Kathasaritsagara (the Ocean of Story)

by Somadeva | 1924 | 1,023,469 words | ISBN-13: 9789350501351

This is the English translation of the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva around 1070. The principle story line revolves around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas (‘celestial beings’). The work is one of the adoptations of the now lost Bṛhatkathā, a great Indian epic tale said to have been composed by ...

Note on the “external soul” motif

A. Notes on the “external soul” motif:

Note: this text is extracted from Book II, chapter 11.

Cf. the story of Ohimé in the Sicilianische Marchen, collected by Laura Gonzenbach, where Maruzza asks Ohimé how it would be possible to kill him. So in Indian Fairy Tales, collected by Miss Stokes, Hiralāl Bāsā persuades Sonahrī Rānī to ask his father where he keeps his soul. Some interesting remarks on this subject will be found in the notes to this tale (Indian Fairy Tales, p. 260). See also No. 1 in Campbell’s Tales of the Western Highlands, and Dr Reinhold Kohler’s remarks in Orient und Occident, vol. ii, p. 100 . Cf also Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, pp. 80, 81 and 136 , and Veckenstedt’s Wendische Sagen, p. 72.

In the “Gehörnte Siegfried” (Simrock’s Deutsche Volksbūcher, vol. iii, pp. 368 and 41 6) the hero is made invulnerable everywhere but between the shoulders by being smeared with the melted fat of a dragon. Cf also the story of Achilles. For the transformation of Caṇḍamahāsena into a boar cf Bartsch’s Sagen, Marchen und gebräuche aus Meklenburg, vol. ii, pp. 144, 145, and Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, vol. ii, p. 14. See also Schôppner’s Geschichte der Bayerischen Lande, vol. i, p. 258.-

The idea of life depending on some extraneous object dates from the earliest times. It first appears on a papyrus of the nineteenth dynasty sold by Madame Elizabeth d’Orbiney to the British Museum in 1857. The tale which is known as “The Story of the Two Brothers” contains many interesting incidents to which we shall have to refer in a later volume. Among them is a clear account of an external soul. We read (Maspero, Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt, p. 10): “I shall take out my heart by magic to place it on the top of the flower of the acacia; and when the acacia is cut down and my heart falls to the ground thou shalt come to seek for it. When thou shalt have passed seven years in seeking for it, be not disheartened, but when once thou hast found it place it in a vase of fresh water; without doubt I shall live anew, and recompense the evil that shall have been done to me.”

In the “Adventure of Satni-Khamoîs with the Mummies,” which appears on a papyrus of Ptolemaic age, we find the first example of concealing an article in numerous boxes for the sake of safety. In later days this motif was applied to the external soul, and, as we shall see shortly, it is this form of the story which has spread through so many nations. In the Egyptian tale of Satni-Khamoîs the hidden article is the famous book of Thoth, which gave the possessor superhuman knowledge of every kind. It was naturally very hard to obtain, and is described as being “ in the midst of the sea of Coptos in an iron coffer. The iron coffer contains a bronze coffer; the bronze coffer contains a coffer of cinnamon wood; the coffer of cinnamon wood contains a coffer of ivory and ebony; the coffer of ivory and ebony contains a coffer of silver; the coffer of silver contains a coffer of gold, and the book is in that. And there is a schene (12,000 royal cubits of 52 centimetres each) of reptiles round the coffer in which is the book, and there is an immortal serpent rolled round the coffer in question” (Maspero, op. cit., pp. 124, 125).

The scientific study of the “external soul,” or “life-index,” has occupied the attention of several scholars. See, for instance, Cox, Aryan Mythology, vol. ii, pp. 36, 330; De Gubernatis, op. cit., vol. i, p. 168 ; Edward Clodd on the “Philosophy of Punchkin” in the Folk-Lore Journal, 1884, vol. ii, p. 302; Steel and Temple’s Wide-Awake Stories, pp. 404, 405; Clouston, Popular Tales and Fictions, vol. i, pp. 347-351; Macculloch, The Childhood of Fiction, p. 118 et seq.; Frazer, The Golden Bough, vol. ix, p. 95 et seq.; Sidney Hartland, Legend of Perseus, vol. ii, pp. 1-54, and his article, “Life-Token,” in Hastings’ Ency. Bel. Eth., vol. viii, pp. 44-47; and Ruth Norton in her article, “The Life-index: A Hindu Fiction Motif,” in Studies in Honor of Maurice Bloomfield, 1920 , pp. 211-224.

The subject divides itself into two main headings:

  1. The life of a person is dependent on some external object.
  2. The condition of a certain object shows to his friends or relations the state of a person’s health or chastity.

It is only the first division with which we are concerned in this note. The other will be discussed later when the text warrants it. There is, however, the same original idea running through both varieties of “life-index.” As Hartland has shown in his article, “Life-Token” (see above), there is a widespread belief of a distinct organic connection between the life-token and the person whose condition it exhibits. The life-token is derived from the doctrine of sympathetic magic, according to which any portion of a living being, though severed, remains in mystic union with the bulk, and is affected by whatever affects the bulk. This belief being so general, we find that it has entered not only into the folk-tales, but into the custom and superstition of a very wide variety of countries. Examples are given by Hartland from different parts of all five continents.

I have already shown in a note on p. 37 how it is commonly supposed that the soul wanders about in sleep, etc. We must, however, use the word “soul” with care. It is sometimes referred to in stories as “heart” or “life,” or perhaps there is no direct reference except the information that if a certain object or animal is destroyed the person with whom it is mystically connected will die. In the ancient Egyptian “Story of the Two Brothers” we saw it was a “heart” which was put in the acacia-tree, not in any way hidden, but merely awaiting its fate, as the owner knew that in time the tree would be cut down and his heart would fall and so he would die. This idea, with certain alterations of details, occurs in numerous folk-tales and in the customs of savage peoples. The Eastern story-teller, always ready to exaggerate and embroider, introduced the idea of making the “soul” as hard to find as possible, thus he encases it in a series of various articles or animals and puts it in some apparently inaccessible place, which, as we have already seen, was first employed by the ancient Egyptians with regard to the magic book of Thoth.

It is this form of life-index motif that has spread all over India and slowly migrated to Europe via Persia, Arabia and the Mediterranean. We shall first of all consider briefly the occurrence of this motif in Hindu fiction.

In Freer’s Old Deccan Days, in the “Story of Punchkin” (p. 13), the magician’s life ends when a little green parrot is killed. The bird is in a cage, in the sixth of six chattees of water, in a circle of palm-trees in a thick jungle, in a desolate country hundreds of thousands of miles away, guarded by thousands of genii. In Miss Stokes’ Indian Fairy Tales the demon’s life depends on a maina (hill-starling), in a nest, on a tree, on the other side of a great sea.

Compare D’Penha, “Folk-Lore of Salsette,” Ind. Ant., xxii, p. 249, and Damant, “Bengali Folk-Lore,” Ind. Ant., i, 171. In L. B. Day’s Folk-Tales of Bengal, No. 1 , the “soul” is in a necklace, in a box, in the heart of a boal fish, in a tank.

Again in No. 4 of the same collection of tales the princess is told by the Rākṣasa that

“in a tank close by, deep down in the water, is a crystal pillar, on the top of which are two bees. If any human being can dive into the water and bring up these two bee 6 in one breath, and destroy them so that not a drop of blood falls to the ground, then we rākṣasas shall certainly die; but if a single drop of their blood falls to the ground, then from it will start a thousand rākṣasas.”

In Knowles, Folk-Tales of Kashmir, p. 383, and Ind. Ant., Sept. 1885, p. 250, the ogre’s life depends on that of a queen bee who lives in a honey-comb on a certain tree guarded by myriads of savage bees. Compare Steel and Temple’s Wide-Awake Stories, p. 59, and Damant’s article mentioned above, p. 117.

In a story appearing in H. H. Wilson’s Descriptive Catalogue of the Mackenzie MSS., i, p. 329, the life of Māirāvaṇa is divided up into five vital airs, which are secured in the bodies of five black bees living on a mountain 60,000 kos distant. (See also p. 218 of the same work.)

The bird appears to be the most popular index in Indian tales. Norton (op. cit., p. 217) gives numerous references. For more usual indexes see Chilli’s Folk-Tales of Hindustan, p. 114; Wadia’s “Folk-Lore in Western India,” Ind. Ant., xxii, p. 318; Bompas’ Folk-Lore of the Santal Parganas, p. 224; and Ramaswami Raju’s Tales of the Sixty Mandarins, p. 182. In O’Connor’s Folk-Tales of Tibet, p. 113 et seq., is the unique example of one mortal being the index of another mortal. Thus the boy in whose keeping is the giant’s soul is hidden in a subterranean chamber.

In the great majority of the above tales there is a captive princess, or an ogre’s daughter, who falls in love with the hero and tells him the way in which the obstacles to the destruction of the demon, or Rākṣasa, may be overcome.

We now turn to Persia and Arabia, where we find the “life-index” occurring in the “History of Nassar,” from the Persian Maḥbūb ul-Qulūb, reproduced in Clouston’s Group of Eastern Romances (see p. 30); while in Arabian literature it appears in the “Story of Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal” (Burton, Nights, vol. vii, p. 350). Here the form of the motif is unusual, as the king of the Jann was told at his birth that he would be killed by the son of a king of mankind.

Accordingly, he says,

“I took it [the soul] and set it in the crop of a sparrow, and shut up the bird in a box. The box I set in a casket, and enclosing this in seven other caskets and seven chests, laid the whole in an alabastrine coffer, which I buried within the marge of yon earth-circling sea; for that these parts are far from the world of men and none of them can win thither. So now see, I have told thee what thou would’st know, so do thou tell none thereof, for it is a matter between me and thee.”

In Europe we still have the “soul” hidden in numerous “wrappings” which differ with the locality of the story. In Rome (“Story of Cajusse,” Busk, Folk-Lore of Rome) it is in a stone, in the head of a bird, in the head of a leveret, in the middle head of a seven-headed hydra. Miss Busk cites a Huṅgarian tale where the dwarfs life is finally discovered to be in a golden cockchafer, inside a golden cock, inside a golden sheep, inside a golden stag, in the ninety-ninth island.

In Russia (Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 103 et seq.) the life is in an egg, in a duck, in a casket, in an oak. In Serbia (Mijatovich’s Servian Folk-Lore, p. 172) it is in a board, in the heart of a fox, in a mountain. Similar “wrappings” of the “soul” will be found in Albania (Dozon, p. 132), South Slavonia (Wratislaw, p. 225), Schleswig-Holstein (Müllenhoff, p. 404), Norway (Asbjørnsen, No. 36; Dasent, p. 69) and the Hebrides (Campbell, p. 10). See J. Jacob’s Indian Fairy Tales, p. 238, 239-

We have thus seen that the idea of the “external soul” is of very old conception and is widely embedded in the customs and superstitions of numerous peoples of the world. This idea arose independently to a large extent, and no one nation can be definitely said to have “created” the idea, as is proved by its existence in remote corners of the globe—such as New Zealand.

The idea of using the “external soul” as an attractive story motif by casing it in numerous articles, etc., arose in India (although it was originally used in Egypt to hide a magical book), whence the idea has migrated, with very little alteration, to other Eastern countries and to nearly every part of Europe.—n.m.p.

B. From the story of “King Caṇḍamahāsena”:

Note: this text is extracted from Book XVI, chapter 112.

This story is found in Vol. I, pp. 124-128. See also the note on the “External Soul” motif on pp. 129-132 of the same volume. The examples there given afford only a small idea of the enormous distribution of the motif. I am therefore glad to add the following further references sent me by Dr A. H. Krappe.

(1) General: Frazer, Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, vol. ii, p. 491 et. seq., (in connection with Samson and Delilah); Panzer, Sigfrid, M ü nchen, 1912, p. 253 et seq.; and Bolte and Polivka, op. cit., vol. iii., p. 424 et seq., No. 197 (Grimm, “The Crystal Ball”).

(2) Life in Egg: Cosquin, Contes Populaires de Lorraine, vol. ii, p. 131 (see also vol. i, p. 168).

(3) Life bound up with Animal: Hans Naumann, Primitive Gemeinschafts-kultur, pp. 99, 104; Cosquin, op. cit., vol. ii, pp. 144, 356; Chauvin, op. cit., v, p. 235; vi, p. 88; vii, p. 67; O. Tobler, Die Epiphanie der Seele in deutscher Volkssage (Dissertation), Kiel, 1911, p. 24. [Not seen by me.]

(4) Life in Special Part of Body: Radloff, Proben der Volkslitteratur..., vol. i, p. 66; Apollodorus, ed. Frazer, vol. i, pp. 165, 173; V. Tille, Verzeichnis d. Böhmischen Märchen, 1921 (FF Communications 34), p. 75 et seq.; B. Ug, Maltesische Märchen, vol. i, p. 154; G. Jungbauer, Märchen aus Turkestan u. Tibet, Jena, 1923, p. 197; A. P. Graves, The Irish Fairy Book, p. 140; Revue des Traditions Populaires, tome xxv, August-September 1910, p. 293.

(5) Lije in Weapon, Ornament, or other Object: Von der Leyen, Das Märchen, 1917, p. 32; Cosquin, op. cit., vol. i, p. 25; W. Larminie, West Irish Folk-Tales, p. 152; T. Menzel, Türkische Märchen. Billur Köschk, Hanover, 1923, p. 79; Jungbauer, op. cit., p. 68.

(6) Life in Burning Candle: Hartland, Science of Fairy Tales, p. 205; A. Stöber, Alsatia, 1858-1861, p. 263; John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion..., Hibbert Lectures, Ldn., 1888, p. 514; J. G. Frazer, Apollodorus, vol. i, p. 65; Tille, op. cit., p. 113; W. Hertz, Deutsche Sage im Elsass, 1872, p. 118; W. Anderson, Philologus, vol. lxxiii, Leipzig, 1914-1916, p. 159.—n.m.p.

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