For the 25th tale that I’m telling you – and wow, time flies! – I feel it’s time for a Mongolian animal tale again. I believe this one was the first Mongolian animal tale I ever read when we had to translate it in class. Or at least one of the first few. In any case – enjoy!
The Dumb Wolf
Once upon a time a wolf was wandering about when he saw a black pudding lying right in his path. The wolf wanted to eat it at once but the black pudding asked: “Mister Wolf, do not eat me! A little further ahead a three-year old mare is stuck in the mud. Why don’t you go there and eat her instead?”The wolf followed the black pudding’s advice and there really was a mare stuck in the mud. When the wolf saw her, he wanted to eat her but the mare said: “Mister Wolf, if you want to eat me, you’d better pull me from the mud first.” So that was what the wolf did.
He pulled the mare from the mud and was just about to eat her, when the mare said: “Oh, but I am covered in mud. You should lick me clean first before you eat me.” Once again the wolf did as the mare told him and licked her clean.
But when he wanted to eat her, she said: “There is something written on the hoof of my hind leg. Wouldn’t you like to read it before you eat me?” When the wolf went to her hind legs to read what was written there, the mare kicked out. She hit his neck and ran away. The wolf, though, lost consciousness and fell to the ground.
When he came to again and looked about, the mare was already far away. So he got to his feet and with his nose sniffing at the ground he ran to and fro between the bushes and the hills. He could scarcely believe his luck when found a one year old calf on one of the hills.
The wolf went to the calf wanting to eat it but the calf said: “If you eat me up here on the hill, the humans will see you. It would be better if you’d bring me to a small gorge and eat me there!” When the wolf made to do as the calf had said, the little calf said: “Mister Wolf, you seem to be tired and exhausted. Sit on me and I will carry you!” And so the wolf climbed on top of the little calf and let himself be carried.
“When we climb down into the gorge, you’d better close your eyes so you won’t get dizzy,” the calf suggested. And so the wolf closed his eyes. The calf, though, carried the wolf right in front of the ail, an assembly of ger, of a family of Mongolian nomads. Screaming and shouting, the people beat the wolf up and then chased him away.
The wolf fled and thought to himself:
“What am I doing in the distant mountains?
What am I doing near the humans?
I was a fool going along this way.
I was a block head to be tricked by a black pudding.
Am I the owner that I pulled the horse from the mud?
Am I the mother to lick the mare clean?
When did I even learn to read and write?
Do I not have legs of my own to walk with?
I am dumb and now I am dying…”
Translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: drawing from Neuw Jag vnnd Weyderwerck Buch (1582) @ WikiMedia Commons
After having worked extensively on this genre of folktales, this one to me is actually pretty unusual for a Mongolian animal tale. The way the wolf gets tricked by his prey is, of course, familiar enough but the end is much more somber than this is usually the case. It is the wolf’s fault or rather of his standing in Mongolian culture where he is just as much-loved as he is in Europe. Which is to say – none at all since he, of course, was one of the major predators endangering their cattle.
But while I can understand that, I still find this tale really kind of sad. Of course, I was probably also the only child who cried her heart out when in the super-cheesy movie “The Last Unicorn” the red bull is sent into the ocean. After I had been terrified of him for the whole movie.