Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Going Mangai Hunting (Daur)

There was once a young hunter hurrying down a dusty road in his horse-drawn cart, a sharp glistening knife in his hand. Alongside the road he spied an ear.

"Big Brother!" the ear called out to him. "Where are you off to in such a hurry?"

"I'm on my way to kill a mangai for stealing my jinyinsa'ke," he replied.

"Hey, take me with you. I can let you know if I hear anything!"

"Hop on," the youth answered, and they drove on.

Soon they came across an eyeball lying by the side of the road.

"Big Brother!" the eyeball called out to him. "Where are you and the ear off to in such haste?"

"We're on our way to kill a mangai for stealing my jinyinsa'ke," the young hunter replied.

"Well, well, let me come with you. I can keep watch, you know!"

"Hop on," the young hunter answered, and they drove on.

Not long after, the trio came across an awl lying beside the road.

"Wei, young one!" called the awl. "And where are you three off to like that?"

"We're on our way to kill a mangai for stealing my jinyinsa'ke" was the answer.

"In that case, my boy, you'd better let me join you," said the awl. "I can puncture the mangai!"

"Hop on," the young hunter said, and they drove on.

Before long, the young hunter and his companions met and picked up a chicken egg, a nian fish, a red twig, a white twig, a pile of cow droppings, and a millstone, each one eager to help out in ridding the neighborhood of the hated mangai.

Now when the group was close to the mangai's house, the hunter asked the ear: "Ear! Ear! Is the mangai at home?"

"Nothing is stirring. Nothing is stirring. He must have gone out."

Then he asked the eyeball: "Eyeball! Eyeball! Is the mangai at home?"

"He's not there. He's not there. He must have gone out."

All of them then arrived at the mangai's house and saw that the ogre was not at home. Indeed he wasn't, for at that very moment he was out snatching jinyinsa'ke from other boys and girls.

All of the companions hopped off the cart. The ear hid itself on the mangai's windowsill. The eyeball hid itself on top of the window frame. Now inside, the awl took cover under a cushion on the mangai's kang, while the egg rolled itself into the ogre's pot. The nian fish jumped into a water bucket. The white and red twigs each stationed themselves, each on one of the two sides of the door, and the pile of cow dung hid itself just outside in front of the door. And the millstone? It placed itself on top of the door frame. With all of his friends in place, the young hunter then hid himself behind some bowls, pots, pans and dishes in the mangai's kitchen.

"Eyeball! Eyeball!" whispered the young hunter. "Do you see anything yet?"

"Not a thing! Not a thing!" the eyeball whispered back.

"Ear! Ear! What about you? Do you hear anything yet?"

"Attention everybody!" the ear whispered. "I hear the mangai's footsteps. He'll be here any minute now!"

Sure enough, the earth shook dong! dong! dong! dong! The mangai had returned home.

The huge creature entered his home, sniffed around, and said to himself, "I smell black insects! I smell black insects! Who has entered my home while I was gone! Who has let himself in? Where are you? Show yourself!"

The mangai strode over to his kang in his long striding way and sat down upon the cushion. The awl immediately pierced his ample backside.

"Aiyouyouyou!" he roared. "Does that ever hurt!"

The mangai then walked over to his oven and lit it. Beng! The egg inside his pot heated and exploded, leaving its white-hot and ashen contents all over his face. He then rushed over to his water bucket and stuck his head inside, hoping to find some cool, soothing water. Pa! Pa! Pa! The nian fish slapped his mouth sideways. The stunned ogre staggered backwards to the doorway. Ping! Ping! Pong! Pong! The white twig and red twig jumped out and whipped the mangai on every part of his body. Trying to cover his head with one hand and his backside with the other, the mangai opened his door and ran outside. Wa! He stepped on the now uncovered cow droppings and slipped, landing with a thud right on his back. Ka-qiang! The millstone then fell from its hiding place right onto the mangai's head, smashing his skull. The young hunter now rushed out of the kitchen and finished off the monster. He then located his stolen jinyinsa'ke.

"Our job is done. It's time to return!" he cried, and he and what was left of his companions hopped on the cart and rode back the way they had come.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Liaoning minjian gushiji, p. 566-569

This is a variant of "The Tale of Nung-kua-ma" (Eberhard, Folktales of China, 141-144). In folklore, excrement is often regarded as a powerful device, an object capable of housing strengths of the person, animal or being from which it is expelled (Chevalier & Gheerbrant, 360-361). Eberhard reminds us that excrement is a powerful apotropaic, a magical tool for warding off evil beings (Chinese Symbols, 96). I need to confess that I do not know what a jinyinsa'ke is. ("gold and silver sa'ke"?) However, I am working on it and will translate the term as soon as I find out. Motifs:D1002, "Talking excrement"; D1312.1.1., "Excrement as advisor"; H1235, "Succession of helpers on a quest"; K1161, "Animals hidden in various parts of house attack owner."