Posts Tagged ‘mongolian animal tale’

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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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 🙂 – 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: “Let’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.

“Oh, 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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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it does look a little drunk...

I love the title of this really tiny Mongolian animal tale. As I do love the content – it’s clever and hilarious. The usual celebration of wit and humor. What more do we want?

A Tiny Tale

In earlier times, a wolf, a fox and a hedgehog, these three, lived together.

Then one day, they found a single plum and when they discussed who should eat the tiny thing, the wolf said: “Whichever one of us gets drunk the easiest on arkhij, our schnaps made from milk, should ear it.” The other two agreed.

And so the wolf continued: “As soon as I taste arkhij, I’m drunk.”

And the fox said: “If I even smell it, I’m already drunk.”

The hedgehog meanwhile sat between them, swaying back and forth as if drunk, so people say. When the other two realized his state, they asked: “What is with you?”

“Oh, I’m drunk just from listening to you talk about arkhij. What have you been saying?” the hedgehog said swaying ever more dangerously from side to side. The hedgehog seemed the clear winner but just as he was about to eat the plum, the wolf interrupted by saying: “Let us make a race. Whichever one of us wins it, shall eat the plum.” Again the other two agreed.

When the started racing, the hedgehog hold onto the fox’s tail and when they approached the finish line, he swung himself over and – most unexpectedly won the race.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: Albertus Seba’s illustration of a European hedgehog


This one not only strongly reminds of the tale of The Fox and the Wolf I have told you before, but also of the German (European?) tale of the race between hare and hedgehog.

But instead of musings about motifs and origins at length, today I’d like to share with you a peculiarity of the Mongolian language and my attempt to ‘transcreate’ it. In Mongolian you don’t say “fox and wolf” but “fox wolf two”. Or in this case, “wolf fox hedgehog three”. Now, how to translate this phrase without making it sound weird but still hinting at the special ways of the Mongolian language? I tried it with “a wolf, a fox and a hedgehog, these three”. What do you think? Useful translation without too much ‘transcreation’?

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