[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Chinese Fairy Tales unit. Story source: The Chinese Fairy Book, ed. by R. Wilhelm and translated by Frederick H. Martens (1921).
The Sorcerer of the White Lotus Lodge
One day the sorcerer wished to go out. He placed a bowl which he covered with another bowl in the hall of his house and ordered his pupils to watch it. But he warned them against uncovering the bowl to see what might be in it.
No sooner had he gone than the pupils uncovered the bowl and saw that it was filled with clear water. And floating on the water was a little ship made of straw, with real masts and sails. They were surprised and pushed it with their fingers till it upset. Then they quickly righted it again and once more covered the bowl.
By that time the sorcerer was already standing among them. He was angry and scolded them, saying: “Why did you disobey my command?”
His pupils rose and denied that they had done so.
But the sorcerer answered: “Did not my ship capsize at sea, and yet you try to deceive me?”
On another evening he lit a giant candle in his room and ordered his pupils to watch it lest it be blown out by the wind. It must have been at the second watch of the night and the sorcerer had not yet come back. The pupils grew tired and sleepy, so they went to bed and gradually fell asleep. When they woke up again the candle had gone out. So they rose quickly and re-lit it. But the sorcerer was already in the room, and again he scolded them.
“Truly we did not sleep! How could the light have gone out?”
Angrily the sorcerer replied: “You let me walk fifteen miles in the dark, and still you can talk such nonsense!”
Then his pupils were very much frightened.
In the course of time, one of his pupils insulted the sorcerer. The latter made note of the insult, but said nothing. Soon after, he told the pupil to feed the swine, and no sooner had he entered the sty than his master turned him into a pig. The sorcerer then at once called in a butcher, sold the pig to the man, and he went the way of all pigs who go to the butcher.
One day this pupil’s father turned up to ask after his son for he had not come back to his home for a long time. The sorcerer told him that his son had left him long ago. The father returned home and inquired everywhere for his son without success. But one of his son’s fellow-pupils, who knew of the matter, informed the father. So the father complained to the district mandarin. The latter, however, feared that the sorcerer might make himself invisible. He did not dare to have him arrested, but informed his superior and begged for a thousand well-armed soldiers. These surrounded the sorcerer’s home and seized him, together with his wife and child. All three were put into wooden cages to be transported to the capital.
The road wound through the mountains, and in the midst of the hills up came a giant as large as a tree, with eyes like saucers, a mouth like a plate, and teeth a foot long. The soldiers stood there trembling and did not dare to move.
Said the sorcerer: “That is a mountain spirit. My wife will be able to drive him off.”
They did as he suggested, unchained the woman, and she took a spear and went to meet the giant. The latter was angered, and he swallowed her, tooth and nail. This frightened the rest all the more.
The sorcerer said: “Well, if he has done away with my wife, then it is my son’s turn!”
So they let the son out of his cage. But the giant swallowed him in the same way. The rest all looked on without knowing what to do.
The sorcerer then wept with rage and said: “First he destroys my wife, and then my son. If only he might be punished for it! But I am the only one who can punish him!”
And, sure enough, they took him out of his cage, too, gave him a sword, and sent him out against the giant. The sorcerer and the giant fought with each other for a time, and at last the giant seized the sorcerer, thrust him into his maw, stretched his neck and swallowed him. Then he went his way contentedly.
And now when it was too late, the soldiers realized that the sorcerer had tricked them.
Next: The Three Evils