Years ago, I was made to compile a list of Bhutanese folktales and annotate them all. I also had to also identify what values each stories carries. Unfortunately, I could not find all the books. As you can see, each story is summarized and after each story, I have listed values that I thought are encompassed in each of them. And for those of who may not have had gone through all the books, it is my pleasure to present to you an annotated Bhutanese folktales. However, it is my hope that you would ultimately read the books yourself. But please don't expect much from a high school student (I was back then).
The first I have is a wonderful book by Ashi Kunzang Choden: Bhutanese Tales of Yeti published by White Lotus Co., (1997), Thailand. Please enjoy!
- The Greedy Herder
A herder once comes across a strange creature. It is a mysterious yeti. Everyday, the creature visits the man’s window and it disappears as soon as it is given some meat. It becomes an everyday ritual. The man always has meat for the creature. One day, haunted by his greedy dreams, the herder attempts to kill the yeti, which results into his fateful death. It is then believed a yeti does not harm us unless it’s in danger.
Values: livelihood, bravery, danger, discovery, superstition, reality, greed, reward.
- Goelak, the place where the Migoi was Defeated
A young little brother is alone in the mountains with a herd of yaks when his sister is away at home to collect rations. When the girl returns to the mountains, her brother goes missing. In the dark, the girl searches for her brother only to find a large snowman in the cave. With her fast wit, the girl surprises the yeti by driving it away, never to return again. Thereafter, the place is named Goelak, the place where the yeti is defeated.
Values: responsibility, strength, wilderness, fear, bravery, wit, foolishness, triumph, loss
- Mimi Khandola’s Story
It is summer and Mimi Khandola has just moved his yaks to higher altitude. He is alone. One night, a group of wild dogs attack an old and weak yak before the old man’s eyes. He again hears wild dogs the following night, but this time the victim is not a yak. Old man believes it is a yeti instead. The old man is suddenly overcome by sadness and he is lonely. Immediately he moves his herd to a different camp.
Values: wilderness, fear, bravery, compassion, sadness, loss, danger and loss
- The Migoi’s sense of Smell
As a father and his son are about to sleep, a strange creature disturbs them. It is a yeti. Two yak herders are helpless and as the father starts honing his knife, the son begins to burn a mixture of dried onions, chilies, meat, garlic and dirt, which finally drives the uninvited guest away from their sights.
Values: loneliness, refuge, anxiety, distraction, beliefs, appeasing malevolent spirits, triumph, relief, disbelief, happiness
- The Migoi Does Not Bend
As two herders search for their lost yaks, they appear before a sleeping yeti. Slowly and carefully they pull a strand of the creature’s hair. They want to prove to other people that they have seen a yeti. But now the disturbed monster chases the two men. When they look back at it, they see the yeti fall down again and again as it hits the tree branches. Thus they conclude that a yeti does not bend; however while running, they also lose the hair. They now have no proof.
Values: team works, belief, existence of evil forces, fear, anxiety, discovery, loss
- The Talisman
Nobody knows where the merchant lives, but he deals garments, wood burls and musk pods. He has a knife, which he refuses to sell it to anyone. He believes his dagger is powerful. One day in the mountain, he finds two yetis. With his knife drawn, the man waits for the creatures and he waves his dagger continuously. Without his notice, the two creatures disappear. He is amused by the incident and now he believes that his knife is powerful enough to drive away even devils.
Values: trade, inheritance, mystery, loss, grief, courage, strength, curiosity, surprise, divine power
- The Mule Tail Robbers
Merchants on their trip to Lhasa in Tibet are surprised when their mules’ tails are gone. They stop in the mountains and wait for the snow to clear away. Surprising enough, they shoot a yeti down. They then follow its track to its den. In a cave they also shoot another creature only to find all their mules’ tails in the cave. The yetis have robbed the tails off the mules.
Values: power, richness, pride, experience, natural calamities, surprise, anger, humiliation, fear, disbelief
- The Skin of the Tiger
A yeti once approaches a faithful hermit in a cave and soon a fearful tiger is also on the scene. The tiger is about to harm the hermit when the yeti comes for help. Fighting fearfully, the tiger loses its battle. It lies down slain and the yeti disappears. Thus, the hermit makes the good use of the beautiful tiger skin. Thus, it makes one believe that strong faith in religion gives us the power to resist the wild threats.
Values: Faith, wilderness, lack of materialism, knowledge, bravery, satisfaction
- Boots for the Migoi
One day a skilled tanner encounters a fearful yeti. The tanner always carries a piece of hide in his pocket. In his attempt to run away he sews yeti a pair of boots out of wet leather. The yeti is amused and seems to like his boot. The old man runs away, but now as the boots begin to contract, the yeti starts to follow the tanner. The old man runs to his safety until the yeti can no longer walk.
Values: profession, skills, pride, wisdom, modesty, harmony, harmony, tradition, expedition, concern, intoxicants, loss, fear, panics, courage, safety, happiness
- The Unintentional Trap
A man is in the woods felling pine trees to develop planks for his worn out house. After his lunch, the man is away from the work site. In his absence, a yeti’s hand is accidentally trapped in the cracks of a pine log that the man has cut. The monster wails in pain. The man is puzzled what to do. Finally he decides to free it. Soon the yeti walks his way never to return again. Satisfied with his work, the man goes home carrying the planks.
Values: natural resources, humiliation, wilderness, loneliness, hard work, fear, bravery, compassion, help, happiness
- The Ultimate Divine Test
It is in the middle of a night in the mountain. A strange sound dominates the whole place, but it cannot disturb the dedicated monk at his meditation. Soon his small hut trembles as if in a terrible earthquake. The monk takes refuges in his masters and he is sure that no harm will be done on him. As the night wears away, the sounds and shakes disappear. The curious monk searches for footprints on the snow and concludes that they are yeti’s marks. So it is believed that it is only our own minds that create various terrifying appearances.
Values: ego, ignorance, loneliness, fear, bravery, refuge in masters, curiosity, learning, self realization, enlightenment, discipline
- The Final Grip
On their trip to collect bamboos, the three men spend a night in the mountain. They start a large fire to warm themselves. Soon a strange creature also joins them to warm itself. It is a mysterious yeti. In a surprising move, three men scare away the fearful monster when they flung heated stones at it. The three men are haunted by this experience for the rest of their lives.
Values: scarcity, resources, teamwork, intelligence, bravery, courage, strength, safety, fear, victory, happiness, haunting experience
- In the Tracks of the Migoi
A group of hunters are surprised when their traps failed to trap any meat one day. Ultimately they find the footprints of a yeti and a courageous hunter go alone following the tracks of the creature. His knife is sharp and he is ready to face any danger his way. Now no one back in the village believes that he has killed a yeti, but their doubts are soon answered when they see two fearful creatures lie dead in the mountain. However, the proud hunter sees his own death nearing.
Values: teamwork, livelihood, hard work, occupations, wilderness, suspicions, mistrust, fame, bravery, beliefs, compassion, death
- The Heroes
While hunting in the mountains, a renowned strong man encounters a yeti. The man is so strong that no one can defeat him in the whole village. Then in a surprise move, the man hold the yeti’s wrist and they pull each other hard. They prove they are equally strong. Now both the yeti and the man walk away in direction feeling strong. They are heroes indeed, in different ‘territories’.
Values: ego, pride, strength, brave, courage
- The Migoi and the Tiger
A strange commotion in the forest frightens an old cow herder who is clearing path for the cattle. On closer inspection, he finds a yeti and tiger fight vigorously. They jump in the river and continue to fight. The old man keeps it a secret for he believes it is surely a bad omen. But later when another cowherd finds the dead remains of the yeti, the old man is forced to tell his secrets. So the tiger has killed the abominable snowman in the fight.
Values: agriculture, rearing animals, cattle migration, wilderness, beliefs, supernatural forces, wrath of deities, secret, bad omens
- Not even a corpse to Cremate
Everyone in the village joins in the search for a lost girl, but to no avail. They cannot find her. People believe that spirits have carried her away. Everyone is shocked when the girl returns after many years. A yeti abducts her as its wife and she gives birth to a strange baby. On the day of her escape, the yeti carries the baby and follows her. When it can no longer keep up, the yeti heartlessly tears away the baby into two halves. Now the girl overcome by immense grief does not live long after the event.
Values: wilderness, fear, courage, love, compassion, loneliness, beliefs, grief, death
- The Mirgola’s Spirit Bag
Mirgola is a mystical monkey-like creature. It is believed to possess a bag, which contains its divine power. Some say with this bag, the creature can double its size. A man captures one such creature and hides its bag. The man puts the creature to work. But all the time, it is seen searching for the bag. After many days, the creature escapes with the bag. The man’s son is killed. The man go in search of mirgola and revenges it.
Values: beliefs, wilderness, fear, intelligence, supernaturalism, superstition, divine power, revenge, good and evil
- Not Everybody Sees the Migoi
People in northern Bhutan believe that the sight of a yeti is a bad omen and they fear more of the omen than the monstrous creature itself. Two men are in the mountains trapping pheasants when one of them sees a yeti. The other man cannot see it and immediately the misfortune befalls on the one who sees the yeti. So it is concluded that only few can actually see the yetis.
Values: beliefs, fear, omens, rituals, powerful divination, wilderness
- The Brokpa who Forgot
Brokpas believe we should never use weapons against mysterious yetis. One night a Brokpa who forgets such belief starts to challenge the giant. It is only in the morning that people find out his dead body and footprints of a yeti all around him in the snow.
Values: reverence, worships, faith, shock, fear, traditional beliefs, superstition, death
- The Novice
There is an eminent lama and he is requested by the villagers to perform a ritual to please the guiding deities. A novice accompanies lama on the trip and he is surprised when he finds his master talk with a yeti. The novice is marveled and amused beyond words.
Values: guiding deities, religious pursuits, social beliefs, fear, relief
- The Mirgoe’s Bride
A girl is supposed to marry two brothers soon, but on the day of the marriage, the girl is lost. People search far and wide. It is useless, they cannot find. Finally after a year, everyone takes for granted that she is dead somewhere somehow. One day when the two brothers are in the wilderness of the mountains they find the girl happily married to a yeti instead. Back in the village, people enjoy the tales.
Values: marriage, family pride, shame, loss, humiliation, anxiety, grief, happiness
- The Mirgoe Who Fell Asleep
Three brothers search for their lost yaks in the mountain and as they search in different directions, one of the brothers encounters a yeti. Although by their belief they are not allowed to harm yetis, he shoots it down. Overcome by superstitious beliefs, the brother returns to the village and he is afraid of what he has done. It takes a while for him to come back to his normal self.
Values: wealth, dignity, hard work, tradition, simplicity, loss, confusion, superstition
Coming up next: Rita Thomas' Folktales of Bhutan (1999)