Cor Hendriks – The Macaws (33): Garuda in Mongolian Folklore

Lord Vishnu mounting the Garuda and the Garuda steals the amrita from heaven (foto Research Gate)

The Macaws (33): Garuda in Mongolian Folklore

Garuda plays also an important role in Mongolian folklore. Here also he is often pictured as the enemy of the snakes. In the story of ‘The Gold Frog and the Parrot’, the hero, the caretaker of the Gold Frog, has let the Gold Frog escape, because she was the daughter of the Dragon King, who promises to help him later on. The king is furious and orders to kill the man, but his minister advises to spare the man’s life, whereupon the king banishes the man in stone boots till they are worn off, accompanied by three men and a buffalo full of provisions. The man wets in water with a stone the boots off and sends the three men home, goes on with the buffalo, till he reaches a great water, where he slaughters the buffalo and eats him, using the horns to dig up roots to feed himself. Once he sees an owl [? Garuda!] flying with a white snake in his beak, slings a stone [throws his belt?], forces the owl to drop the snake and covers him with his cap. Lots of rulers of the snake demons come on horses out of the water, and when they find nothing, a white man on a white horse and in a white dress comes to the man, presents himself as the Dragon King and asks if he has seen his son the white snake. The man tells that he has induced a Garuda bird [sic!] to drop a white snake, and shows him [Heissig, 1963, p. 227 – 233, Nº 50, ‘Goldfrosch und Papagei’].

The same can be seen in a Mongolian version of ATU 465, The Man Persecuted Because of his Beautiful Wife, ‘The boy with the strange dream’, which starts with the boy having a strange dream that he doesn’t want to tell, not even to the khan. But when the people want to kill him, he tells them that he dreamed he had made the khan into a threshold. This is reported to the khan, who banishes the boy. Without food or drink with only a sling he is abandoned in the wilderness. One day he sees a Khan Garuda bird coming from the middle of the ocean with something in his claws. The boy slings a stone at the bird, who drops his load and flies away. The next morning the boy sees out of the ocean a man on a white horse coming towards him and inviting him to visit the dragon khan [Halén, 1974, p. 87 – 90, Nº 43, ‘Der Junge mit dem sonderbaren Traum’].

In the epos Bayan Dordži’s Son, the Hero Tsono Galdan the hero Tsono Galdan has won in the shape of a snotty nosed, dirty boy [= the Unknown Hero] the favor of the youngest daughter of a Khan and married her. The Khan sends out all of his sons in law to bring back the nine gold colored foals that were stolen by the (mystical) Garuda Bird. Only the youngest and most despised son in law succeeds in this task. He saves three daughters of the Garuda bird from being devoured by a snake. Out of gratitude the bird gives him the nine golden foals back. Very much the same is part of a tale called ‘The Black Bulldog and the black Bull of the bog’. Here the hero is a poor horse herd, who is ordered by an evil queen to bring the man eating bulldog and the black bull of the bog. On his way he meets the three daughters of the Garuda bird, here called ‘Garuda Khan’, who also are in danger of being killed by a poisonous snake. The horse herd kills the monster and the grateful mother helps him capture the black bull of the bog and the black bulldog. The same motif-combination can be found in the fairytale ‘The Son of the Mountain’ (see above), where the hero is this time a poor hunter’s boy. He also is ordered by an evil queen to do something virtually impossible. With the help of the grateful Garuda bird he solves also all tasks and ascends in the end, just like the horse herd, on the throne. Ilse Laude Cirtautas, ‘Der Held in der Gestalt eines armseligen Jungen’, in: Fragen 1, 7. The German text has ‘Rohrdrommel’, a non existing word that should be ‘Rohrdommel’, a water bird (bull of the bog), also called Bittern. The foal stealing Garuda is also present in the tale Doluγan nasutai doluγatai mergen; the hero has to stand on guard with his brothers in law, who fall asleep. So when the giant bird comes [in the middle of the night] the hero shoots an arrow at it and shoots off a claw of the bird and the tail tip of the foal (Heissig, 2003, p. 86). See Heissig 1963, p. 11 – 16, Nº 2, ‘Der schwarze Hundebulle und die schwarze Rohrdommel’: The hero comes to a rock, lays himself to sleep, hears laughing, crying and singing, comes to three girls, the youngest of the 13 daughters of Khan Garudi; 10 sisters have already been eaten by a giant snake; the crying one will be eaten today, the singing tomorrow, the laughing the day thereafter. While they are talking the snake arrives, the boy mounts, rides to the north to meet him, red dust arises, mountains and rocks rumble, waters overflow their borders, a cold wind arises. The boy throws his lasso around the snake’s neck, and it strangles itself. The boy receives tea, is then hidden before the approaching mother of the girls, Khan Garudi, and after she is brought up to date, shown to her. He tells about his assignment and the Khan Garudi makes an iron trap to catch the bird, and also catches and tames the dog for him.

In the epic story ‘The young Dsang, the best of men’, the hero has won the three champion games and married the princess. Then ‘little father and little mother’ become ill and Dsang is sent for a wing feather of a Garuda. The horses bring the hero to a golden poplar that almost reaches to the sky, and he seats himself as a golden tick on the tree. At noon comes to the top of the poplar the ruler of the arbaga snakes to devour the young of the Garuda (who has his nest in the top of the tree), and Dsang hits him deadly with an arrow. The grateful Garuda gives him a feather and brings him to the ruler couple that is cured (it is said). After three days they become sick again and want the heart of a black spotted bull and of a brown spotted bull. Dsang comes again to the bird king Garuda, who directs him to two wells, gold and silver, from which the bulls come drinking, where he as a tick must wait for them and pierce their necks (with arrows). With the heart he arrives at the Garuda, who switches it for a normal black ox heart, which he brings, and they are cured, but three days later they are again sick and want foam from the sea Bur. Garuda tells him that the sea Bur is full of poison and unapproachable; but he will blow up the foam from the other side so that Dsang can fill a bottle. After this Garuda plays no part, the switched heart is a blind motif. [Heissig, 1963, p. 158 – 174, Nº 38, ‘Der Junge Dsang, der Beste der Männer’. The little father and mother are the parents in law of Dsang, still trying to frustrate the marriage.

The Garuda is also mentioned by Walther Heissig in his article about reviving and healing as motif in the Mongolian epos. There are supernatural women who have healing and reviving abilities. In the epos Jirensei these are the three daughters of the bird king Garuda, who clean out the poisoned hero. In the epos Altai sümben hüü, told by the blind bard Togtool, the hero Altai has accidentally touched a hand sized piece of snake poison, that has fallen on his saddle. Hero and horse die from that. The bird king Garuda, who flies by, has feelings of gratitude, for the hero has before with his arrow shot down the blue heaven snake (an enemy of the snake fighting Garuda, Heissig adds), and keeps standing guard over the corpse[s]. The sister of the hero, with whom he has left one of his 99 arrows, sees one morning when it is trembling that the hero is in mortal danger [compare life sign]. A lama she consults tells that her brother is dead, that his corpse is guarded by Garuda, and advises her to call in the assistance of the three elder sisters (γurban egeči), who promise to revive the brother in three days and nights (γurban qonoy). Then the three Ceceg egeči descend on three colored rainbows to the corpse of Altai sümben, where Garuda is keeping watch [probably spreading his wings to protect the corpse against the sun as he does with the sleeping hero]. With a water of life cure of three days they bring Altai back to life, who thinks he has been sleeping. The three sisters tell him that he was dead, and then return on three many colored rainbows back to heaven [Heissig, in Fragen 1, p. 88f].

The story from the blind Mongolian storyteller Tsültmiin Togtool, called after the hero Altaisümben xüü, has also been investigated by CR Bawden. The hero is 15 years old when he goes looking for Oyuun dag aa as his wife. His younger sister sees him off, and gives him a file bound in a sweaty rag, whose appearance will tell him how she is faring. In return, he gives her an arrow [mutual life tokens exchange]. On the way he encounters 15 men, who are also going to the home of the princess. There they perform a test, but the xaan doesn’t give them his daughter. The hero is sent to fetch some celestial yellow horses. On the way he suffers magical misfortunes, but he is protected by a garuda bird. His sister, warned by the appearance of the arrow [that her brother is dead], goes up to heaven to consult her sister there, and they comfort her. They revive the hero, who then captures the three horses, receives the princess, and brings her home, where the hero’s horse reminds him to reward the protective garuda, which he does by getting wool from a camel for it to build a nest with [Bawden, ‘The Repertory of a blind Mongolian Storyteller’, in Fragen 1, p. 125].
Altaisümben Xüü wants to marry Oyuun dag aa, the daughter of Badamsambuu Xaan (= khan) and is commissioned to bring the three golden yellow horses of heaven. On his way he first comes upon a blue dog (its upper fangs scraped the surface of heaven, its lower fangs scraped the surface of the earth), kills it with a well-aimed shot, and comes next in a fog, where he takes a shot as directed by his horse, and the fog clears. He whispers a spell and gets his arrow back, and is about to ride on again, when he finds, sticking to the back of his horse’s neck a red clot the size of a bowl. So it might have fallen off of the returning arrow. Saying: ‘How did that clot come to be sticking there?’ he pinches it off with his thumb, and then, poisoned by the blood of a poisonous snake [who must have been responsible for the fog], the lad falls down dead with his horse. For, when he had shot, that time [that is in the fog], he had shot the blue snake of heaven. Then, one day, the Xan gardi bird was flying through the heavens and saw them (Altaisümben Xüü and his horse), and thought ‘Where can such a fine man have come from? Where can such a fine beast have come from? If their flesh and skin are not separated, and their bones and hair are not scattered for three years, perhaps my owner could come and revive and restore them?’ It could not fly past them, but lay down and sheltered them with its flank. The next morning, when the younger sister Oxin Tsetsen awakes and looks at the arrow her brother has given her, she finds it has split, and is quivering, and she knows that her only brother has died. She goes to the wise lama, the King of the Law, who does his calculations, casts his dice, and tells her that her brother on his mission to get the three golden horses to give as betrothal gifts for the daughter of Badamsambuu Xaan has died, poisoned by the blood of the poisonous snake: ‘Now the Xan gardi bird is lying sheltering them with its flank, waiting for its owner to come. It is no good weeping and wailing. Go and tell your three elder sisters.’ She stops her howling and wailing, catches her horse, mounts it, and hastens up to heaven, and tells her three flower sisters. They promises to make her brother hale and hearty in three days and tell her to go home. Then the three flower sisters descend, stepping on a rainbow of three colors, and come to Altaisümben Xüü, and the Xan gardi flies off. The three flower sisters rub and smear on him sheep white medicine which works within a day, and fox white medicine which works before noon, and drip down his mouth and throat elixir from a golden flask, and then Altaisümben Xüü draws breath and stands up and says: ‘Oh, what a long sleep I have had!’ His three elder sisters say ‘Tiny little brother of ours, you were not sleeping. You were dead, actually.’ While they are going back to heaven with a rainbow of three colors, Altaisümben Xüü continues his quest for the three golden yellow horses of heaven. At the end of the story Altaisümben Xüü’s horse comes to the hero (pawed to pieces Altaisümben Xüü’s fair golden threshold) and says to him ‘While you and I were lying dead, the Xan gardi bird covered us with its flank for three years, so that our bones and hair should not be scattered, and our flesh and skin should not be allowed to become the food of crows and dogs, and because of that, you and I are alive and enjoying ourselves today. Should you not now render help to that bird to the best of your ability?’ Altaisümben Xüü asks how, and the horse tells him ‘That bird has been struggling day and night with the four tens of thousands of warrior soldiers of heaven, trying to get some floss silk white wool from the flighty white calf of the chatty white camel mare, to build a nest for its nine white eggs.’ Altaisümben Xüü cannot bear this, and goes into his tent to discuss the matter with his brothers. They decide to write a letter and have it conveyed to the highest instance by the warrior soldiers. They see it is for the god Xurmast and bring it to the Xaan of Heaven, who orders to chase the camels away down wind. The camels don’t want to be plucked by that wretched bird, and run off, and indeed cannot be caught by that bird. Then Altaisümben Xüü’s dark chestnut horse runs as fast as it can and stops the camels. The Xan gardi bird bird comes flying up, takes as much wool as it wants, and builds a nest for its nine white eggs [Bawden, 1982, p. 155 – 159, p. 175 – 179].

Quite similar is the reviving by the three daughters of Garuda in the Burjat epos Yirensei. Khanhan sogto hübüün, the son of Yirensi, has made friends during a mission he is sent on by his future father in law with the dog giant Gunig šara as well as the Garuda bird king, by feeding the dog good and by freeing the three Garuda daughters from the fear of being eaten by the giant snake Abarga šara by killing the giant snake. A black lump of blood of the killed snake hanging on the from the snake to the hero returning arrow touches accidentally the right cheek of the hero, who drops down and dies. The three daughters of Garuda wash him thereupon with water from none sources, clean him with elder smoke, the summoned dog Gunig šara licks off the poisonous blood of the cheek, whereupon he himself becomes as drugged and has to be treated with water from the nine sources, but the hero heals. Heissig, in Fragen 1, p. 89. The Water of Life is called Rasiyan. A comparable scene can be observed in the Japanese folktale of ‘The Fire Boy’ (Seki, 1963, p. 70 – 77 Nº 24). The hero’s wife tells him not to eat the mulberries that will drop on the road on his saddle [!]. He does it anyway and dies. The horse brings him to the house of his father, and his wife buys, when he doesn’t return, after a few days ‘water of life’ and brings him back to life. ‘I slept in the morning, I slept in the evening,’ he says, but she says ‘You didn’t sleep, but ate from the mulberry I warned you about, and died; I have revived you with water of life.’

The West Buriat heroic song Irensej has been investigated by László Lőricz in an article about tests for the hero as motif in the Mongolian folklore. The hero of the song is Khankhan Sogto, the son of Irensej, who as soon as he is grown up, wants to avenge the murder of his father, who has been killed by a dragon in cahoots with the mother of the boy. But in order to get back the robbed possessions of his father and to conquer the dragon it is necessary for him to have a wife. He therefore goes to the court of Khan Gazar Bajan to get Nalhan Tajža, for him designated by the inhabitants of heaven. In the court of the Khan are already seven suitors, candidates for the role of son in law, who also want to court the daughter of the Khan. Then our hero takes on the appearance of a helpless old man and turns his magic horse into an old jade in deplorable state [vergelijk Unknown Hero Odysseus]. When he presents himself as a suitor he is laughed at by the other suitors, but the Khan has to allow his participation in the tests. But first he wants to see if the old man is suited. This is not one of the tests, because the other suitors do not participate. The old man has to wrestle with the champion, throws him down so hard, that all his bones break. The Khan as well as his daughter suspect that the old man is a transformed hero and ask him to take on his original shape, and he appears at court as the hero he is, and the princess falls immediately in love, but the Khan fears that he will lose his throne and wants to ruin the hero even more than before (with the champion). Then follows the first test for the suitors. The Khan proclaims loudly that far, far away, on the shore of the Milk Sea a giant dog lives, called Gunig (big from drinking the milk), who smells humans several days away and devours them. Lőricz (or the teller) adds that Khankhan Sogto has a divine origin; his relatives (his father and other forefathers) live in heaven and he himself is the son of a god, possibly the chief god Esege Malan. He changes his magic horse during the journey into a fire device and himself into a falcon. He flies to heaven to visit the seven smiths, who are working like crazy [Lőricz wants to see in them the seven stars of the Great Bear], and asks them to forge for him a collar, a muzzle and fetters with which he wants to tame the giant dog. The seven smiths make reluctantly and with mutual threats the requested things after which Khankhan Sogto returns to earth to the Milk Sea, where the dog recognizes the shackles and knows he cannot liberate himself from them and offers himself voluntarily to the hero, who creates panic in the court of the Khan when he enters with the dog. The Khan offers him everything, even his daughter, when Sogto frees him of this monster dog. But when the danger is past, the Khan has no intention at all of fulfilling his promise and poses a new test, but this time to Sogto only (the other suitors have already disappeared from the scene). He must bring the knife sharp tail feather of Herdig, the Khan of the Birds. Khankhan Sogto again mounts his horse and drives on till he arrives at the castle of the Bird Khan. There he sees that in the castle live three wonderfully beautiful girls, of which one cries, the second plays dumb, while the third laughs. On his request they give an explanation of their strange behavior. The old enemy of the Bird Khan, the giant Snake, makes use of the absence of the parents to devour one of the girls. The one that is crying will be eaten tomorrow, the second the day thereafter, and the third sings because she has two whole days to live. The girls point out that the Snake lives in a nearby lake. He changes himself and his horse into an reed [rather, he hides in the reed] and shoots his arrow at the emerging snake. He also [like many dragon killers Beowulf, Tristan, etcetera] almost dies from the snake poison, but the giant dog rushes to his rescue and brings him with the help of the three girls back to life [not said how; see above where the dog got sick from the poison]. Then the bird khan returns, sees that his daughters are all alive and that his archenemy is dead. And of course he gives the hero the requested tail feather, and now the khan has no more excuses to refuse the hero his daughter. About this feather: it is quite big, because when Sogto enters the palace with it, it slits – being razor sharp – through the walls of the palace (as the dog had molested – also because of its size – the porch). Here the song ends without telling about the revenge for the murder of the father. [Lőricz, ‘Bewährungsproben als Motive in der mongolischen Folklore’ in Fragen 1, p. 41 – 44. The absence of the revenge is probably the result of summarizing, because Poppe (Fragen 3, p. 92f) gives the following description of the poem Jirensei. There we learn that the old man Yirensei and his wife are childless. Their prayers are heard by the gods who send them a son and a daughter. Yirensei goes home one day and encounters a Mangus and fights him. He subdues the mangus but has pity on him and lets him go. The Mangus goes to Yirensei’s yurt where the old man’s wife nurses the wounded and beaten Mangus and becomes his mistress. When the old man comes back home, the two of them kill him and put his corpse into an iron barrel and cast him into the stormy sea. The Mangus wants to kill the children too but their mother refuses. The old man’s horse saves the children who are then brought into a dense forest, where they are adopted by the Khan of the forest and his wife. Many years pass and the son, Khankhan Sogto, grows up. He goes to his father’s house, vanquishes the Mangus and nails him and his mother to two large trees, puts a barrel by the trees and writes on a tree that anyone passing by should cut a piece of their flesh and cast it in the barrel.

The helpful giant dog is of course the Dog of Heaven we saw above, and the test of bringing him is the same test Herakles was put to by Eurystheus to bring Kerberos, where the test was also meant as a way to get rid of an unwanted pretender for the throne. The Bird Khan is of course the Garudi Bird, his name Herdig is not explained, but is of course the same as in the bird Chanchan Cherdig, this is Garuda. Chanchan is an elative, meaning King of King[s], the Great King, and the story (Erensej) tells that the golden soul grain of the Mangadhaj monster is hidden in the feather of the bird Chanchan Cherdig, whose nest is on an asp that grows on the summit of a high mountain [Nekljudov, in Fragen 3, p. 28. Also the soul grain of Bata is in the top of a tree (see next chapter).

In the tale of ‘Uran Gua Dagini’ the snot nosed rascal has won the three hero games (horse racing, archery, and wrestling) the khan has organized for the hand of his daughter Uran Gua Dagini, but when he wants to take her away. She says ‘Bring me three golden peacock feathers of the royal bird Garuda and place them with me behind my neck. If you do that, I will live with you; if you don’t do it, I will not live with you!’ The snot nosed rascal sets out to get the feathers of the royal Garuda and shortened the distance of a month’s journey to the royal Garuda to three days’ travel, and in the morning, at the turning point between the night and the morning dusk he turns himself into a five year old boy with a bow and arrows of feather-grass and says ‘When in our country the little children go for a walk, the royal Garuda bird has the habit to flutter about and to fly up!’ With these words he goes up against the royal Garuda bird, who hears him and comes flying towards him. Thereupon the boy immediately takes on his true appearance of a big man, shoots and knocks off three golden feathers which he picks up and brings to his bride. Of course the mission was intended to get rid of the hero. Uran Gua Dagina says ‘With much pain and trouble I have gotten rid of the horrible, snot nosed rascal, and he is far away!’ Hardly has she said this or the snot nosed rascal grabs her. ‘Has your horrible snot stained my coat?’ she asks, shrinking back. ‘What happened to the three gold feathers?’ she asks. ‘And what is that on your back?’ he responds. Uran Gua turns her head and looks behind her and sees on her shoulders the three gold feathers [Poppe, p. 188 – 223, Nº28].

A subordinate role is played by the Garuda in the story of ‘The Hunter boy from the deep wood’. After not saving a heavenly fairy from the pursuing soldiers of Khormusta, he aches for her and plants the pumpkin pit she gave him and climbs (like Jack in the beanstalk) up to the heaven of Khormusta who is not amused to say the least and subjects the hero to harsh tests. As first task he has to bring an egg of the bird king Garudi. He requests for a big sombrero and a mantle, goes to the Heart Rock where the Garudi lives, and the bird dives as soon as he sees him down upon the hunter and flies off into the air with the hat and the mantle, while the lad runs off with the egg [Heissig, 1963, p. 116 – 125, Nº 23, ‘Der Jägersbursch aus dem tiefen Wald’].

The Garuda plays also a subordinate part in the Oirat fairytale Dösi temür Genden, collected in the Qara usu region of Sinkiang and analyzed by Heissig. Dösi temür genden is the only son of a poor old couple. When he is 10, he sends his father to the khan to propose a wedding with the khan’s daughter. The khan chases the old man away, but the son sends his father a second time, and this time the khan agrees on condition that the yurt of the old man changes into a glass yurt and a road of gold and silver from there to his abode with on both sides trees full of singing birds [compare to Aladdin]. The boy takes his blunt black file and turns with it the old yurt into a glass yurt with the gold silver road aligned with trees full of singing birds. The wedding is concluded, but the khan’s daughter won’t stop crying; she wants her 80 fathoms big blue grey horse and her eight fathoms long silk belt. The khan gives her these things laughing to one side, weeping to the other. Heissig remarks that this is the only bridal gift. She doesn’t need more because Dösi temür genden has now plenty of cattle, food and drinks. He is living in marital bliss, like Aladdin. But one day his father goes to drench his horses and sees in the river something red floating, a piece of a lung, fishes it out (with the intent to cook and eat it), but it turns into a black spotted Mangus (‘dragon’) that grabs the frightened old man and asks him to give him his son Dösi temür genden. How? By putting his ‘soul’, a blunt black file, on a white stone in the upper part of the yurt. The father agrees, takes the file and lays it on the appointed spot. When Dösi temür genden later misses his file (he knows his father took it), he immediately sets out to look for it. His wife tells him that his father has laid the file on a white stone, beside which a black spotted Mangus lies. She give Dösi temür her blue grey horse and her blue silk belt. At the white stone he must shout ‘Mother, little mother, give me the file you have taken!’, upon which she will say that she is 80 and too old to stand up. Then he must answer that he is just an eight year old child, slide down clumsily from the back of the horse, grab the file and flee. He is not to look back otherwise he will be devoured. When later the blue silk belt becomes loose, they will meet again. So Dösi temür leaves on the blue grey horse, girded with the blue silk belt, and comes to the old campsite where next to the white stone upon which the file lies the Mangus sits in the shape of an old woman. He acts as his wife has told him, grabs the file from the stone and rides back to the present campsite. He hears behind him music of a tobsiγur (some kind of violin) and girls singing, looks behind him and is devoured by the Mangus together with the horse. In the belly of the Mangus he asks the horse how they can get out. The horse advises him to stick the belly with his file, while he will kick with his hooves. The Mangus hears their conversation, something he hasn’t heard with all the 99 people he has devoured so far and spews the two out. Thereupon Dösi temür turns himself with the file into a baldhead with scabs and the horse into a mangy foal and so they travel on [compare Herakles coming out of the monster with a bald head] and reach a river. Heissig supposes this is the border of the underworld. The story now changes into that of the grateful animals (ATU 554). First our duo meets a bear (Ayuu) with his paw clasped in a tree. How he got in this awkward position is not told, but he is in the situation of the bear in the Reynaert story (or the zanes in ‘The stolen eyes’). The hero releases him and cures his wounds with swift working white medicine (a sort of water of life). The grateful bear gives him a piece of his skin that he must burn to call the bear. When he rides on, Dösi temür hears three bird young cry. He goes to them and hears that they are the young of the great bird king Qan Γarudi, who are on the brink of being eaten by a poisonous snake. The snake will come at great rain, roaring wind and darkness with two great fires. Dösi temür waits till the two signs of the approach of the snake, shoots then arrows at the two fires and kills the snake. Intoxicated by the stench of the snake he sleeps three days. When Γaruda Khan comes flying and sees his young alive, there is much joy. The young birds tell him that Dösi temür genden is their rescuer. When the latter awakes from his long sleep, the grateful Γaruda Khan gives him one of his feathers; when he burns it, he will come to his rescue. Dösi temür genden rides on and comes to a tiger that lies with a wounded paw [not said how or what, but it is of course Androcles’ lion with a thorn in its paw (compare ATU 156)] under a tree. He heals it with white medicine [after removing the thorn], and the grateful animal gives him some wool from its skin [hairs] that he must burn when in need. Further on he sees many people at a white yurt. He asks a water carrying girl what is going on. She tells him that it is about finding a husband for Čikičan tarimai, the daughter of Čangkir Čaγan Khan, with three games. 500, who didn’t have the necessary strength, are already beheaded. He asks if he can also participate. She replies that they have no need for bald-headed boys. Thereupon he goes directly to the khan himself. But the khan says that he is too young. Our hero persists in participating in the three games, even if it means losing his head, and the khan says that he has to take on a garuda wrestler, a tngri wrestler and a bear wrestler. Heissig doesn’t explain this further. Is a garuda wrestler a person with garuda qualities or is he called that way because he wrestles with garudas? If the latter is the more obvious, how about the tngri wrestler? His name implies that he comes from heaven (tngri), so has nothing to do with the fact that he fights against the tiger. Anyhow, the hero pitches his helpers against the champions who are beaten, and the hero marries the khan’s daughter and receives the throne. Then his wife notices that her husband is getting thinner by the day. This is not explained, but it is clearly a sign of a hidden grief, of the unresolved issue with his father [comparable with the Bororo hero]. He goes on the mountain where there are two white yurts and a owl black bark hut (ĵulum). He wonders about the hut and notices that the blue silk belt has become loose. The two white yurts are empty. When he enters the owl black bark hut, his father and mother are sitting there drinking tea. They recognize him immediately and offer him pastry and tea. He asks for his wife. At that moment she comes in, dragging firewood. Her clothing is torn, her face colorless, the shoulders full of wounds from dragging firewood. He asks if she has been treated badly all the time and gives her a pastry. His father is furious, whereupon Dösi temür asks if he wants the red way of the smith [meaning burnt in the fire of a smith’s oven], or the skin and tail of a foal. The father chooses the latter, and Dösi temür changes his blunt black file into a foal, binds his father at its tail, and has him dragged to his death. Then he brings his wife and his mother to his country and lives with his two wives and his subjects in peace. [Heissig, 2003, p. 126 – 132, who remarks ‘Für die zusätzlich genannte Strafe Darqan / u ulaγan kiri  / “Des Schmiedes rote Art”, fehlt eine nähere Erklärung.’]

The betrayal by the father is in ‘The good natured Bowshooter Ĵalaγa’, told by the more than 70 years old Töbsinĵirγal in the Qara usu region in 1985, the betrayal by the older brother. This older brother is the horse herd Saqal babai, in which Heissig recognizes the in many Mongolian tales appearing figure Aksaqal, meaning ‘horse herd’. This brother sees one day in lake Altan dalai something red floating and pulls it on land with the tip of his Urgha pole, where it changes into the 15 headed Ataγar qara Mangγus, who starts to wrestle with the horse herd and threatens to devour him, whereupon the horse herd offers him his younger brother Ĵalaγa mergen. And he promises to hide Ĵalaγa’s bow. In the evening Aqa Saqai babai drives his horses back home, steals the bow and arrows of Ĵalaγa mergen, and goes to his herd. In the morning Ĵalaγa is woken up by his horse, cannot find bow and arrows. Then the attack of the Mangus takes place, who robs everything and takes it away, but which the hero [in unclear fashion] evades, he finds in the hearth ashes a letter from the wife of the older brother, telling him that his stolen bow is on the ‘Hill of Meeting’. He has to look for it there and then go to the northwest where he will find the destiny appointed wife. Turned into a bald headed scab head on his horse turned into a mangy foal he goes [via the hill] and comes to 3 water fetching girls, one of them the daughter of the khan, that chooses him as her husband, much to the anger of her father, who banishes her to some low spot. This demotion of the youngest khan’s daughter determines the rest of the tale, wherein the hero wins in the end over his jealous brothers in law in the prevention of the foal theft by the bird king Garuda. Finally the khan has to admit that he has underestimated the hero and makes him his successor on the throne. This motif of the foal robbing Garuda and the winning of his herd can be seen in several Mongolian tales (mentioned by Heissig, 2003, p. 133f].

In the epic Badamyümbüü Xaan from the blind Mongolian singer Togtool, the betrayal is committed by the herd lad Shaataisümben. One day, after having neglected the horses for a few days, fetching the herd to water it, the horses will not drink the water, so he looks and finds in it a crone with a big black bowl and a big yellow felt, all floating together. Saying: ‘Whatever has this nasty thing floating here come from?’ he hooks her out round the skull with his iron whip. Just then, from some way away, there comes out something with a huge mouth, Indervee, the black mangas, with ninety five heads, with buttocks of Inder stone, and a mottled, pied horse. He gulps down the boy and his horse as far as the armpits, and says: ‘What xaan’s subject are you? Why did you pull my mother out, while she was enjoying herself? I’m going to swallow you up!’ Threatened and flustered, the lad Shaataisümben says ‘I am the herd lad of Badamyümbüü Xaan. I was going to water my herd when they shied and would not drink, and so I took her out.’ Then the mangas says ‘I’m going to kill this xaan of yours, make his subjects my slaves, and capture his wife and children. Will you help me?’ The lad goes over to the party of the mangas, destroys in the night the weapons of the xaan, who is powerless against the mangas and killed [Bawden, 1982, p 45, 47].

The eagle plays an important role in the Mongolian epos of Aabkat Mergen. The story starts with two brothers, who live together with their wives. One brother dies from a disease and his wife becomes blind [from weeping]. The other brother and his wife see her as a burden and with the excuse of bringing her back to her parents leave her somewhere behind in the wilderness. The blind woman stumbles around, finds the next day a source and drinks from it. She notices that she has become pregnant from the water and soon thereafter gives birth to a son. Also she can see again, builds a small house in a mountain valley and lives from herbs and wild animals the son catches, who is an experienced hunter when he is ten years old. As he is born in an oak wood, his mother names him Aabkat Mergen ‘Young Oak Hero’. He becomes dissatisfied with the little bow his mother has made for him and she advises him to go to the East Mountain and ask Bainaačaa, the lord of the animals, mountains and woods, for a bow. So with a big stag on his back Aabkat Mergen climbs to the summit of the East Mountain, sacrifices the stag before an oboo, and requests, while hitting the ground with his head ‘Bainaačaa! For my mother’s protection and maintenance, I would like to have from you a big and powerful bow and arrow. Please give this boon!’ And indeed, before the obooBainaačaa appears with long [white] beard till his knees, leaning on a dragon head stick, and asks if he has a horse. When Aabkat Mergen answers that he only uses his feet, Bainaačaa whistles three times and from East Sky comes a red brown horse flying down. Bainaačaa tabs the horse three rimes with his stick on the head and commands it to be Aabkat Mergen’s servant and to appear when he calls it. The horse nicks the head three times and disappears. Then Bainaačaa brings him a big bow (made from a wagon [wheel] rim) and an arrow (made from a wagon axis). With this his hunts, but one day Bainaačaa appears and warns him about his evil uncle who has joined up with one Harbarkan to acquire his possession. Aabkat Mergen is very worried. After thinking a whole night he goes to the east to a high mountain with three firs, that is guarded by a Dog of Heaven. When the dog attacks him, he hits it [knock-out] with a torn out fir. The Dog of Heaven promises then to be forever at his service. The next day Aabkat goes to the North Sea. With a raft he ferries to an island, where a thick birch grows in whose crown 10,000 black larks sit. When they see Aabkat, they attack him. Thereupon he screams three times with a thunder voice and immediately the larks return to the tree. He threatens to burn the whole island when they do not follow him. The larks are very afraid and fly above his head, while he returns. The third day he goes to South East corner to capture the galas eagle (γalas bürgüd). Amidst the mountains where the eagle lives he enters a reed hut and sees a 15 or 16 year old girl who stares as in trance to the South Mountain. When he ask her why, she says ‘Over there on the South Mountain lives an enormous snake of 1.000 years and my father is right now fighting with it. Originally we were with nine sisters. After already eight of my sisters have been devoured by that snake, I am the only one left. When my father is not able to conquer that snake, I will also be without doubt devoured by it.’ Aabkat Mergen is willing to help in the battle with the snake. The girl is afraid that the eagle when he comes will devour him, but when he comes and hears that Aabkat Mergen is there, he becomes friends with him. The next day is the battle with the snake. After Aabkat Mergen has shot with three arrows its neck, and the snake wants to crawl back in its hole, the galas eagle dives down on it and picks its eyes out. Blinded like that it is not able to find its hole back and Aabkat Mergen crushes its head with a bull sized piece of rock. The galas eagle is incredibly grateful and gives him immediately his daughter as wife, and on his back he carries them to Aabkat Mergen’s house, and all live happily together. But then comes a messenger from Harbakan, for whom Bainaačaa had already warned him, and informs him that he must serve as hunting slave of Harbakan. Furious Aabkat Mergen has replied to Harbakan. ‘This crook Harbakan, who, as is said “as well toad was allowed to the flesh of the swan”, may hope that I become his hunting slave! Go back and tell him Every truly pissedn on man may come and try a fight with me!’ Thereupon Habarkan together with Aabkat Mergen’s uncle comes with a 1.000 warriors. Aabkat Mergen has taken precautions and awaits them at the mountain entrance. He has the galas eagle fly up high and cover the sun, has the 10,000 larks, who all carry little bags with pepper, rise up and strew the pepper over the enemy. And finally he sends the Dog of Heaven into the enemy’s army, that is an easy prey for the arrows of Aabkat Mergen, and his uncle and Habarkan who try to escape are buried under a shot off piece of rock. From now on Aabkat Mergen lives in peace with his family [Jörg Bäcker, ‘Mythologie und Märchen im daghurischen Heldenepos’, in Fragen 4, p. 207- 211. The Chinese formula ‘The Toad thinks to eat the flesh of swans’ means ‘foolhardy and arrogant’ (ID, p. 210 N° 8)].

Bäcker who summarized and analyzed the tale remarks that the name γalan eagle is related to Garuda (Burjat. Chan Cherdig, Mongolian Han Garid, Daghurian Galas, Alt Kerede, Cuwas. Hereti, Jaqut Chardaj, and can be compared with the eagle qara quš of other Turkish people and the Persian Simurg bird, and that an Indian origin is assumed because of the ‘Buddhistic’ pity the hero has with the young (or daughters) of the eagle. Possibly there is influence from the under the Mongols diffused theme of the battle of the giant snake with the Garuda bird, who is seen as a transformed Očirvani (Sanskrit vajrapāni), this is as mythical protector of the Buddhism. He points to the Kirgizian epic Er töštük where the hero is carried by the eagle (qara quš) to the Middle Earth, after he has saved the young of the eagle from the snake at the foot of the World Tree. Also he is accidentally swallowed up by the eagle, which makes him young again. Also there is the Old Babylonian story of the Anzu bird in the top of the Huluppu Tree. Next there is initiation period of Altaic shamans in the eagle’s nest on the World Tree, etcetera, which all suggest that the so called Indian or Babylonian influence is nothing more than a variation on a very old theme. Bäcker points to the fact that the battle with the Snake/Dragon and the rescue of the young of the eagle always takes place in the Underworld. The hero is out of gratitude carried up by the eagle to Middle Earth, whereby he has to feed it with a piece from his calf, which is certainly a very archaic motif, which can already be found in the myths around the Nganasanic cult hero and ‘God- Orphan’ Djoiba nguo. This myth is brought in connection with the Asian American theme of the emptying of the eagle’s nest on the World Tree, and the Nganasans of the Ngomde tribe lead their origin back to a girl who had fallen into an eagle’s nest and was instructed by God the Eagle into shamanism. And Bäcker remarks that this subject as well as the myth of the flight of the Nganasanic ‘God Orphan’ Djoiba nguo on the back of an eagle, whom he feeds pieces of his own body, may reflect motifs of the in Siberia and North America well known myth of the emptier of the eagle’s nest. He also mentions a variant of the Aabkat Mergen epos in which the saved eagle young and the grateful eagle is absent, but where a 1.000 year old eagle is tamed in a battle, and serves the hero as helper and chops out the eyes of the giant snake, who has curled himself around a tree reaching up into the clouds, to give to the mother of the hero back her eyesight (who was blinded by her sister in law). To make the mother seeing again is also Water of Life necessary which is also brought by the eagle from a source on the East Mountain. The motif of the grateful eagle can also be found in North America. Finally there is the battle between the bird and the snake, which may be followed back into the Palaeolithic. Also in East Asia there are tales about the battle between a snake and a bird, who is helped by the hero, who is rewarded for that. Also there is a myth of the Yi people in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan. The hero Zhiga along, who lived at the time of the world creation, sees the bird world constantly threatened by a giant snake and comes to the rescue of the birds, by destroying the monster. Bäcker’s final conclusion is that the epos pictures the archetypical battle between the forces of light and darkness, not only because of the antagonism of the eagle and the snake, but also because of the total constellation of the figures Dog of Heaven, larks and Galas-eagle – all creatures of the world of heaven – assist the hero in his battle against the forces of darkness, symbolized by Harbarkan, the ‘Black Burchan’. Burqan is a name for all spirits, and tngri burqan are the spirits from heaven, or thought in singular ‘God’; har stands for Mongolian (Altai Turkish) karablack’ [Bäcker, ac, p. 224f]

As no Mongol dared to kill a snake, that became the job of the eagle, king of the birds, whose love for snake meat is explained in one of its oldest myths. When the earth was new, the chief of the gods Mongke Tengri asked the swallow and the wasp to find out which meat was the softest and most suited for a king. The wasp started industriously to sting all kinds of beings, while the swallow just flew around admiring the newly created world. Just before sunset the wasp came back to the swallow and said that the flesh of humans was the softest and most suited flesh on earth. This shocked the swallow who had seen how caring the people were; so he grabbed the wasp and pulled out its tongue. When they came to Mongke Tengri to give their report, the wasp could only buzz, so Mongke Tengri asked the swallow [who probably hated snakes for stealing its eggs] and he came up with the most useless creature, the snake. Thereupon Mongke Tengri called the eagle and sent him with the instructions of the cunning swallow to the earth. And that is how the king of the birds kills snakes whenever he gets the chance [James Chambers, in Allan, 1998a, p. 125, ‘Royal Food’]

The flight on the eagle is also part of a tale Radloff collected from Tartars living in South Siberia. The youngest of three sons of a king has learned 23 languages, and to learn the 24th he sets out with 24 companions. They get lost, eat in 24 days their 24 horses, proceed on foot, come to a sea, build a raft, get hit on sea by a whirlwind and all drown except the king’s son, who manages to cling to a tree and washes up on an island. There is a poplar with on top a eagle’s nest with twe young, each the size of a young camel. A dragon comes, climbs along the poplar. In the hand of the youth is [appears?] an axe. He kills the dragon and the two pieces fall on the ground. The king’s son takes them and throws them into the nest of the eagle. The children of the eagle devour the snake, say ‘What is this for a human, who has killed our enemy and saved us from death? May God grant him his wishes.’ The youth hears that and answers them in eagle language ‘O! May God grant me the fulfillment of my wishes!’ Thereupon the young of the eagle call to him that he may come up, the youth climbs up and speaks with the children of the eagle, telling them everything that has happened to him. The children of the eagle say ‘We will hide you; when our father and mother come, they will kill you.’ They wrap him in camel wool [the eagles eat camels], cover him with their wings. After a while a whirlwind approaches, it moves the poplar. The young say ‘This is the turbulence of the wings of our parents. When now rain will fall down, this is no rain, but these are the tears from the eyes of our parents. They come weeping and sad, because they think that the enemy has killed us.’ Thereupon the two eagles come and bring two camels. The eagles say ‘God bless, our children are alive.’ ‘Eat this,’ they say, but the children say ‘No, we will not eat it. We have eaten our enemy and are full.’ Their mother says ‘Not only you, also previously born children [who were stronger, supra] were not able to consume him; how did you consume him?’ The children say ‘A human has come, has killed him and divided him among us; we both have eaten his two halves and have become satiated.’ The mother asks ‘Where has this human gone to? Show us, I want to give this human everything he asks.’ The children say ‘No, we will not show him; you will destroy him.’ Their mother says ‘No, show him to me, we will not destroy him; he who has done us so much good, we will not let anything bad happen to him.’ Thus they speak. The children take out the youth and show him. The youth says to the eagles in their own language everything that he has on his mind. ‘Now I have to be taken to the other side of the water,’ he says. The [male] eagle says: ‘That is a very far away land, 12 days journey.’ He has the boy grab him by the foot and tries to fly away with him, but is not able. Then the eagle consumes both the camels, lets him take place on his neck and brings him in 12 days journey flying over the water. Seven days and seven nights he sleeps on that place, thereupon he arises, both take leave and the eagle flies back to his nest. The prince continues his journey and comes to a building with a locked door with a formula inscribed on it, which the prince speaks and the door goes open. Inside is a tablecloth spread with all kinds of delicious things, and he eats his fill and falls asleep. The house is actually a trap, comparable with the house of gingerbread of Hänsel and Gretel. He is woken up by a 40 arshin (‘cubit’) high man, who gives him a beating and drags him off to a prison which is full of people who have a lot to eat. Daily 100 of the most fat people are taken away: they are slaughtered and made into soap. The prince manages to get a job as tapestry maker in the jail, specially for the ‘rich man’ (the boss of the ‘soap factory’). He waves into the tapestry the story of his adventures in words and pictures, which finally leads to his father coming with an army to release him and the other prisoners [Radloff, 1872, p. 4, 115 – 120, N° 2, ‘Der Fürstensohn’. (Turaly tribe, Tartars of the district Tara)].

Allan, Tony (edited by), Het Diamanten Pad. Tibetaanse & Mongoolse mythen, Amsterdam, 1998a.
Bawden, Charles (translated by), Eight North Mongolian Epic Poems (Mongolische Epen X), Wiesbaden, 1982 (Asiatische Forschungen, p. 75).
Heissig, W, Mongolische Volksmärchen, Düsseldorf Köln, 1963.
Walther Heissig, Motive und Analysen mongolischer Märchen, Wiesbaden, 2003 (AsF 146).
Poppe, Nikolaj Nikolaevič, Mongolische Volksdichtung, Wiesbaden, 1955.
Radloff, W, Proben der Volkslitteratur der türkischen Stämme Süd Siberiens 4, 1872.
Ramstedt, GJ (edited by H Halén), Nordmongolische Volksdichtung 2, 1974.
Seki, Keigo, Folktales of Japan, London, 1963.

Fragen = Fragen der Mongolischen Heldendichtung, herausgegeben W Heissig.

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