The Cave of Beasts

The Chinese Fairy Book February 1, 2015
5 min read
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    Once upon a time there was a family in which there were seven daughters. One day when the father went out to gather wood, he found seven wild duck eggs. He brought them home, but did not think of giving any to his children, intending to eat them himself, with his wife. In the evening the oldest daughter woke up, and asked her mother what she was cooking.

    The mother said: “I am cooking wild duck eggs. I will give you one, but you must not let your sisters know.” And so she gave her one.

    Then the second daughter woke up, and asked her mother what she was cooking. She said: “Wild duck eggs. If you will not tell your sisters, I’ll give you one.”

    And so it went. At last the daughters had eaten all the eggs, and there were none left.

    In the morning the father was very angry with the children, and said: “Who wants to go along to grandmother?” But he intended to lead the children into the mountains, and let the wolves devour them there. The older daughters suspected this, and said: “We are not going along!” But the two younger ones said: “We will go with you.”

    And so they drove off with their father. After they had driven a good ways, they asked: “Will we soon get to grandmother’s house?” “Right away,” said their father.

    And when they had reached the mountains he told them: “Wait here. I will drive into the village ahead of you, and tell grandmother that you are coming.” And then he drove off with the donkey-cart.

    They waited and waited, but their father did not come. At last they decided that their father would not come back to fetch them, and that he had left them alone in the mountains.

    So they went further and further into the hills seeking a shelter for the night. Then they spied a great stone. This they selected for a pillow, and rolled it over to the place where they were going to lie down to sleep. And then they saw that the stone was the door to a cave. There was a light in the cave, and they went into it. The light they had seen came from the many precious stones and jewels of every sort in the cave, which belonged to a wolf and a fox. They had a number of jars of precious stones and pearls that shone by night. The girls said: “What a lovely cave this is! We will lie right down and go to bed.” For there stood two golden beds with gold-embroidered covers.

    So they lay down and fell asleep. During the night the wolf and fox came home. And the wolf said: “I smell human flesh!”

    But the fox replied: “Oh, nonsense! There are no human beings who can enter our cave. We lock it up too well for that.”

    The wolf said: “Very well, then let us lie down in our beds and sleep.”

    But the fox answered: “Let us curl up in the kettles on the hearth. They still hold a little warmth from the fire.” The one kettle was of gold and the other of silver, and they curled up in them.

    When the girls rose early in the morning, they saw the wolf and the fox lying there, and were much frightened. And they put the covers on the kettles and heaped a number of big stones on them, so that the wolf and the fox could not get out again. Then they made a fire.

    The wolf and the fox said: “Oh, how nice and warm it is this morning! How does that happen?” But at length it grew too hot for them. Then they noticed that the two girls had kindled a fire and they cried: “Let us out! We will give you lots of precious stones, and lots of gold, and will do you no harm!”

    But the girls would not listen to them, and kept on making a bigger fire. So that was the end of the wolf and the fox in the kettles.

    Then the girls lived happily for a number of days in the cave. But their father was seized with a longing for his daughters, and he went into the mountains to look for them. And he sat right down on the stone in front of the cave to rest, and tapped his pipe against it to empty the ashes. Then the girls within called out: “Who is knocking at our door?”

    And the father said: “Are those not my daughters’ voices?” While the daughters replied: “Is that not our father’s voice?” Then they pushed aside the stone and saw that it was their father, and their father was glad to see them once more. He was much surprised to think that they should have chanced on this cave full of precious stones, and they told him the whole story.

    Then their father fetched people to help him carry home the jewels. And when they got home, his wife wondered where he had obtained all these treasures. So the father and daughters told her everything, and they became a very wealthy family, and lived happily to the end of their days.

    Note: “The Cave of the Beasts” is traditionally narrated.

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