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

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Turbulent Subject, The


When the Well-and-wise-walking Khan found that he had again missed the end and object of his journey, he proceeded once more by the same manner and means to the cool grove. And, having bound the Siddhî-kür in his bag, bore him on his shoulder to present to his Master and Teacher Nâgârg'una.

               But by the way the Siddhî-kür asked him to tell a tale, and when he would not answer begged for the token of his assent that he should tell one, which when the Khan had given he told this tale, saying,--


LONG ages ago there lived in a district called Brschiss (1) a haughty, turbulent man. As he feared no man and obeyed no laws, the Khan of that country sent to him, saying, "Since thou wilt obey no laws, thou canst not remain in my country. Get thee gone hence, or else submit to the laws!"

               But the turbulent man chose rather to go forth in exile than submit to the laws. So he went wandering forth till he came to a vast plain covered with feather-grass, and a palm-tree standing in the midst, with a dead horse lying beneath it. Under the shade of the palm-tree (2) he sat down, saying, "The head of this horse will be useful for food when my provisions are exhausted." So he bound it into his waist-scarf and climbed up into the palm-tree to pass the night.

               He had scarcely composed himself to sleep when there was a great noise of shouting and yelling, which woke him up; and behold there came thither towards the palm-tree, from the southern side of the steppe, a herd of dæmons, having ox-hide caps on their heads, and riding on horses covered with ox-hides. Nor had they long settled themselves before another herd of dæmons came trooping towards the palm-tree from the northern side of the steppe, and these wore paper caps and rode on horses wearing paper coverings.

               All these dæmons now danced and feasted together with great howling and shouting. The man looked down upon them from the tree-top full of terror, but also full of envy at their enjoyment. As he leant over to watch them, the horse's head tumbled out of his girdle right into their midst and scattered them in dire alarm in every direction, not one of them daring to look up to see whence it came. It was not till the morning light broke, however, that the man ventured to come down. When he did so, he said, "Last night there was much feasting and drinking going on here, surely there must be something left from such a banquet." Searching through the long feather-grass all about, he discovered a gold goblet full of brandy (3), from which he drank long draughts, but it continued always full. At last he turned it down upon the ground, and immediately all manner of meats and cakes appeared. "This goblet is indeed larder and cellar!" said the man, and taking it with him he went on his way.

               Farther on he met a man brandishing a thick stick as he walked.

               "What is your stick good for that you brandish it so proudly?" asked the turbulent man.

               "My stick is so much good that when I say to it, 'Fly, that man has stolen somewhat of me, fly after him and kill him and bring me back my goods,' it instantly flies at the man and brings my things back."

               "Yours is a good stick, but see my goblet; whatsoever you desire of meat or drink this same goblet provides for the wishing. Will you exchange your stick against my goblet?"

               "That will I gladly," rejoined the traveller.

               But the turbulent man, having once effected the exchange, cried to the stick, "Fly, that man has stolen my goblet, fly after him and kill him and bring me back my goblet! "Before the words had left his lips the stick flew through the air, killed the man, and brought back the goblet. Thus he had both the stick and the goblet.

               Farther on he saw a man coming who carried an iron hammer.

               "What is your hammer good for?" inquired he as they met.

               "My hammer is so good," replied the traveller, "that when I strike it nine times on the ground immediately there rises up an iron tower nine storeys high."

               "Yours is a good hammer," replied the turbulent man, "but look at my goblet; whatever you desire of meat or drink this same goblet provides for the wishing. Will you change your hammer against my goblet?"

               "That will I gladly," replied the wayfarer.

               But the turbulent man, having once effected the exchange, cried to the stick, "Fly, that man has stolen my goblet, fly after him and kill him and bring me back the goblet." The command was executed as soon as spoken, and the turbulent man thus became possessed of the hammer as well as the stick and the goblet.

               Farther on he saw a man carrying a goat's leather bag.

               "What is your bag good for?" inquired he as they met.

               "My bag is so good that I have but to shake it and there comes a shower of rain, but if I shake it hard then it rains in torrents."

               "Yours is a good bag," replied the turbulent man, "but see my goblet; whatsoever you desire of meat or drink it provides you for the wishing. Will you exchange your bag against my goblet?"

               "That will I gladly," answered the traveller.

               But no sooner had the turbulent man possession of the bag than he sent his stick as before to recover the goblet also.

               Provided with all these magic articles, he had no fear in returning to his own country in spite of the prohibition of the Khan. Arrived there about midnight, he established himself behind the Khan's palace, and, striking the earth nine times with his iron hammer, there immediately appeared an iron fortress nine storeys high, towering far above the palace.

               In the morning the Khan said, "Last night I heard 'knock, knock, knock,' several times. What will it have been?" So the Khanin rose and looked out and answered him, saying, "Behold, a great iron fortress, nine storeys high, stands right over against the palace."

               "This is some work of that turbulent rebel, I would wager!" replied the Khan, full of wrath. "And he has brought it to that pass that we must now measure our strength to the uttermost." Then he rose and called together all his subjects, and bid them each bring their share of fuel to a great fire which he kindled all round the iron fortress; all the smiths, too, he summoned to bring their bellows and blow it, and thus it was turned into a fearful furnace.

               Meantime the turbulent man sat quite unconcerned in the ninth storey with his mother and his son, occupied with discussing the viands which the golden goblet provided. When the fire began to reach the eighth storey, the man's mother caught a little alarm, saying, "Evil will befall us if this fire which the Khan has kindled round us be left unchecked." But he answered, "Mother! fear nothing; I have the means of settling that." Then he drew out his goat's-leather bag, went with it up to the highest turret of the fortress, and shook it till the rain flowed and pretty well extinguished the fire; but he also went on shaking it till the rain fell in such torrents that presently the whole neighbourhood was inundated, and not only the embers of the fire but the smiths' bellows were washed away, and the people and the Khan himself had much ado to escape with their lives. At last the gushing waters had worked a deep moat round the fortress, in which the turbulent man dwelt henceforth secure, and the Khan durst admonish him no more.

               "Thus the power of magic prevailed over sovereign might and majesty," exclaimed the Khan; and as he uttered these words the Siddhî-kür said, "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.

               Of the Adventures of the Well-and-wise-walking Khan the sixth chapter, of how it fell out with the Turbulent Subject.


(1) Brschiss. I know not what country it is which is thus designated, unless the word be derived from brizi, the ancient Persian for rice, and is intended to denote a rice-producing territory.

(2) Palm-tree. India grows a vast number of varieties of the palm-tree; the general name is trinadruma, "grass-tree" (Ritter iv. 1, 827). The date-palm was only introduced by the Arabians (Lassen, iii. 312). The fan-palm (borassus flabelliformis) is called trinarâga = "the grass-king," in Sanskrit also tâla; the Buddhist priests in Dekhan and also in China and Mongolia use its leaves as fans and sunshades, and hence are often called tâlapatri, palm-bearers. Tâlânka and Tâladhvaga are also titles of Krishna, when he carries a banner bearing a palm-tree in memory of a legend which makes him the discoverer of the means of utilizing the fruit of the cocoa-nut palm. "The mountain Gôvardhana on the banks of the Jamunâ was thickly grown over with the cocoa-nut palm, but it was kept in guard by a dæmon, named Dhênuka, in the form of an ass, at the head of a great herd of asses, so that no one could approach it. Krishna, however, in company with Rama, went through the wood unarmed, but when they would have shaken down the fruit from the trees, Dhênuka, who was sitting in its branches, kicked them with his hoofs and bit them. Krishna pulled him down from off the tree, and wrestled with him till he had crushed him to death; in the same way he dealt with the whole herd. A lurid light gleamed through the whole wood from the bodies of the dead asses, but from that time forward, all the people had free use of the trees." (Hari, v. 70, v. 3702 et seq. p. 577.)

(3) The brandy spoken of is, probably, koumis, distilled from mare's milk, and makes a very intoxicating drink. Concerning its preparation, see Pallas, Sammlung historischer Nachrichten über die Mongolen.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Turbulent Subject, 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

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