yellow Serpent, and, see! he could spit out as much gold money as ever he liked; and his follower ate the head of the emerald-green Serpent, and he could spit out emeralds as many as ever he pleased.

               Then spoke the poor man's son: "Now that we have killed the Serpents, and restored the due course of the water to our native country, let us return home and live at peace."

               But the Khan's son answered, "Not so, for if we went back to our own land, the people would only mock us, saying, 'The dead return not to the living!' and we should find no place among them. It is better we betake ourselves to another country afar off, which knows us not."

               So they journeyed on through a mountain pass.

               At the foot of the mountains they came to the habitation of a beautiful woman and her daughter, selling strong drink to travellers. Here they stopped, and would have refreshed themselves, but the women asked them what means they had to pay them withal, for they saw they looked soiled with travel. "We will pay whatever you desire," replied the Prince; and he began to spit out gold coin upon the table. When the women saw that he spat out as much gold coin as ever he would, they took them inside, and gave them as much drink as they could take, making them pay in gold, and at many times the worth of the drink, for they no longer knew what they did; only when they had made them quite intoxicated, and they could not get any thing more from them, in despite of all sense of gratitude or hospitality, they turned them out to pass the night on the road.

               When they woke in the morning, they journeyed farther till they came to a broad river; on its banks was a palm-grove, and a band of boys were gathered together under it quarrelling.

               "Boys! what are you disputing about?" inquired the Prince.

               "We found a cap on this palm-tree," answered one of the boys, "and we are disputing whose it shall be, because we all want it."

               "And what use would the cap be to you? What is it good for?" asked the Prince.

               "Why, that whichever of us gets it has only to put it on," replied the boy, "and he immediately becomes invisible to gods, men, and dæmons."

               "I will settle the dispute for you," rejoined the Prince. "You all of you get you to the far end of this palm-grove, and start back running, all fair, together. Whichever wins the race shall be reckoned to have won the cap. Give it to me to hold the while."

               The boys said, "It is well spoken;" and giving the cap to the Prince, they set off to go to the other end of the grove. But they were no sooner well on their way, than the Prince put on the cap, and then joining hands with his companion, both became invisible to gods, men, and dæmons; so that when the boys came back at full speed, though they were both yet standing in the same place, none of them could see them. After wandering about to look for them in vain, they at last gave it up in despair, and went away crying with disappointment.

               The Prince and his follower continued their journey by the side of the stream till they came to a broad road, and here at the cross-way was a crowd of dæmons assembled, who were all chattering aloud, and disputing vehemently.

               "Dæmons! What are you quarrelling about?" asked the Prince.

               "We found this pair of boots here," answered the dæmons, "and whoever puts these boots on has only to wish that he might be in a particular place, and immediately arrives there; and we cannot agree which of us is to have the boots."

               "I will settle the dispute for you," replied the Prince. "You all go up to the end of this road, and run back hither all of you together, and whichever of you wins the race, he shall be reckoned to have won the boots. Give them to me to hold the while."

               So the dæmons answered, "It is well spoken;" and giving the boots to the Prince, they set off to go to the far end of the road. But by the time they got back the Prince had put on the invisible cap, and joining hands with his companion had become invisible to gods, men, and dæmons, so that for all their looking there was no trace of them to be found. Thus they had to give up the lucky boots, and went their way howling for disappointment.

               As soon as they were gone the Prince and his follower began to examine the boots, and to ponder what they should do with their treasure.

               "A great gift and a valuable," said the latter, "hath been given thee, O Prince, by the favour of fortune, and thy wisdom in acquiring it. Wish now to reach a prosperous place to be happy; but for me I shall not know where thou art gone, and I shall see thy face no more."

               But the Prince said, "Nay, but wheresoever I go, thou shalt go too. Here is one boot for me, and the other for thee, and when we have both put them on we will wish to be in the place where at this moment there is no Khan, and we will then see what is further to be done."

               So the Prince put on the right boot, and his follower the left boot, and they laid them down to sleep, and both wished that they might come to a land where there was no Khan.

               When they woke in the morning they found themselves lying in the hollow of an ancient tree, in the outskirts of a great city, overshadowing the place where the election of the Khan was wont to be made. As soon as day broke the people began to assemble, and many ceremonies were performed. At last the people said, "Let us take one of the Baling-cakes out of the straw sacrifice, and throw it up into the air, and on to whosoever's head it falls he shall be our Khan. So they took the Baling-cake out of the straw sacrifice, and it fell into the hollow tree. And the people said, "We must choose some other mode of divination, for the Baling-cake has failed. Shall a hollow tree reign over us?"

               But others said, "Let us see what there may be inside the hollow tree."

               Thus when they came to look into the tree they found the Prince and his follower. So they drew them out and said, "These shall rule over us." But others said, "How shall we know which of these two is the Khan?" While others again cried, "These men are but strangers and vagabonds. How then shall they reign over us?"

               But to the Prince and his follower they said, "Whence are ye? and how came ye in the hollow tree?"

               Then the Prince began spitting gold coin, and his follower precious emeralds. And while the people were busied in gathering the gold and the emeralds they installed themselves in the palace, and made themselves Khan and Chief Minister, and all the people paid them homage.

               When they had learned the ways of the kingdom and established themselves well in it, the new Khan said to his Minister that he must employ himself to find a wife worthy of the Khan. To whom the Minister made answer,--

               "Behold, beautiful among women is the daughter of the last Khan. Shall not she be the Khan's wife?"

               The Khan found his word good, and desired that she should be brought to him; when he found she was fair to see, he took her into the palace, and she became his wife. But she was with him as one whose thoughts were fixed on another.

               Now on the outskirts of the city was a noble palace, well kept and furnished, and surrounded with delicious gardens; but no one lodged there. Only the Minister took note that every third day the Khan's wife went out softly and unattended, and betook herself to this palace.

               "Now," thought the Minister to himself, "wherefore goes the Khan's wife every third day to this palace, softly and unattended? I must see this thing."

               So he put on the cap which they had of the boys in the palm-grove, and followed the Khan's wife as he saw her go the palace, and having found a ladder he entered by a window as she came up the stairs. Then he followed her into a sumptuous apartment all fitted with carpets and soft cushions, and a table spread with delicious viands and cooling drinks. The Khan's wife, however, reclined her on none of these cushions, but went out by a private door for a little space, and when she returned she was decked as never she had been when she went before the Khan. The room was filled with perfume as she approached, her hair was powdered with glittering jewels, and her attire was all of broidered silk, while her throat, and arms, and ankles were wreathed with pearls. The Minister hardly knew her again; and with his cap, which made him invisible to gods, men, and dæmons, he approached quite near to look at her, while she, having no suspicion of his presence, continued busy with preparations as for some coming event. On a vast circle of porphyry she lighted a fire of sandal wood, over which she scattered a quantity of odoriferous powders, uttering words the while which it was beyond the power of the Minister to understand. While she was thus occupied, there came a most beautiful bird with many-coloured wings swiftly flying through the open window, and when he had soared round three times in the soft vapour of the sweet-scented gums the Princess had been burning, there appeared a bird no longer, but Cuklaketu, the beautiful son of the gods, surpassing all words in his beauty. The transformation was no sooner effected, than they embraced each other, and reclining together on the silken couches, feasted on the banquet that was laid out.

               After a time, Cuklaketu rose to take leave, but before he went, he said, "Now you are married to the husband heaven has appointed you, tell me how it is with him."

               At these words the Minister, jealous for his master, grew very attentive that he might learn what opinion the Khan's wife had of his master and what love she had for him. But she answered prudently, "How it will be with him I know not yet, for he is still young; I cannot as yet know any thing of either his merits or defects."

               And with that they parted; Cuklaketu flying away in the form of a beautiful bird with many-coloured wings as he had come, and the Khan's wife exchanging her glittering apparel for the mantle in which she came from the Khan's palace.

               The next time that she went out to this palace, the Minister put on his cap and followed her again and witnessed the same scene, only when Cuklaketu was about to take leave this time, he said, "To-morrow, I shall come and see what your husband is like." And when she asked him, "By what token shall I know you?" he answered, "I will come under the form of a swallow, and will perch upon his throne." With that they parted; but the Minister went and stood before the Khan and told him all that he had seen.

               "But thou, O Khan," proceeded the Minister, "Cause thou a great fire to be kept burning before the throne; and I, standing there with the cap rendering me invisible to gods, men, and dæmons, on my head, will be on the look out for the swallow, and when he appears, I will seize him by the feathers of his tail and dash him into the fire; then must thou, O Khan, slay him, and hew him in pieces with thy sword."

               And so it was, for the next morning early, while the Khan and his Consort were seated with all their Court in due order of rank, there came a swallow, all smirk and sprightly, fluttering around them, and at last it perched on the Khan's throne. The Princess watched his every movement with delighted eyes, but the Minister, who waited there wearing his cap which made him invisible to gods, men, and dæmons, no sooner saw him perch on the throne, than he seized him by the feathers of his tail and flung him on the fire. The swallow succeeded in fluttering out of the fire, but as the Khan had drawn his sword to slay him and hew him in pieces, the Princess caught his arm and held it tight, so that the swallow just managed to fly away with his singed wings through the open window. Meantime, the Princess was so overcome with fear and excitement that she fainted away into the arms of the attendants, who were struck with wonder that she should care so much about an injury done to a little bird.

               As soon as the day came round for her to go to the palace in the outskirts of the city, again the Minister did not fail to follow closely on her steps. He observed that she prepared every thing with greater attention than before and decked herself out with more costly robes and more glittering gems. But when the minutes passed by and the beautiful bird still appeared not, her fear waxed stronger and stronger, and she stood gazing, without taking her eyes off the sky. At last, and only when it was already late, Cuklaketu came flying painfully and feebly, and when he had exchanged his bird disguise for the human form, the traces of the treatment the Minister had given him were plainly visible in many frightful blisters and scars.

               When the Princess saw him in this evil plight, she lifted up her voice, and wept aloud. But the Prince comforted her with his great steadfastness under the infliction, only he was obliged to tell her that both his human body and his bird feathers being thus marred, it would be impossible for him to come and visit her more. "But," he said, "the Khan, thy husband, has proved himself to exceed me in his might, therefore he has won thee from me." So after much leave-taking, they parted; and Cuklaketu flew away as well as his damaged wings would carry him.

               It was observed that after this the Princess grew much more attached to her husband, and the Khan rejoiced in the sagacity and faithfulness of his Minister.

               Nor was this the only use the Minister made of his cap, which made him invisible to gods, men, and dæmons. He was enabled by its means to see many things that were not rightly conducted, to correct many evils, punish many offenders who thought to escape justice, and learn many useful arts.

               One day as he was walking with this cap upon his head, he came to a temple where, the door being closed, a servant of the temple, thinking himself alone, began disporting himself after the following manner: First, he took out from under a statue of Buddha a large roll of paper, on which was painted a donkey. Having spread it out flat on the floor of the temple, he danced round it five times; and immediately on completing the fifth turn, he became transformed into a donkey like the one that was painted on the paper. In this form he pranced about for some time, and brayed till he was tired, then he got on to the paper again, on his hind legs, and danced round five times as before, and immediately he appeared again in his natural form. When at last he grew tired of the amusement he rolled up his paper, and replaced it under the image of Buddha, whence he had taken it. He had no sooner done so than the Minister, under cover of his cap, which made him invisible to gods, men, and dæmons, possessed himself of the paper which had such mysterious properties, and betook himself with it to the dwelling of the beautiful woman and her daughter who sold strong drink to travellers, who had treated his master and him so shamefully at the outset of their travels.

               When they saw him approach, for he now no longer wore the invisible cap, they began to fear he had come to bring them retribution, and they asked him with the best grace they could assume what was his pleasure. But he, to win their confidence, that he might the better carry out his scheme, replied,--

               "To reward you for your handsome treatment of me and my companion, therefore am I come." And at the same time he gave them a handful of gold coin.

               And they, recollecting what profit they had derived from his companion before, and deeming it likely there might be means for turning the present visit to similar good account, asked him what were his means for being able to be so lavish of the precious metal.

               "Oh, that is easily told," replied the Minister. "It is true I have not the faculty of spitting gold coin out of my mouth like my companion, as you doubtless remember, but I have another way, equally efficacious, of coming into possession of all the money I can possibly desire."

               "And what may that way be?" inquired mother and daughter together in their eagerness.

               "I have only to spread out this roll of paper on the ground," and he showed them the roll that he had taken from under the image of Buddha in the temple, "and dance five times round it, and immediately I find myself in possession of as much gold as I can carry."

               "What a treasure to possess is that same roll of paper," cried the women, and they exchanged looks expressing the determination each had immediately conceived, of possessing themselves of it.

               "But now," proceeded the Minister, not appearing to heed their mutual signs, though inwardly rejoicing that they had shown themselves so ready to fall into his snare," but now pour me out to drink, for I am weary with the journey, and thirsty, and your drink I remember is excellent."

               The women, on their part, were equally rejoiced that he had given them the opportunity of plying him, and did not wait to be asked twice. The Minister continued to drink, and the women to pour out drink to him, till he was in a state of complete unconsciousness.

               They no sooner found him arrived at this helpless condition than they took possession of the mysterious roll, and forthwith spreading it out on the ground, proceeded to dance round it five times after the manner prescribed.

               When the Minister came to himself, therefore, he found his scheme had fully taken effect, and the woman and her daughter were standing heavy and chapfallen in the form of two asses. The Minister put a bridle in their mouth, and led them off to the Khan, saying,--

               "These, O Khan, are the women who sell strong drink to travellers, and who entreated us so shamefully at the time when having slain the dragons we went forth on our travels. I have transformed them by my art into two asses. Now, therefore, shall there not be given them burdens of wood, and burdens of stone to carry, heavy burdens, so that they may be punished for their naughtiness?"

               And the Khan gave orders that it should be done as he had said. But when at the end of five years, they were well weighed down with the heavy burdens, and the Khan saw them wearied and trembling, and human tears running down from their eyes, he called the Minister to him, and said,--

               "Take these women, and do them no more harm, for their punishment is enough."

               So the Minister fetched the paper, and having spread it out on the ground, placed the women on it, making them stand on their hind legs, and led them round it five several times till they resumed their natural form. But with the treatment they had undergone, both were now so bowed, and shrunk, and withered, that no one could know them for the beautiful women they had been.

               "As well might he have left them under the form of asses, as restore their own shape in such evil plight," here exclaimed the Khan.

               And as he let these words escape him, the Siddhî-kür replied,--

               "Forgetting his health, the Well-and-wise-walking Khan hath opened his lips." And with the cry, "To escape out of this world is good!" he sped him through the air, swift out of sight.

               Thus far of the Adventures of the Well-and-wise-walking Khan the second chapter, concerning the deeds of the Gold-spitting Prince and his Minister.


(1) Dragons, serpents, serpent-gods, serpent-dæmons (nâga), play a great part in Indian mythology. Their king is Shesa. Serpent-cultus was of very ancient observance and is practised by both followers of Brahmanism and Buddhism. The Brahmans seem to have desired to show their disapproval of it by placing the serpent-gods in the lower ranks of their mythology (Lassen, i. 707 and 544, n. 2). This cultus, however, seems to have received a fresh development about the time of Ashoka, circa 250 B.C. (ii. 467). When Madhjantika went into Cashmere and Gandhâra to teach Buddhism after the holding of the third Synod, it is mentioned that he found sacrifices to serpents practised there (ii. 234, 235). There is a passage in Plutarch from which it appears the custom to sacrifice an old woman (previously condemned to death for some crime) in honour of the serpent-gods by burying her alive on the banks of the Indus (ii. 467, and note 4). Ktesias also mentions the serpent-worship (ii. 642). In Buddhist legends, serpents are often mentioned as protecting-patrons of certain towns (ii. 467). Among the many kinds of serpents which India possesses, it is the gigantic Cobra di capello which is the object of worship (ii. 679). (See further notice of the serpent-worship, iv. 109.)

               It would seem that the Buddhist teachers, too, discouraged the worship at the beginning of their career at least, for when the Sthavira Madhjantika was sent to convert Cashmere, as above mentioned he was so indignant at the extent to which he found serpent-worship carried, that it is recorded in the Mahâvansha, xii. p. 72, that he caused himself to be carried through the air dispersing them; that they sought by every means to scare him away--by thunder and storm, and by changing themselves into all manner of hideous shapes, but finding the attempt vain, they gave in and accepted the teaching of the Sthavira, like the rest of the country. Under which last image, we can easily read the fact that the Buddhist teacher suffered his followers to continue the worship, while he set limits to it and delivered them from the extreme awe in which they had previously stood of the serpents. See also note 4 to Tale XXII.

(2) Strong drink. See note 8 to Tale V., and note 3 to Tale VI.

(3) Baling-cakes. See notes 6 and 9 to Tale IV.

(4) On the custom adopted by priests of hiding precious objects in the sacred images of the gods, see Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, iii. 351.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Gold-Spitting Prince, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Sagas from the Far East; or, Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1873
Country of Origin: Mongolia & Russia
Classification: unclassified

Back to Top