Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Tibetan Fairytale: _Srib leb rGad po_

[Source: IIAS Newsletter #36 (March 2005), p 23]

Srib Leb Rgad Po

Srib leb rGad po is an excerpt from Simon Wickham-Smith’s translation of Ringu Tulku’s Bod kyi gna’ bo’i shod gsung, co-edited with Alexander Zorin and illustrated by the St Petersburg artist Gleb Ershov.

Translated by Simon Wickham-Smith

Only those who have a balanced and wise mind then, even if their bodies be weak, can still be powerful and attain mastery over others.
            Once in Tibet there were many demons.  Among them was a big demon named Srib-leb rGadpo, who stole other people’s children.  He took them to his cave for food.  Naturally, because he was a powerful demon, everyone was frightened of him.  At that time, in the centre of a mountain valley there lived an old woman and her child.  In the late morning, the old woman would go out to dig for sweet potatoes, saying to her daughter, “Child, stay here with the door closed.  Open up to no-one until your mother returns – else Sribleb rGad-po will take you away.”  The child did as her mother had said.  Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.  “Who is it?”, said the child.  “I am not to open the door to anyone but my mother.”  The demon said, “I am your mother.”  The child said, “Well, show me your hand through the crack in the door.”  The demon showed her his hand.  It was a hairy hand and when the child saw it, she said, “You’re not my mother. Mother’s hand is smooth and pudgy; yours is all hairy.”  Then the demon said to the child, “Then, you mustn’t open the door.  Please just give me fire and some oil.” And the child gave him fire and some oil.
            The demon went away.  He burnt the hairs from his hands and smeared them with grease.  He knocked again at the door and cried out, “Daughter, your mother has come home.  Open the door.”  And the child said, “You don’t sound like my mother.  Show me your hand.”  Straightaway, he showed his hands to her and, seeing that they were smooth and pudgy, she opened the door a crack.  But the child quickly realised that it was the demon and she fled and hid amongst the beams.  The demon looked for her but couldn’t find her.  He said, “The child must be here.  She can’t fly into the sky, she can’t burrow into the earth.”  As he said this, he farted – and the child let out a laugh and he saw her where she was.  But, even though he saw her, he couldn’t reach her.  “You there, tell me truthfully how I can get down to you.  If you don’t tell me, I’ll eat cuts of your flesh and drops of your blood.”  The child said, I stacked needles on needles and got up that way.”  He too stacked needles on needles, but couldn’t get up.  “Tell me again.  If you don’t tell me, I’ll eat cuts of your flesh and drops of your blood.”  And the child said, “I piled cups on cups and got down that way.”  Still he couldn’t reach her.  He menaced and threatened her very cruelly.  The child was frightened and told him the truth.  “I stacked barrels on top of one another and got up that way.”  He did as she said, stretched out and carried her off.

When the mother returned that evening, the girl was no longer there and she realised that the demon had taken her away.  She filled a pouch full of flour and went off, in tears, to search for her daughter.  On the road she met with a raven.  “Why are you crying, mother”, asked the raven.  The mother said, “My daughter has been taken by a demon and I’m looking for her.”  The raven said, “Please give me some flour and I’ll help you.”  So she gave him some flour and the two of them went off together.  They met with a fox.  “Where are you two going?” the fox asked.  “My daughter has been taken by a demon”, said the woman.  “We’re going looking for her.”  The fox replied, “Give me some flour and I’ll help you.”  So she gave the fox some flour and the three of them went off together.  Then they met a wolf.  The wolf said, “Where are you three going?”  The woman said, “My daughter has been taken by a demon and we’re going to look for her.”  The wolf replied, “Give me some flour and I’ll help you.”  She gave the wolf some flour and the four went looking for the child.  Suddenly, they came to the demon’s rock-cave.  The wolf said, “Now we need a method, otherwise the demon will eat us.”  They had a discussion and came up with a plan.
            Following their plan, the wolf chased the demon’s sheep here and there.  The demon emerged from his cave and gave chase to the wolf.  The fox was lying down in another place, pretending to be dead, the raven jumping around on top of him, chattering away.  When the demon saw this, he thought, “I will kill the wolf easily then, now if I don’t take the fox’s pelt this bird will harm it.”  He made a big show of following the wolf and came to where the fox was.  He came up close, but the fox moved slowly away.  As fast as the demon went, the fox matched his pace.  Finally, the demon came rushing up very quickly and the fox fled like the wind and faded into a thick forest.  The demon chased after the fox.  The woman and the wolf slipped into the empty cave and looked and saw the child tied in a bag and lying on the hearth.  They opened the bag and released the child.  They filled the bag with ice and thorns and replaced it as before.

The demon came back and lit the fire.  Inside the bag, the ice melted and dripped.  The demon said, “Stop pissing, child!”  But now the drops were trickling and he became angry.  He put his hand down into the bag, the droplets hit his hand and he became furious.  “Ardzi! She’s some girl, daring to scratch.  I’ll give it cuts of meat and drops of blood.”  He opened the bag and looked inside.  The child wasn’t there. “Akhakha!” he gasped.  “That evil fox has deceived me.  Now there’s nothing left to do but pay her back.”  And he went off to find the fox.  The fox saw him coming and went to the riverbank.  He kicked up the sand.  When the demon came close, he said, “Wicked fox, you tricked me.  You took the child and finally it’s time to kill you.”  The fox said, “Over on that mountain there are a hundred foxes, and a hundred foxes here on this mountain – and a thousand nine hundred vixens.  I am the vixen Sand-blower, who lives beside the river.”   The demon said, “I should learn the way of Sand-blower.”  The fox said, “Open your mouth, open your eyes wide and lie down.”  The demon lay down.  The fox kicked up the sand into the demon’s mouth, eyes and nose and ran off.  The vixen went to boil up glue on a rocky peak.  Suddenly the demon appeared.  “Evil vixen”, he said, “you have done wrong.  You took the child, you almost killed me by filling my mouth and nose with sand and now, if I didn’t kill you, I’d not be a demon.”  The fox replied, “What? Over on that mountain there are a hundred foxes, and a hundred foxes here on this mountain – and a thousand nine hundred vixens.  I am the vixen Offering Maker, who lives at the base of this rock.”  And he said, “so I should learn how to make glue.”  The vixen replied, “Come. Melt glue on this flat stone.  Now place your eye on the stone.”  He did so and the fox smeared the glue all over his face and then ran off.

The fox came to a rocky outcrop.  He made a basket with yellow shoots.  Suddenly the demon appeared, the skin peeled from his buttocks and blood dripping down his face.  With a great roar, he said, “Evil fox, not one more thing will you do! You stole the child, you filled my mouth and nose with sand, you stuck my rear-end to the stone, you smeared my face with glue – you have been torturing me.  Now you must die.”  The fox replied, “Great demon, I have not done these unimaginable things.  Over on that mountain there are a hundred foxes, and a hundred foxes here on this mountain – and a thousand and nine hundred vixens.  I am the vixen Basket Weaver, who lives on the top of the rock.  The demon said, “Now I should learn how to weave baskets.”   “Slip in here and I’ll teach you”, said the fox.

The demon got his body half-way inside the basket, where he remained, stuck.  Little by little the fox twisted the edge of the basket and finally only the demon’s head was seen and so the plaiting was done.  He rolled the basket to the slope and it turned and fell into the river under the rock and the demon was killed.  From that time all the people of that land lived happily, with the mother and her child as their leaders, free from the evil of the demon.


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