Twenty-Two Goblins

Part 3 out of 3

wander over the earth, and each of us will learn some one
science." So they appointed a place for meeting, and the four
brothers started in four different directions.

After a time they all gathered at the meeting-place, and asked one
another what they had learned. The first said: "I have learned a
science by which I can take the skeleton of any animal whatever
and put the proper kind of flesh on it."

The second said: "I have learned a science by which I can put on
the flesh-covered skeleton the proper hair and skin."

The third said: "My science is this. When the skin and the flesh
and the hair are there, I can put in the eyes and the other organs of

The fourth said: "When the organs are there, I can give the
creature the breath of life."

So all four went into the forest to find a skeleton and test their
various sciences. As fate would have it, they found the skeleton of
a lion there. And they took that, not knowing the difference.

The first fitted out the skeleton with appropriate flesh. The second
added the skin and hair. The third provided all the organs. The
fourth gave life to the thing, and it was a lion. The lion arose with
terrible massive mane, dreadful teeth in his mouth, and curving
claws in his paws. He arose and killed his four creators, then ran
into the forest.

Thus the Brahman youths all perished because they did wrong to
make a lion. Who could expect a good result from creating a
bad-tempered creature? Thus, if fate opposed, even a virtue that
has been painfully acquired does not profit, but rather injures. But
the tree of manhood, with the water of intelligence poured into its
watering-trench of conduct about the vigorous root of fate,
generally bears good fruit.

When the goblin had told this story, he asked the king who was
walking through the night: "O King, remember the curse I
mentioned, and tell me which of them was most to blame for
creating the lion?"

And the king reflected in silence: "He wants to escape again. Very
well. I will catch him again." So he said: "The one who gave life
to the lion, is the sinner. The others did not know what kind of an
animal it was, and just showed their skill in creating flesh and skin
and hair and organs. They were not to blame because they were
ignorant. But the one who saw that it was a lion and gave it life
just to exhibit his skill, he was guilty of the murder of Brahmans."

Then the goblin went home. And the king followed him again, and
came to the sissoo tree.


The Old Hermit who exchanged his Body for that of the Dead Boy.
Why did he weep and dance?

Then the king went back to the sissoo tree, put the goblin on his
shoulder in spite of all its writhings, and set out in silence. And the
goblin on his shoulder said: "O king of kings, you are terribly
obstinate about this impossible task. So to amuse the weary
journey I will tell a story. Listen."

In the Kalinga country was a city called Beautiful, where people
lived as happily as in heaven. There ruled a famous king named
Pradyumna. And in a part of this city was a region set apart by the
king, where many Brahmans lived. Among them was a learned,
wealthy, pious, hospitable Brahman named Sacrifice.

In his old age a single son was born to him and his worthy wife.
The boy grew under the fostering care of his father, and showed
signs of excellence. He was called Devasoma by his father, and his
parents were entirely devoted to him.

In his sixteenth year the boy attracted everyone by his learning and
modesty. Then he suddenly fell ill of a fever and died. When his
father and mother saw that he was really dead, they embraced the
body and wept aloud. But their love for him would not permit
them to burn the body.

So the old relatives gathered, and said to the father: "Brahman, life
is imaginary like a city in the sky. Do you not know this, you who
know things above and things below? The kings who enjoyed
themselves like gods upon the earth, they have gone one by one to
cemeteries filled with processions of weeping ghosts. Their bodies
were burned by the flesh-devouring fire and eaten by jackals. No
one could prevent it in their case. How much less in the case of
others? Therefore, as you are a wise man, tell us what you mean by
embracing this dead body?"

So at last the relatives persuaded him to let his son go, and they
put the body in a litter and brought it to the cemetery with weeping
and wailing.

At that time a hermit was fulfilling a hard vow, and was living in a
hut in the cemetery. He was very thin because of his age and his
hard life. His veins stuck out like cords to bind him, as if afraid
that he would break in pieces. His hair was tawny like the

This hermit heard the wailing of the people, and turned to his pupil
who begged food for him. Now this pupil was proud and arrogant.
And the hermit said: "My boy, what is this wailing we hear? Go
outside and find out, then return and tell me why this
unheard-of commotion is taking place."

But the pupil said: "I will not go. Go yourself. My hour for begging
is passing by."

Then the teacher said: "Fool! Glutton! What do you mean by your
hour for begging? Only one half of the first watch of the day is

Then the bad pupil became angry and said: "Decrepit old man! I
am not your pupil. And you are not my teacher. I am going away.
Do your begging yourself." And he angrily threw down his staff
and bowl before the old man, and got up, and went away.

Then the hermit laughed. He left his hut and went to the place
where the dead Brahman boy had been brought to be burned. He
saw how the people mourned over such youthful freshness dead,
and felt his own age and weakness. So he made up his mind to
exchange his body for the other by magic.

He went aside and wept at the top of his voice. Then he danced
with all the proper gestures.

After that, full of the longing to enjoy the happiness of youth, he
left his own withered body by magic and entered the body of the
Brahman youth. So the Brahman youth came to life on the funeral
pyre and stood up. And a cry of joy arose from all the relatives:
"See! The boy is alive! He is alive!"

Then the magician in the body of the Brahman boy said to the
relatives: "I went to the other world, and Shiva gave me life and
directed me to perform a great vow. So now I am going off to
perform the vow. If I do not, my life will not last. Do you then go
home, and I will come later."

So he spoke to those gathered there, having made up his mind
what to do, and sent them home full of joy and grief. He went
himself and threw his old body into a pit, and then went off, a
young man.

When the goblin had told this story, he said to King
Triple-victory, who was walking through the night: "O King, when
the magician entered another person's body, why did he weep
before doing it, or why did he dance? I have a great curiosity about
this point."

And the king was afraid of the curse, so he broke silence and said:
"Listen, goblin. He thought: I am leaving to-day this body with
which I won magic powers, the body which my parents petted
when I was a child.' So first he wept from grief, and from love of
his body which he found it hard to leave. Then he thought: With a
new body I can learn more magic.' So he danced from joy at
getting youth."

When the goblin heard this answer, he returned quickly to the
sissoo tree. And the king pursued him, undismayed.


The Father and Son who married Daughter and Mother. What
relation were their children?

The king paid no attention to the terrible witch of night, clad in
black darkness, with the funeral piles as flaming eyes. He bravely
went through the dreadful cemetery to the sissoo tree, put the
goblin on his shoulder, and started as before. And as he walked
along, the goblin said to him: "O King, I am very tired with these
comings and goings, but you do not seem to be. So I will tell you
my Great Puzzle. Listen."

Long ago there was a king named Virtue in the southern country.
He was the best of righteous men, and was born in a great family.
His wife came from the Malwa country, and her name was
Moonlight. And they had one daughter, whom they named Beauty.

When this daughter was grown up, the relatives conspired to wreck
the kingdom and drive King Virtue out. But he escaped by night,
took a great many jewels, and fled from his kingdom with his
beautiful wife and his daughter. He started for his
father-in-law's house in Malwa, and came with his wife and
daughter to the Vindhya forest. There they spent a weary night.

In the morning the blessed sun arose in the east, stretching out his
rays like hands to warn the king not to go into the forest where
robbers lived. The king went on foot with his trembling daughter
and his wife, and their feet were wounded by the thorny grass. So
they came to a fortified village. It was like the city of Death; for
there were no righteous people there, and it was filled with
robber-men who killed and robbed other people.

As the king drew near with his fine garments and his gems, many
robbers saw him from a distance, and ran out armed to rob him.
When the king saw them coming, he said to his wife and daughter:
"These are wild men. They must not touch you. Go into the thick
woods." So the queen with her daughter Beauty fled in fear into
the middle of the forest.

But the brave king took his sword and shield and killed many of
the wild men as they charged down, raining arrows on him. Then
their leader gave an order, and all the robbers fell on the king at
once, wounded every limb in his body, and killed him; for he was
all alone. So the robbers took the jewels and went away.

Now the queen had hidden in a thicket, and had seen her husband
killed. Then she fled a long distance in fear and came with her
daughter into another thick wood. The rays of the midday sun were
so fierce that travellers had to sit in the shade. So Queen
Moonlight and Princess Beauty sat down under an ashoka tree near
a lotus-pond in terrible weariness and fear and grief.

Now a gentleman named Fierce-lion who lived near came on
horseback with his son into that wood to hunt. The son's name was
Strong-lion. And the father saw the footprints of the queen and the
princess, and he said to his son: "My son, these footprints are
clean-cut and ladylike. Let us follow them. And if we find two
women, you shall marry one of them, whichever you choose."

And the son Strong-lion said: "Father, the one who has the little
feet in this line of footprints, seems to be the wife for me. The one
with the bigger feet must be older. She is the wife for you."

But Fierce-lion said: "My son, what do you mean? Your mother
went to heaven before your eyes. When so good a wife is gone,
how could I think of another?"

But his son said: "Not so, Father. A householder's house is an
empty place without a wife. Besides, you have surely heard what
the poet says:

What fool would go into a house?
Tis a prisoner's abode,
Unless a buxom wife is there,
Looking down the road.'

So, Father, I beg you on my life to marry the second one, whom I
have chosen for you."

Then Fierce-lion said "Very well," and went on slowly with his
son, following the footprints. And when he came to the pond, he
saw Queen Moonlight, radiant with beauty and charm. And with
his son he eagerly approached her. But when she saw him, she rose
in terror, fearing that he was a robber.

But her sensible daughter said: "There is no reason to fear. These
two men are not robbers. They are two well-dressed gentlemen,
who probably came here to hunt." Still the queen swung in doubt.

Then Fierce-lion dismounted and stood before her. And he said:
"Beautiful lady, do not be frightened. We came here to hunt. Pluck
up heart and tell me without fear who you are. Why have you come
into this lonely wood? For your appearance is that of ladies who
wear gems and sit on pleasant balconies. And why should feet fit
to saunter in a court, press this thorny ground? It is a strange sight.
For the wind-blown dust settles on your faces and robs them of
beauty. It hurts us to see the fierce rays of the sun fall upon such
figures. Tell us your story. For our hearts are sadly grieved to see
you in such a plight. And we cannot see how you could live in a
forest filled with wild beasts."

Then the queen sighed, and between shame and grief she
stammered out her story. And Fierce-lion saw that she had no
husband to care for her. So he comforted her and soothed her with
tender words, and took care of her and her daughter. His son
helped the two ladies on horseback and led them to his own city,
rich as the city of the god of wealth. And the queen seemed to be
in another life. She was helpless and widowed and miserable. So
she consented. What could she do, poor woman?

Then, because the queen had smaller feet, the son Strong-lion
married Queen Moonlight. And Fierce-lion, the father, married her
daughter, the princess Beauty, because of the bigness of her feet.
Who would break a promise that had been made solemnly?

Thus, because of their inconsistent feet, the daughter became the
wife of the father and the mother-in-law of her own mother. And
the mother became the wife of the son and the
daughter-in-law of her own daughter. And as time passed, sons and
daughters were born to each pair.

When the goblin had told this story, he asked the king: "O King,
when children were born to the father and daughter, and other
children to the son and mother, what relation were those children
to one another? If you know and do not tell, then remember the
curse I spoke of before?"

When the king heard the goblin's question, he turned the thing this
way and that, but could not say a word. So he went on in silence.
And when the goblin saw that he could not answer the question, he
laughed in his heart and thought: "This king cannot give an answer
to my Great Puzzle. So he just walks on in silence. And he cannot
deceive me because of the power of the curse. Well, I am pleased
with his wonderful character. So I will cheat that rogue of a monk,
and give the magic power he is striving after to this king."

So the goblin said aloud: "O King, you are weary with your
comings and goings in this dreadful cemetery in the black night,
yet you seem happy, and never hesitate at all. I am astonished and
pleased at your perseverance. So now you may take the dead body
and go ahead. I will leave the body. And I will tell you something
that will do you good, and you must do it. The monk for whom you
are carrying this body, is a rogue. He will call upon me and
worship me, and he will try to kill you as a sacrifice. He will say:
Lie flat on the ground in an attitude of reverence.' O King, you
must say to that rascal: I do not know this attitude of reverence.
Show me first, and then I will do likewise.' Then when he lies on
the ground to show you the attitude of reverence, cut off his head
with your sword. Then you will get the kingship over the fairies
which he is trying to get. Otherwise, the monk will kill you and get
the magic power. That is why I have delayed you so long. Now go
ahead, and win magic power."

So the goblin left the body on the king's shoulder and went away.
And the king reflected how the monk Patience was planning to
hurt him. He took the body and joyfully went to the


So King Triple-victory came to the monk Patience with the body
on his shoulder. And he saw the monk along in the dark night,
sitting under the cemetery tree and looking down the road. He had
made a magic circle with yellow powdered bones in a spot
smeared with blood. In it he had put a jug filled with blood and
lamps with magic oil. He had kindled a fire and brought together
the things he needed for worship.

The monk rose to greet the king who came carrying the body, and
he said: "O King, you have done me a great favour, and a hard one.
This is a strange business and a strange time and place for such as
you. They say truly that you are the best of kings, for you serve
others without thinking of yourself. This is the very thing that
makes the greatness of a great man, when he does not give a thing
up, though it costs his very life."

So the monk felt sure the he was quite successful, and he took the
body from the king's shoulder. He bathed it and put garlands on it,
and set it in the middle of the circle. Then he smeared his own
body with ashes, put on a cord made of human hair, wrapped
himself in dead man's clothes, and stood a moment, deep in
thought. And the goblin was attracted by his thought into the body,
and the monk worshipped him.

First he offered liquor in a skull, then he gave him human teeth
carefully cleaned, and human eyes and flesh. So he completed his
worship, then he said to the king: "O King, fall flat on the ground
before this master magician in an attitude of reverence, so that he
may give you what you want."

And the king remembered the words of the goblin. He said to the
monk: "Holy sir, I do not know that attitude of reverence. Do you
show me first, and afterwards I will do it in the same way."

And when the monk fell on the ground to show the attitude of
reverence, the king cut off his head with a sword, and cut out his
heart and split it open. And he gave the head and the heart to the

Then all the little gods were delighted and cried: "Well done!"
And the goblin was pleased and spoke to the king from the body he
was living in: "O King, this monk was trying to become king of the
fairies. But you shall be that when you have been king of the
whole world."

And the king answered the goblin: "O magic creature, if you are
pleased with me, I have nothing more to wish for. Yet I ask you to
make me one promise, that these twenty-two different, charming
puzzle-stories shall be known all over the world and be received
with honour."

And the goblin answered: "O King, so be it. And I will tell you
something more. Listen. When anyone tells or hears with proper
respect even a part of these puzzle-stories, he shall be immediately
free from sin. And wherever these stories are told, elves and giants
and witches and goblins and imps shall have no power."

Then the goblin left the dead body by magic, and went where he
wanted to. Then Shiva appeared there with all the little gods, and
he was well pleased. When the king bowed before him, he said:
"My son, you did well to kill this sham monk who tried by force to
become king of the fairies. Therefore you shall establish the whole
earth, and then become king of the fairies yourself. And when you
have long enjoyed the delights of heaven and at last give them up
of your own accord, then you shall be united with me. So receive
from me this sword called Invincible. While you have it,
everything you say will come true."

So Shiva gave him the magic sword, received his flowery words of
worship, and vanished with the gods.


Back to Full Books