The Wise Woman
Tibetan Folk Tale
Retold by A.L. Shelton (1925)
Either going up or down a ladder it is an evil thing if you are pushed.
A LONG, long time ago there were two countries adjoining each other and one was a little smaller than the other. The king of the farther and bigger country was named Gezongongdu, and the king of the smaller country was named Drashi. The king of the larger country thought he would like to make the smaller country subject to himself. “But first,” he said, “I want to see if their king is very wily and wise. If he isn’t I can conquer him; but if he is, I shall not attempt it.”
He took a mare and a colt that were exactly alike in color and size and asked the king to decide which was mare and which was colt. The head-men came first and looked and looked and couldn’t tell at all. One of them went home and told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, I’ll tell you how to do it. You make a manger and put some grass in it for them. The mother will keep pushing the food over toward the colt.” Sure enough it happened as she said it would, so they were able to answer the king’s first riddle.
The next day the king sent a stick shaped the same at both ends and asked them to tell which was the top and which the root. The men all came and looked and looked again, but couldn’t tell. The same head-man told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, throw it into the water and the head will go down stream first and the root will come last.” They did so and the problem was solved for the king that day.
Then the king of the larger country sent over two snakes, male and female, and none of the wise men could tell them apart. The head-man again went to his wife and she said, “That’s easy, take a piece of silk and place it near them, the female will think it is nice and soft and she will lie down on it, curl up and go to sleep; but the male will run away and refuse to sleep.” They did that and it all came true just as she said.
So the king of the big country decided he didn’t want to fight the king of the small country, for he was too smart. But the little king knew he had been saved from war and called up his head-man and asked him how he had got all these things right when everybody else had failed. He answered that he didn’t know anything about these things, it was his wife. So the king called the head-man’s wife and gave her many gifts and made her husband chief head-man of his kingdom.