After yesterday’s peek at literary fables, let’s get back to Mongolian animal tales. And more academic musings. As always – feel welcome to skip those or feel even more welcome to discuss!
The Raven and the Magpie
In times long, long past, there lived a raven who had three feathers on his head, or so people say. His feathers glowed with the light of the rainbow and he had the most beautiful voice.
Then one day, a magpie happened by and said: “Let us build a nest together and live happily in harmony!” But the raven replied snobbishly: “I don’t need such a nest since I have beautiful, thick feathers.”
And so the magpie build her own nest from fresh grass, laid her eggs into it and lived a happy, comfortable life. When the raven realised that he become very angry: “It can’t be that the scrubby magpie lives in a nest more beautiful than mine. I will set her nest on fire!” And with those bad intentions he flew to the next ail – that is the next group of yurts or ger as the Mongols call them – which had just been cleared by its inhabitants.
And indeed, the ember had not gone out yet. The raven eagerly picked up one of the still glowing logs in his beak. People say that he flew up wind to set the magpie’s nest on fire. But the log inflamed in the wind and burned the raven’s face and his beautiful feathers.
The agitated and distressed raven let go of the log and just about managed to land on a nearby rock. There he bemoaned his body which had become all black and burned. But as he wanted to, at least, sing a beautiful, poetic, sad song about it, he did not manage one clear tone. You could only hear a croaky, ugly noise that sounded like “waag! waag! waag!”. And because his beautiful rainbow-coloured fathers didn’t shine anymore either, the raven became very sad and went to the magpie to ask her if she knew the reason for his bad luck.
People say that the magpie told him the following: “Because you only ever meant everybody ill, your beloved body has become like this. It is destined that you live your life this way and go into the world like this.”
Copyright for translation and narration: Taletellerin
Copyright for image: Wenzel Hollar @ WikiMedia Commons
Clearly, here we are shown a very different character for the magpie than in The Lame Magpie Who Had Seven Green Eggs. There are a number of such character discontinuities in Mongolian animal tales. In my opinion, these also can be ascribed to the influence of non-Mongolian folklore. That is, with – e.g. Indian fables not only motifs and plots were brought into Mongolian folklore but also stereotypical figures which in many cases apparently haven’t been fully transformed. So the self-confident, wise magpie of this tale is allowed to simply stand next to the frightened, lame one.