Good Stories from China: Hailibu, The Kindhearted Hunter
On the Mongolian grassland there used to be a kindhearted hunter named Hailibu. After every hunt, he would divide the meat to other villagers and keep only a small portion for himself. His caring for others won him great respect in the village.
One day, while hunting in the woods, Hailibu heard urgent cries from the sky. Looking up, he saw a small creature captured by a voracious vulture. He quickly aimed his arrow at the predator. Hurt by the arrow, the vulture let go of the prey.
Hailibu looked at this strange-looking creature that had a snake-like body, and said, “Poor little thing, go home quickly.” Replied the creature, “Respectable hunter, you have saved my life, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I am a daughter of the dragon king, and I am sure my father will thank you with great reward. He has great many treasures you can take. If none of these treasures would please you, you may ask him for a precious stone he holds in his mouth. Whoever holds this stone in the mouth will be able to understand the languages of all animals.”
Hunter Hailibu had no interest in any treasure, but being able to understand the languages of animals had great appeal to him. He asked the dragon's daughter, “Is there really such a precious stone?” She replied, “Yes. But whatever you hear from animals, you have to keep it to yourself. If you tell it to others, you will turn into a rock.”
The young dragon took Hailibu to the ocean side. As they advanced into the ocean, water parted swiftly to the sides, so that Hailibu was able to walk as if on a wide avenue. Soon a glowing palace emerged, where the dragon king was residing.
The dragon king was happy to hear that Hailibu saved his daughter, and offered him to take any treasure he would like from his palace. After a moment of silence, Hailibu replied, “If you want to give me something as a gift, may I ask for the precious stone in your mouth?”
The dragon king lowered his head, thought for a moment. He then took out the stone from his mouth and handed it to Hailibu.
Upon parting, the dragon's daughter repeated to Hailibu, “Respectable hunter, please remember not to tell anyone what the animals say. Otherwise, you will turn into a rock immediately.”
Having the precious stone in his mouth, Hailibu enjoyed his hunting in the woods even more. He could understand the languages of all the beasts and birds, and knew what animals to hunt in which part of the mountain. He was able to hunt more meat and give more to the villagers.
Several years passed quickly.
One day, in the mountain, he heard a group of birds discussing something with urgency. He listened attentively. The lead bird said, “We need to move elsewhere quickly. Tonight, the mountain will collapse and flood will submerge this entire land. Many people may die.”
Hailibu was shocked at hearing this. He hurriedly ran home and gushed these words to the villagers, “We have to move elsewhere immediately; we cannot stay here anymore!” All were surprised, “We are living well here; why move?” Hailibu kept on repeating those words, but nobody listened. In tears, he pleaded, “Please listen to me—I can swear what I said is true. Believe me, we have to move now; otherwise it would be too late.”
An elder tried to calm Hailibu, “You are a good man and you have never lied. We have lived here for generations but now you ask us to move. You have to tell us why; moving is not an easy thing.”
Hailibu saw no other ways to save the villagers. He suddenly became very calm. Composing himself in earnest, he said to the villagers, “Tonight, the mountain will collapse and a great flood will drown this land. You see, birds have flown away.” He then recounted how he obtained the precious stone, was able to understand all beasts and birds but had to keep what he heard a secret lest he would turn into a rock, and finally, the birds' words about flying away from this land of impending disaster.
As he was recounting his story, his lower body, starting from the feet, started to turn into part of a rock. When he finished telling the whole story, he turned into a rock completely.
The villagers were left in shock and tears. They cried their sorrow, wishing they had listened to Hailibu earlier. Carrying their essentials and herding their livestock, the villagers, along with their elders and children, walked to a faraway land. They continued walking at night, when suddenly thick cloud covered the sky and wind started to howl. Soon rain poured like never before. In the direction of their village, they heard a thundering roar from the collapsing of the mountain…
Generations have now passed. It is said that descendents from that village still remember the kindhearted hunter Hailibu and talk of searching for that rock.
Source: This story is based on a traditional Mongolian tale.