Myth-Folklore Unit: Twenty-Two Goblins

Overview. The stories in Twenty-Two Goblins (Arthur Ryder's translation of the Sanskrit Vetālapañcaviṃśati) are tales told by a goblin, or vetala in Sanskrit, a supernatural creature that inhabits human corpses. The audience for the goblin's stories is a wise king who is attempting to capture one of these goblin-inhabited corpses; as he is toting the corpse back to his palace, the goblin tells paradoxical stories that each end with a riddling question which the king must answer. I've included twelve of the stories here, along with the dramatic conclusion when you see what finally happens to the king, to the corpse, and to the goblin. You can get a sense of how the stories work from their titles: "The Three Lovers who Brought the Dead Girl to Life: Whose Wife Should She Be?" or "The Girl who Transposed the Heads of her Husband and Brother: Which Combination of Head and Body is Her Husband?" See if you can find the answers as easily as the king does!

Language. This is a wonderful English translation of the Sanskrit original. Ryder also translates the Sanskrit names into their English equivalents, so instead of strange Sanskrit names, you get to learn what the Sanskrit names actually mean!

Story Length. This unit contains only single-page stories, plus a frametale that connects them all together.

Navigation. You will find the table of contents below, and you can also use this link to see the story posts displayed on a single page: Twenty-Two Goblins.

  1. Introduction.
  2. The Three Lovers. The Three Lovers who brought the Dead Girl to Life. Whose wife should she be?
  3. Brave, Wise, Clever. The Brave Man, the Wise Man, and the Clever Man. To which should the girl be given?
  4. The Girl, Her Husband and Her Brother. The Girl who transposed the Heads of her Husband and Brother. Which combination of head and body is her husband?
  5. Food, Women, Cotton. The Specialist in Food, the Specialist in Women, and the Specialist in Cotton. Which is the cleverest?
  6. The Four Suitors. The Four Scientific Suitors. To which should the girl be given?
  7. The Three Delicate Wives. The Three Delicate Wives of King Virtue-banner. Which is the most delicate?
  1. The Snake's Poison. The Brahman who died because Poison from a Snake in the Claws of a Hawk fell into a Dish of Food given him by a Charitable Woman. Who is to blame for his death?
  2. The Girl and the Thief. The Girl who showed Great Devotion to the Thief. Did he weep or laugh?
  3. The General's Wife. The King who died for Love of his General's Wife; the General follows him in Death. Which is the more worthy?
  4. The Four Brothers. The Four Brothers who brought a Dead Lion to Life. Which is to blame when he kills them all?
  5. The Old Hermit. The Old Hermit who exchanged his Body for that of the Dead Boy. Why did he weep and dance?
  6. Father and Son, Daughter and Mother. The Father and Son who married Daughter and Mother. What relation were their children?
  7. Conclusion.