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

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False Friend, The


IN THE meantime, it had come to pass that one of Ardschi-Bordschi's subjects had gone out over the sea to search for precious stones. Being detained on his journey beyond the allotted time, he was desirous of making provision for his wife and children whom he had left behind, and, finding that a friend of his company purposed to return home, he trusted to him one of the jewels of which he had become possessed, saying, "When thou comest to the place, deliver this jewel into the hands of my wife, that she may be provided withal until the time of my return. The man, however, sold the jewel and spent the proceeds on his own purposes. When, therefore, the jewel-merchant came home, he inquired of his wife, saying, "By a man named Dsük I sent unto you a jewel so-and-so;" and when he learnt of his wife that the man had brought no jewel, he took the matter before the King. The King commanded the man called Dsük to be brought before him. But the man having got wind that he would have to appear before the King to be judged for the matter, he gave presents to two chief men of the court, and agreed with them, saying, "You will stand witness for me that in presence of you two I delivered the jewel to the man's wife (2)."

               When, therefore, they were all before the King, the King spoke to the man named Dsük, saying, "Did you, or did you not, give the jewel to the man's wife?" And he boldly made answer, "In presence of these two witnesses I delivered the jewel to her;" while the two great men of the court stood forward and deposed, they also, "Yea, O King! even in our presence he delivered over the jewel."

               As the King could not gainsay the word of the witnesses, he decided the case according to their testimony, and the man named Dsük was released and went away to his home rejoicing at having been so successful in his stratagem to deceive the King, and the two great men of the court and the jewel-merchant went down every one to his home.

               It so happened, however, that their way home lay past the hill where the Boy-king sat enthroned. Now as they passed by, the four together, the Boy-king sent and called them into his presence, nor could they fail of compliance with his word.

               When they had paid him their obeisance, bowing themselves many times before him, the Boy-king, rising in his majesty, thus spoke,--

               "The decision of your King is hasty, and can never stand. I will judge your cause. Do you promise to abide by my decision?"

               But the majesty of the Boy-king was upon him, and they could not choose but accept.

               The Boy-king therefore set the four men apart in four several places, and to each one of them he gave a lump of clay, saying, "Fashion this lump of clay like to the form of the jewel which was sent."

               When they had all finished the task, it was found that the model of the man who sent the jewel and that of the man who was the bearer of it were alike; but the two great men of the court, who had never seen the jewel, were thrown into great embarrassment by this means, and their models were neither like those of the sender and bearer, nor were they like each other's.

               When the Boy-king saw this he thus pronounced judgment:--

               "Because both these men saw and knew the jewel, they could make its image in clay; but it is manifest the two witnesses have never seen the jewel, but have made up their minds to deceive the King by false testimony. Such conduct is most unworthy of all in great men of the King's court."

               Then he ordered the two false witnesses and the man named Dsük to be secured and taken to the King, all three confessing their crime; and he sent with them this declaration, written in due form of law:--

               "According to the principles of earthly might and the sacred maxims of religion hast thou not decided. O Ardschi-Bordschi! thus should not an upright and noble ruler deal. Unless it is given thee to discern good from evil, truth from falsehood, it were better thou shouldst lay aside thy kingly dignity. But if thou desirest to remain king, then judge nothing without duly investigating the matter, even as I."

               With such a letter the Boy-king sent the prisoners to Ardschi-Bordschi.

               When the King read the letter, he exclaimed, "What manner of boy is this who writes thus to the King? He must be a being highly endowed with wisdom. If it was the same boy who appeared every day so gifted, I should hold him to be a Bodhisattva, or indeed a very Buddha; but as on different days different boys attain to the same sagacity, the source must remain one and the same for all. Shall it not be that in the foundations of their hill or mound is some stupa (3), where Buddhas or Bodhisattvas have propounded sacred teaching to men? Or shall it be that there lies hidden therein some jewel (4), gifted to impart wisdom to mortals? In some such way, of a certainty, the spot is endowed with singular gifts."

               Thus he spoke, and concluded the affair of the jewel in accordance with the Boy-king's judgment, delivering the two witnesses over to punishment, and condemning the man named Dsük to pay double the value of the jewel to the merchant whom he had defrauded.


1. Compare this story with that given Nights 589-593 of Arabian Nights. (Jülg.)

2. That the jewel-merchant had no written proof of the trust he had committed to his friend would appear quite in conformity with actual custom, at least in primitive times. Megasthenes has left testimony (Strabo xv. i. 53, p. 709), quoted by Schwanbeck (Megas. Ind. p. 113), in favour of the general uprightness of the Indians and their little inclination to litigation, which he bases on the fact that it was the custom to take no acknowledgment under seal or writing of money or jewels entrusted to another, or even to call witnesses to the fact; that the word of the man who had entrusted another with such sufficed; also Ælianus, V. H. iv. i. This, notwithstanding that the Manu (dh. c. viii. 180) contains provisions for regulating such transactions in due form and order; the man accordingly does not think of denying that he received the jewel, which would seem the easier way of concealing his fraud, because he knew the word of the jewel-merchant would be taken against his.

3. Stupa, a shrine; often a natural cave; often one artificially hewn; containing relics, or commemorating some incident considered sacred in the life of a noted Buddhist teacher. We read of stupas instituted at a spot where there was a tradition Shâkjamuni had left a foot-print; and another at Kapilvastu, his native place, over the spot where, as we saw in his life, he was led to devote himself to serious contemplations by meeting a sick man, &c. When of imposing proportion it was called a mâhastûpa. When such monuments on the other hand were put together with stones (usually pyramidal in form) they were called dhâtugopa, whence Europeans give them the name of Dagobas. The word Pagoda, with which we are familiar, is probably derived from the Sanskrit bhâgavata = "Worthy to be venerated." The syllable ava was transformed in Prakrit into o, and the ta into da. The Portuguese took the word as applied to religious edifices as distinguished from the kaitja [1], or rock-hewn temples. The word pagoda, however, is usually reserved for Brahmanical temples. The word stupa has now become corrupted into tope, by which word you will find it designated by modern writers on India. The etymology of the word makes it mean much the same as tumulus, but kaitja conveys further the meaning that it was a sacred place.

4. The notion of jewels being endowed with talismanic properties is common in Eastern story. Ktesias (Fragm. lvii. 2, p. 79) mentions a celebrated Indian magic jewelled seal-ring called Pantarba, which had the property when thrown into the water of attracting to it other jewels, and that a merchant once drew out one hundred and seventy-seven other jewels and seals by its means.


[1] See infra, note 2 to "Vikramâditja's Birth."

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: False Friend, 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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