A poor man kills his son, but the son leads him to riches.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


Some of the old Miao songs run for hundreds of lines, episode following episode but with very little connection between them. However, in this narrative, the link between the two parts is so slender as to suggest that originally these were separate stories. The ending of the second part is clearly a repetition of the previous narrative, M476, but when the point was put to Yang Xiu-gong he insisted that this was the form in which he had always known it. Nevertheless the impression remains that, if we had the original song version, we might well find that it had an entirely different ending.

The first section of this story illustrates how near to starvation many of the Miao lived. The onset of old age, a bad harvest, sickness or some similar adversity could drive a family to the desperate extremity here described. To save their son from the suffering which was the lot of all orphans, they would contrive to kill him, and after a final meal the old people would commit suicide.

The pounder in the story was a heavy wooden cross having a peg of hard wood, which fitted down into a stone mortar, driven through the head. The grain etc. which was to be pounded was placed in the mortar, which was set into the ground. The two arms of the cross were supported on pegs, which raised them some nine inches off the ground. A heavy weight was fixed to the head of the cross which could be raised out of the mortar by treading on the foot of the cross. When it was released the peg in the head would strike down into the mortar with considerable force. The whole contraption would normally require two or three men to carry it.

Yeu-rang, in this story lived not in the sky but in a cliff, which could only be opened if struck exactly at its middle point. There appears to have been a rule in the contest between the Miao lad and Yeu-rang that either might change form at will, but if caught they would lose the power to change back. So Yeu-rang in the form of a sparrow hawk caught in the basket could not resume his original shape until he was released.

Literal Transcription

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