Human Animals Part 17

In the well-known story of "The Brahman Girl who marries a Tiger," the tiger assumes human shape and makes a beautiful girl fall in love with him. Soon after their marriage he threatens her, saying, "Be quiet or I shall show you my original shape."[87] When she urges him to do so he changes and behold, "four legs, a striped skin, a long tail, and a tiger's face come on him suddenly, and, horror of horrors, a tiger, and not a man stands before her!"

She has to obey all his orders and finally gives birth to a son, who also turns out "to be only a tiger."

She gets her brothers to help her, murders her child and runs off home. In the end the tiger is killed by her relatives, and the Brahman girl, in memory of him, raises a pillar over the well and plants a fragrant shrub on the top of it.[88]

The Chinese have a curious idea about "making animals,"[89] and a story is told about a man who arrived at an inn in Yang-Chow leading five donkeys. He asks the landlord whether he may put the animals in the stable, and while he goes off for a short time, he leaves instructions that they are not to be given water to drink. They become so restless, however, that the landlord takes the responsibility of setting them loose, and they make a rush to a neighbouring pond. But no sooner has water touched their lips than they roll on the ground and change into women. The landlord, frightened at what has occurred, hides them in his house and presently the man returns leading five sheep. But now the landlord's suspicions are aroused and, persuading his guest to take wine indoors, he goes out and waters the sheep. They turn into young men and their temporary owner is put under arrest and executed for a sorcerer.

In a Basque story, seven brothers forbid their sister to go near a certain house. She disobeys them and a witch in the house gives her certain herbs, telling her to put them in her brothers' foot-bath. She does so and the brothers are changed into cows. The ideas contained in these examples are similar in character to those contained in Grimm's "Household Tales." The following is more like the Japanese wer-fox episodes:--

A certain prince royal of India has a lovely mistress who bewitches him, and who falls asleep one day in a bed of chrysanthemums where her lover shoots and wounds a fox in the forehead. The girl is found to be bleeding from a wound in her temple and is thus exposed. She is an evil animal.

In many stories women give birth to animals.

A widow who lives near a palace and makes a livelihood by pounding rice, bears a frog which becomes a good-looking prince, but he ends as a frog.

In the story of Madana Kama Raja (Natesa Sastri) a queen bears a tortoise prince who has the power of leaving his shell, and assuming human form. One day his mother is present at the transformation and smashes the shell, after which her son has to remain a man. Another queen gives birth to a tortoise which is reared by her, and goes in search of divine flowers, which he obtains by the aid of a nymph.

A raja has two wives and the first has six sons, the second only one, who is a mongoose. His name is Lelsing, and he speaks like a man, but grows no bigger than an ordinary mongoose. In this story the six brothers do everything they can to ill-treat the mongoose boy, but all their tricks turn to his advantage, and in the end he grows rich while they grow poor, and finally they all get drowned, while he goes home rejoicing at his revenge upon them for their unkindness.[90]

The Bards at Jaisalmer claimed one of the raja's sons for a ruler, so he gave them one of his seven ranis, who was expecting to become a mother, and they took her to Nahan and near the Sarmor tank she gave birth first to a lion and four monsters, and then to a son. After the monsters were exorcised they took the child to Medni and he became the first raja of Nahan (Sarmor).[91]

Another raja's child was born with the ears of an ox. Only the raja's barber knew, but he blurted it out to the dom and the dom went to the raja's palace and sang

"The son of the raja Has the ears of an ox."

Then the raja was very angry, and only forgave the dom when he said he had not been told about the misfortune, but that a drum had sung the words to him.[92]

"The Two Brothers" is a typical and classical story in which one brother assumes the form of a great bull with all the sacred marks. In another story of German origin, the hero, who has been hacked to pieces and stuffed in a bag, is restored to life by a master sorcerer, who endows him with the power of assuming whatever shape he pleases.

He turns into a fine horse, and the king's daughter, believing she is being deceived, has the animal decapitated.

A similar Russian tale is about a horse which has a golden mane and, when it is killed, a bull with golden hair arises from the blood spilt.

So numerous are the stories of this description, dealing with transformation, that it is practically impossible to divide them into their various types, although many attempts to classify them have been made by authoritative writers on folk-lore; nor is it possible to give them due occult significance. They are interesting chiefly on account of the details which may be gathered from them concerning methods and reasons of transformation.

The Indian Rakshasa (Bengalese Raqhosh) are beings of a malevolent nature which haunt cemeteries, harass the devout, animate dead bodies, and afflict mankind in various ways. They can assume any form they please, animal or other. Females appear as beautiful women for the purpose of luring men to their doom. When in their natural state they have upstanding hair, yellow as the flames which they vomit forth from mouths which are provided with huge tusks. They have large, black, hairy bodies. The Nagas, on the other hand, are semi-divine snake-beings with good impulses.

In "Bengali Household Tales," by William McCulloch,[93] a Raqhosh performs a transformation in the following manner: He removes a stone from an underground passage and descending brings forth a monkey. He then plucks a few leaves from a tree, draws water from a well close by, throws the leaves into it and pours it over the body of the monkey. The monkey is immediately transformed into a beautiful young woman with whom the Raqhosh descends by the underground passage.

Towards dawn the two come up again. This time the Raqhosh plucks some leaves from another tree and throws them into some water from another well, and then pours it over the young woman. Instantaneously she is changed into a monkey again.

This is not the most usual way for such transformations and retransformations to occur in Indian folk-tales; sometimes they are achieved by magic rods. In Grimm's "Household Tale," "Donkey Cabbages," one kind of cabbage transforms a man into an ass and the other reverses the process.

Magicians, however, have other methods. Mercurius, the most skilful of sorcerers, was supposed to have discovered the secret of "fascinating"

men's eyes in such a way as to make people invisible to their sight, or perhaps to give them the appearance of an animal. This may be compared to modern hypnotism and has an important bearing on the subject.

Pomponius Mela attributes to the Druidical priestesses of Sena the knowledge of transforming themselves into animals at will.

Proteus, according to Homer's account, becomes a dragon, a lion, or a boar. Eustathius, the commentator, adds, "not really changing but only appearing to do so." Proteus was an adroit worker of miracles, and was well acquainted with the secrets of Egyptian philosophy. He assumed animal shape in order to escape the necessity of foretelling the future when asked to do so but, whenever he saw his endeavours were of no avail, he resumed his natural appearance.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century Joseph Acosta, who resided in Peru, asserts that sorcerers existed there at that time who were capable of assuming any form they pleased. He tells of a ruler of a city in Mexico who was sent for by the predecessor of Montezuma and who transformed himself successively before the eyes of men who tried to seize his person, into a tiger, an eagle, and a serpent. At length he gave in, and being taken before the emperor was condemned to death.

The same kind of power was ascribed, in 1702, by the Bishop of Chiapa (a province of Guatemala) to the Naguals, the national priests who endeavoured to win back the children brought up as Christians by the Government, to the religion of their ancestors. After various ceremonies, the child he was teaching was told to advance and embrace the Nagual. At that moment he assumed a hideous animal form, and as a lion, tiger, or other wild beast, threw the young convert to Christianity into a state of abject terror by appearing chained to him.[94] There, no doubt, hypnotism became a weapon of religious fanaticism.

At the appearance of the monster Ravanas, the gods, becoming alarmed, transform themselves into animals: Indras changes into a peacock, Yamas into a crow, Kuveras into a chameleon, and Varunas into a swan in order to escape the ire of the enemy.

These transformations, says de Gubernatis,[95] instead of being capricious, were necessary and natural to the several gods, for the animal is the shadow that follows the hero and is so closely identified with him that it may often be said to be the hero himself.

Nash, in "Christ's Tears over Jerusalem," 1613, has the following remarkable passage. "They talk of an ox that tolled the bell at Woolwich, and how from an ox he transformed himself into an old man, and from an old man to an infant and into a young man again."

The Egyptians were the first to broach the opinion that the soul of man is immortal and that, when the body dies, it enters into the form of an animal which is born at the moment, thence passing on from one animal to another, until it has circled through the forms of all the creatures which tenant the earth, the water, and the air, after which it enters again into a human frame and is born anew. The whole period of transmigration is (they say) three thousand years.[96]

According to Egyptian beliefs only the souls of wicked men suffered the disgrace of entering the body of an animal when, "weighed in the balance" before the tribunal of Osiris, they were pronounced unworthy to enter the abode of the blessed. The soul was then sent back to the body of a pig.

The doctrine of metempsychosis was borrowed from Egypt by Pythagoras and classical allusions are so numerous that it is impossible to mention more than a few instances.

Empedocles believed he had passed through many forms, a bird and a fish among others. Lucian's story was of a Pythagorian cock which had been a man, a woman, a fish, a horse, and a frog, and of all states he thought that man was the most deplorably wretched of the animals.

After anointing himself with enchanted salve from Thessaly, Lucian was transformed into an ass and worked for seven years under a "gardiner, a tyle man, a corier, and suchlike." At the end of the period he was restored to human shape by nibbling rose leaves.

Dionysius was believed to assume the form of a goat or of a bull, and Cronius was said to take the form of a horse. Epona was a horse-goddess, and Callisto in an Arcadian myth was changed into a bear. Citeus, son of Lycaon, laments the transformation of his daughter into a bear. Iphigenia at the moment of sacrifice was changed into a fawn. Osiris was mangled by a boar, or Typhon in the form of a boar;--just as in the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, the former's foster brother was transformed into a boar.

The sorceress Thessala was able to call up strange animal ghosts:

"Here in all nature's products unfortunate; Foam of mad dogs, which waters fear and hate; Guts of the lynx; Hyaena's knot unbred; The marrow of a hart with serpents fed Were not wanting; no, nor the sea lamprey Which stops the ships; nor yet the dragon's eye."


In Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" Puck is gifted with the power of transformation. He says,

"Sometimes a horse I'll be, sometimes a hound, A hog, a headless bear, sometimes a fire, And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn, Like horse, hound, dog, bear, fire, at every turn."

He had also the power to transform others into animals, and seeing Bottom studying the part of Pyramus, plays a trick upon him:

"An ass's nole I fixed on his head."

"Bless thee, Bottom," says Quin, seeing his companion transformed in this manner, "Bless thee! thou art translated." But Titania, herself under a spell, becomes enamoured of the vision. "So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape," she cries, and she desires to stick musk-roses in his sleek smooth head, and kiss the fair, large ears."

Fortunately Oberon orders Puck to restore Bottom to his normal shape before much harm is done.

Many modern writers have used the mystic idea of animal transformation, especially as gleaned from Celtic legendary sources; for instance, in the tales by Fiona McLeod and the poems by W. B. Yeats.

"Do you not hear me calling white deer with no horns!

I have been changed to a hound with one red ear;"

"A man with a hazel wand came without sound, And changed me suddenly, while I was looking another way; And now my calling is but the calling of a hound."

In another poem the salmon caught by a young fisherman is no sooner under his roof, than it changes into a shimmering maiden--which makes one think of the Indian story of a shining man who casts his ugly skin and is so bright that no one can see him without being blinded.

A pretty little story of a shining lady who becomes a butterfly, is told by Mr. H. A. Giles in "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio."[97] Mr. Wang of Chang-shang, the District Magistrate, had a habit of commuting the fines and penalties of the Penal Code inflicted on prisoners in exchange for a corresponding number of butterflies. He rejoiced in seeing the insects flutter hither and thither like "tinsel snippings" borne on the breeze. One night he dreamt that a beautiful girl in shimmering clothes stood before him who said sadly, "Your cruel practice has brought many of my sisters to an untimely end; now you must pay the penalty for what you have done." Then she transformed herself into a butterfly and flew away.

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