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.

“Child-Intellect” and “Bright-Intellect”


Wherefore the Well-and-wise-walking Khan went forth yet again and fetched the Siddhî-kür; and as he brought him along the Siddhî-kür told this tale:--


LONG ages ago there lived a Khan who was called Küwôn-ojôtu (1). He reigned over a country so fruitful that it was surnamed "Flower-clad." All round its borders grew mango-trees and groves of sandalwood (2), and vines and fruit-trees, and within there was of corn of every kind no lack, and copious streams of water, and a mighty river called "The Golden," with flourishing cities all along its banks.

               Among the subjects of this Khan was one named Gegên-uchâtu (3), renowned for his wit and understanding. For him the Khan sent one day, and spoke to him, saying, "Men call thee 'him of bright understanding.' Now let us see whether the name becomes thee. To this end let us see if thou hast the wit to steal the Khan's talisman, defying the jealous care of the Khan and all his guards. If thou succeedest I will recompense thee with presents making glad the heart; but if not, then I will pronounce thee unworthily named, and in consequence will lay waste thy dwelling and put out both thine eyes." Although the man ventured to prefer the remark, "Stealing have I never learned," yet the Khan maintained the sentence that he had set forth.

               In the night of the fifteenth of the month, therefore, the man made himself ready to try the venture.

               But the king, to make more sure, bound the talisman fast to a marble pillar of his bed-chamber, against which he lay, and leaving the door open the better to hear the approach of the thief, surrounded the same with a strong watch of guards.

               Gegên-uchâtu now took good provision of rice-brandy, and going in to talk as if for pastime with the Khan's guards and servants, gave to every one of them abundantly to drink thereof, and then went his way.

               At the end of an hour he returned, when the rice-brandy had done its work. The guards before the gate were fast asleep on their horses; these he carried off their horses and set them astride on a ruined wall. In the kitchen were the cooks waiting to strike a light to light the fire: over the head of the one nearest the fire he drew a cap woven of grass (4), and in the sleeve of the other he put three stones. Then going softly on into the Khan's apartment, without waking him, he put over his head and face a dried bladder as hard as a stone; and the guards that slept around him he tied their hair together. Then he took down the talisman from the marble pillar to which it was bound and made off with it. Instantly, the Khan rose and raised the cry, "A thief has been in here!" But the guards could not move because their hair was tied together, and cries of "Don't pull my hair!" drowned the Khan's cries of "Stop thief!" As it was yet dark the Khan cried, yet more loudly, "Kindle me a light!" And he cried, further, "Not only is my talisman stolen, but my head is enclosed in a wall of stone! Bring me light that I may see what it is made of." When the cook, in his hurry to obey the Khan, began to blow the fire, the flame caught the cap woven of grass and blazed up and burnt his head off; and when his fellow raised his arm to help him put out the fire the three stones, falling from his sleeve, hit his head and made the blood flow, giving him too much to attend to for him to be able to pursue the thief. Then the Khan called through the window to the outer guards, who ought to have been on horseback before the gate, to stop the thief; and they, waking up at his voice, began vainly spurring at the ruined wall on which Gegên-uchâtu had set them astride, and which, of course, brought them no nearer the subject of their pursuit, who thus made good his escape with the talisman, no man hindering him, all the way to his own dwelling.

               The next day he came and stood before the Khan. The Khan sat on his throne full of wrath and moody thoughts.

               "Let not the Khan be angry," spoke the man of bright understanding, "here is the talisman, which I sought not to retain for myself, but only to take possession of according to the word of the Khan."

               The Khan, however, answered him, saying, "The talisman is at thy disposition, nor do I wish to have it back from thee. Nevertheless, thy dealings this night, in that thou didst draw a stone-like bladder over the head of the Khan, were evil, for the fear came therefrom upon me lest thou hadst even pulled off my head; therefore my sentence upon thee is that thou be taken hence to the place of execution and be beheaded by the headsman."

               Hearing this sentence, Gegên-uchâtu said, within himself, "In this sentence that he hath passed the Khan hath not acted according to the dictates of justice." Therefore he took the Khan's talisman in his hand and dashed it against a stone, and, behold, doing so, the blood poured out of the nose of the Khan until he died!

               "That was a Khan not fit to reign!" exclaimed the Well-and-wise-walking 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.


(1) Küwön-ojôtu, of child intellect. (Jülg.)

(2) Sandal-wood is a principal production of India. The finest grows on the Malabar coast. Among its many names goshirsha is the only one in use in the Buddhistic writings, being derived from a cow's head, the smell of which its scent was supposed to resemble. (Burnouf, Introd. à l'Hist. du Buddhisme i. 619.) Kandana is the vulgar name. It was also called valguka = beautiful, and bhadrashri = surpassingly beautiful. Its use, both as incense in the temples and for scent in private houses, particularly by spreading a fine powdering of it on damp mats before the windows, is very ancient and widespread.

(3) Gegên uchâtu, of bright intellect. (Jülg.)

(4) Cap woven of grass. Probably the Urtica (Boehmeria) utilis, which is used for weaving and imported into Europe under the name of China-grass. See Revue Horticole, vol. iv. ann. 1855.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: “Child-Intellect” and “Bright-Intellect”
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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