Vetalas, from N.M. Penzer (ed.), `Ocean of Story´, 1923

„… as soon as night came, he enveloped his head in a black cloth, and left the palace unperveived, sword in hand, and went fearlessly to the cemetery. It was obscured by a dense and terrible pall of darkness, and its aspect was rendered awful by the ghastly flames from the burning of the funeral pyres, and it produced horror by the bones, skeletons and skulls of men that appeared in it. In it were present formidable Bhutas and Vetalas, joyfully engaged in their horrible activity, and it was alive with the loud yells of jackals, so that it seemed like a second mysterious tremendous form of Bhairava. And after he had searched about in it, he found that mendicant under a banyan tree, engaged in making a circle, and he went up to him and said: `Here I am arrived, mendicant; tell me, what can I do for you?´

When the mendicant heard that, and saw the king, he was delighted, and said to him: `King, if I have found favour in your eyes, go alone a long way from here towards the south, and you will find a simsapa tree. On it there is a dead man hanging up; go and bring him here; assist me in the matter, hero.´

As soon as the brave king, who was faithful to his promise, heard this, he said, `I will do so,´ and went towards the south. And after he had gone some way in that direction, along a path revealed by the light of the flaming pyres, he reached with difficulty in the darkness that simsapa tree. The tree was scorched with the smoke of funeral pyres, and smelt of raw flesh, and looked like a Bhuta, and he saw the corpse hanging on its trunk, as it were on the shoulders of a demon. So he climbed up, and cutting the string which held it, flung it to the ground. And the moment it was flung down it cried out, as if in pain. Then the king, supposing it was alive, came down and rubbed its body out of compassion; that made the corpse utter a loud demoniac laugh. Then the king knew that it was possessed by a Vetala, and said, without flinching: `Why do you laugh? Come, let us go off.´ And immediately he missed from the ground the corpse possessed by the Vetala, and perceived that it was once more suspended on that very tree. Then he climbed up again and brought it down, for the heart of heroes is a gem more impenetrable than adamant. Then the king threw the corpse possessed by a Vetala over his shoulder, and proceeded to go off with it, in silence. And as he was going along, the Vetala in the corpse that was on his shoulder said to him: `King, I will tell you a story to beguile the way. Listen.´“



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