“The Story of the Two Devils”

Today’s folk tale comes from Tibet, a land whose stories I am completely unfamiliar with.

A long time ago, there was a plateau high in the mountains on which were situated several cites, all ruled over by a king with seven sons. One day, when the sons were playing in the forest, they found a beautiful girl who was herding a yak. “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.” (pg. 70) The girl consented and went home with the brothers, bringing her yak along.

Every year, one of the brothers died, starting with the oldest until only the youngest was left. He of course became very ill and the head-men of the villages decided to send for a fortune teller. The fortune teller they chose may have been a fake, but he does come up with a plan. Through his help, it is discovered that the girl was actually a she-devil and the yak her husband.

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. (pg. 73-74)

Of course the fortune teller is rewarded, although his wife asks for more. Instead of seeing this request as an insult, the surviving son makes the fortune teller ruler of half of the kingdom.

Unlike most of the fairy tales and folk stories we’ve read, the beautiful girl is not as kind and innocent as she is lovely. Physical beauty can be only skin deep and can hide pure evil, not a bad lesson in any time or place.

I’ve said before that stories from other cultures can teach us about those people. In the story, the girl marries all the brothers, which struck me odd. Of course, I know that polygamy exists and has existed for umpteen centuries but I always associated it as a man having multiple wives. Apparently, and this based on a very quick internet search so if I’m wrong please let me know, polyandry, where a woman marries multiple men most often brothers, was historically practiced in Tibet and a few other regions. It did provide several benefits- economic stability and security for the woman, lots of men to work the fields, strong family ties. Anyway, that’s the bit of knowledge I gained today.

I read “The Story of the Two Devils” on-line here, but it can be found inΒ Tibetan Folk Tales by A. L. Shelton.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see what she has to say about another Tibetan tale, “Chunda’s Wisdom Quest,”and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at a Russian tale.