Sacred Texts  Asia  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Tibetan Folk Tales, by A.L. Shelton, [1925], at

p. 172


The Quarrel of the Five Friends

The mouth is the door of quarrels. To open it is easy--to close it difficult. The tongue is the foundation of quarrels--it is easy to use--difficult to keep it still.
                        Tibetan Proverb.


ONCE upon a time, when the world was young, there lived in a city the son of a rich man, the son of a painter, the son of a fortune teller, the son of a carpenter, the son of a doctor and the son of a silversmith. These six men were all close friends, so close that they planned they would run away together. They left their parents and traveled to another place, where they agreed they would separate for six years, each man going his own way, seeking adventure. At the end of that time they would all meet in the city of their birth. Before they separated each planted a soul tree, a tree that knew things. If one of the men was dead or was not prospering, his soul tree would tell of it. It was a custom in that land for each home to have a soul tree and to care for it and water it and protect it with a wall, if need be. When all was well the tree grew and flourished, if ill, it withered away or died. After six years, when they assembled, they were all to look at the trees and see if any were

p. 173

dying or withered, and if the man who owned the withered tree wasn't present, they would know he was not doing well and must hunt for him; or if the tree was dead they would know that the man was dead.

The son of the rich man went far away to a little house in a valley. He went to the door and asked for entrance and it was opened by a little old man and a little old woman, who lived there, who asked, "Son, who are you, whence have you come and where are you going?" He told them, "I have come from a far country and have come to see if you can give me something to eat."

The old people answered, "Well, we like the looks of you, and if you will stay and become the husband of our daughter, who is very handsome, we will be much pleased." He went in and sat down, and soon the daughter entered, and she was pretty, indeed. He sat thinking about his native land, how far he was from home, but finally concluded it would be the best thing he could do to marry the girl and stay there. She was glad to see him and asked about his home and his adventures, and fell in love with him at once; so they were married immediately.

Down below this little place there lived a king who had many servants. One afternoon, soon after the bride had been to bathe, the women all went down to the river to have a bath and found a beautiful ring which the bride had lost in the water. They took it to the king, who thought to himself, "No one but a fine woman would own

p. 174

such an exquisite ring as this." So he called a servant and told him to find the owner. The man went out, walked up the river until he came to the little house, where he saw the woman, saw how pretty she was and said, "This must be she." He wanted to take her at once to the king, but she re-fused to go, saying she had a husband. So the servant took them both before the king, as kings' laws must be obeyed. When he saw how beautiful she was he said she must be the daughter of a god. He became displeased with his wives, saying they were only dogs and hogs compared with her. He gave her gifts of gowns and jewels and wanted her to stay with him, but the girl was afraid and didn't want to stay, for she loved her husband. Knowing this the king decided he must get rid of him, so he called his servants and had them take the husband down to the river, dig a hole, kill him, put him in it, and cover the place with a rock.

Six years passed and the five men returned to look at their trees. All were there except one, and all the trees were flourishing except one, the tree of the son of the rich man being dead. They decided to find him, but though they hunted in every city in the world they could find no trace of him at all. One day the son of the fortune teller said, "Perhaps I had better tell his fortune and see what has become of him," and then he told this: "We will find his body in a hole on the bank of a river." They hunted and hunted many days and finally found the place, but the rock was so

p. 175

big that all five of them could not move or lift it. So the son of the silversmith chiseled it off and made it smaller until they could get it off the hole and they found him; then the son of the doctor gave him some medicine that brought him to life and he could talk.

They decided they would get his wife back for him, but it wouldn't do to go and demand her, as the king would kill all six of them at once; so the son of the carpenter said he had a scheme, he would make a flying machine. He made an affair with wings and a tail, which he called a wooden bird. This would go up and down and any place he wished. The son of the painter colored it with many beautiful colors. When it was all finished the son of the rich man got in it and sailed up toward heaven. He flew around and around and finally stood right over the king's palace. The people were all looking at the wonderful and beautiful bird sailing up above them, and the king said to his wife, "Take some nice food up there on the roof and maybe he will come down." So she took the food and went to the roof and the bird came closer and closer, down to the place where she stood. Finally the bird landed on the flat roof beside her and a man stepped out. She was pleased, knew him and said, "I thought you were dead, and I never expected to see you again."

"Are you really pleased," he asked her, "or would you rather stay with the king? Choose for yourself. Either go with me, getting into this wooden bird, or stay here. You need not fear the

p. 176

king if you go with me, for he never can catch us in this bird."

So she stepped into the machine and away they flew to where the five friends awaited them. They alighted, and when they saw her they, too, thought she was beautiful. The son of the rich man said, "I have been dead and brought to life again and now have my wife, and all this I owe to you."

He thanked them over and over, for all they had done. Then he said, "We will be so happy to live as man and wife again," and this made his friends very angry. The son of the fortune teller said, "Well, nobody would have known where you were if it had not been for me, and the girl by rights belongs to me." The son of the silversmith said, "Your business just telling where he was did not amount to anything, it was I that broke the rock away, and the girl should be mine." The son of the doctor said, "What's the use of all your work, just to find the corpse was nothing; it was I that brought him to life, and she should be mine." The son of the carpenter said, "It didn't do any good to bring him to life, it was I who made the wooden bird to get her in, and she belongs to me." The son of the painter said, "The machine was no good until I painted it to look like a bird, and the king sent his wife up, instead of a slave to feed it, so the woman should be my wife."

So they stood quarreling and quarreling until they saw a man coming along the road, and called him in to settle it. They told him about what each

p. 177

had done. He knew not how to answer, but told them this story,

"One time a lot of men owned a fine chorten, 1 and as they couldn't decide to whom it belonged they cut it into pieces and divided it." So these six men drew their knives and slew the girl.


177:1 A chorten is a stupa, or pagoda, sometimes of gold, more often made of clay, of religious significance.

Next: Forty-Five: The Frugal Woman