Story of the Demon*

Once upon a time there lived a grandfather, grandmother** and three sisters in a house. Every day the grandfather would take the goats to graze.

One day, on the mountain pasture, a demon appeared and asked the grandfather for a goat. The grandfather did not give him one, so the demon ate the grandfather instead, put on the grandfather’s clothes and went to the house. As the demon now looked exactly like the grandfather, his family didn’t realise that he was a demon.

He then said, “Tomorrow I will take the eldest sister to be married in another village.”

The next day, they both set out and on the way the demon ate the girl.

He returned to the house where the grandmother was counting the goats. “One is missing,” she told him. He replied, “I gave it to the eldest sister. Tomorrow I shall also take the middle sister to be married.”

Same thing happened. One goat is missing again.

“I gave it to the middle sister. Tomorrow I shall also take the youngest girl to be married.”

In the night, though, Chenrezig*** appeared to the girl and spoke: “The man you believe is your grandfather is in fact a demon. He has eaten your grandfather, both your sisters and two of your goats. He wants to eat you as well. Go with him tomorrow and on your way you will come across a white horse and a white man. The man will have a dagger and a chain. He will kill the demon.”

Next day, they set off together and after a while come to the horse and the man. The man kills the demon with his chain and slits open the demon’s belly, and out step the grandfather, both sisters and the goats.

They go back home and everyone is happy.


 * Ladakhi has at least six different words for demon. The one used here is (the dot is actually placed under the initial s [RM]), which means specifically a man-eating demon or yaksha.

** The way I was told this was as “one grandfather, one grandmother, one older sister and two younger sisters”. How exactly they are related is hard to tell, though they are doubtlessly one family.
In Ladakh, any old man can be referred to or addressed as meme-le or grandfather-le (the le being a bit like Hindi ji, a polite suffix) and same goes for all other people, who can be addressed, depending on age and gender, as family members.

*** Chenrezig (Sanskrit Avalokiteshvara) is the Tibetan Buddhist deity of compassion, who is very popularly worshipped. The Dalai Lama is seen as an incarnation of Chenrezig.

Source: My son Patrick spent a gap-year (2003-04) teaching English to novice monks at the Buddhist monastery in Likir, Ladakh. He was told this tale and sent it me, together with the footnotes.

He also wrote:
Be careful … as I might have deviated in some minor points. Naturally, you won’t let that bother you, as any teller will deviate anyway.

The boy who told me the story was Lobzang Tsering in 2nd class, around 10 years old. Most of the telling was actually in Ladakhi rather than in English, so therefore the above word of caution.

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