Explore: For more stories with supernatural and magical elements, see The Story of Drashup and the Goddesses and The Golden Squash.
[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 Story of the Violinist
IN a great city, a long time ago, lived a family composed of the father, the mother and three sons. As they grew up and were ready to take up an occupation, the father called them to him and said, "I want you all to go out into the world, each to a different place, and learn a trade." All of them went, and after a year's time came back.
The father said to the oldest, "What have you become?" "Oh, I am a writer," and the father was well pleased, for now he would have some one to keep accounts and look after his business affairs.
To the second one he said, "And what have you learned?" He answered, "I am a carpenter," and again the father was pleased, because he could build their homes and build the homes of other people, and so make much money.
Then turning to the youngest, "And what have you become?" he asked. "Oh, I have learned to play the violin," he answered. "Oh, very good indeed, you have learned a beggar's trade and can stay with me no longer, so you must leave."
So the third son went to a far country, even as far as the shores of the white men, where bounding their country was one black sea. Here he played his violin. In that place dwelt two snakes, a black one and a white one, and one day they began to fight. The black snake was about to kill the white one when the fiddler parted them.
Days went by, when one evening an old white-haired woman came and said to the musician, "The king of the lower regions is greatly indebted to you, as you have saved his son, and if you will go to this lower kingdom the king will give you whatever you want and desire the most."
He said, "I don't know how to go to the lower regions; how do you get there, anyway?"
She told him it was not difficult at all. "But if you will shut your eyes, I will carry you, and you will be there in a little while. When you arrive you ask for whatever you desire most." She told him that the daughter of the king was very beautiful, and because she was so pretty she covered her face and body with the skin of a chicken so she could not be seen.
Then the old woman said, "Don't ask for very much, but tell the king if he will give you a hen you will be satisfied, for if you get the daughter of the king you get a very dear treasure, and obtaining her, you can get anything else you want."
Now the old woman picked him up, he closed his eyes, and soon they arrived at the lower kingdom. The king said, "You saved the life of my son, so I am very much indebted to you. Anything in the world you want, that I will give you."
The violinist replied, "There is nothing I want very much, but there is a hen over there you might give me."
The king answered, "That is all the daughter I have and I love her very much, but I can't say I won't give her to you, for that would be breaking my word. Daughter, you must go, follow this man up into the hills when a lucky day comes, and if there is anything I have that would be of use to you, I will give it to you to take when you go."
The daughter said, "Whatever my father says, that I will do. I would not dare disobey. I do not want to carry much away, but please give me three things. I want a golden pick, a gold chain as long as I can reach from one hand to the other, and a brass blessing cup. Also, I would like a jar of fruit, a lot of feathers, a few of many kinds of hair; these things I will take."
Then these two, the musician and the daughter of the king, on the first lucky day ascended to the earth and went to a city where ruled a very wicked monarch.
Now the wife of the fiddler had great power within herself, and whatever she wanted came to her, so they did not have to do any work at all. One day the musician thought thus in his heart, "We two are very rich now and are second to the king himself in power, and perhaps if this wicked ruler discovers that we are so wealthy he would take all our belongings. I'm going to make a feast to the king, invite him to eat it and see if he so purposes in his heart."
He asked his wife if she thought it would do. "Well," she said, "if you invite the king and give him a feast, when he comes you must be sure to give him the things very quietly, the wine and the good things to eat, but do not be slow in the serving." So the king was invited, and all went well.
As the fiddler was a man who liked to be flattered a bit and who wanted to be very polite to the king, he kept saying, "Stay a bit longer, stay a bit longer." His wife, because it was so hot, as they had had a charcoal fire for a long time cooking the feast, threw off her garment of feathers. It seemed as if the house got brighter when she had done this and the king, seeing how pretty she was, wanted her for his wife, and said to the fiddler, "We are going to trade wives," and took her away with him.
After a few days the king called his chamberlains and head-men from different parts of the province and said, "There is a man here who has given me the daughter of the king of the lower regions for my wife. Now heretofore you have not done much work and what you have done has been very poor. There is a mountain standing over on that side of the country and you are to level it even with the plain, making all the land equal in height." His servants all answered, "If you will demand another thing we will do it, but this we are not able to do. Suppose you call the former husband of this woman and tell him what is required."
So he called the musician and said, "Can you do this?" He answered, "Yes," without thinking, "I can make this level for you." When his wife heard him say this, she waited for him near the stairs, and when he came she said to him, "You know the gold pick I brought with me that my father gave us. You take that and strike the mountain three times on three sides and it will disappear."
The king and his stolen wife went out to see it done, and lo, as he struck the third time the mountain sank and a pond stood in its place.
When the king saw his work he said, "Well, if you can do this you can do a bit more. Where this pond is, make a big lake. On the borders I want the finest of trees bearing luscious fruit, full of singing birds and many animals in among the trees."
The violinist did not know how in the world he could accomplish all this, but thought he would slip around and ask his former wife how to do it. She said, "Take that blessing cup and pour some water from it into the pond and it will become a lake. Take seeds from the fruit we brought and plant on the edge of the lake, and fruit-bearing trees will come. Take some of the feathers and throw them among the branches of the trees and birds will spring forth. Then throw the hair among the bushes on the ground and animals will be there."
He went to the king and said, "I have accomplished what you asked me."
The king was much pleased, but now he said to him, "You and your wife have the power to show me hell, and would you please to do it." The violinist pondered the question and said, "Give me some time to think about it," but really he wanted to ask his wife what to do.
So when she got the chance she said to him, "You know that golden chain we brought from my father. Well, you take that and drag it up and down the mountain a few times and the door will open and the king can see hell. It looks like a mighty fine place but it is a very terrible place to go to. You do that, and when you have fixed it so that it can be seen, you tell him you want to give it to him as a gift. Make smaller chains of the golden chain you have to fasten the door and keep it open."
Then they took the king to see this fine place, and he and his servants passed through the iron door to see the beautiful temple. Then the fiddler jerked the chains loose and shut the door so that the king and all his people fell into hell. So the fiddler got his wife back again and they ruled the kingdom forever afterwards.