Archive for the ‘mongolia’ Category

Back to Mongolian animal tales. It’s been way too long. And this one is an epespcially interesting one.

The Cat Who Pretended To Be A Lama

A long time ago there was a lama, a Buddhist monk, who spent his time in deep meditation. Next to him there lay a cat. One day the cat stole the lama’s snuff bottle and the lama went after the cat and got his snuff bottle back. Then another time the cat stole the lama’s rosary and hid in a hole. When the lama grabbed the cat by the tail, the tail suddenly got torn off.

not a Mongolian snuff-bottle but close enough

The cat went away and came upon a place where many mice lived. There she made herself comfortable and put the rosary around her neck. One day some mice came along the way and circled the cat warily. So the cat said: “Don’t be afraid of me! I’m one of those lama cats. Let me teach you the holy doctrine saying not to kill another living being. Come! Come here!”

So the mice went to the cat and let her teach them. After a few days had passed Khuchin tuct, the khaan of the mice, told them: “Oh, it seems as if our teacher is eating us. In her excrements there are traces of bone and hair. Go back home and get a bell.” He sent a few mice to carry out his request.

The mice went home and came back with a bell. They said to the cat: “Teacher, please accept this jewellery from us!” And they put the bell around her neck. Khuchin tuct told his mice: “After today’s lesson will be over, we will exit one after another. If the bell should ring, we’ll turn around and hurry back.” (more…)


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This Mongolian animal tale one is actually representing a particular type of the genre: three friends, one gets trapped, another one wants to eat him, the last one comes to the rescue. Sounds kind of like the tale about the lame magpie? Yeah, no. Not really. But read for yourselves. Especially since you can never read too many Mongolian animal tales.

The Khulan, the Crow and the Wolf

In times long ago, a khulan – that is a Mongolian wild ass –, a crow and a wolf lived together as brothers. One day they went in search of a new place to live and the crow said: “There is this place where every one of us would find plenty to eat. But there lives a skilled hunter with his bow and his traps. The traps would be a danger for us.”

little khulan all relaxed

The wolf thought: “If the khulan would happen to get caught in one of the hunter’s traps, I could eat as much as I want.” So he said out loud: “Let’s move to this beautiful place and live there. Or are you afraid of one hunter?”

Therefore the three friends moved to that place and for a while they lived there in peace. But one day the khulan got caught in a trap. As soon as the wolf heard about it, he hurried to get to the trapped animal before the crow would find him. When he arrived there, the wolf asked the khulan: “How did this happen?” (more…)

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I’ve been indeed telling you all kinds of tales from all kinds of cultures. But how do for example the Mongols believe that tales and stories first originated among them? Read the answer in todays tale.

The Legend of Blind Tarvaa

It is told, that many years ago the black plaque spread out among the Mongols killing hundreds, no thousands of people. Those who were still healthy ran away to save their own lives leaving behind their sick loved ones to let fate decide their futures.

telling a story

Among those left behind there was also a fifteen year old boy called Blind Tarvaa. When he lost consciousness, his soul left his body and came to the khaan of hell. The khaan of hell was astonished upon seeing the soul and said: “Why have you come here? You’re body isn’t dead yet.”

“They left me behind because they thought my body was already dead,” the soul answered, “And so I didn’t wait any longer but came right here.”

The obedience and the patience of the soul pleased the khaan and he said: “Your time hasn’t come yet. You have to return to your master. But before you go, you shall make a wish.”

The khaan lead the soul through hell and there were all the things which humans can encounter in life: wealth, fortune and contentment, sorrow and grief, happiness and pleasure, songs and music, dance, tales and legends. The soul of the blind Tarvaa looked at everything and finally asked for the tales. The khaan gave them to him and sent him back to earth.

The soul went back to the body which was showing no signs of life. A crow had already picked out the body’s eyes. The soul was very sad to see the body he had been born in like that but he did not dare disobeying the khaan’s order. And so the soul had to slip back into the body.

After that Blind Tarvaa lead a very long life and knew all the magic and tales in the world. Although he was blind, he could still see what would happen in the future. He went throughout Mongolia, told his tales and with them he taught people. And since that time, it is told, there are tales being told by the Mongols.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: “Jeon (telling a story)” painted by Jang Seungeop


I love, love, love this tale. It’s so sad and yet hopeful and beautiful.

And from a folkloristic perspective, I find the evidence of the special time continuum in folklore interesting. Tarvaa is introduced as Blind Tarvaa even though he only becomes blind in the course of this tale. One has to remember that in the old days, you were rarely told a story you genuinely did not know already. Telling and listening, all was done just for the joy of language and story. So it’s not exactly a spoiler to introduce him as Blind Tarvaa. πŸ™‚

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As this is the 42nd tale and we all know the special meaning of the number “42” – after all it is the not yet fully understood answer to life, the universe and everything πŸ™‚ – let me celebrate this occasion by telling you another one of my favourite Mongolian animal tales.

The Two Good Horses

In times long past, two horses that had been sold to a place far away longed for home. But while they were on their way home, one of the horses had grown old and then one day it stayed behind as it could not go any further.

...and so the young horse walked on alone

“Now, little brother, be good and always follow the road. Your aged, older brother is going to die. Little brother, do not wander off the road. Do not approach things that you can only dimly see. Do not untie a bundle’s opening.” In this way the old horse instructed his brother and then it fell behind.

The young horse slowly and hesitantly continued on its way. But then it saw the shape of something it could only dimly see, it is told. The horse wanted to explore the mysterious thing and ran impatiently towards the shape. It turned out to be a bundle and whatever was inside it, made it move about. “Whatever that may be,” thought the young horse. It could not wait any longer and untied the opening at once. Immediately, a big, hungry, brown wolf jumped out. (more…)

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Today, let me tell you another Mongolian animal tale. One that is poetic and beautiful and – pretty long. As always – at the end you will find some information on the folkloristic background. Enjoy!

The Fox and the Little Birdie

just imagine the fox instead of the confused cows

Once upon a time, a little birdie had become friends with a fox and he adored him very much. But the fox had a cunning character and thought all the time, how to outsmart him. One day, the fox said: β€œLet’s sow wheat, the two of us together. We will share the work equally and the wheat as well.”

People say, the birdie agreed. And off they went to the cornfield as it was time to sow the grain. But since the fox was unbelievably lazy, he outfoxed the birdie.

β€œOh, this does not look good at all. The sky is about to crumble. I will hurry to climb that mountain and brace the sky. If I don’t do it, then the sky will surely fall down and crush out cornfield,” he told the birdie and the little birdie believed him. (more…)

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As promised last Sunday, when we had a look at an Indian fable which was not quite pg-rated, here be the Mongolian equivalent. And yes, this is an animal tale. πŸ™‚

The Tiger and the Ram

You think German rams can bluff just as well?

Once upon a time there lived a tiger. When he was strolling around one day, he met a ram and asked:

“What is your name?”

“My name is Ram Wandan,” said the ram. “How is your name?”

“My name is Tiger Wandan,” replied the tiger and then he went on to ask: “What is that on your head?”

“These are my two sabers to kill tigers with,” said the ram.

“And what do you have hanging there in your crotch?” the tiger asked somewhat intimidated.

“Oh, these are my two pouches for garlic and onions to spice my tiger meat with,” the ram replied.

At that, the tiger ran off in panic. On his wild chase he finally met a wolf. “Mister Tiger, mister Tiger, why are you running so?” the wolf asked. “A ram was about to eat me and is chasing after me with his sabers drawn!” the tiger told him.

“Since when do rams kill and eat tigers? No, no, you have been outfoxed. Let us go back there together, catch the ram and eat him,” said the wolf. The tiger agreed and off they went together with the wolf hanging on the tiger’s tail with his teeth.

When the ram saw the two of them, he called: “Oh, my dear tiger, you have brought a friend? How wonderful?” And when he charged them, the tiger turned on the spot and raced off in wild panic.

He had run for quite a while when he turned around and saw that the wolf was hot on his heels, showing him his teeth. “You are smiling while I am so frightened.” And enraged he caught the wolf and killed him.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: relief of a ram, shown at the Karmelitenkreuzgang in the monastery of Bamberg


I love this type of Mongolian animal tales. They are so cheeky. Though this one, again, ends badly for the wolf. Really, no luck, that one. πŸ™‚

Have a great Sunday!

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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?”

hunting a wolf the early modern European way

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. (more…)

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