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Main > Chinese folktales > Fairy tale "The Constable"

The Constable

I have been sent out by the Judge of the Dead to fetch him. Yet the established custom is, when some one is sent for, that the constable has first to report to the god of the city. The god of the city then issues a summons, and sends one of his own spirit constables to seize the soul and deliver it over to me. Only then may I take it away with me.”

Dung asked him further particulars; but the other merely said: “Later on you will see it all for yourself.”

When they reached the city Dung invited his colleague to stay at his home, and entertained him with wine and food. But the other only talked and touched neither the goblet nor the chop-sticks.

Said Dung: “In my haste I could not find any better meal for you. I am afraid it is not good enough.”

But his guest replied: “Oh no, I am already surfeited and satisfied! We spirits feed only on odors; in which respect we differ from men.”

It was late at night before he set out to visit the temple of the city god.

No sooner did morning dawn than he reappeared to take farewell and said: “Now all is in order: I am off! In two years’ time you will go to Taianfu, the city near the Great Mountain, and there we will meet again.”

Dung began to feel ill at ease. A few days later, in fact, came the news that Wang had died. The district mandarin journeyed to the dead man’s natal village in order to express his sympathy. Among his followers was Dung. The inn-keeper there was a tenant of Wang’s.

Dung asked him: “Did anything out of the ordinary happen when Sir Wang died?”

“It was all very strange,” answered the inn-keeper, “and my mother who had been very busy in his house, came home and fell into a violent fever. She was unconscious for a day and a night, and could hardly breathe. She came to on the very day when the news of Sir Wang’s death was made public, and said: ‘I have been to the Nether World and I met him there. He had chains about his neck and several devils were dragging him along. I asked him what he had done, but he said: “I have no time to tell you now.

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