Archive for the ‘legends’ 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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Somehow even when I try to fight down by animal tale love in order to give you a broader variety, I tend to still land with fables. So today let’s have an English legend. And please ignore the fact that it’s also not animal-free. Apparently it can’t be helped. 🙂

The Baker’s Daughter

A very long time ago, I cannot tell you when, it is so long since, there lived in a town in Herefordshire a baker who used to sell bread to all the folk around. He was a mean, greedy man, who sought in every way to put money by, and who did not scruple to cheat such people as he was able when they came to his shop.

baking normal bread

He had a daughter who helped him in his business, being unmarried and living with him, and seeing how her father treated the people, and how he succeeded in getting money by his bad practices, she, too, in time came to do the like.

One day when her father was away, and the girl remained alone in the shop, an old woman came in—

“My pretty girl,” said she, “give me a bit of dough I beg of you, for I am old and hungry.”

The girl at first told her to be off, but as the old woman would not go, and begged harder than before for a piece of bread, at last the baker’s daughter took up a piece of dough, and giving it to her, says— (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. 🙂

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still mysterious today

I found a legend about the Wolf’s Spring, which is actually in walking distance from where I live! Thusly, the pictures in this post have been taken by myself when I went there a few weeks ago. Such a pretty place and apparently with much more history than one would think. 🙂

The Wolf’s Spring (Der Wolfsbrunnen)

When the Jettenbuehl near Heidelberg was still covered by thick forest, there lived a seeress named Jette in his shadow. She was of a slender, noble figure and in her grace and dignity she was equal to an immortal. A noble Franken youth heard about the seeress and decided to pay her a visit and ask her about his destiny. His heart knew no fear but as he stood before her, she appeared to him like a maiden from Walhalla. Thus he answered somewhat timidly when she inquired as to what he wanted: “Lovely maiden, you have the gift to see into the future. Please let me know my future.” Jette examined the handsome hero closely and suddenly something seemed to change in her heart.

the wolfhunter's house

“Come back tomorrow when the sun is about to set. I will ask the runes in the meanwhile.”

The next day at the certain hour the youth was back at the ailantery. He found the seeress pensive and almost sad. “What did the runes say?” he asked. She shook her curly head and sighed. “The meaning has not become quite clear to me,” she said, “but I fear our life stars meet.”

“I would be overjoyed then,” cried the youth and sat by her feet and took her hand which he covered with passionate kisses. “Will you tie your destiny to mine?” asked the maiden. The youth assured her by all the gods that he would.

view across the Wolfsbrunnen

“Our happiness needs to remain hidden from human eyes,” said the seeress and showed him the well that is now known by the name Wolf’s Spring for their nightly rendezvous. But in the first night as the youth came to the spring, he happened upon a gruesome spectacle: The maiden lay on the ground and over her body stood a horrible wolf mauling her soft flesh. The moon illuminated the gruesome scene. The youth immediately tore his sword from its sheath and rushed towards the beast which resisted but was soon enough killed.

The seeress was buried near the spring which from then on was given the the name Wolf’s Spring.

Copyright for translation: TaleTellerin (text source: Sagen aus den Gegenden des Rheins und des Schwarzwaldes. Gesammelt von D. Aloys Wilhelm. Zweite, sehr vermehrte Auflage. Heidelberg: J. Engelmann, 1829.)
Copyright for images: TaleTellerin


A bit cryptic and sad but beautiful. And much more fascinating than the story that the info posts tell at the spring: Apparently, the wolfhunter of some lord or other who resided in Heidelberg was given this place as his home. Then it became a hotel and a restaurant and right now, the house is empty. Which is a shame as the place is truly magically beautiful.

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For a change, today it’s not a Mongolian animal myth but a Buryat one. I know, the shocking extremes of this change… 😀

The Bear

A poor cooper*was on a search for a tree fitting to make it into rings for a barrel. When he came to an island in the lake, he saw a red willow. This one, he wanted to make into rings. But when he approached the willow to cut it down, it said to him: “Don’t chop me down, please! I will give you everything that you want.”

And it kept its word – soon the cooper became wealthy. Even rich, people say. After a little while had passed, he went to the red willow again and said: “Please make me the khaan.” And so the willow made the cooper the khaan. But after he had thus become khaan, the cooper and his khatan – his wife, the queen – got into a box wagon, took a great number of soldiers with them and went to chop down the red willow.

not a Buryat khaan but a Chinese emporor but look at the waggon

But as the soldiers raised their axes to fell the willow, as they had been ordered to, the willow spoke to them: “Look at the khaan and the khatan!”

When the soldiers turned around, they saw that the khaan and his khatan had become bears and were fleeing into the wood. All of the soldiers feared them very much and ran off without even touching the red willow.

This is the reason, so the Buryat people tell us, that the bear had been khaan in earlier time. And when you meet a bear in the steppes, you just tell him: “Dear khaan, please be kind-hearted!” and he will toddle off. Or so they say.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for the image: Departure Herald (illustration from the Ming Dynasty) @ WikiMedia Commons


One of my lecturers in Mongolian studies shared two more ways to escape a bear should you ever meet one. If you’re up on a mountain, he said, you simply need to race down the mountain side in a zig zag. The greater mass of the bear means that he will just keep on racing down in a straight line. The other option is only something for the really courageous – play dead. The moral of this one is easy: Avoid bears like the plaque! 😀

* Since I had to look it up myself – a cooper is a barrel maker. One never stops learning…

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Today I bring you a Mongolian legend/animal tale. Again this obviously came to Mongolia via India. In this case, via buddhism. But read for yourselves!

Why the Camel Rolls in the Ashes

sore loser?

A long time ago the names of the animals representing the twelve years of the Mongolian calendar, that is the buddhist calendar, were being chosen and eleven names were called at once. But then there was the question which animal should begin the circle of the twelve years. The camel and the mouse both proposed their names and quarreled about who should be included in the circle. Not wanting to offend either of them, Buddha said: “Settle this between yourselves!”

And so the two animals made a bet to decide who would have the honour to start the calendar: Whoever saw the first rays of the rising sun the next morning, would start the twelve years. (more…)

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In this Mongolian animal legend we learn how the chipmunk got its stripes and what the bear has got to do with it. It might not be the tale you expect from this short intro.

How the Chipmunk Got Its Stripes

A long, long time ago, when the seasons had just turned spring, a bear crawled out of his cave. The winter had been hard and the bear had lost a lot of weight so he was really hungry now. But there were no berries yet and since the ground was still frozen, he also could not dig for roots.

“Oh, I will surely starve!” the bear thought to himself, pondering his situation. “What am I going to do?” But just then he remembered the chipmunk. (more…)

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