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.

What Became of the Red-Coloured Dog


Wherefore the Well-and-wise-walking Khan once more took the way of the cool grove; and having taken the Siddhî-kür, and bound him in his bag, as at other times, he brought him along to the great Master and Teacher Nâgârg'una. As they went along by the way, the Siddhî-kür told him this tale, of how it fell out with the red-coloured dog, saying,--


WHEN it was evening they went, the tamer and the red-coloured dog together, into a grove to sleep, and by day they journeyed on. One day, when they made their evening halt, the red-coloured dog laid aside her dog's form, and appeared as a beautiful maiden, clothed in shining robes of white, and with a crown of white flowers on her head; and, when the tamer saw her, he loved her.

               Moreover, she said to him, "Me hath the Serpent-king given to thee to be thy wife." And he married her, and she was his wife. Every morning she put on the form of the red-coloured dog again, and they journeyed on. One morning, however, before she put on the dog form, she went down to bathe in the river, and while she was gone, the man burnt the dog form, saying, "Now must she always remain as a beautiful woman."

               But when she came up from bathing, and found what he had done, she said, with many other moving and sorrowful words, "Now can I no more walk with thee, and share thy wanderings."

               So they remained in that place.

               Again, another day she went down to bathe in the river, and as she bathed some of her hairs falling off, were carried down the stream.

               At a place near the mouth of the stream, a maid belonging to the service of the Khan had gone down to fetch water, and these hairs came out of the water clinging to her water-jar. And as the hairs were wonderful to behold, being adorned with the five colours and the seven precious things (1), she wondered at them, and brought them to the Khan for him to see.

               The Khan had no sooner examined them than he came to this conclusion, saying,--

               "Somewhere along the course of this stream it is evident there must be living a surpassingly beautiful woman. Only to such an one could these hairs belong."

               Then he called the captain of his guard, and bid him take of armed men as many as ever he would, and by all means to bring unto him the woman to whom these hairs belonged. Thus he instructed him.

               But the woman had knowledge of what was going forward, and she came weeping to her husband, and showed the thing to him, "And now," she said, "the Khan's soldiers will surround the place, neither is there any way of escape, nor any that can withstand the orders of the Khan. Hadst thou not burnt the red dog form, then had I had a means of refuge."

               Then the man wept too, and would have persuaded her to escape, but she said,--

               "It skills not, for they would pursue us and overtake us, and put you to death out of revenge. By going at their command without resistance, at least they will save you alive."

               While they were speaking the captain of the Khan's guard came with his men-at-arms, and posted them about the place. Then, while they were taking their measures to completely surround the inclosure that the woman might by no means break through, she said to her husband,--

               "The only remedy that remains is that thou wait quietly for the space of a year, and in the meantime I will arrange a stratagem. Then on the fifteenth day of the month Pushja (2), I will go up on to the edge of a mountain with the Khan. But thou, meantime, make to thyself a garment of magpie's feathers, then come and dance before us, in it; and I will invent some plan for escaping with thee."

               Thus she advised him. And the soldiers came and took her to the Khan; the husband making no resistance, even as she had counselled him.

               Also, he let a year pass according to her word; but being alone, and in distress for the loss of his wife, he neglected his work and his business, and came to poverty. Then bethought he him of the word of the White Serpent-king, saying, "There shall come a season when thou shalt be in poverty." So he took out his Mirjalaktschi, and touched it with the mother-o'pearl-wand, and it gave him all manner of food, and he lived in abundance. Then he set snares, and caught magpies, exceeding many, and made to himself a covering out of their feathers, and practised himself in dancing grotesque dances.

               On the fifteenth day of the month Pushja, the Khanin arranged to go with the Khan to visit the mountain. On the same day the husband came there also, dressed even as she had directed him, in a costume made of magpie's feathers. Having first attracted the attention of the Khan by his extraordinary appearance, he began dancing and performing ludicrous antics.

               The Khan, who was by this time tired of the songs of the foreign minstrel, nor had found any to replace the gold frog and the parrot, observed him with great attention. But the Khanin seeing how exact and expert her husband was in following out her advice for recovering her, felt quite happy as she had never done before since she was taken from him; and to encourage him to go on dancing she laughed loud and merrily.

               The Khan was astonished, when he saw her laugh thus, and he said, "Although for a whole year past I have devised every variety of means to endeavour to make thee at least bear some appearance of cheerfulness, it has profited nothing; for thou hast sat and mourned all the day long, nor has any thing had power to divert thee. Yet now that this man, who is more like a monster than a man, has come and made all these ridiculous contortions, at this thou hast laughed!"

               And she, having fixed in her own mind the part she had to play, continued laughing, as she answered him,--

               "All this year, even as thou sayest, thou hast laboured to make me laugh; and now that I have laughed, it would seem almost that it pleaseth thee not."

               And the Khan hasted to make answer, "Nay, for in that thou hast laughed thou hast given me pleasure; but in that it was at a diversion which another prepared for thee, and not I, this is what pleased me not. I would that thou hadst laughed at a sport devised for thee by me."

               Then answered the Khanin, "Wouldst thou in very truth prepare for me a sport at which I would surely laugh?"

               And the Khan hasted to make answer, "That would I in very truth; thou knowest that there is nothing I would not do to fulfil thy bidding and desire."

               "If that be so," replied the Khanin. "Know that there is one thing at which I would laugh in right good earnest; and that is, if it were thou who worest this monstrous costume. That this fellow weareth it is well enough, but we know not how monstrous he may be by nature. But if thou, O Khan, who art so comely of form and stature, didst put it on, then would it be a sight to make one laugh indeed."

               And her words pleased the Khan. So he called the man aside into a solitary place that the courtiers and people might not see what he did, and so become a laughing-stock to them. Then he made the man exchange his costume of magpie's feathers against his royal attire and mantle, and went to dance before the Khanin, bidding the man take his place by her side.

               No sooner, however, did the Khanin see him thus caught in her snare than she returned with her own husband, habited in the Khan's royal habiliments, to the palace. She also gave strict charge to her guard, saying,--

               "That juggler who was dancing just now upon the hill, dressed in a fantastic costume of magpie's feathers, has the design of giving himself out for being the Khan. Should he make the attempt, set dogs (3) on him and drive him forth out of the country. Of all things, on peril of your lives, suffer him not to enter the palace."

               Scarcely had she made an end of speaking and conducted her husband into the palace, when the Khan appeared, still wearing the magpie costume, because the Khanin's husband had gone off with her, wearing his royal habiliments, and would have made his way to his own apartments; but the guards seeing him, and recognizing the man in the magpie disguise the Khanin had designated, ordered him out.

               The Khan asserted his khanship, and paid no heed to the guards; but the more he strove to prove himself the Khan, the more were the guards convinced he was the man the Khanin had ordered them to eject, and they continued barring the way against him and preventing his ingress. Then he grew angry and began to strive against them till they, wearied with his resistance, called out the dogs and set them on him.

               The dogs, taking him for a monstrous wild bird, eagerly ran towards him, so that he was forced to turn and flee that he might by any means save his life. But the dogs were swifter than he and overtook him, and, springing upon him, tore him in pieces and devoured him.

               Thus the husband of the Khanin became installed in all his governments and possessions.

               Moreover, that night there were born to the Khan four sons, who were every one exceeding great rulers in Gambudvîpa, even as the White Serpent-king, reigning over the white mother-o'-pearl shells, had foretold.

               The eldest of these four was renowned as the spiritual ruler of all India (4). In one night he translated all the sacred books into a thousand different languages for the use of devas and men, and in one other night he erected a hundred thousand sacred temples all over his dominions.

               The brother next to him was endowed with all kinds of power and strength in his earliest youth, and with every capacity. This Prince was renowned as ruler of the Mongols by the name of Barin Tochedaktschi Erdektu (5), for so expert and mighty was he in the use of the bow that if he shot his arrow at four men standing side by side together, every one of them was certain to fall to the earth, transfixed through the centre of the heart.

               The next brother raised up to himself a mighty host of a hundred thousand men by pulling out a single hair of his head, and he led them forth to battle, and was known to the whole earth by the name of Gesser-Khan (6).

               The fourth brother fitted out four caravans of merchandise all in one day, and sent them forth to the four quarters of heaven. By these means he obtained possession of the All-desire-supplying talisman, Tschin-tâmani, and was Ruler of the Treasures of the earth, with the title of Barss-Irbiss (7), Shah of Persia.


(1) "The five colours," see note 5, Tale IV.

               "The seven precious things," are variously stated. Sometimes they are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, red pearls, diamond and coral. Sometimes gold and silver are left out of the reckoning, and rubies and emeralds substituted. See Köppen, i. 540 et seq. The extravagant and incongruous description in the text is not artistic.

(2) The month Pushja. Before the time of Vikramâditja astronomy was not studied in India as a science; the course of the heavenly bodies was observed, but only for the sake of determining the times and seasons of feasts and sacrifices. The moon was the chief subject of observation and of the more correct results of the same. Her path was divided into twenty-eight "houses" or "mansions" called naxatra. This division was invented by the Chinese, and India received it from them about 1100 B.C. The naxatravidjâ or the knowledge of the moon-mansions, is set down in one of the oldest Upanishad as a special kind of knowledge. In the oldest enumeration extant of the moon-mansions only twenty-seven are mentioned, and the first of them is called Krittikâ, and Abhigit, which is the 20th, according to the latest enumeration, is wanting; other lists have other discrepancies. It is worthy of notice that Kandramas, the earliest name by which the moon is invoked in the Vêda, is composed of kandra, "shining," and mas, "to measure," because the moon measured time, and the various names of the moon in all the so-called Indo-European languages are supposed to come from this last word. There were also four moon-divinities invoked, as Kuhû, Sinivali, Râkâ, and Anumati, in the Rig Vêda hymns; these are all feminine deities. Soma, the later moon-divinity, however, was masculine, and had twenty-seven of the fifty daughters of Daxa for his wives. Kandramas was also a male divinity. The worship of the four goddesses I have named was afterwards superseded by four (also feminine) deifications of the phases of the moon. There seems a little difficulty, however, about fitting their names to them. Pushja, with which we are more particularly concerned, would properly imply "waxing," but she presided nevertheless over the last quarter; Krita, meaning the "finished" course, over the new moon; the appellations of the others fit better. Drapura (derived from dva, two) designated the second quarter, and Khârvâ, "the beginning to wane," the full moon. In the list given by Amarasinha of the moon-mansions, Pushja is the name of the eighth, in the Mahâ Bhârata it stands for the sixth.

               The month Pauscha answers to our December. (Lassen, iii. 819.)

(3) We have many early proofs that India possessed an indigenous breed of hunting-dogs of noble and somewhat fierce character. They were much esteemed as hunting-dogs by the Persians, and formed an important article of commerce. Herodotus (i. 192) mentions their being imported into Babylon; whether the mighty hunter Nimrod had a high opinion of them, there is perhaps no means of ascertaining. Strabo (xv. i. § 31) says they were not afraid to hunt lions. In the Ramajana, (ii. 70, 21) Ashvapati gives Rama a present of "swift asses and dogs bred in the palace, large in stature, with the strength of tigers, and teeth meet to fight withal." Alexander found them sufficiently superior to his own to take with him a present of them offered him by Sopeithes. Aristobulos, Megasthenes, and Ælianus mention their qualities with admiration. Their strength and courage led to the erroneous tradition that they were suckled by tigers (see Pliny, viii. 65, I). Plutarch (De Soc. Anim. x. 4) quotes a passage from an earlier Greek writer, saying they were so noble, that though when they caught a hare they gladly sucked his blood, yet that if one lay down exhausted with the course, they would not kill it, but stood round it in a circle, wagging their tails to show their enjoyment was not in the blood, but in the victory.

               The house-dog and herd-dog, however, was rather looked down upon; it and the ass were the only animals the Kandala or lowest caste were allowed to possess (Manu, x. 51), and it is still called Paria-dog (Bp Heber's "Journey," i. 490).

(4) A functionary invented by the Mongolian tale-repeater. The idea evidently borrowed from his knowledge of the paramount authority of the Talé Lama of Tibet, leading him to suppose there must exist a corresponding dignity in India.

(5) Barin Tschidaktschi Erdekctu, "The mighty one at taking distant aim." (Jülg.)

(6) Gesser Khan, the great hero of Mongolian tales; called also "The mighty Destroyer of the root of the seven evils in the seven places of the earth." (Jülg.)

(7) Tschin-tâmani, Sanskrit, "Thought-jewel," is a jewel possessing the magic power of producing whatever object the possessor of it sets his heart upon. (Böhtlingk and Roth, Sanskrit Dict.) See infra, note 2, to "The False Friend," and note 8 to "Vikramâditja's Youth."

(8) Barss-Irbiss, "leopard-tiger." (Jülg.)

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: What Became of the Red-Coloured Dog
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