Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World's Epics, III.C


III. "Points of Comparison" : C. "Asia".






The Iranian Book of Kings

Jaan Puhvel



Mongolian Epics

Walther Heissig



The King Gesar Epic

>Jam-dpal rGyal-mtsho



King Gesar in Ladakh

Silke Herrmann



Epics in China

Jia Zhi



The Yukar of the Ainu

Taryo Obayashi




The Iranian Book of Kings

Jaan Puhvel


p. 444 Awestan mythology in the S^ah Nameh


S^ah Nameh



Haos^yanha (ParaSata)

Hus^an (PiSdad)



Yama-xs^aeta (xvarEnah)

Jam-s^id (farr)


Zohak ["shoulder-snakes"]



p. 447 successors of Feridun, according to the S^ah Nameh

Salm in the west (Rum)

{with /Salm/ cf. /S`alm-/ in the To^rah}

Tur in the east (Turan)

{with /Tur/ cf. /S^ur/ in the To^rah}

Iraj in the middle (Iran)

{with /Iraj/ cf. /Viraj/ in the Atharvan Veda}

Afrasyab in Turan

Franrasyan in the Zend-Awesta


{cf. /S`iva/}

H^osraw son of Siyavus^

{cf. /Hvasva-roman/ in the Puran.a-s}

p. 450 treasure on mountain; rejuvenation

"Kay Us's bejeweled Elborz palaces are matched by

the riches which Kavya Us`anas has stashed on the mythical Mt. Meru.

Kavya's arsenal of sorcery includes the power to resurrect the dead and to manipulate age, even as

Kay Us possesses an elixir for healing mortal wounds ... and institutes rejuvenation procedures in his Elborz palaces."

p. 451 the name /Zarath-us^tra/

"His father's name is given in the Avesta as Pouru^aspa, another "horsy" term, but

{This would, in Samskr.ta, be /Purus.a-as`va/ 'person-equine'.}

Zarath[-]us^tra means either 'old-camel' or 'camel-driver'".

{In Samskr.ta, /us.t.r.a/ (the same word as Old English goddess-name /Eostre/ 'Easter') is 'camel'.}

{Because the wiseacres Magoi came out of the EAST riding camels, their feast Epiphany would better be named /EASTer/; and Easter be named /Epiphany/.}



Mongolian Epics

Walther Heissig


Lemminka:inen {= (with events in reverse sequence) Akhilleus}

pp. 456-7 Mongolian (Heissig 1979, pp. 14-22)

p. 456 Finnish (Kalevala cantos 12-13)

Hellenic (DCM, s.v. "Achilles", pp. 4b-8b)

p. 456 (6.1 -- 8) "warning and forbiddance by the parents"

1. "against his mother's advice and warnings"

{p. 8b "a voice from Achilles' tomb had been heard"}

(12.7.1-3 -- 4) "three tests of the suitors"

2. "a brush" as life-token

{p. 8a "the clinking of cups"}

(12.7.4 -- 3) "hunt for a magic animal"

3. "an elk made of animated pieces of wood"

{[wooden horse was pulled into Ilion city]}

p. 457 (12.7.4 -- 4) "search for horses"

4. "geldling of the Hiisi"

{p. 7a his horse Xanthos "foretold the imminent death of his master"}

(12.4 -- 1) "a giant bird"

5. "a swan on the river of death"

{p. 6b Kuknos ('Swan') son of Poseidon}

6a. "is hurt by a blind man by means of snakeweed"

{p. 6b Eetion [with "elm tree" (p. 144a)]}

6b. "is ... cast in the river" {cf. heroine Nemanoos (DCM, p. 305a) for how "the coffin had been thrown up by the sea onto the coast of Byblos".}

{p. 6b Tened- [who was "put into a chest ... then abandoned at sea. The chest ... was washed up on the coast of the island Leucophrys" (p. 439b).] [Leuko-phrus 'white brow' = Taliesin 'radiant brow']}

7. his mother's "series of zoomorphic transformations"

{p. 6a Iphigeneia [who substituted for by deer, mare, and she-bear (p. 236a)]}

(8.3 -- 4) "oracle of life"

{p. 6a Delphic oracle is visited by Telephos}

8. "honey ointment" is applied to his body

{p. 5a "was fed on entrails of lions and ... honey"}

(11.3 -- 1) "revival of the dead"

9. "the dead man rises up"

{p. 5a his instructor "exhumed the body of a giant called" Damusos}

Heissig 1979a = Walther Heissig : "Die mongolischen Heldenepen -- Struktur und Motive". RHEINISCH-WESTFA:LISCHE AKADEMIE DER WISSENSCHAFTEN, VORTRA:GE G 237. Opladen.

p. 457 his fleeing away from his sleeping wife

"In certain other Mongolian epics, the hero even has to steal away at night from the side of his sleeping spouse".

{Siddha-artha viewed his sleeping wife and concubines before secretly departing from his city.}

{Nala fled away from his sleeping wife Damayanti (after secretly snipping some cloth from her garment).}

p. 458 Mongolian : life-token left by departing hero

"(... whether he goes with the approval or not of his partner : wife, sister ...) leaves behind him the present of an omen in the form of an earring, ring ... which by changing colour ... will give warning of the hero['s] meeting peril ... and summon his partner to his aid (Heissig 1981b:112)."

Heissig 1981b = Walther Heissig : "Bemerkungen zu mongolischen Epen aus der Bargha-Gebiet ...". ZENTRALASIATISCHE STUDIEN 15. Wiesbaden.

p. 458 Mongolian sistre

"In the Mongolian epic, however, it is not the hero's mother, but his sister who is summoned to search for him and bring about his revival."

{Likewise is it Osiris's sistre Isis, who findeth and reassembleth his body-parts.}

p. 459 Mongolian emphasis on importance of final body-part found

"In many Mongolian and Yakut epics, it is only when the final missing part of the body has been found -- an eye, or a rib -- that revival is possible (... Poppe 1977:178-183)."

{Not until the final body-part (namely, the penis) of his be found, can Osiris be sufficiently revived so as be able to impraegnate his sistre.}

Poppe 1977 = N. Poppe : "Mongolischen Epen VI". ASIATISCHE FORSCHUNGEN 53. Wiesbaden.

p. 461 escape, in watersnake- or fish- {should be eel-} guise, through net

"during Va:ina:mo:inen's flight, ... he escapes through all the iron nets ... by slipping through them in the form of a poisonous snake.

In Part XIV of the Mongolian Geser Khan Cycle ... a vast golden Fish (Altaqai j^ig^asun) ... slips through the golden and silver nets ... by transforming itself into a golden snake (Heissig 1983b:132, 326).

It is similarly related of Lappish shamans that they have escaped from nets in fish form (Fromm 1979:457)."

Fromm 1979 = L. & H. Fromm : Kalevala : das finnische Epos der Elias Lo:nnrot, 2. Mu:nchen.

{The Lappish shamans' feats involving their animal-transformations are all performed in their dreams : all mythology is derived from description of shamans' dreamings.}

pp. 461-2 attempted hindrance, by old woman, of hero's escape through net

p. 461

p. 462

"the "old woman with the pointed chin" in Tuonela, who meshes the iron nets to prevent Va:ina:mo:inen's escape, is also paralleled in ...

e.g. the old woman with "a white snout like an icepick and a pointed chin" in the Buryatic epic Bu:ku: hara khu:bu:n (... Oinas 1985:150-151)."

Oinas 1985 = Felix J. Oinas : "The Gigantic Bird of Finnish Folklore". In his Studies in Finnish Folklore. INDIANA UNIV URALIC & ALTAIC SERIES, 147.

p. 462 capture of golden hound

"in Canto 19 of the Kalevala Ilmarinen is charged with capturing ... a wolf.

In the Buryat-Mongolian epics Irensei and Sonhodoj mergen bu:hu:n, the bride's father sets the hero-suitor the task of capturing and

{Rheia "gave ... a magic golden dog ... . ... But [Pandareos], the son of Merops, stole the dog away ... .

bringing to him a giant golden dog living on the shore of the eastern sea ... .

He entrusted it to [Tantalos]"

(DCM, s.v. "Pandareus", p. 341b).}

This he succeeds in carrying out, by first forging ... a bridle of steel ... .

After first persuading a reluctant smith to forge him and iron chain, shackles and muzzle, the hero is able to ... bring it to his future father-in-law (... Poppe 1980:363-372; ... Poppe 1977:125-127)."

{Athene "equipped them with manual dexterity." (DCM, s.v. "Pandareus", p. 342a)}

Poppe 1980 = N. Poppe : "Mongolischen Epen IX". ASIATISCHE FORSCHUNGEN 65. Wiesbaden.

p. 463 a giant is quaestioned

"in Canto 17 of the Kalevala, ... Va:ina:mo:inen ... comes to the ancient giant Vipunen, who swallows him. Only after a long period in the giant's stomach

(during which he plagues the giant with questions

{Cf. the detaining of the turs Vaf-tru`dnir by means of quaestions (comprising the Vaf-tru`dnis-Ma`l of the Poe:tic Edda).}

and smithy work), is Va:ina:mo:inen able to escape."

p. 464 two props hold asundre swallower-monstre's jaws

"In Part X of the Mongolian Geser Khan Cycle .... , Geser ... leaps into the tiger's mouth and jams the two lower fangs with two golden bars (Heissig 1981a:267)."

{[Salish myth] "Coyote had placed the two larch poles that propped open the monster’s mouth when he was sucked inside it" ("SWS").}

"SWS" = Jay Hansford C. Vest : "Sweating with the Salish".



The King Gesar Epic

>Jam-dpal rGyal-mtsho


pp. 476-9 modes of performance

p. 476


"the singers ... would first set up an incense burner table; a big portrait of King Gesar would be hung in the middle, along with pictures of his thirty heroes and imperial concubines

p. 477

on each side. On the incense burner table,

weapons ... would be placed for worship. ...

{Weaponry is employed in certain Taoist worship-services.}

This is to ask King Gesar or

a certain general (each artist would worship a different general)

{Divine military generals are worshipped in certain forms of Taoist religious practice.}

to make his presence and enter the singer's body. After a little while, the singer would shake his head, shivering all over ... . It was said that ... the "sacred spirit" had ... entered him, and he would take off his hat, place it in front of the portraits and start to sing and narrate."


"Some singers would bring with them scrolls of King Gesar's story ... . When they sang and narrated, they would hang the scroll high in the middle".


"all the epic singers, whether men or women, old or young, would wear a hat ... . ... These hats were made

p. 478

or felt or silk, were rectangular in shape and decorated with agate, coral or pearl. When the singers started to sing, they would hold the hat in the left hand and describe its origin ... with lyrics in prose or in verse ... . Usually the hat would be described as the whole world, and the top of the hat was ... the homeland of ... Gesar. ... This description of the hat acquired a set form, accompanied with its special melody. It was called ... the worship of the Hat. ... These hats were not worn on ordinary days; they were only produced with considerable ceremony, as a stage property for performance. The singers would eulogize the hats in elaborate language, rendering them highly mysterious, so that ... the hats had really been blessed ... by King Gesar and they would respect them as sacred things".

p. 479


"some artists would place a bronze mirror on the incense-burner table ... and then began to sing while looking into the mirror. ... Only those who were fortunate enought to have been related to the Gods in some way could see the image and acts of King Gesar in the mirror. ...

There were also performers who would hold a piece of blank paper in their hand and sing and narrate while reading this "heavenly book"."



King Gesar in Ladakh

Silke Herrmann


pp. 486-7 the 4 parts of the Gesar epos






"Being obliged to the people of


{perhaps KARmania (Kirmans^ah)}

the king of the Gods promises to send one of his sons. ... only the youngest is willing to go. ...

But in order to be reborn in Lingkar, he must first die."

{The authors of this epos were apparently unfamiliar with the "walk-in" surrogation for standard-style incarnation. (This "walk-in" technique can enable incarnation without any praeceding death.)}


"The youngest son, Gesar, is reborn into a low-class family in Lingkar. ... Only the demons recognize the future king ... .


He destroys them although still a baby. ...

{"When Heracles was eight months old ..., ... two huge snakes ... twined themselves around the babies ..., but Heracles ... strangled them." (DCM, s.v. "Heracles", p. 194b)}

Gesar passes his youth with various escapades. The climax ... is the winning of

the girl Tukuma,

{Is there any relationship with TUKUMs, Latvia; or with TUCUMcari, Quay Co., New Mexico; or with TUCUMA`n, Argentina?}

who is destined to be the wife of King Gesar."


"Gesar is enthroned. ... Having approached the palace of the absent demon, the wife lets Gesar in ... . ... Now it would be time for Gesar to return to Lingkar, but

the she-demon offers him the food of forgetfulness; so he forgets his home and his wife." {Cf. "Herakles was also sent by Omphale to work in Syleus' vineyard." (DCM, s.v. "Heracles", p. 206a)}

{In the Kaula version, forgetfulness is caused to Matsya-Indra-Natha by (AB, p. 223) "the "Plantain Forest" women who ensnare him"; i.e., by the "banana-eating Mu" (HD, p. 235a).}


"During Gesar's absence the king of


{perhaps Khoarene (H^urasan)}

carries off Tukuma to marry her. ... Gesar ... takes his wife back to Lingkar, where she has to do penance."

AB = David Gordon White : The Alchemical Body : Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Univ of Chicago Pr, 1996.

HD = Pukui & Elbert : Hawaiian Dictionary.

{The name /Suleus/ 'Privateer' (i.e., 'pirate commissioned under letters-of-marque' -- e.g., those in the Bahama I.s, commissioned by the Government of England to demand a fee from the Government of Spain, for allowing the Spanish Treasure-Fleets through the Antilles to Spain) is derived from /sulao/ 'I remove armor [a modern aequivalent could be 'to dismantle a rifle']; I take a lid off of a quiver (for arrows)'. The goddess whose name symbolized by the 'quiver-for-arrows' hieroglyph is /NT/ ("Neith"), a name cognate with that of nymph-name /Neda/, (DCM, p. 304b) "the oldest of the daughters of Ocean after Styx [baptismal font for infant Akhilleus] and Philyra [infant-Akhilleus-attending mother of Kheiron (who is depicted in the Voynich Manuscript)]".}

pp. 496-9 supposed [according to various "experts"] original provenience (too late by all many centuries, however) of the Gesar epos

p. 496

"Francke ... accepted ... the 11th century ... Ladakh ... homeland of the Gesar epic."

{"Gesar" is mentioned in mythological genealogies in Zarathustrian religious scriptures generally believed to antedate the Christian aira.}

p. 497

"In 1901 Laufer ... concluded ... in Tibet."

p. 498

"in 1942 Roehrich states with confidence that the place of origin of the Gesar epic is ... northeast Tibet."

p. 499

"Stein ... in 1959 ... evaluation ... resembles that of Laufer."

{Most likely, the Ge-sar [< Samskr.ta /Gaya/ + /s`ara/] epic was transmitted by Magoi (maintainers of the ante-Zarathustrian religion) to Mongolia, through some intermediate tribe (such as, the Issedones = Wu-sun), during the Arsacid and/or Sassanian dynasty.}


RELIGION AND SOCIETY, 30 = Lauri Honko (ed.) : Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World's Epics. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1990.