Altaic cultures and languages are named after the Altai Mountain Range, located in China, Mongolia and Russia. The Mongol language group is one of the three language groups in the Altaic language family. Mongol language group languages are found both in Inner Mongolia; a province of China, and the Republic of Mongolia; also known as Outer Mongolia. Other languages which are members of the Altaic language family, or are closely related are: Turkish, Uigur, Manchu, Daur, Ewenk and Oroquen.
Altaic folklore can be divided into several catagories: Epics, Ballads, Myths, Magical Stories, Legends, Poems, Anecdotes, Words of Wisdom, and Songs. The most famous works of Mongolian literature are: "The Secret History"; based on the life of Chingis Khan (1162-1227 A.D.) and the early Mongols, "Geser"; a religious epic believed to be passed from Tibet along with Lamaism (a form of Buddhism), and "Jangar"; a Mongol Hero Epic.
Aside from these long and famous works, the Mongols also have a very large collection of not so well known myths, magical stories, and legends. This is what we will be sharing with you here. All of these selections have been translated from Mongolian or Chinese.
These are stories which contain the culture and wisdom of a very proud people with a very old culture. I hope you enjoy these stories and welcome any comments and suggestions you may have.
These translations are the property of CulturEvolution and cannot be reprinted without written permission.
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a greedy dog living in the Altai Mountains.
One day while the greedy dog was walking along he found a nice bone on the ground near a bridge. He stopped to pick up the bone and looked across the river to the other side. He thought it looked nicer on the other side of the river and decided to go on across the bridge. As the greedy dog was walking across the bridge with the bone in his mouth he looked down into the water. There in the water he saw his own reflection and thought it was another dog with a bone. The greedy dog thought to himself �I am going to take that bone away from the other dog as it is bigger than the bone I have�. So the greedy dog jumped off the bridge into the water, he splashed around for a while but never found the other dog and lost his own bone at the same time.
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It is said that there was a spotted mare from Choht who had a colt named Morning Star. After she lead him around for three nights they would go to water, after three more nights they would go to graze. Once, while on the way to water they came to a bird�s egg.
At this, it is said that a goose came and pleaded "Don�t step on my egg or you�ll kill it!" kowtowing to the mare. The mare responded "Don�t talk to me about killing your egg, my throat is parched with thirst and I can hardly walk". The mare swerved on purpose and kicked the egg killing it. Then they went off in the direction of water.
The goose was enraged "On your way back I am going to kill your Morning Star!"
When this mare and her colt came back by the goose flew at the colt, when pecking from the south the mare would move the colt to the north, when pecking from the north she would move him to the south, when pecking from the west she would move him to the east, when pecking from the east she would move him to the west. Not letting the goose get near the colt, it is said, the mare lead him off and away from there.
The small colt noticed his mothers ears were not shifting back and forth as usual, rather now they were sagging. His mother must be thirsty he thought. The colt noticed again how his mothers gate was not the usual sound of clip clop, rather now it was more of a dragging sound. His mother must be tired he thought.
The colt wondered why his mother�s fur was disheveled and dirty. He thought is was from the trek through the brush on Shabakt peak where the mud and dirt got caked to her fur. The colt also wondered what the red spots were that were on his mother�s body. He thought is was from the trek over Hont peak where the sulfur and sand got caked to her fur. The colt also wondered what the blue spots were on his mothers body. He thought they must be from the trek over Bingt peak where the rocks and pebbles stuck to her fur.
At this and after they crossed the peak, the mare stopped with tears streaming from her eyes. She said "My son, your dear mother is going to die soon." Tears began to well up in the colt�s eyes as he moved away from his beloved mother.
"Where will I go, what will I do? I don�t know anything from above or below, I can�t remain alone. Without your sweet milk what will I eat? Please try and bear it my dear mother." Said the little colt, tears filling his beautiful big bright eyes as he began crying.
It is said that the mare wished her son well, "My son, death is a predetermined part of life. Behind the Baraad Peak you will find a herd of horses a thousand strong, in that herd is your older sister, but you can�t get along together. Behind the Argalt Peak is a herd of horses ten thousand strong, in that herd is your older brother, but you can�t get along together. From there if you go in that direction is a herd of horses one-hundred thousand strong, in that herd is your old mother, it is there where you can live together with her. Grass and greens will be milk for you. There will be many friends and nieces and nephews for your there. Be good to your master, when you are saddled be a prized horse. If you go to far places you will not get thin, if you go to near places you will not get tired. You will become the best of the riding horses, a friend to the children of man. In the herd you won�t be at the head or the tail. You will eat the tender shoots of grass and be like a son of gold to any father."
After she finished saying these things the mare died.
Poor little Morning Star colt looked at his dead mother as the tears which filled his eyes streamed down his face. He began turning around and around and said in remorse "My mother has already said these things."
Morning Star went to the herd where he found his older sister, she kicked him when he was behind and bit him when he was in front, not letting him get near her. He then went to the herd where he found his older brother, but he would not let him get near either. Finally he went to the herd where he found his old mother, when she saw him she said, "A portion of my flesh and bones has come!" When asked where his mother was he responded "My mother has already died."
At this she said "If this is so then you stay at my right and left sides and don�t wander. My teats are already dry but if you try hard you may get milk." He stayed at her right and left sides and didn�t wander. After trying and trying he was able to get milk from her teats.
Morning Star grew up to become the head of this herd and many others, the fastest and best of all the horses.
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They say that, in this remote beauty, there is a game wealthy Hunter-Boy. His winter camp is in the Altai Mountains and his summer camp in the back tablelands. When he rides his chestnut colored pony eastward he hunts buck and doe, after heading westward there is always an antelope tied to his saddle, if traveling south he tracks deer, if galloping to the north he kills fox and wolf. After hunting he always comes back with something strapped to his saddle. He is never selfish with his catch, whenever around his neighbors he shares the meat. Hunter-Boy is a grown man, able to reach the saddle ties and put his foot into the stirrups. Therefore, over these years, the neighboring families there have never gone without.
One day, when Hunter-Boy was on his way to go hunting, a hawk came flying over and swooped down to catch a thin white snake curled up in the tall grass near the river shore. As the hawk flew back by, the small snake called out, "Hunter-Boy, help! Help!" Hunter-Boy feeling sorry for the snake thought to himself, "Poor thing, the little creature has run into trouble and is pleading me, how can I refuse to help!" He pulled out an arrow and shot the hawk and the thin white snake fell to the ground. "Hunter-Boy, your grace must be repaid!" said the little snake as it disappeared into the tall grass.
That evening, after strapping a roebuck to his saddle, Hunter-Boy headed back along the river shore. On the way he happened upon a multitude of snakes lying criss-cross along the path. "Are you having a gathering today?" asked Hunter-Boy out of curiosity. Then just ahead the thin white snake came out, saying to everyone, "This is Hunter-Boy, the one who graciously saved my life." All of the snakes circled around Hunter-Boy in a loud commotion, "Our master has invited you to visit him." Then the small white snake said, "I am the Dragon Master�s youngest daughter, yesterday you saved my life and my father wishes to show his appreciation by inviting you to visit his palace." "How can I ever get to the Dragon Master�s palace?� asked Hunter-Boy. "Close your eyes and I will lead you there." replied the thin white snake.
While walking along the thin white snake whispered into Hunter-Boy�s ear, "My father is going to offer you precious objects of silver and gold, but don�t accept them. Instead, ask for the small round precious stone which my father always keeps in his mouth, once you place it in your mouth you will be able to understand the languages of all four-legged and winged creatures. However, I will warn you about one thing. After you have put the precious stone into your mouth, can understand the language of the flying creatures and know what they are saying, what ever you do, you cannot tell what you have heard to any human being. If you do, your body will immediately turn to stone. Please, don�t ever forget this." Hunter-Boy, understanding what she had said, nodded his head. After walking a ways further he opened his eyes only to find that they had already arrived at the Dragon Master�s palace.
The Dragon Master, wanting to express great thanks to Hunter-Boy, opened the doors to his one-hundred and eight treasure houses saying, "Hunter-Boy, you may choose anything from among these treasures of mine." Hunter-Boy walked up to the door of the treasure house to peer inside. Gold and silver glittered in his eyes and the pearls were piled high like mountains. Treasures to revive the dead, to bring sight to the blind, to bring sound to deaf ears and speech to the speechless. There was enough for a lifetime of grains, for garments which the sun and wind could not penetrate; the universe would never lack from these treasures.
Hunter-Boy bowed to the Dragon Master and said, "Dragon Master, I live as a hunter, a guardian of the remote spaces, I have need of the small round stone which you keep in your mouth. Please bestow that upon me."
The Dragon Master, looked to the right and laughed, looked to the left and cried, took the precious stone from his mouth and gave it to Hunter-Boy. From that time on Hunter-Boy, able to understand the languages of the four-legged and winged creatures, became an even more successful hunter.
One day, as Hunter-Boy went up the mountain to go hunting, he overheard the mountain birds in discussion, "Tomorrow, they say that Sir Tiger, our mountain creature king, will be celebrating his birthday. They also say that he is going to eat the flesh of those two children who always come up the mountain to fetch firewood...the two of them don�t know that they will die tomorrow."
Hunter-Boy was very surprised to hear this and wanted to tell those two children, however, he remembered that if he were to tell them his own body would turn to stone. But then, if he didn�t tell them, when the two poor children go to gather firewood and are eaten by the tiger...the fear tore at him all night. Suddenly, at the break of dawn, an idea came to him. He took his bow and arrows and headed up the mountain, he arrived at a cliff and sat down to wait. Shortly after, the two children came up the mountain gathering firewood and were paying no attention to what was going on around them. All of the sudden the fierce tiger jumped out roaring, �MEAT! MEAT!". They say just as the tiger hurled himself toward the two children, Hunter-Boy, with a single arrow, shot the tiger through the neck killing him instantly. The two children bowed down in front of Hunter-Boy, their lifesaver, thanking him. All of the mountain animals who, time and time again, had been humiliated and taunted by the tiger also came to show their appreciation at his deed.
As the days and nights passed, Hunter-Boy became more and more skilled at hunting on horseback, and at the same time continued to answer to the needs of the neighboring families. One summer day, it is said, Hunter-Boy went to a far off mountain behind his home to go hunting. The Emperor and Empress of the bird kingdom were leading their subjects on a long journey to a far away place. All of the four-legged animals were growling and quarreling, they say even the bunnies and gophers were grouping together fleeing in excitement. At this, Hunter-Boy, in a state of wonderment, got down from his horse and sat in the shadow of the trees to listen to the birds in conversation.
"Tomorrow this mountain is going to burst and create a large flood. All creatures must take their belongings, not leaving anything behind in the village, and head out." they exclaimed.
At that instant, Hunter-Boy, jumped up and took off toward home. As soon as he reached the village he began, "Quickly we all have to move away from here! Tomorrow the mountain behind us is going to burst and there is going to be a dangerous flood..." As he spoke, it is said, not even one person believed his words. He moved away and thought to himself, "I am an orphan and these people have cared for me since my birth they have taught me the difference between right and wrong. How can I just leave them with this threat of death?" He spoke up "Hurry, get away from here! Hurry! There is really a flood coming!" Hearing this the people badgered him asking over and over,"How do you know about this flood? Who told you?" They say not even one person was prepared to flee.
At this, very worried and excited, he thought to himself, "How can I be afraid of turning to stone and let all of these people and animals die". Then Hunter-Boy began by telling them about saving the thin white snake, and the Dragon Master summoning him to visit his palace to show his gratitude. About the precious stone which the Dragon Master kept in his mouth and how he begged the Dragon Master to give him the stone. How, once he placed the stone in his own mouth, he could understand the languages of all creatures, therefore killed the tiger and saved the two children gathering firewood. He explained how today he overheard the mountain animals talking. He told them that the Dragon Master�s youngest daughter strictly told him not to tell any of this to any other humans otherwise his body would change into stone. As he was speaking his body slowly began to harden and just as he stood he turned to stone. Everyone around blinked as they watched in disbelief, then their eyes grew larger and larger. Only after witnessing this did the people believe what Hunter-Boy had said. All of the sudden, as everyone began frantically running to and for to get away, there was a loud noise, "Ka boom". The mountain behind them had really burst and they could hear the sound of the rushing water crashing down toward them.
The people gazed at the stone figure of Hunter-Boy from afar as it stood firm in it�s place, not even the water caused it to budge. At a safe distance, everyone sobbed and cried saying, "Hunter-Boy turned to stone for us!". From this time on the people who were saved from the flood continue to pass the memory of Hunter-Boy on from generation to generation.
There in the Altai Mountains, standing upright next to the source of a natural spring, is a blue rock formation, and they call this spring �Hunter-Boy�s Spring�.
Long ago, when Borhan had finished naming eleven of the twelve months of the Mongolian calander after eleven animals there were still two animals left, the camel and the rat. The two of whom were disputing to be the twelfth animal. Which animals name should I use, the camel or the rat? Borhan did not want either of them to become upset and said to let them decide on their own.
The camel and the rat made a bet, whoever is the first to see the rays of the sun the following morning will have his name as the first year of the twelve year calander. The camel stood facing to the east waiting for the sun. The rat, after climbing up on the camels hump and facing to the west, fixed his gaze at the top of the mountain. By then it was time for the sun to come out, the rays of the rising sun shone onto the top of the mountain in the west the rat was the first one to see the rays of the sun. The camel was upset at having lost the bet and suddenly tried to stomp the rat to death, however the rat ran under a pile of ashes to hide.
Now it is said that ever since then whenever the camel sees a place where ashes have been scattered, he wants to get revenge with his enemy the rat and stomps and rolls in the ashes hoping to get the rat.
This is why the rat became part of the twelve year calander and the camel did not.
(a story from the Daur minority)
Long ago there were three sisters who lived together with their mother in a one room log cabin. The older sister�s name was Big Turnip the second sister�s name was Carrot and the third or youngest sister�s name was Radish.
One day the three sister�s mother went out to see their grandmother. About half way down the mountain road the mother ran into a Mangai, now a Mangai is a frightfully ugly and extremely stupid mountain monster. The Mangai asked the mother some questions, like where are you going? How many children do you have? What are their names? Then after asking the questions the Mangai ate the mother.
After eating the mother the Mangai put on her clothes and went back to their home in the evening. He went up to the door and knocked, "Big Turnip, open the door". Big Turnip heard the voice and knew it wasn�t their mother and refused to open the door. �Carrot, open the door". Carrot heard the voice and knew too that it wasn�t their mother and refused to open the door. "Radish, Open the door". Little radish heard the voice, "Momma�s home" she hollered and went running to the door and had it open before the other two girls could stop her.
The Mangai walked into the house, bong bong bong, and went in to lay down on the bed. �Big Turnip, come sleep with me". "No," said Big Turnip "you�re not my mother!" "Carrot, come sleep with me". "No," said Carrot "you�re not my mother!"
"I�ll come sleep with you" called out little Radish as she jumped in bed with the Mangai.
In the middle of the night the two older sisters heard some crunching, Big turnip asked " Momma, what are you eating?"
"I�m eating a fat radish I got from the neighbors." Said the Mangai.
Then Carrot asked "Momma, what are you eating now?"
"I�m eating a thin radish I got in the garden." Said the Mangai.
"Let us have some too" the girls responded. He broke off a thumb and threw it to Big Turnip and threw a pinkie to Carrot. At this they knew that the Mangai had eaten their baby sister. They whispered to each other "We have to get away?"
The two girls stood up and the Mangai asked "Where are you going?"
"We are going to the outhouse" they said.
Now a Mangai is a very mean monster but also extremely stupid. He let them go.
As the girls ran out of the house they grabbed their mother�s small wooden comb box. The two girls ran and ran as fast as they could. But after a while the Mangai knew that they had tricked him and he went after them.
The girls could hear him coming, bong bong bong, and even saw his shadow behind them in the light of dawn. Big Turnip stopped and opened up their mother�s wooden box, took a comb out, � the comb used by my mother, become a large forest� she said and she threw it over her head toward the Mangai. The comb became a big forest and separated the girls from the monster, but he just used his big arms to sweep the trees aside and kept on chasing the girls.
Bong bong bong, the Mangai was catching up with the girls again, Big Turnip stopped and took a fine tooth comb out of the box. "The fine tooth comb used by my mother, become a dense forest" she said and threw the fine tooth comb over her head. The comb became a dense forest which stopped the Mangai. But the monster swung his strong arms and used his sharp teeth to cut a way through the dense forest.
Bong bong bong, the Mangai was catching up with the girls again, Big Turnip stopped and took a small mirror out of the box. "The mirror used by my mother, become a large lake" she said and threw the mirror over her head. The mirror became a large lake and the Mangai was stopped on the other side.
The two girls looked back over the lake at the monster and he hollered out "Big Turnip, Big Turnip, how did you get across to the other side?"
The Mangai is a big but dumb monster!
Big Turnip answered "We cut open our gut and pulled out our intestines, tied a rock to it and threw it across the lake to make a bridge." "Can I get over that way?" asked the Mangay. "Yes," said Big Turnip �hurry on across!"
The nails on a Mangai are razor sharp. He slashed open his gut and pulled out his intestine, then tied a rock to it and threw it to the other side of the lake. Just at that time a gull was flying past and saw the intestine in the lake, he dove down and bit off a piece cutting the intestine in two. At that the Mangai sank to the bottom of the lake and drown.
The two girls, safe and sound, returned to their home and lived in peace. The moral of the story is that a mother's love can protect and help her children even when she is far away from them.
(Storyteller - Audeng, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, 1996)
Once upon a time in a small village there lived two very special personalities, one was named �Beseech-No-One� and the other was named "Help-No-One". The two of them would never ask for help of or help the other, a sort of �you live you life and I live mine� kind of attitude.
One summer day "Beseech-No-One" had no firewood at his home and took off pulling his cart to the nearby mountains to chop wood. Just as he was on the way back home one of the wooden wheels on his cart ran over a large rock and broke, making it impossible to continue. "If I don�t get the wood home we will have nothing to burn" he thought to himself, but my cart....�. After thinking about the situation for quite sometime he finally had no other choice but to go to "Help-No-One"'s house and borrow a cart. "Beseech-No-One" went through the door to the house and with a smile on his face said, "Hey "Help-No-One" good ole� buddy, we don�t have any firewood at home and I thought maybe I could borrow your cart to make one quick run, what do you think?."
"Help-No-One" just to make things difficult responded, "The cart...that�s not a problem, but the canvas cover and the rope are all up on the roof and there�s no way to get them down. We don�t have a ladder either, so I don�t know how I can help you out."
After hearing this �Beseech-No-One� knew that "Help-No-One" was not willing to let him use the cart and turned angrily to leave.
Interestingly enough, not but just a few days had passed when "Help-No-One"'s well completely dried up. He took a look at his garden and everything was beginning to wilt, at this "Help-No-One" started to get real concerned. After thinking about the situation for quite sometime he finally had no other choice but to go to "Beseech-No-One"'s house and ask to use his well so he could water his garden. "Help-No-One" went through the door to the house and with a smile on his face said, "Hey "Beseech-No-One" good ole� buddy, my well has gone dry and my garden is wilting so I thought maybe I could use your well to water my garden, what do you think?"
"Beseech-No-One" out of spite said "The well...it has a lot of water, but...the key to the well cover is hanging in the cellar, and neither of us has a ladder, so I don�t know how I can help you out."
"Help-No-One" didn�t get the water he needed and just left.
The moral of this little story is that if people don�t help each other humanity will not persist. Besides, there is no such person as "Beseech-No-One". People cannot separate themselves from others and survive.