The Story of the Two Devils
A long time ago in a country so high that it would make most boys and girls tired if they tried to run and play, was a great flat table-land entirely surrounded by a forest. On this table-land was located one large city and several smaller ones, all ruled over by a king who had seven sons. The sons went out in the forest to play one day and found a beautiful girl, who was herding a yak. She told them she was the daughter of the King of the west, that their yak had wandered away and she had come to hunt it.
The seven sons thought that she was very pretty to look at, so they proposed to her that she become the wife of the seven, which was the custom of the country. Now, in reality, the girl was a she-devil and the yak was her husband. They could change their form whenever they chose. She didn’t tell the men that the yak was her husband, but drove it away and consented to become the wife of the brothers and went home with them.
Every year one of the sons died, beginning with the eldest, until all were dead except the youngest, and he became very ill and was about to die. The head-men of the villages got together and wondered and wondered what could be done, shaking their heads and muttering that this was a very queer affair, that these six sons, whom they had cared for and to whom they had given all the medicine they knew of, had all died. They thought the matter over and decided to send for a man who they knew could tell fortunes, and see if he could discover what was the matter.
Four men were chosen to go and see him. They traveled until they found him, told him all about the death of the six brothers, and asked him to cast lots and see what was the matter. He told them that he would lie down and sleep and receive a vision on the affair and to-morrow would relate it. Actually he didn’t know what in the world to do nor what to say, for he was not a really-truly fortune teller at all, but only a quack.
That night he went to ask his wife what to do, and she said, “You’ve told a lot of lies about things before this, so it won’t hurt you to lie some more. You came out fairly well the other times, so I think that you can fix up a plan for this affair.” The next morning when the four men came, he said, “My vision was fine, I will get out my black clothes and black hat and read prayers for you. We will all go back together and these charms that I read will make everything all right in the palace.”
So he took a big rosary in one hand and the skull of a hog in the other and traveled along with them. When they arrived the woman didn’t know exactly what to think, and wondered if this fellow really did know her and her husband and what they had done. The fortune teller made a tsamba torma and placed it at the head of the sick man, along with the hog’s skull, and covered them both with a cloth. When the she-devil left the room the sick man got a little better and went to sleep. This scared the fortune teller so badly he didn’t know what to do. He thought the man was dying.
Really the man’s soul had been about half eaten up before the woman left, and when she went away it grew stronger. The fortune teller was badly scared and called out two or three times for help and began to think he had better step out and take his things and run off, but the door was locked and he couldn’t get it open. He wondered if he could hide some place until he had a chance to slip away, so he sneaked upstairs to the top of the roof and fell through the opening in the dark, astride the yak’s horns, and the yak went bucking and tearing away with him on its head.
The she-devil was down there too, because she was afraid. The yak called out, “This man knows us all right, for he lit right on top of my head and knows I am the he-devil, for his charm is in his hand and he is beating me to death with it. What shall I do?” His wife replied, “He knows me and I dare not come over and help you; and just as sure as can be in the morning he will call all the people together, and they will be planning some scheme to get rid of us.”
They thought in their hearts that perhaps he would call all the women to carry wood and burn them in the fire, or kill them in some other dreadful way. “Truly,” she said, “to try and find out if we are real they will hit us with rocks to see if it will hurt, and cut us open to see what is inside of us and put us in the fire to see if it will burn us.” The man in the meantime had rolled off the yak and heard all this, so he knew now what to do. Slipping back upstairs he set up his tsamba torma and hog’s skull and began to read prayers again.
The King’s son was awake by this time and the fortune teller asked him if he wasn’t better and he said “Yes.” “Well then,” the man said, “in the morning you must call your head-men together, have them tell all the people to bring their guns and swords and some of the women to bring wood.” The next morning they were all there with the wood piled around the center as if for an offering to an idol, as the fortune teller had commanded them. He asked that his saddle be put on the yak. He donned his black clothes and rode the yak all over the city until he came to the pile of wood.
He now grabbed his hog’s head and hit the yak three times saying, “I want to see the real body of this yak,” and the yak turned at once into a he-devil with a hideous face, two of his upper teeth hanging down to his breast and two lower ones extending up to his forehead. The men standing around killed him with their swords and guns. Then the fortune teller called for the woman to come. She came screaming, and he struck her with the hog’s skull and she turned into a terrible thing, with a most ugly face, clawlike hands, a great long tongue and teeth like her husband’s. The people killed her with rocks and knives and burned them both in the fire; then hastened to do great honor to the fortune teller, who had gone back to the sick man.
The King’s son got well right away and was so pleased he said to the fortune teller, “Whatever you wish, ask, and I will give you.” “Well,” said the fortune teller, “I would like some of those wooden rings that are used to lead the yak around by their noses.” (The reason he wanted them was because his wife always said he couldn’t make them properly). So the son gave him one hundred rings and enough goods to make seven yak loads and he returned to his home.
His wife saw him coming, took some wine and went to meet him. That night she asked him all about his adventures and he told her about the death of the two devils and the recovery of the King’s son. “And is this all you have, some dried cheese and meat and a few rings for the yak?” she said, and scolded him soundly. “To-morrow I will go and see the King’s son.” But she wrote a letter instead which said, “You have given my husband this little bit of stuff and the nose rings which can have but one meaning, which is, that perhaps your disease may return.”
When the King’s son received the letter he said, “That is all true. I gave him all he asked for, but perhaps I should have given him more.” So the next day he went to visit the fortune teller and said to him, “You have saved my life and done so much for me, now I will make you ruler of half my kingdom.” So he made him as powerful as himself.
(from the book ‘Tibetan Folk Tales’ compiled by Albert Leroy Shelton)
Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows a group of yaks grazing in a mountainous landscape, and is by Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1926). He studied at the Berlin University of the Arts, traveled across Europe, Africa and Asia and illustrated highly acclaimed books such as ‘Animal Life on Earth’ and ‘Brehms Tierleben’.