General Pumpkin

Long, long ago there lived a rich man who had an only son. This boy had an enormous appetite and was particularly fond of pumpkins. His parents got all the pumpkins they could for him.

They sowed all their fields with pumpkins, and bought them in vast quantities from the neighbors and in the market. They made pumpkin cakes, pumpkin puddings, pumpkin soup, pumpkin porridge for their son, and he ate nothing else. He would eat a big straw bagful at a sitting, and yet he always complained that he was hungry.

His parents spent so much money to feed him that in the end they were ruined. And to make matters worse, the gluttonous eater of pumpkins used to break wind so often and so violently that in the end the villagers refused to put up with him any longer, so fed up were they with the smell and thunderous rumblings. Finally they drove him away from the village.

So he wandered from village to village begging pumpkins. People who had not heard of him often gave him work, for he looked very big and strong, and he did not ask for money, but only pumpkins as reward for his labor. But he lost every job in a few days when his employers found what an extraordinarily filthy glutton he was.

One day he came to a big Buddhist temple in the mountains. It was a very rich and famous temple, with many priests, but often fell victim to a band of robbers, under their chief, Hairy Zang. Zang used to disguise himself as an ordinary wayfarer and go to the temple to spy out the land. Then at night he would lead his band against it and carry off all the valuables they could lay hands on.

When the Abbot saw the enormous frame of the pumpkin eater standing before the gate of the temple he went and welcomed him warmly, for he thought that this gigantic stranger would be a match for the robbers. He led him into the temple and, bowing humbly before him, asked him what his favorite food was. "You do look a strong man indeed, sir," he said. "What do you like to eat, and how much?"

"I eat nothing but pumpkins," answered the glutton. "You had better cook as many as you can for me, say a whole kettle full."

So the priests of the temple entertained him with a whole kettleful of pumpkin porridge, and then brought him another kettleful of pumpkin cakes. Then they asked him to help them if the robbers should attack the temple.

That evening the robber chief came to the temple. When he saw the feast of pumpkins being made ready he asked a priest, "Have you a party tonight?"

"Yes, General Pumpkin is here," was the answer.

"How many soldiers has he?"

"He has come alone, and will eat them all himself."

The robber chief was astounded to hear this, and decided to stay the night in the temple so that he might take a closer look at the terrible general. Some of the priests recognized him and went and told the Abbot. Then the Abbot went and told General Pumpkin that the robber chief was staying in the next room. So General Pumpkin told the priests to take drums and hide in every corner of the temple at midnight, and put out all the lights. Meanwhile all the followers of the robber chief gathered outside the temple and tried to break in.

Suddenly in the stillness of the night there came a deafening rumble like thunder, and the air was filled with an unbearable stench. General Pumpkin had broken wind. Then a violent gale blew down the high brick wall surrounding the temple. The robber chief tried to run away in his alarm, but whichever way he turned he was confronted with the roll of drums from every dark corner. In the end he was killed, and all his men were crushed under the falling bricks of the wall.

The Abbot thanked General Pumpkin for his services, and invited him to stay in the temple as long as he lived. He lived there for many years, and had all the pumpkins he wanted. To supply him the priests planted a large area of the temple fields with pumpkins every year.

When he grew old the three sons of a rich family that lived near the temple came to him and asked him to help them fight a white tiger which had killed their father. He went to their house one day and they entertained him with pumpkin delicacies of every kind. All they wanted him to do was to break wind just once.

So in the afternoon the three sons of the family donned their armor and shouted, "Come out and fight, white tiger." Immediately there appeared a tiny tiger, no bigger than a rat, and completely white. They all leapt in the air to fight.

General Pumpkin peeped through a chink in the window-paper to see what was going on, and, horrified by what he saw, fell down in a faint. As he fell he broke wind violently, and a deafening roar filled the air. The white tiger was paralyzed with terror at this sudden explosion and the evil stench that followed. Then a bamboo stake from the fence pierced its body, and it fell down dead.

When the three young men came inside again they found the old man lying dead in the room surrounded with excrement. They were very sorry to see it, and provided him with a fitting funeral. And for three years they mourned for him as they did for their father.

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