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

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Simple Husband and the Prudent Wife, The


Wherefore the Well-and-wise-walking Khan once more took the way of the cool grove, and brought thence bound the Siddhî-kür, who by the way told him this story, saying--,


IN THE southern part of India lived a man who had a very large fortune and a very notable wife, but possessing little sense or capacity himself, nor sufficient understanding to think of trading with his fortune. One day a caravan of merchants came by, with whom the wife made some exchanges of merchandize while the husband stood by and looked on. When they were gone, the wife said to him, "Why should not you also go forth and trade even as these merchants trade?" And he willing to do her a pleasure made answer, "Give me wherewithal to trade, and I will see what I can do."

               "This is but reasonable," thought the wife. "For how shall he trade except he have some sort of merchandize to trade withal." So she made ready for him an ass to ride, and a camel's burden of rice to trade with, and arms to defend him from robbers, and provisions to sustain him by the way. Thus she sent him forth.

               On he rode till he came to the sea-shore, and as he could go no farther he laid him down here at the foot of a high cliff to sleep. Just where he lay was the entrance to a cave which he failed to discover. Towards evening a caravan of merchants travelling by, took shelter in this cave, leaving a bugle lying on the ground near the entrance, that in case of an attack of robbers the first who heard their approach might warn the others.

               The man's face being turned, as he lay also towards the entrance of the cave, came very near the mouthpiece of the bugle. About the middle of the night when he was sleeping very heavily he began also to snore, and his breath accidentally entering the bugle gave forth so powerful a note (1), that it woke all the merchants together. "Who sounded the bugle?" asked each. "Not I," "Nor I," "Nor I," answered one and all. "Then it must be the thieves themselves who did it in defiance," said one. "They must be in strong force thus to defy us!" answered another. "We had better therefore make good our escape before they really attack us," cried all. And without waiting to look after their goods, they all ran off for the dear life without so much as looking behind them.

               In the morning, finding the merchants did not return, the simple man put together all the merchandize they had left behind them and returned home with it. All the neighbours ran out to see him pass with his train of mules and cried aloud, "Only see what a clever trader! Only see how fortune has prospered him!"

               Quite proud of his success and not considering how little merit he had had in the matter, he said, "To-morrow I will go out hunting!" But his wife knowing he had not capacity to have come by all the merchandize except through some lucky chance, and thinking some equally strange adventure might befall him when out hunting, determined to be even with him and to know all that might come to pass.

               Accordingly the next day she provided him with a horse and dog, and bow and arrows, and provisions for the way. Only as he went forth, she said, "Beware, a stronger than thou fall not upon thee!" But he, puffed up by his yesterday's success, answered her, "Never fear! There is none can stand against me." And she, smiling to see him thus highminded, made reply, "Nevertheless, the horseman Surja-Bagatur (2) is terrible to deal with. Shouldst thou meet him, stand aside and engage him not, for surely he would slay thee." Thus she warned him. But he mounted his horse and rode away, crying, "Him I fear no more than the rest!"

               As soon as she had seen him start the wife dressed herself in man's clothes, and mounting a swift horse (3) she rode round till she came by a different path to the same place as her husband. Seeing him trot across a vast open plain she bore down right upon him at full gallop. The man, too much afraid of so bold a rider to recognize that it was his wife, turned him and fled from before her. Soon overtaking him, however, she challenged him to fight, at the same time drawing her sword. "Slay me not!" exclaimed the simple man, slipping off his horse, "Slay me not, most mighty rider, Surja-Bagatur! Take now my horse and mine arms, and all that I have. Leave me only my life, most mighty Surja-Bagatur!" So his wife took the horse and the arms, and all that he had and rode home.

               At night the simple man came limping home footsore and in sorry plight. "Where is the horse and the arms?" inquired his wife as she saw him arrive on foot.

               "To-day I encountered the mighty rider, Surja-Bagatur, and having challenged him to fight," answered he, "I overcame him and humbled him utterly. Only that the wrath of the hero at what I had done might not be visited on us, I propitiated him by making him an offering of the horse and the arms and all that I had."

               So the woman prepared roasted corn and set it before him; and when he had well eaten she said to him, "Tell me now, what manner of man is the hero Surja-Bagatur, and to what is he like (4)?"

               And the simple man made answer, "But that he wore never a beard, even such a man would he have been as thy father."

               And the wife laughed to herself, but told him nothing of all she had done.

               "That was a prudent woman, who humbled not her husband by triumphing over him!" 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.

               Of the adventures of the Well-and-wise-walking Khan the seventeenth chapter, of the Simple Husband and the Prudent Wife.


1. Probably it was some version of this story that had travelled to Spain, which suggested to Yriarte the following one of his many fables directed against ignorant writers and bad critics.

Esta fabulilla,
Salga bien ó mal,
Me he occorrida ahora
Por casualidad.


This fablette I know it
Is not erudite;
It occurr’d to my mind now
By accident quite.


Cerca de unos prados
Que hay en mi lugar,
Passaba un borrico
Por casualidad.


Through a meadow whose verdure
Fresh, seem’d to invite,
A donkey pass’d browsing
By accident quite.


Una flauta en ellos
Halló que un zagal,
Se dexó olvidado
Por casualidad.


A flute lay in the grass, which
A swain over night
Had left there forgotten
By accident quite.


Acercóse á olerla,
El dicho animal
Y dió un resoplido
Por casualidad.


Approaching to smell it
This quadruped wight
Just happen’d to bray then
By accident quite.


En la flauta el ayre
Se hubo de colar
Y sonó la flauta
Por casualidad.


The air ent’ring the mouthpiece
Pass’d through as of right,
And gave forth a cadence
By accident quite.


“O!” dixó el borrico
“Que bien sé tocar!
Y diran que es mala
La musica asnal.”


“Only hear my fine playing!”
Cries Moke in delight,
“That dull folks vote my braying
A nuisance, despite.”


Sin reglas del arte
Borriquitos hay
Que una vez aciertan
Por casualidad!


It may happen some once, thus
Although they can’t write,
Human asses may hit off
By accident quite!


(2) The woman invents a name to frighten, and also as a trap for, her husband. "Sûrja, is Sanskrit, and Bagatur, Mongolian for a 'Hero.' Such combinations are not infrequent." (Jülg.)

               "Shura means a Hero in Sanscrit, agreeing not only in sense with the Greek word ,ἥρως but also in derivation; thus revealing a primeval agreement in the estimation in which hero-nature was held. It is more properly written Sura, because it comes from Svar, heaven, and means literally 'heavenly.' It is used in that form as an appellation of the Sun. Heroes are so called, because when they fell in battle, Svarga, the heaven of deified kings, was given them for their dwelling-place. 'Indra shall give to those who fall in battle the world where all wishes are fulfilled, for their portion. Neither by sacrifices, nor offerings to the Brahmans, nor by contemplation, nor knowledge can mortals attain to Svarga as securely as do heroes falling in battle.' Mahâ Bhârata, xi. 2, v. 60." (Lassen, i. 69.)

(3) "The women of Tibet are not indeed taught the use of the bow and the matchlock, but in riding they are as expert and fearless as the men, yet it is only on occasion that they mount a horse, such as when travelling; or when there chances to be no man about the place to look after a stray animal." (Abbé Huc's "Travels in China and Tibet," vol. i. ch. iii.)

(4) A very similar story may be found in Barbazan's, "Fabliaux et Contes des Poètes Français des XI-XV Siècles," in 4 vols., Paris 1808, vol. iv. pp. 287-295. (Jülg.)

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Simple Husband and the Prudent Wife, 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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