Tibetan Folk Tales: The Two Little Cats

This story starts with two cats who need some salt for their butter tea, a typical Tibetan drink made with tea leaves and yak butter. You can read more about Tibetan butter tea at Wikipedia.

Explore: Compare these other stories of animal cooperation: How the Wolf, the Fox and the Rabbit Committed a Crime and How the Sacred Duck Got His Yellow Breast.

[notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Tibetan Folktales unit. Story source: Tibetan Folk Tales by A.L. Shelton with illustrations by Mildred Bryant (1925).

The Two Little Cats

An arrow aimed straight will find the heart of your foe. But if you have no foe it does not matter about the arrow.
Tibetan Proverb.

IN the early, early days a very long time ago, there were two little cats going after some salt to put in their butter tea, for you must know that little cats in the early days didn't drink tea without salt.

As they trotted along they met a Handre, and a Handre is the worst thing you could meet anywhere, for he has great big teeth that he crunches up little folks with, and horrid big eyes and clawlike hands and feet, so they were very much frightened and ran on faster than ever until they met a cow and the cow said, "Where are you going so fast, little cats?" and they answered, "Oh, we just met a Handre and he is going to come to our house and eat us up."

"Never mind," said the cow, "I'll go with you and help protect you from the Handre." So they all ran on together.

Soon they met a dog and he asked, "Where are you all going?" and the little cats said, "We are running away from the Handre." "Never mind," said the dog, "I'll go with you and help protect you."

They ran on and met a crow, and he said, "Stop a minute and tell me where you are going so fast." "Oh, we are running away home as fast as we can," said the little cats, "for the Handre is coming to eat us."

Then they met a panful of ashes and it said, "Wait a minute and take me with you, for I can help too."

Then they found a package of one hundred needles, who asked if they might go and help against the Handre.

Then a snake all curled up by the side of the road called out, "Where are you going, little cats?" "Oh, we are running home as fast as we can because the Handre is coming." And the snake said, "Take me along and I'll bite the Handre."

As they trotted along they saw on a bench a little bowl of hard black peas. "Where are you going so fast, little cats?" asked the peas. "Oh, we are running home as fast as we can, for the Handre is coming." "Take me with you, little cats, and I'll help protect you from the Handre."

So in front of their gowns they took the bowl of peas and all together soon came home. The cow they placed by the stair steps, the dog by the doorway, the peas on the stair steps, the crow in the water kang and the snake in the bread trough, the one hundred needles in the bed and the pan of ashes on the ceiling and the little cats hid behind the door.

Soon the Handre came, I presume he flew in at the window, and he thought he would like to have a drink of water and when he went to get it the crow nipped him good and hard. Then he thought he would make some bread, and when he went to the bread tray the snake gave him a bite. Then he thought he would go upstairs and lie down on the bed and the needles stuck him dreadfully. He was getting madder and madder. He looked up to the ceiling to see if the little cats were hiding up there and the ashes spilled on him and filled his eyes full. Then he started to run down the stairs and he stepped on those hard peas and they hurt his feet dreadfully. Then he fell on the horns of the cow and she tossed him to the dog, who ate him up immediately, and the little cats came out from behind their door and had their supper in peace.

(700 words)

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