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Figure adapted to Tibetan Tales

Storytelling, wearing accessories and stamping around could be the oldest art forms among humans. Some skilled storytellers preserve and transmit communal history and knowledge as they entertain - for example before bedtime.

The yeti was a protected species in Nepal as recently as 1958. Some think this elusive, dangerous creature is found in the snowy Himalayas. For generations the Sherpas of Tibet have refrained from climbing Mount Kumbhila in eastern Nepal for fear that yetis would come and punish them. You see, yetis are most often described - by those who claim to have seem them - as between two and four meters tall. And Tibetan lamas say a yeti carries a magic stone in his left armpits and throws it at great yaks in order to stun and kill them.

The yeti was observed twice in eastern Tibet by Rheinholdt Messner, a leading mountaineer. The huge ape-like creature was also spied in Nepal by the British mountaineer Don Whillans in 1970 when it was making off across the southern slope of Mount Annapurna while clutching a bag of English chocolate bars taken from the mountaineer's tent.

Genuine yeti specimen and authenticated photos seem absent. In May 2012 investigators, led by University of Oxford genetics professor Bryan Sykes, sent out a request to museums and individual collectors, including the renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner, and got three hair samples in good enough shape to allow gene sequencing. These samples were said to be from yetis. But one of them came from a goat, and the other two – one from Ladakh in India and the other from Bhutan – were linked to the polar bear. The hairs might have come from a distant descendant of the polar bear or a local cross with a brown bear, the scientists suggested. "Might have come from . . ." looks like a little speculation. [1]

The facts are: Three hair samples are investigated and ruled out. But the samples are few. The findings are therefore far from being conclusive evidence whether there are "snow-bears" walking about in Tibet or not.

And now for good old yeti tales from Tibet: Tales 9 - 17 in this collection are adapted from a popular textbook, Tibetan-English Folktales (2006), edited by Allie Stuart, Kevin Stuart, Tse dbang rdo rje, and others.


Yeti Protection

Once an old man from Nepal carried a large sack of corn through the forest to a small abandoned mill, to grind it into flour. But before his task was done darkness fell on, so he had no choice but to spend the night at the place.

In the dead of night, when the old man lay curled up next to his small fire on the floor of the mill shack, he suddenly woke up. A huge, apelike creature was standing over him, thundering. "Who are you and what do you want here?"

"I only want to grind my corn," squeaked the villager.

"This is my hiding-place!" snarled the yeti. "No one see me and leave here alive."

The man was very scared, but an idea came to his mind. "Great yeti," he began, "it is a Tibetan custom to anoint one's legs before dying. Please, let me perform these rites before you take my life."

The surprised yeti nodded, it was OK. So the man sat down and started rubbing butter on his legs, massaging both sides. "This is how we scent ourselves before death, Big One. Then our well-oiled legs swiftly and easily carry us wherever we wish to go".

"Let me try some of that!" bellowed the yeti and sat down with a thump. What he did not notice was that the old man massaged his bulging, hairy legs with pine resin from the rucksack, and not butter.

Then the man took a burning firebrand and held it near his own legs, and the butter streamed down. The yeti did likewise with a flaming stick. But as soon as he held it next to his legs, the pine resin flared up and his whole body seared up into flames. Screamingly he leaped away into the forest and was not seen again.

"There is a yeti [or fear] in the back of everyone's mind; but the blessed are not haunted by it." [Old Sherpa wisdom]

Befriending a Yeti

One night a lama was sitting at his place not far from Mount Everest. He was keeping one of his silent vigils over the moonlit world of men and creatures. While he was praying for their salvation, a huge yeti stole up on him in order to kill him. But in the lama's peaceful presence the yeti forgot it, and with gentle gestures the ragged monk welcomed his huge visitor. For the first time in his life the horrible yeti felt accepted; it made his untrammeled spirit soar with an unspeakable relief.

The lama now began to treat his visitor as part of his household in order to sow some seeds of peace in his heart. Little grows so high up in the mountains, far above the treeline, but from that day on the yeti brought fresh meat to him and tried to please him thus.

Years slipped by, and the lama grew old and infirm. But the mighty yeti continued to bring him food, collect firewood, and carry water from a nearby stream. Again and again the saintly sage prayed for his friend.

One evening, after there had been a great avalanche nearby, the yeti did not return to the old lama's place, as he used to do. The lama went out to seek him by moonlight and found him many hours later. He lay dead at the bottom of the avalanche.

It is also told that he later gave the skull of the yeti as a treasured relic to the monastery at Pangboche.


Tibetan tales, folk tales from Tibetan sources, folklore of Tibet, Literature  

Budhwar, Kusum. Where Gods Dwell: Central Himalayan Folktales and Legends. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2010.

Das, Surya. The Snow Lion's Turquoise Mane: Wisdom Tales from Tibet. Paperback. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

Ghose, Sudhin N. Tibetan Folk Tales and Fairy Stories. Calcutta: Rupa og Co, 1986.

Hyde-Chambers, Fredrick and Audrey. Tibetan Folk Tales. Ny utg. Boston: Shambala, 2001 (1. utg. 1981).

Jewett, Eleanor Myers. Wonder Tales from Tibet. Boston: Little, Brown, og Company. 1922.

O'Connor, William F. T., saml,, oms. Folk Tales from Tibet with Illustrations by a Tibetan Artist and some Verses from Tibetan Love-Songs. London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. 1906.

Schiefner, Anton. Tibetan Tales Derived from Indian Sources. Oms. W. R. S. Ralston. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner og Co., 1906.

Shelton, Albert L., oms. Tibetan Folk Tales. St. Louis, MISS: United Christian Missionary Society, 1925. (also: Abela Publishing, 2009)

Thomas, Allie, Kevin Stuart, Tse dbang rdo rje, et al., eds. Tibetan-English Folktales, 2006.

  1. Richard Ingham. "Yeti, Big Foot debunked: DNA reveals the bear facts". AFP News, Wed, July 2, 2014

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