The Little Old Woman with Five Cows
A tale used to illustrate Jung's interpretation of symbols and their relevance to Jungian therapy.
One morning a little old woman got up and went to the field containing her five cows. She took from the earth a herb with five sprouts and, without breaking either root or branch, carried it home and wrapped it in a blanket and placed it on her pillow.
Then she went out again and sat down to milk her cows. Suddenly she heard tambourine bells jingle and scissors fall, on account of which noise she upset the milk. Having run home and looked, she found that the plant was uninjured. Again she issued forth to milk the cows, and again thought she heard the tambourine bells jingle and scissors fall, and once more she spilt her milk. Returning to the house, she looked into the bedchamber. There sat a maiden with eyes of chalcedony and lips of dark stone, with a face of light-coloured stone and with eyebrows like two dark sables stretching their forefeet towards each other; her body was visible through her dress; her bones were visible through her body; her nerves spreading this way and that, like mercury, were visible through her bones. The plant had become this maiden of indescribable beauty.
Soon afterwards Kharjit-Bergen, son of the meritorious Khan Kara, went into the dark forest. He saw a grey squirrel sitting on a curved twig, near the house of the little old woman with five cows, and he began to shoot, but as the light was bad, for the sun was already setting, he did not at once succeed in his purpose. At this time one of his arrows fell into the chimney.
‘Old woman!’ take the arrow and bring it to me!’ he cried, but received no answer. His cheeks and forehead grew flushed and he became angry; a wave of arrogance sprang from the back of his neck, and he rushed into the house.
When he entered and saw the maiden he lost consciousness. But he revived and fell in love. Then he went out and, jumping on his horse, raced home at full gallop. ‘Parents! said he, ‘there is such a beautiful maiden at the house of a little old woman with five cows! Get hold of this maiden and give her to me!’
The father sent nine servants on horseback, and they galloped at full speed to the house of the little old woman with five cows. All the servants became unconscious when they beheld the maiden’s beauty. However, they recovered, and all went away except the best on of them.
‘Little old woman!’ said he, ‘give this girl to the son of the meritorious Khan Khara!’
‘I will give her,’ was the answer.
They spoke to the maiden. ‘I will go,’ she announced.
‘Now, as the bridegroom’s wedding gift,’ said the old woman, ‘drive up cattle, and fill my open fields with horses and horned stock!’
Immediately the request was uttered and before the agreement was concluded the man gave an order to collect and drive up the animals as the bridegroom’s gift.
‘Take the maiden and depart!’ said the little old woman, when the stock of horses and cattle had been given as arranged,
The maiden was quickly adorned, and a finely speckled horse that spoke like a human being was led up to her skilfully. They put on it a silver halter, saddled it with a silver saddle, which was placed over an upper silver saddle-cloth and a lower silver saddle-cloth, and they attached a little silver whip. Then the son-in-law led the bride from the mother’s side by the whip, mounted his horse and took the bride home.