A Younger Soul: Seven Short Stories

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In a Celtic tale, recorded in the West Highlands of Scotland, a giant is questioned by a captive queen as to where he keeps his soul. There is a wether under the flag. In an Irish story we read how a giant kept a beautiful damsel a prisoner in his castle on the top of a hill, which was white with the bones of the champions who had tried in vain to rescue the fair captive. With the help of some obliging animals, the hero made himself master of the precious egg and slew the giant by merely striking it against the mole on his right breast.

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Similarly in a Breton story there figures a giant whom neither fire nor water nor steel can harm. So I am quite easy on that score. In another Breton tale the life of a giant resides in an old box-tree which grows in his castle garden; and to kill him it is necessary to sever the tap-root of the tree at a single blow of an axe without injuring any of the lesser roots. This task the hero, as usual, successfully accomplishes, and at the same moment the giant drops dead. The notion of an external soul has now been traced in folk-tales told by Aryan peoples from India to Ireland.

We have still to show that the same idea occurs commonly in the popular stories of peoples who do not belong to the Aryan stock.

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I therefore took my soul, and put it into the crop of a sparrow, and I imprisoned the sparrow in a little box, and put this into another small box, and this I put within seven other small boxes, and I put these within seven chests, and the chests I put into a coffer of marble within the verge of this circumambient ocean; for this part is remote from the countries of mankind, and none of mankind can gain access to it. In a Kabyle story an ogre declares that his fate is far away in an egg, which is in a pigeon, which is in a camel, which is in the sea.

The hero procures the egg and crushes it between his hands, and the ogre dies. In a Magyar folk-tale, an old witch detains a young prince called Ambrose in the bowels of the earth.

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At last she confided to him that she kept a wild boar in a silken meadow, and if it were killed, they would find a hare inside, and inside the hare a pigeon, and inside the pigeon a small box, and inside the box one black and one shining beetle: the shining beetle held her life, and the black one held her power; if these two beetles died, then her life would come to an end also.

When the old hag went out, Ambrose killed the wild boar, and took out the hare; from the hare he took the pigeon, from the pigeon the box, and from the box the two beetles; he killed the black beetle, but kept the shining one alive. The sage contrived to purloin the talisman while the khan and his guards slept; but not content with this he gave a further proof of his dexterity by bonneting the slumbering potentate with a bladder.

This was too much for the khan. Next morning he informed the sage that he could overlook everything else, but that the indignity of being bonneted with a bladder was more than he could bear; and he ordered his facetious friend to instant execution. Pained at this exhibition of royal ingratitude, the sage dashed to the ground the talisman which he still held in his hand; and at the same instant blood flowed from the nostrils of the khan, and he gave up the ghost.

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In a Tartar poem two heroes named Ak Molot and Bulat engage in mortal combat. Ak Molot pierces his foe through and through with an arrow, grapples with him, and dashes him to the ground, but all in vain, Bulat could not die. So he shot through the white thread with an arrow, and down fell the casket. Bulat wept when he saw that his soul was found in the casket. But one after the other the birds were killed, and then Ak Molot easily slew his foe.

In another Tartar poem, two brothers going to fight two other brothers take out their souls and hide them in the form of a white herb with six stalks in a deep pit. The two warriors whose souls have thus been stolen know that they have no chance of victory, and accordingly make peace with their enemies. In another Tartar poem a terrible demon sets all the gods and heroes at defiance. At last a valiant youth fights the demon, binds him hand and foot, and slices him with his sword. But still the demon is not slain.

For if your soul had been hidden in your body, you must have been dead long ago. In the bag is a serpent with twelve heads. In the serpent is my soul. When you have killed the serpent, you have killed me also. Thus inspired with fresh force he slays his enemy.

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In a Mongolian story the hero Joro gets the better of his enemy the lama Tschoridong in the following way. But Joro catches the wasp in his hand, and by alternately shutting and opening his hand he causes the lama alternately to lose and recover consciousness. In a Tartar poem two youths cut open the body of an old witch and tear out her bowels, but all to no purpose, she still lives. On being asked where her soul is, she answers that it is in the middle of her shoe-sole in the form of a seven-headed speckled snake.

So one of the youths slices her shoe-sole with his sword, takes out the speckled snake, and cuts off its seven heads. Then the witch dies.

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Another Tartar poem describes how the hero Kartaga grappled with the Swan-woman. Long they wrestled. Moons waxed and waned and still they wrestled; years came and went, and still the struggle went on. Under the black earth flow nine seas; where the seas meet and form one, the sea comes to the surface of the earth.

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At the mouth of the nine seas rises a rock of copper; it rises to the surface of the ground, it rises up between heaven and earth, this rock of copper. At the foot of the copper rock is a black chest, in the black chest is a golden casket, and in the golden casket is the soul of the Swan-woman. Seven little birds are the soul of the Swan-woman; if the birds are killed the Swan-woman will die straightway. So the horses ran to the foot of the copper rock, opened the black chest, and brought back the golden casket.

Then the piebald horse turned himself into a bald-headed man, opened the golden casket, and cut off the heads of the seven birds. So the Swan-woman died. In another Tartar poem the hero, pursuing his sister who has driven away his cattle, is warned to desist from the pursuit because his sister has carried away his soul in a golden sword and a golden arrow, and if he pursues her she will kill him by throwing the golden sword or shooting the golden arrow at him.

A Malay poem relates how once upon a time in the city of Indrapoora there was a certain merchant who was rich and prosperous, but he had no children. One day as he walked with his wife by the river they found a baby girl, fair as an angel. So they adopted the child and called her Bidasari. The merchant caused a golden fish to be made, and into this fish he transferred the soul of his adopted daughter.

Then he put the golden fish in a golden box full of water, and hid it in a pond in the midst of his garden. In time the girl grew to be a lovely woman. Now the King of Indrapoora had a fair young queen, who lived in fear that the king might take to himself a second wife. So, hearing of the charms of Bidasari, the queen resolved to put her out of the way.

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I do believe we are all moving from young soul dominant planet to mature soul, with some healing to do. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they- and she-will come to both revere and fear. And now euquero proficional independence and success. And I asked a friend. We Have Come Through!

She lured the girl to the palace and tortured her cruelly; but Bidasari could not die, because her soul was not in her. In the morning you must take the fish out of the water, and in the evening you must put it back into the water. Do not let the fish lie about, but bind it round your neck. If you do this, I shall soon die.

But in the evening, when the fish was put back into the water, Bidasari came to herself again. Seeing that she thus had the girl in her power, the queen sent her home to her adopted parents. To save her from further persecution her parents resolved to remove their daughter from the city.

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So in a lonely and desolate spot they built a house and brought Bidasari thither. There she dwelt alone, undergoing vicissitudes that corresponded with the vicissitudes of the golden fish in which was her soul. All day long, while the fish was out of the water, she remained unconscious; but in the evening, when the fish was put into the water, she revived.

One day the king was out hunting, and coming to the house where Bidasari lay unconscious, was smitten with her beauty. He tried to waken her, but in vain.

Next day, towards evening, he repeated his visit, but still found her unconscious. However, when darkness fell, she came to herself and told the king the secret of her life.