Cor Hendriks – The Macaws (15): Fabulous Birds & The Bet with King Solomon

Clouston treats in a short space the bird Roc (Rûkh), Garuda of the Hindus, Eorosh of the Zend, Simurgh of the Persians, Anka of the Arabs, Kargas of the Turcs, Kirni of the Japanese, the Dragon of the Chinese, the Griffin of the heraldry, the Classical Phoenix, the ‘wise and ancient’ bird on Yggdrasil, and the Cherub at the gate of paradise. [Clouston 1887, I, 166] Eorosh is one of the four birds of heaven, a raven with golden beak and iron wings; he gives the pious by flapping its wings health, but crushes with a strike of its wings the evil-doer. Also there is Eoroshap, one of the four birds of heaven, that inspect and guard the cosmos. He has, just like Eorosh, a golden beak and iron wings, as well as six eyes, with which he can look at four directions at once, as well as up and down. His claws are equipped with long hanjars (dagger-like, curved knives) to protect the dead and the living of the peoples of Ormuzd [Vollmer 1978/1874, 188. See].

The Anka [see] is described by the Arab writer Al Kazwini (13th c.) as follows: “The Anka has the biggest body and heaviest build of all birds. He could lift up an elephant like a kite a mouse. In the past he used to steal out of men’s houses and the people suffered much damage. When he had one day stolen a young bride, he was cursed by the prophet Hanzala, may God bless him, and was banished by God to an island in the ocean, south of the equator, where men cannot come. […] A merchant told: “Once we were on the ocean off course and lost. Suddenly we saw something black and big like a dark cloud. The sailors said it was the Anka. We followed him till we reached the black and prayed to God. The bird flew just as long with us until we had found the way back, and then he flew away.” It is said that the age of the Anka amounts to 1700 years and that he mates when he is 500 years old. When the time to lay eggs has come, she has heavy pains and the male bird comes to her with seawater in his beak, that he sprouts into her, after which the egg comes out. The male broods and the female hunts. After 125 years the egg hatches. When the chick is a female, the mother collects a lot of fire-wood. The male lights up the wood with his beak and the female steps into the fire to get burnt. The chick becomes the new female of the male. A lot more marvellous things are told about the Anka, more amazing than what we have told, but as there is no chain of transmitters leading to a reliable person, we limit ourselves to this’ [Leeuwen 1999, 47 (Kazwini II, 279f)].

The Rukh [see] we meet in ‘Abd al-Rahman the Maghribi’s Story of the Rukh’ in the Arabian Nights version of Burton. Abd al-Rahman comes from West Africa, meaning Morocco and surrounding countries, called the Maghrib. He has like Sindbad travelled far and wide, and once he was cast upon an island, where he abode a long while and, returning thence to his native country, brought with him the quill of a wing-feather of a young Rukh, whilst yet in egg and unhatched, and this quill was big enough to hold a goat-skin of water, for it is said that the length of the Rukh-chick’s wing, when he comes forth of the egg, is a thousand fathoms. The folk marvelled at this quill, when they saw it. Abd al-Rahman the Moor, also known as the Chinaman, for his long sojourn in Cathay, was on a voyage in the China seas with a company of merchants, when they sighted an island from afar. The ship’s crew went ashore to get wood and water, taking with them hatchets and ropes and water-skins (the travellers accompanying them), and presently espied a great dome, white and gleaming, a hundred cubits long [cf. Sindbad]. So they made towards it and drawing near, found that it was the egg of the Rukh and fell on it with axes and stones and sticks till they uncovered the young bird and found the chick as it were a firm-set hill. So they plucked out one of the wing-feathers, but could not do so, save by helping one another, for all the quills were not full grown; after which they took what they could carry of the young bird’s flesh and cutting the quill away from the vane, returned to the ship. Then they set sail and putting out to sea, voyaged with a fair wind all that night, till the sun rose; and while everything went well, they saw the Rukh come flying after them, as if he were a vast cloud, with a rock in his talons, like a great heap bigger than the ship. As soon as he poised himself in air over the vessel, he let fall the rock upon it; but the craft, having great way on her, outwent the rock, which fell into the sea with a loud crash and a horrible. So Allah decreed their deliverance and saved them from doom; and they cooked the young bird’s flesh and ate it. Now there were amongst them old white-bearded men; and when they awoke on the morrow, they found that their beards had turned black, nor did any who had eaten of the young Rukh grow grey ever after. Some said the cause of the return of youth to them and the ceasing of hoariness from them was that they had heated the pot with arrow-wood, whilst others would have it that it came of eating the Rukh-chick’s flesh; and this is indeed a wonder of wonders [Burton 5, 122-124 (Leeuwen 2000, 2, 421f), who comments on Rukh or ‘Rukhkh’, that it is the older ‘Roc’. Colonel Yule, the learned translator of Marco Polo, has shown that Roc’s feathers were not uncommon curiosities in medieval ages; and holds that they were mostly fronds of the palm Raphia winifera, which has the largest leaf in the vegetable kingdom and which the Moslems of Zanzibar call ‘Satan’s date-tree’. And he points to ‘Frate Cipolla and the Angel Gabriel’s Feather’ (Decameron vi.10). See].

Roc by Charles Maurice Detmold (photo Wikipedia)

Charles Maurice Detmold – Roc (foto Wikipedia)

A rather similar story is told by the Tartars in South Siberia about Alexander the Great. Iskender Sülkarnein Rumi went on a travel to Mount Qaf. With his functionaries and his heroes he went aboard ship on the Muchot Sea. Fifteen days they sailed on the water, the sixteenth they came to an island. The people went on land, some in this, others in that direction. Then they found a bird’s egg, the size of which was as ten stacks of straw, that they couldn’t lift but rolled nearby. They showed it to Plato the Philospher, who said: ‘Cut the egg in two.’ With how big a stick they hit it, it didn’t went in two. Thereupon Hèkim said: ‘Light a fire around it.’ Around it they heaped up wood and made fire; then the egg became glowing red, but didn’t burn. Thereupon a grunting sound came from the egg; when they checked, the egg was not burned, just cracked open; from the crack in the egg a yellow bird stepped out. Once he blew, and he became big; twice he blew, then he became still bigger, thrice he blew, then he was a wonderfully big bird. Then Plato the Philosopher shouted: ‘Aboard the ships, quickly!’ They all hurried aboard and sailed off on the Murit Sea. They asked Plato: ‘Why did you fear this young bird so much?’ He spoke: ‘This is no bird, this is a young dragon. When a dragon becomes 1000 years old, then he becomes an Estar; when an Estar is 1000 years old, then he becomes an Eskar; this egg was the egg of an Estar; now the bird will pursue us, because now he has grown up; when he catches us, he will devour us together with the ship, our weapons won’t do him harm, they won’t pierce him; so may he not pursue us.’ After a while a cloud covered the sky, the sun could not be seen, a wind arose to a storm, and they saw something in the air, that supported with one wing heaven, and with the other against the earth. Plato the Philosopher then spoke: ‘Now death has come to us, not one of us escapes; however it may come, let the ship sail fast; we shall sail till we die!’ Then the thunder rolled, lightning flashed everywhere and the Estar dove down from the sky to swoop up the ship with a claw, but they sailed on [maybe by the air produced by the bird] and he couldn’t catch it. The bird flew back to the sky. Plato the Philosopher spoke: ‘Look through the telescope if the Mount Qaf can be seen in the distance.’ They looked through the telescope and said: ‘A hill can be seen, next to it two big trees can be seen, on these two trees two birds can be seen.’ Then Hèkim said: ‘Thank God, when these two birds will see the bird, that sees us, then they will come and attack him, the young Estar is the food of those birds.’ Then they saw that from Mount Qaf the two birds came toward them. The bird that pursued them each of them grabbed by the leg, they brought him to Mount Qaf [Radloff 1872, 4, 305-307 nº10: ‘Das Drachenjunge’].

Peng (photo

Peng (foto

The Chinese also know the Bird Rokh, called ‘Pöng’ [see and]. A tale in which he functions prominently is called ‘Women’s words cut apart flesh and bone’, and is about two brothers, living in the same house. The big brother listens to the words of his wife and that way the two brothers become separated. It is sowing time, but the small brother has no seed and goes to the big brother to lend some. The big one orders his wife to give some to his brother, but she cooks the seeds, and then gives it to the small one who unsuspecting sows the seed. Only one grain comes up, and the brother takes care of it, waters it daily, and the stalk grows into a mighty tree, overshadowing the whole field. In the fall it is ripe, and the brother cuts down the stalk. But when it falls to earth, a big bird Rokh dives down, takes it in his beak and flies away. The small brother runs after it till the shore of the sea. The bird says to him: ‘You must no hurt me! What is one stalk to you? On the eastern side of the sea is the gold and silver island. I will take you there, and you can take as much as you want and become very rich.’ The small one is satisfied and climbs on the back of the bird. It tells him to close his eyes. Soon they reach the island and the small one sees white and yellow stones, takes a small piece and has enough (which pleases the bird). The bird brings him back over the sea. At home he buys a nice piece of land and becomes rich. But his brother is jealous, accuses him of having stolen the money, but the small brother tells him the truth. Now the story repeats itself: also the big brother takes cooked seeds from his wife, gets one stalk, that grows to a tree, that is when chopped down taken up by the Rokh, pursued by the big one, who is carried by the bird to the island. He collects a great quantity of golden stones, but the bird warns that it is too heavy for him (the big one) to carry, but he keeps taking more. The Rokh says that it is time to go, because the sun is coming up. But the man pays no attention to his words, and at that moment a first beam can be seen, and the Rokh takes off, beating with his wings the sea to escape the sun’s heath, while the big one is burnt to a crisp [Wilhelm 1958, 5-7 nº1: ‘Weiberworte trennen Fleisch und Bein’].

Another Chinese version of this story was collected from the Tulong, and is called ‘The Crane and the Two Brothers’, but originally it was called ‘The Sun-Mountain’. We see the same two brothers, the oldest a stingy farmer, who gives the youngest at the division of the heritage a knife and a worn-out basket to collect wood. The youngest is resting on a mountain, where he meets a Crane, who takes him on his back to the Sun-Mountain, covered with gold, and he is allowed to take one piece, because they have to go back soon before the sun comes up. At home he buys all kinds of things for his farm, and his brother wants to know how he got rich, whereupon the youngest tells him about the crane. The oldest also goes to the mountain, tells the bird that he is poor and is taken to the Sun-Mountain where he may take one piece. He takes much more, whereupon the crane flies away without him, while the sun comes up and burns him [Liyi 1986, 68-71].

The Mountain of the Sun’ is also the title of a Jewish version, recorded by M. Razi from his grandfather, an immigrant from Iraq. The same two brothers, the oldest stingy and avaricious, always thinking how to lay hand on his father’s inheritance, while the youngest is good and honest, and respecting his parents. Then their father dies, and the oldest proposes a ploughing contest: who ploughs the most, gets all; meanwhile they shall not eat and drink. The next day, while the youngest still sleeps, the oldest has his wife make him breakfast and eats, then wakes up his brother, and takes him to the field. The youngest suffers hunger and is slow with ploughing and loses his whole inheritance to his brother. And thus he leaves the house to find work in the mountains. He collects wood and sells it in the city, earning just enough to buy some bread. One day, while chopping a tree, he notices a bird’s nest between the branches. He throws his stick without hitting it, and a raven comes out of the nest and flies above his head, shouting: ‘Please, don’t destroy my nest, and I will bring you to the Mountain of the Sun, where there are big treasures.’ He has to come back the next morning and follow the Raven to the Mountain of the Sun. When they reach the top [of course flying!], there are gold lumps, diamonds and jewels everywhere. ‘Don’t hesitate,’ says the raven, ‘take some and leave before the sun comes up.’ Quickly the youngest brother fills his purse with diamonds and jewels, thanks the raven, leaves the mountains and returns to his birth-place where he builds a beautiful house, buys a nice piece of land and starts a happy life. When the oldest brother finds out that his brother has become rich, he is very jealous. He also finds out how, goes to the nest of the raven, throws his stick, and the raven comes out, asking not to destroy it and he will bring him to the Mountain of the Sun. He must bring a purse [and a measure of rice: blind motif]. All night he is busy with his wife making a big bag from a sheet. In the morning he follows the raven to the Mountain of the Sun and finds the diamonds at the top and starts to fill his gigantic bag. The raven tells him to hurry, but the man doesn’t listen, and when the sun comes up, he is burnt to a crisp [Jason 1988, 12-16 = Noy 1963, nº23 (IFA 1637)]. The departure from the Raven’s nest is early in the morning, the arrival on the Mountain just moments later, which can only be accomplished with a flight on the raven’s back; also reaching the top of the mountain can be done only on the raven. Jason gives as variant another Jewish-Iraq version, in which the hero hides in a jar and is carried by an unsuspecting eagle to the summit of the Golden Mountain (while ‘hero B’ is dropped on the way) [Jason 1988, 17: IFA 6250 = Baratav 1968, 144-147].

The Bet with King Solomon

Wieland tells the story about the griffin of the mountain range Kâf. The griffin claims to be able to prevent a destined marriage and concludes with King Solomon a bet about it. The bird abducts the girl in her crib, carries her to its nest on the mountain Kâf and brings her up there. Many years later the prince (she is destined to marry) goes hunting with a ship, is hit by a storm and washes up at the foot of the mountain Kâf. There he sees the girl in the gigantic bird’s nest, and he decides to seize her. He hides himself in the hide of a dead camel, that is lying there fortuitously, and is carried by the griffin to its nest. When the griffin is away, the prince has indescribable pleasures with the princess. Meanwhile the griffin is summoned by Solomon and questioned if he has accomplished his boast. Haughty he goes to get the girl, transported in the camel-skin, but when the skin opens, the prince and princess both come out of it [Leeuwen 1999, 455 after Wieland, ‘Der Greif vom Gebürge Kaf’, from: Dschinnistan oder auserlesene Feen- und Geistermärchen (after Pétis de la Croix). The inevitability of fate is also the subject of a Tartar story collected by Radloff (1872, 279f nº3), called ‘The Two Ears of Wheat’. A farmer hears two ears talking, one saying that a man coming from the west will eat him, the other that a man from the east will eat him. The farmer is pissed, pulls them both off, takes them home, grinds them up, cooks them and is about to eat them when there is a knock on his door. Two guests have arrived, and he shares with them his meal. When he afterwards asks where they come from one is coming from the east, the other from the west]. The story is taken from the 1001 Nights and is summarized by Chauvin. At the court of Solomon the scientists say one day in the presence of the griffon of the Mount Qâf that nothing can go against the decrees of God. The griffon wants to try to prevent something God has decided. God then lets Solomon know that he has decided that the son of the King of the West shall marry the daughter of the King of the East. Right away the griffon abducts the young girl, just born, brings her to the Mount Qâf and brings her up as his daughter in a nest resembling a castle set on top of a immense tree, that 400 men could not have circled. When the girl is nubile, the prince of the West decides one day to go hunt somewhere far away: he goes on board and a storm throws him at the foot of the Mount Qâf. Going on without his companions he arrives at the tree en spots the girl. The two youngsters fall in love with each other and the girl suggests to fill the inside of a dead and dried out camel with aromatic herbs and to hide in it; if her mother would bring it to her. The griffin gives in to the girl’s wish and brings her the camel. From now on the two can unite themselves in secret during the daily absences of the griffon, who goes to the court of Solomon. When the girl is about to have a child, God informs Solomon, to whom the griffon, on his question, affirms that the girl has not yet married. The king sends him with two birds to bring the princess. Startled by the return of the griffon she has the prince hide in the camel and persuades by a trick the griffon to take it with her on his back. Arrived at court out of the camel come husband and child, at the great scorn of everyone. Since then the griffon no longer leaves Mount Qâf [Chauvin, BOA, VI, 29f].

This story is known in Persia as the ‘History of the Simurgh and the union of the son of the king of the West with the daughter of the king of the East, showing the might of Destiny’. It is a story Abdullah heard from the mouth of the Prophet (Mohammed). One day, when Mohammed is troubled, the angel Gabriel appears to him and gives him the Seal of Solomon to be armed against his enemies. The prophet is glad, but wants to know if the Seal can prevent the qazâ (destiny) of God, and Gabriel tells him that there are two kinds of qazâ, one solid against which nothing can be done, and the other pending that can be avoided by alms and prayers and he tells the prophet a story about the impossibility to prevent the first one, the qazâyi mouhkam or qazâ o qadar. Solomon sits on his throne with the birds forming with their wings a canopy above him and they are all quiet out of respect for the king, when all of a sudden the starling (Persian: sâr) lets out a fart. Solomon wants to punish it, but the bird says that it was destined by God, whereupon the Simurgh [The Simurgh is in the ‘King’s Book’ of Firdausi the bird that Zâl, exposed by his father, raises on the Mount Elburz; murgh = bird; si = Zend çaêna, the learned bird (see Yasht 13:97). To Sufîs he is the symbol of the Godhead and the hero of the mystical poem The Bird-Parliament, translated by M. Garcin de Tassy as Le Langage des Oiseaux. Folketymological si = 30, so as big as 30 birds. See] expresses his doubt about Destiny: ‘In the end this qazâ o qadar is but a hollow word.’ At night the Angel Gabriel comes to Solomon (in a dream) and tells him that the Simurgh will soon be ashamed (by God), that the king of the East has had a daughter and the king of the West a son who will have a child without marrying [before she is 15], which is a qazâyi moukham. Solomon tells [his dream] in the assembly and the Simurgh takes it upon him to try to thwart this, flies to the East and robs the king’s daughter, who is lying in her jewel spangled cradle, with cradle and all, and brings her to the middle of the ocean on the top of a very high tree on a sky-scraping mountain and has her two years suckled by a gazelle. Each morning the Simurgh goes to the court of Solomon and returns each evening with the most delicious things, and the girl grows up, thinking to be an offspring of the Simurgh, until she is 14.
When the son of the king of the West is 12 and so beautiful that even the sun is jealous, he asks his father a month to go hunting, his favourite pastime. He receives an escort and comes while hunting to the sea, stays 10 days at the coast, and then wants to go fishing, has boats rigged and provisioned for 10 days, and arrives at an island where he goes hunting. Then they leave for another island, are hit by a storm and only the prince survives the shipwreck, floats for three days on a plank before washing up on an island. He walks along the beach and meets a group of merchants, who take him to Cairo, and he has several adventures (among them ATU 670: The Animal Languages). Then he goes searching for the sources of the Nile, another inserted story, but one that is very familiar. After a few days he comes to the abode of an old hermit and tells him to come from the West in search for the sources of the Nile in the East, driven by God himself. The hermit tells him what to do: When he waits a few days at the sea elephant-sized birds will come, and he has to grab one by the leg, who will fly with him over the seven seas (he must keep his eyes closed) and land in the Iron Land, from where he has to go to a Gold Land, where trees of gold and jewels grow; going further he comes to a golden mountain with on top a jewel covered golden palace. From the top streams the water in the cupola (of the castle), that stands on four legs, and the water divides itself into four branches: the Nile, Djihun, Tigris and Euphrates. Here he has to undress, wash, pray and ask what he wants, remember the hermit, and take the same way back to the Iron Land, lift with the same birds over the seas; then he will find the hermit deceased, wash and bury him and take with him the book from under his head. Everything goes as indicated and arrived at the cupola the prince hears (up to three times) a voice not to go further, because he is where he wants to be. He performs his washing, prays and sees a grape, the fruit from paradise, picks it as the voice recommends, prays for the hermit and goes back to him, buries him as prescribed, but forgets the book, so that Iblis [from diabolos] appears in the guise of a young man. The prince shows him the grape, whiter than milk, more scented than musk, whereupon Iblis the cursed one holds out an apple to him: ‘This one gave the hermit to me.’ The prince takes it, bites in it and the grape disappears. Iblis laughs, makes himself known [etc. He suggested Eve to eat wheat (for this story, see Hammer, Rosenöl I, 23; Weil, Biblische Legenden der Müselmänner, 19; Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur semitischen Sagenkunde, 64f. Besides the obvious reference to the story of Eve and the apple, the story can also be compared with that of Gilgamesh and the snake who stole his plant of immortality)]; the prince weeps, throws a stone, but Iblis is gone. We now return to our main story. Travelling further along the coast [as before] he sees after a week a ship, is taken along, and suffers another shipwreck and washes up with three horses on the island, where the Simurgh keeps the princess prisoner and falls asleep at the foot of the tree on top of the mountain. From high in the tree the princess sees in the morning the prince lying and throws an apple. The awakened prince looks up and is immediately in love with the Beauty, asks who she is. ‘The daughter of the Simurgh.’ ‘But the Simurgh is a bird and you are a human.’ The prince advises her to ask the Simurgh for a mirror, which she does in the evening. Before that the prince has hidden himself in the skin of a horse that he has killed to have something to eat. She looks in the mirror and sees that the prince is right: she has no feathers and looks like the prince. After some in betweens the girl asks the bird to bring her the dead horse and since then the prince hides in the ‘cradle’ of the princess, who also goes to sleep there and no longer under the wing of the bird. Of course the princess gets pregnant and before the birth of the child she has the bird bring a sleeping potion (supposedly for her but in fact to keep the child quiet when the bird is there). Then the princess becomes 15 and is brought on command of Solomon by the Simurg in the cradle, in which also the prince and the child are hidden. In the assembly hall they come out and prove that there is no escape from destiny. The Simurgh utters a cry and flies over the Mount Kaf, never to be seen again. The two convert to the religion of Solomon and he writes letters to the two kings, after which he lets the two bring on a carpet by the winds to the East, where also everyone converts, after which the winds bring them to the West, etc. [Bricteux 1910, 305-344].

In the catalogue of types of Turkish folktales by Eberhard and Boratav this story is type 140: Salomon und der Phönix: Solomon says to the phoenix that the prince of Mağrib will marry the princess from Masrub. To prevent this the phoenix abducts the princess as baby to an ivory palace in the sea. As the result of a ship-wreck the grown-up prince comes on the island; they fall in love and have a child. To hide from the bird the prince lives in a dressed-up animal skeleton. At the next bird-meeting Solomon proves to the phoenix that the prophecy has come true [Eberhard & Boratav 1953, 155 based on 1 version. A similar theme in the folktale of Mahzunî].

A short version of the story has been recorded among the Berbers that I give in full. Our Lord Solomon said to the Jinn: ‘In Dhabersa [East?] a girl is born, in Dhaberka [West?] a boy; they will fall in love with each other.’ The griffin said to the Jinn: ‘Despite the will of the Almighty I will prevent them from meeting.’ The son of the king of Dhaberka went to Solomon, but just arrived he became ill. The griffin abducted the daughter of the king of Dhabersa and carried her to a fig-tree on the beach. The wind blew the prince, who had gone aboard a ship, [there]; he said to his companions: ‘Disembark me.’ He laid himself down to sleep under the fig-tree. The girl threw leaves on him, he opened his eyes, and she said to him: ‘Except for the griffin I am here alone with my mother [= the griffin!]; where do you come from?’ ‘From Dhaberka.’ ‘Why,’ she continued, ‘has the Lord created no human beings except me, my mother and our lord Solomon?’ He answered her: ‘God has created all kinds of humans and lands.’ ‘Go,’ she replied, ‘bring a horse and slash its throat; bring also camphor to dry the leather that you hang on top of the mat.’ The griffin came back and she began to weep, saying: ‘Why don’t you bring me to our lord Solomon?’ ‘Tomorrow I will bring you.’ She said to the king’s son: ‘Go hide yourself inside the horse.’ He hid himself. The next morning the griffin lifted him with the carrion of the horse and the girl left. When they arrived at our lord Solomon, he said to the griffin: ‘I have proclaimed that the girl and the boy should be united.’ Full of shame the griffin fled to an island [Basset 1887, 27f nº13 from ‘Ain Sfisifa].

The story has made it into the Malaysian literature in the novel Hikajat Merong Mahawangsa, translated as Sheik Abdullah and the flowers. The half legendary and half historical tale deals with the foundation of the state Kedah in the northwest of the peninsula. Our story begins with a dialogue between King Solomon and the magical giant bird Garuda. The bird tells Solomon that the king of China has a daughter, that is promised in marriage to the son of the king of Rûm (Byzantine). Both of them are unexcelled in beauty and seem therefore to be destined for each other. But Garuda thinks that they are too far from each other and that a relation will never come about. He makes a bet with Solomon and resolves to do everything that it takes to be right. Thus he abducts the Chinese princess when she is walking in the palace garden, and brings her to a far away island. Meanwhile the prince from Rûm goes aboard to sail to China, an expedition, led by Merong Mahawangsa, a high official of the king of Rûm. Garuda attacks the convoy with all his magic powers and weapons and manages to destroy the ships. He thinks that the prince has died and goes to King Solomon. But the prince was able to hang on to a piece of driftwood and washes up on the island, where the princess is staying. When he is feeling better, they declare each other their love. At that moment Solomon orders one of his genies to put the two of them in a coffin and bring it to him. Before the amazed eyes of Garuda the coffin is opened and the two lovers step out of it. Garuda admits his defeat and promises never to bother people anymore. He leaves for the sea of Kalzum, where no people can come [Leeuwen 1999, lemma Malayan literature].

This theme of trying to avoid a prophecy or to cheat fate is also part of EB 125.5: A peacock abducts the princess to heaven. The girl is bored there and wants a playmate. The peacock brings to her the son of the poor man (of whom it was predicted that he would marry the princess). They have three children. Later, when the princess returns to earth, her father has to admit that nothing can be done against the will of fate [Eberhard & Boratav 1953, 142].

Basawan. The Flight of the Simurgh. ca. 1590, Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection (photo Wikipedia)

Basawan – The Flight of the Simurgh, ca. 1590, Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection (foto Wikipedia)

The story of the kidnapping bird is already to be found in the Shahnama of the Persian poet Firdausi (ca. 1010) in the legend of Zal, the son of the Paladin Sam and born with snow-white hair. Ashamed the father set him out on the mountain Alburz, where the mythical bird the Simurgh (‘thirty birds’) had its nest. The mother Simurgh carried the child to her young in the nest on the top of the mountain, where it was raised. She called it Dastan-i-Zand (‘very deceived’), because of Sam’s treatment of the child. When the boy was big, caravan-travelers saw hem and were impressed by his beauty. His father heard about it and dreamed to receive good news about his son. He went to Mount Alburz and was in a dream reproached for setting out his son. He woke up and saw Zal very high up in the nest of the Simurgh. The bird brought the boy down and gave him a feather, that he had to burn when he needed help. Sam brought in triumph his son home and called him Zal-i-Zar (Zal de Oude) because of the color of his hair. Zal became a famous king, married Rubada, who gave him the hero Rustam in a difficult labor, whereby Zal called for the help of the Simurgh [Dunn 1960, 97].

Simurgh returning to nest to Zal and its chicks (detail) (Photo Wikipedia)

Simurgh returning to nest to Zal and its chicks (detail, foto Wikipedia)

A better example of kidnapping can be found in the middle-German poem Kudrun (ca. 1240). When king Sigeband of Ireland holds a great feast at his court in Baljân, his little son Hagen is kidnapped by a griffin and taken to a far-away island. Hagen manages to escape by letting himself fall out of the nest hanging onto the feet of a griffin young. In a rock-cave near the sea he finds three beautiful king’s daughters, that the griffin has taken in the past; they are princesses from India, Portugal and Iserland. Years later, when the boy has grown up, they are rescued by a passing ship, and back in Ireland Hagen marries Hilde of India, one of the saved princesses [Peeters 1968, 2. See also ATU 554B* The Boy in the Eagle’s Nest. Boy is carried off by eagle and raised in nest with eaglets. Eagle helps him woo princess and later rescues her from giant (Swedish: Liungman)]. The story is ‘analysed’ by Ludwig Schellhorn in his Goldenes Vlies. Tiersymbole des Märchens in neuer Sicht. The king’s son Hagen is carried off as a young boy during a great feast by a griffin and manages to escape after arriving in the land of the griffins by hiding in a hollow stone (he has a golden cross on his breast, a mark, which will serve to identify him many years later). The land of the griffins is a uninhabited wilderness (except for the three princesses), consisting of a big dark forest, which takes 24 days to travel, there is a mountain with a rock cave, and there is the sea, where the fleet of a ‘god’s army’ is shipwrecked, and the corpses of the drowned crew float in the water and wash up on the beach. With the sword of one of these drowned men Hagen battles with the griffin and conquers it [Schellhorn 1968, 168f. I have left out all his ‘interpretations’: Crowded, festive gatherings are in the myth always pictures of the shining star crowd (Sterngewimmel). The king’s son’s journey through the air marks the abducted one as ‘sternenhaft’: He floats along the firmament like a star (etc.)].

The story is already old, because a variant can be found in an old Buddhist story, found in a Chinese translation of 251 AD, published by Chavannes. In the past there was a woman who had a stunningly beautiful daughter. When the girl was three years old, the king of the realm took her to look at her and appoints a monk to determine after her horoscope if she could become later his main wife. The monk told him: ‘This girl shall know a man and your majesty will certainly come only after him.’ [The king said:] ‘I shall hold her prisoner and well hidden.’ He summoned then before him a crane [in the version of Somadeva, Kathas, XXXIX, 58 (Tawney 1, 358) a Rakshasa in crane shape] [and asked him]: ‘Where do you live?’ She answered the king: ‘I reside on a tree that is halfway a high mountain; it is place where men nor animals can come. Down below is a whirlpool over which ships cannot go.’ The king said to him: ‘I trust to you this girl to raise her.’ Immediately she took her and carried her away. Each day she went to get food from the king to give to the girl. After a long while like this had passed, there was on top [of the mountain] a village that was carried away by the waters; a tree followed, right or bent the stream and descended the stream; but a young man had managed to hold on to this tree and fell in the whirlpool without being able to get out; arrived at the end of the whirlpool, the tree came out jumping and staid attached to the mountain: the young man could climb on the tree of the crane and united himself with the girl; the girl then kept him hidden. [Meanwhile] the crane took up every day the girl to weigh her, [thinking that] if she became heavy, it would be prove that she was pregnant or not. The crane [this way] noticed that the girl had become heavy; she searched everywhere and found the young man; she took him and chased him away, then she went to tell the king what had happened. The king said: ‘The monk was right when he made the horoscope.’ [Hertel, in: Z.d.V.f.V. 19, 1909, 86f after Chavannes, Fables et Contes de l’Inde, Paris 1905, 57f nº27.]

Additional Literature

Basset, René, Contes populaires berbères, Paris 1887
Bricteux, Aug., Contes persans, Liège-Paris 1910
Burton, Richard, Arabian Nights, 10 Vol., + 7 Vol. Supplemental Nights, Ed. Burton Club USA z.d. 1885-1886
Clouston, W.A., Popular Tales and Fictions: their migrations and transformations, Edinburgh-London 1887
Dunn, Charles W., The Foundling and the Werwolf. A literary-Historical Study of Guillaume de Palerne, Toronto 1960
Eberhard, Wolfram & Pertev Naili Boratav, Typen Türkischer Volksmärchen, Wiesbaden 1953
Jason, Heda, Whom does God favor: The wicked or the righteous? : the reward-and-punishment fairy tale (FFC 240), Helsinki 1988
Leeuwen, Richard van (vert.), De Vertellingen van duizend-en-één nacht, drie delen, Amsterdam 2000 (= 1993-1999)
Liyi, Heh, De vlinderbron en andere volkssprookjes uit China, Amsterdam 1986 (= The Spring of Butterflies, [London] 1985)
Peeters, Leopold, Historische und literarische Studien zum dritten Teil des Kudrunepos, Meppel 1968
Schellhorn, Ludwig, Goldenes Vlies. Tiersymbole des Märchens in neuer Sicht, München-Basel 1968
Wilhelm, Richard (ed.), Chinesische Märchen, Düsseldorf-Köln 1958

See (Note on the Garuda Bird).

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