Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

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

April 6, 2017

„… Then he reached the river Gandhavati, and dispelled his fatigue by bathing in it; and after crossing it, he arrived with his companions in that cemetery of Mahakala. There he beheld the image of mighty Bhairava, black with the smoke from neighbouring pyres, surrounded with many fragments of bones and skulls, terrible with the skeletons of men which it held in its grasp, worshipped by heroes, frequented by many troops of demons, dear to sporting witches…“

„… and at last arrived at the burning-ground of Mahakala in Ujjayini, which was densely tenanted by vampires that smelt of carrion, and hovered hither and thither, black as night, rivalling the smoke-wreaths of the funeral pyres.“

„…Then his minister Vikramakesarin called to mind that Vetala which he had long ago won over, intending to employ him to fetch the prince´s love from her dwelling-house. And the Vetala came, black in hue, tall, with a neck like a camel, elephant-faced, with legs like a bull, eyes like an owl, and the ears of an ass. But finding that he could not enter the city, he departed; the favour of Siva secures that city against being invaded by such creatures.“

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

April 6, 2017

„… Then Vidushaka said: `Well, I will do it. I will cut off the noses of those robbers by night and bring them from the cemetery.´ Then those fools, thinking the task a difficult one, said to him: `If you do this you shall be our lord; we make this agreement.´ When night had set in, Vidushaka took leave of those Brahmans and went to the cemetery. So the hero entered the cemetery, awful as his own undertaking, with the sword of the Fire God, that came with a thought, as his only companion. And in the middle of that cemetery, where the cries of vultures and jackals were swelled by the screams of witches and the flames of the funeral pyres were reinforced by the fires in the mouths of the fire-breathing demons, he beheld those impaled men with their faces turned up, as if through fear of having their noses cut off. And when he approached them those three, being tenanted by demons, struck him with their fists; and he for his part slashed them in return with his sword, for Fear has not learned to bestir herself in the breast of the resolute. Accordingly the corpses ceased to be convulsed with demons, and then the successful hero cut off their noses and brought them away, binding them up in his garment.

And as he was returning he beheld in that cemetery a religious mendicant sitting on a corpse muttering charms, and through curiosity to have the amusement of seeing what he was doing he stood concealed behind that mendicant. In a moment the corpse under the mendicant gave forth a hissing sound, and flames issued from its mouth, and from its navel mustard-seeds. And then the mendicant took the mustard-seeds, and rising up struck the corpse with the flat of his hand, and the corpse, which was tenanted by a mighty demon, stood up, and then that mendicant mounted on its shoulder and began to depart at a rapid rate, and Vidushaka silently followed him unobserved, and after he had gone a short distance Vidushaka saw an empty temple with an image of Durga in it. Then the mendicant got down from the shoulder of the demon, and entered the inner shrine of the temple, while the demon fell flat on the earth. But Vidushaka was present also, contriving to watch the mendicant, unperceived by him. The mendicant worshipped the goddess there and offered the following prayer: – `If thou art pleased with me, O Goddess, grant me the desired boon. If not, I will propitiate thee with the sacrifice of myself.´ When the mendicant, intoxicated with the success of his powerful spells, said this, a voice coming from the inner shrine thus addressed the mendicant: `Bring here the maiden daughter of king Adityasena, and offer her as a sacrifice, then thou shalt obtain thy desire.´ When the mendicant heard this he went out, and striking once more with his hand the demon, who hissed at the blow, made him stand upright. And, mounting on the shoulder of the demon, from whose mouth issued flames of fire, he flew away through the air to bring the princess …“

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

April 6, 2017

„… and at night he went alone, sword in hand, to the cemetery. It was full of many ghosts, empty of men, inauspicious, full of roaring jackals, covered with impenetrable darkness, but showed in some places a faint gleam where the funeral pyres were. The hero Sridarsana wandered about in that place of horrors and saw the enchanter in the middle of it. His whole body was smeared with ashes, he had a Brahmanical thread of hair, he wore a turban made of the clothes of the dead and he was clad in a black garment. Sridarsana approached him, and made himself known to him, and then, girding up his loins, he said: `Tell me, what shall I do for you?´ The enchanter answered in high spirits: `Half a kos only to the west of this place there is an asoka tree, the leaves of which are burned with the hot flame of funeral pyres. At the foot of it there is a corpse; go and bring it here unharmed.´

Then Sridarsana said: `I will´, and going quickly to the place he saw someone else taking away the corpse. So he ran and tried to drag it from the shoulder of that person, who would not let it go, and said to him: `Let go this corpse: where are you taking my friend whom I have to burn?´ Then that second person said to Sridarsana: `I will not let the dead man go; I am his friend; what have you to do with him?´While they were dragging the corpse from one another´s shoulders, and making these mutual recriminations, the corpse itself, which was animated by a Vetala, uttered a terrible shriek. That terrified the second person so that his heart broke, and he fell down dead, and then Sridarsana went off with that corpse in his arms. Then the second man, though dead, rose up, being possessed by a Vetala, and tried to stop Sridarsana, and said to him: `Halt! do not go off with my friend on your shoulder.´Then Sridarsana, knowing that his rival was possessed by a Vetala, said to him: `What proof is there that you are his friend? He is my friend.´ The rival then said `The corpse itself shall decide between us.´ Then Sridarsana said: `Well! Let him declare who is his friend.´ Then the corpse that was on his back, being possessed by a Vetala, said: `I am hungry, so I decide that whoever gives me food is my friend; let him take me where he likes.´ When the second corpse, that was also possessed by a Vetala, heard this, he answered: `I have no food; if he has any, let him give you some.´ Sridarsana, hearing this, said: `I will give you food´; and proceeded to strike with his sword at the second corpse, in order to procure food for the Vetala that was on his shoulder. But that second corpse, which was also possessed by a Vetala, the moment he began to strike it, disappeared by its supernatural power.

Then the Vetala that was on Sridarsanas shoulder said to him: `Now give me the food that you promised me.´So Sridarsana, not being able to obtain any other flesh to give him to eat, cut off with his sword some of his own flesh, and gave it to him. This pleased the Vetala, and he said to him: `I am satisfied with you, brave man; let your body be restored whole as before. Now take me off; this enterprise of yours shall succeed, but that ascetic enchanter shall be destroyed, for he is a great coward.´ When Sridarsana was thus addressed by the Vetala, he immediately became whole as before, and taking the corpse he handed it to the magician. He reveived it joyfully, and honoured it with unguents and garlands of blood, and he placed the corpse, possessed by the Vetala, on its back in a great circle marked out with powdered human bones, in the corners of which were placed pitchers of blood, and which was lighted up with lamps fed by oil from the human body. And he sat on the breast of the corpse, and holding in his hand a ladle and spoon of human bone, he began to make an oblation of clarified butter in its mouth. Immediately such a flame issued from the mouth of that corpse possessed by the Vetala that the sorcerer rose up in terror and fled. When he thus lost his presence of mind, and dropped his spoon and ladle, the Vetala pursued him, and opening his mouth swallowed him whole.

When Sridarsana saw that, he lifted up his sword and attacked the Vetala, but the Vetala said to him: `Sridarsana, I am pleased with this courage of yours, so take these mustard-seeds produced in my mouth. If you place these on the head and hands of the king, the malady of consumption will immediately leave him, and you in a short time will become the king of the whole earth.´ When Sridarsana heard this, he said: `How can I leave this place without that sorcerer? The king is sure to say that I killed him out of a selfish regard to my own interests.´ When Sridarsana said this to the Vetala, he answered: `I will tell you a convincing proof, which will clear you. Cut open the body of this corpse, and show inside it this sorcerer dead, whom I have swallowed.´ When the Vetala had said this, he gave him the mustard-seeds, and went off somewhere or other, leaving that corpse, and the corpse fell on the ground.

Then Sridarsana went off, taking with him the mustard-seeds, and he spent that night in the asylum in which his friend was. And the next morning he went to the king, and told him what had happened in the night, and took and showed to the ministers that sorcerer in the stomach of the corpse. Then he placed the mustard-seeds on the head and the hands of the king, and that made the king quite well, as all his sickness at once left him. Then the king was pleased, and, as he had no son, he adopted as his son Sridarsana, who had saved his life. And he immediately anointed that hero Crown Prince; for the seed of benefits, sown in good soil, produces abundant fruit. Then the fortunate Sridarsana married there that Padmishtha, who seemed like the Goddess of Fortune that had come to him in reward for his former courting of her, and the hero remained there, in the company of her brother Mukharaka, enjoying pleasures and ruling the world.“

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

April 6, 2017

„There is a city of the name of Harshavati, and in it there was a leading merchant named Dharmadatta… and that merchant had a daughter named Vasudatta, matchless in beauty, whom he loved more than his life. And she was given to an excellent young merchant named Samudradatta, equal to her in rank, distinguished for wealth and youth, who was an object that the eyes of lovely women loved to feast on, as the partridges on the rays of the moon, and who dwelt in the city of Tamralipti, which is inhabited by honourable men. Once on a time the merchant´s daughter, while she was living in her father´s house, and her husband was in his own country, saw at a distance a certain young and good-looking man. The fickle woman… invited him by means of a confidante, and made him her secret paramour. And from that time forth she spent every night with him, and her affections were fixed upon him only.

But one day the husband of her youth returned from his own land, appearing to her parents like delight in bodily form. And on that day of rejoicing she was adorned. But she would have nothing to say to her husband, in spite of her mother´s injunctions; and when he spoke to her she pretended to be asleep, as her heart was fixed on another. And then her husband, being drowsy with wine and tired with his journey, was overpowered with sleep.

In the meanwhile, as all the people of the house, having eaten and drunk, were fast asleep, a thief made a hole in the wall and entered their apartment. At that very moment the merchant´s daughter rose up, without seeing the thief, and went out secretly, having made an assignation with her lover. When the thief saw that, his object being frustrated, he said to himself: `She has gone out in the dead of night adorned with those very ornaments which I came her to steal; so I will watch where she goes.´ When the thief had formed this intention, he went out and followed that merchant´s daughter Vasudatta, keeping an eye on her, but himself unobserved.

But she, with flowers and other things of the kind in her hands, accompanied by a single confidante, who was in the secret, and entered a garden at no distance outside the city. And in it she saw her lover, who had come there to meet her, hanging dead on a tree, with a halter round his neck; for the city-guards had caught him there at night and hanged him, on the supposition that he was a thief. Then she was distracted and beside herself, and exclaiming, `I am ruined´, she fell on the ground and lamented with plaintive cries. Then she took down her dead paramour from the tree, and placing him in a sitting position she adorned him with unguents and flowers, and, although he was senseless, embraced him, with mind blinded by passion and grief. And when in her sorrow she raised up his mouth and kissed it, her dead paramour, being animated by a Vetala, suddenly bit off her nose. Then she left him in confusion and agony; but still the unfortunate woman came back once more, and looked at him to see if he was still alive. And when she saw that the Vetala had left the body, and that he was dead and motionless, she departed slowly, weeping with fear and humiliation.

In the meanwhile the thief, who was hidden there, saw all, and said to himself: `What is this that this wicked woman has done? Alas! the mind of females is terrible and black like a dark well, unfathomable, exceedingly deep for a fall. So I wonder what she will do now.´ After these reflections the thief again followed her at a distance, out of curiosity.

She went on and entered her own chamber, where her husband was asleep, and cried out, weeping: `Help! Help! This wicked enemy, calling himself a husband, has cut off my nose, though I have done nothing wrong.´ Then her husband, and her father, and the servants, hearing her repeated cries, woke up, and arose in a state of excitement. Then her father, seeing that her nose had been recently taken off, was angry, and had her husband bound, as having injured his wife. But even while he was being bound he remained speechless, like a dumb man, and said nothing, for all the listeners, his father-in-law and the others, had all together turned against him.

When the thief had seen all this, he slipped away nimbly, and the night, which was spent in tumult, gradually passed away; and then the merchant´s son was taken by his father-in-law to the king, together with his wife who had been deprived of her nose. And the king, after he had been informed by them of the circumstances, ordered the execution of the young merchant, on the ground that he had maimed his own wife, rejecting with contempt his version of the story. Then, as he was being led to the place of execution, with drums beating, the thief came up to the king´s officers and said to them: `You ought not to put this man to death without cause; I know the circumstances. Take me to the king, that I may tell him the whole story.´

When the thief said this, they took him to the king, and after he had received a promise of pardon, he told him the whole history of the night from the beginning. And he said: `If Your Majesty does not believe my words, look at once at the woman´s nose, which is in the mouth of that corpse.´ When the king heard that, he sent servants to look; and finding that the statement was true, he gave orders that the young merchant should not suffer capital punishment. But he banished his wicked wife from the country, after cutting off her ears also, and punished his father-in-law by confiscating all his wealth; and being pleased with the thief, he made him chief magistrate of the city.

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

April 6, 2017

“ After the king had proceeded on his way to his capital, the hero entered that cemetery, the interior of which was difficult to penetrate, as it was filled with dense darkness within; in it there were awful evening oblations offered with the human flesh scattered about by the jackals; in places the cemetery was lighted up by the flaming beacons of the blazing funeral pyres, and in it the Vetalas made terrible music with the clapping of their hands, so that it seemed as if it were the palace of black night. Then he cried aloud: `Who asked the king for water?´ And he heard from one quarter an answer. `I asked for it. ´Following the voice he went to a funeral pyre near, and beheld a man impaled on the top of a stake, and underneath it he saw a woman that he had never seen before, weeping, adorned with beautiful ornaments, lovely in every limb – like the night adorned with the rays of the moon, now that the moon itself had set, its splendour having waned in the dark fortnight, come to worship the funeral pyre. He asked the woman: `Who are you, and why are you standing weeping here?´ She answered him: `I am the ill-fated wife of him who is here impaled, and I am waiting here with the firm intention of ascending the funeral pyre with him. And I am waiting some time for his life to leave his body, for though it is the third day of his impalement his breath does not depart. And he often asks for that water which I have brought here, but I cannot reach his mouth, my friend, as the stake is high.´When he heard that speech of hers, the mighty hero said to her: `But here is water in my hand sent to him by the king, so place your foot on my back and lift it to his mouth, for the mere touching of another man in sore need does not disgrace a woman.´ When she heard that, she consented, and, taking the water, she climbed up so as to plant her two feet on the back of Asókadatta, who bent down at the foot of the stake. Soon after, as drops of blood unexpectedly began to fall upon the earth and on his back, the hero lifted up his face and looked. Then he saw that woman cutting slice after slice of that impaled man´s flesh with a knife and eating it. Then, perceiving that she was some horrible demon, he dragged her down in a rage, and took hold of her foot with its tinkling anklets in order to dash her to pieces on the earth. She for her part dragged away from him that foot, and by her deluding power quickly flew up into the heaven and became invisible. And the jewelled anklet, which had fallen from her foot while she was dragging it away, remained in one of Asókadatta´s hands. Then he, reflecting that she had disappeared after showing herself mild at first, and evil-working in the middle, and at the end horror-striking by assuming a terrible form, like association with wicked men, and seeing that heavenly anklet in his hand, was astonished, grieved and delighted at the same time; and then he left that cemetery, taking the anklet with him, and went to his own house, and in the morning, after bathing, to the palace of the king.

And when the king said, `Did you give the water to the man who was impaled?´ he said he had done so, and gave him that anklet; and when the king of his own accord asked him where it came from, he told that king his wonderful and terrible night adventure. And then the king, perceiving that his courage was superior to that of all men, though he was before pleased with his other excellent qualities, was now more exceedingly delighted; and he took that anklet in his joy and gave it with his own hand to the queen, and described to her the way in which he had obtained it. And she, hearing the story and beholding that heavenly-jewelled anklet, rejoiced in her heart… Then the king said to her: `Queen, in birth, in learning, in truthfulness and beauty Asókadatta is great among the great; and I think it would be a good thing if he were to become the husband of our lovely daughter Madanalekha…“

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

April 6, 2017

„… 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.´“

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

April 6, 2017

„… With these words the mendicant, thinking he had gained his end, took the corpse down from the shoulder of that king. And he bathed it, and anointed it, and threw a garland round it, and placed him within that circle. And he smeared his limbs with ashes, and put on a sacrificial thread of hair, and clothed himself in the garments of the dead, and thus equipped he continued for a time in meditation. Then the mendicant summoned that mighty Vetala by the power of spells, and made him enter the corpse, and proceeded to worship him. He offered to him an argha of white human teeth in a skull by way of an argha vessel; and he presented to him flowers and fragrant unguents; and he gratified him with the savoury reek of human eyes, and made an offering to him of human flesh.“

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

April 6, 2017

„I am Madanamanjari, the daughter of Dundubhi, the king of the Yakshas, and the wife of Manibhadra, the brother of Kuvera. I used always to roam about happily with my husband on the banks of the rivers, on hills, and in charming groves.

And one day I went with my beloved to a garden in Ujjayini called Makaranda to amuse myself. There it happened that in the dawn a low hypocritical scoundrel of a kapalika ( a worshipper of Siva of the left-handed order, characterised by carrying skulls of men as ornaments, and by eating and drinking from them) saw me, when I had just woke up from a sleep brought on by the fatigue of roaming about. That rascal, being overcome with love, went into a cemetery, and proceeded to try to procure me for his wife by means of a spell and a burnt-offering. But I, by my power, found out what he was about, and informed my husband; and he told his elder brother, Kuvera. And Kuvera went and complained to Brahma, and the holy Brahma, after meditating, said to him: `It is true that kapalika intends to rob your brother of his wife, for such is the power of those spells for mastering Yakshas, which he possesses. But when she feels herself being drawn along by the spell, she must invoke the protection of King Vikramaditya; he will save her from him.“

Then Kuvera came and told this answer of Brahma´s to my husband, and my husband told it to me, whose mind was troubled by that wicked spell.

And in the meanwhile that hypocritical kapalika, offering a burnt-offering in the cemetery, began to draw me to him by means of a spell, duly muttered in a circle. And I, being drawn by that spell, reached in an agony of terror that awful cemetery, full of bones and skulls, haunted by demons. And then I saw there that wicked kapalika: he had made an offering to the fire, and he had in a circle a corpse lying on its back, which he had been worshipping. And that kapalika, when he saw that I had arrived, was beside himself with pride, and with difficulty tore himself away to rinse his mouth in a river, which happened to be near.

At that moment I called to mind what Brahma had said, and I thought: `Why should I not call to the king for aid? He may be roaming about in the darkness somewhere near.´ When I had said this to myself, I called aloud for his help in the following words: `Deliver me, noble king Vikramaditya! See, protecting talisman of the world, this kapalika is bent on outraging by force, in your realm, me, a chaste woman, the Yakshi Madanamanjarí by name, the daughter of Dundubhi, and the wife of Manibhadra, the younger brother of Kuvera.´

No sooner had I finished this plaintive appeal than I saw that king coming toward me, sword in hand; he seemed to be all resplendent with brightness of valour, and he said to me: `My good lady, do not fear; be at ease. I will deliver you from that kapalika, fair one. For who is able to work such unrighteousness in my realm?´ When he had said this, he summoned a Vetala, named Agnisikha. And he, when summoned, came – tall, with flaming eyes, with upstanding hair – and said to the king: `Tell me what I am to do.´ Then the king said: `Kill and eat this wicked kapalika, who is trying to carry off his neighbour´s wife.´ Then that Vetala, Agnisikha, entered the corpse that was in the circle of adoration, and rose up and rushed forward, stretching out his arms and mouth. And when the kapalika, who had come back from rinsing his mouth, was preparing to fly, he seized him from behind by the legs; and he whirled him round in the air, and then dashed him down with great force on the earth, and so at one blow crushed his body and his aspirations. When the demons saw the kapalika slain they were all eager for flesh, and a fiece Vetala, named Yamasikha, came there. As soon as he came he seized the body of the kapalika; then the first Vetala, Agnisikha, said to him: `Hear, villain! I have killed this kapalika by the order of king Vikramaditya… so he is my proper prey, to be devoured by me.´

Though Agnisikha made this appeal to Yamasikha, the latter proceeded contumaciously to drag with his hand the corpse of that hypocritical kapalika. Then king Vikramaditya appeared there, and drew the figure of a man on the earth, and then cut off its hand with his sword. That made the hand of Yamasikha fall severed; so he left the corpse, and fled in fear. And Agnisikha immediately devoured the corpse of that kapalika. And I witnessed all this, securely protected by the might of the king.“

Aleksandr Afanas´ev: A Tale of the Dead

März 29, 2017

A Tale of the Dead, from Aleksandr Afanas´ev, `Russian Fairy Tales´

März 29, 2017