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

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Voice-Charmer, The


"LONG ages ago two were travelling through a mountainous country, a man and his wife. And behold as they journeyed there reached them from the other side of a rock a voice of such surpassing sweetness that the two stood still to listen, the man and his wife; and not they only, but their very beasts pricked up their ears erect to drink in the sound.

               "Then spoke the woman,--

               "'A man with a voice so melodious must be a man goodly to see. Shall we not stop and find him out?'"

               "But the saying pleased not her husband, nor was he minded that she should see who it was that sang so sweetly; therefore he answered her,--

               "'Wherefore should we search him out; is it not enough that we hear his voice?'

               "When the wife had heard his answer, she said no more about searching out whence the voice proceeded; only the first time they passed a mountain-rill she said to her husband,--

               "'Behold, I faint for thirst in this heat. Now, as thou lovest me, fetch me a draught of that cool water from the mountain-rill.' So the man got down from his horse, and, taking his wife's cup (2), went to the rill to fetch water.

               "While he was thus occupied, the wife slid down from off her horse also, and, going silently behind him, pushed him over the precipice and killed him. Then she set out to find out who it was sang so melodiously. When she had followed up the sound she found herself in presence, not of a man goodly to behold, but of a wretched, loathsome object, sunk down against the foot of the rock, deformed in person and covered with sores. Notwithstanding that the undeception was so revolting, she yet took him up on her back and carried him with her; but as the man was heavy and the way steep, the fatigue so wearied her that at the end of a little time she died.

               "Was this woman to be counted a good woman or a bad?"

               When the King had made an end of telling the tale, he looked towards Naran-Dâkinî as challenging her to answer.

               But Naran-Dâkinî held her peace and spoke never a word.

               Then, when the far-seeing and experienced minister whom Vikramâditja had transformed into the lamp saw that she yet held her peace, he said,--

               "How should an unsouled being such as I, the Lamp, find out the right meaning? nevertheless, not to leave the words of the high King without an answer, I will even venture to suggest that to me it seemeth she must be counted a good woman; because though she killed her husband, yet she made atonement for her fault by raising the sick man and carrying him with her--"

               But before he could make an end of speaking Naran-Dâkinî cast at him a glance of contempt and scorn, and she exclaimed,--

               "How should there be any good in a woman who killed her lawful husband, and that only because her ears were tickled with the artful melody of an harmonious voice? Of a truth she must have been a veritable schimnu, and if she took the sick man with her, was it not only that she might devour him at leisure?"

               Then spoke Vikramâditja,--

               "Naran-Chatun! being he who hath induced thee to open thy lips to speak these two times to man, give me my guerdon that thou accompany me home to be my wife."

               Very willingly coming down from her altar, Tegrijin Naran Dâkinî at these words gave herself to Vikramâditja to accompany him home to be his wife.

               Vikramâditja having then given back to Schalû and to his three far-seeing and experienced ministers their natural shapes, and to the five hundred sons of kings who had failed in winning Naran-Dâkinî theirs, with Naran-Dâkinî by his side, and all the rest in a long procession behind him, the King arrived at his capital. Here he called together all his people Tai-tsing (3) to a great assembly, where he promulgated rules of faith and religion. By his good government he made all his people so happy as no other sovereign ever did, sitting upon his throne with his consort Tegrijin Naran as the fate-appointed rulers.

               When the Sûta had made an end of this narration of Vikramâditja's deeds, he addressed himself to Ardschi-Bordschi, saying,--

               "If thou canst boast, of being such a King as Vikramâditja, then come and ascend this throne, but if not, then beware at thy peril that thou approach it not."

               Now Ardschi-Bordschi had seventy-one wives; taking by the hand the chief of them therefore, he bid her make obeisance before the throne and ascend it with him. Ere they had set foot on the first step two other of the sculptured figures came forward, forsaking their guardant attitude, and warned him back, the warrior smiting him in the breast, and the Sûta thus addressing him,--

               "Halt! O Ardschi-Bordschi, and thou his wife! nor touch so much as with thy prostrate heads the sacred steps. But first know what manner of woman was the chief wife of Vikramâditja.

               "The chief wife of Vikramâditja was Tsetsen Budschiktschi (4), and she never had a word, or look, or thought but for her husband. If thy wife be such a princess as she, then draw near to ascend the throne together, but if otherwise, then at your peril draw not near it.

               "But," he said furthermore, "hearken, and I will tell you, who have seventy-one wives, the story of what befell seventy-one parrots and the wife of another high King to whom one of them was counsellor."

               And all the sculptured figures answered together,--

               "Halt! O Ardschi-Bordschi!"


(1) This story also holds a certain place among Indian legends, but is not so popular as the last.

(2) Cup. No one travels or indeed goes about at all in Tibet and Mongolia without a wooden cup stuck in his breast or in his girdle. At every visit the guest holds out his cup and the host fills it with tea. Abbé Huc supplies many details concerning their use. They are so indispensable that they form a staple article of industry; their value varies from a few pence up to as much as 40l.

(3) Tai-tsing = the all-purest, the name of the Mandschu or Mantschou dynasty (or Mangu, according to the spelling of Lassen, iv. 742), who, from being called in by the last emperor of the Ming dynasty to help in suppressing a rebellion, subsequently seized the throne (1644). This dynasty has reigned in China ever since, while the Mantchou nationality has become actually forced on the Chinese.

               Previously, however, the Mantchous were a tribe of Eastern Tartars long formidable to the Chinese. The introduction of a king of the Mantchous, therefore, as identical with Vikramâditja, presents the most remarkable instance that could be met with of what may be called the confusion of heroes, in the migration of myths.

(4) Tsetsen Budschiktschi = the clever dancer. (Jülg.)

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Voice-Charmer, 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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