The Cloak of Dreams

The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales

Béla Balázs
Translated and Introduced by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Mariette lydis
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Cloak of Dreams
    Book Description:

    A man is changed into a flea and must bring his future parents together in order to become human again. A woman convinces a river god to cure her sick son, but the remedy has mixed consequences. A young man must choose whether to be close to his wife's soul or body. And two deaf mutes transcend their physical existence in the garden of dreams. Strange and fantastical, these fairy tales of Béla Balázs (1884-1949), Hungarian writer, film critic, and famous librettist ofBluebeard's Castle, reflect his profound interest in friendship, alienation, and Taoist philosophy. Translated and introduced by Jack Zipes, one of the world's leading authorities on fairy tales,The Cloak of Dreamsbrings together sixteen of Balázs's unique and haunting stories.

    Written in 1921, these fairy tales were originally published with twenty images drawn in the Chinese style by painter Mariette Lydis, and this new edition includes a selection of Lydis's brilliant illustrations. Together, the tales and pictures accentuate the motifs and themes that run throughout Balázs's work: wandering protagonists, mysterious woods and mountains, solitude, and magical transformation. His fairy tales express our deepest desires and the hope that, even in the midst of tragedy, we can transcend our difficulties and forge our own destinies.

    Unusual, wondrous fairy tales that examine the world's cruelties and twists of fate,The Cloak of Dreamswill entertain, startle, and intrigue.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3603-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Béla Balázs, the homeless Wanderer, or, The Man Who sought to Become One with the World
    (pp. 1-57)

    Recognized internationally as one of the foremost film critics and filmmakers in the early days of cinema, and famous for writing the libretto for Béla Bartók’s operaBluebeard’s Castlein 1911, Béla Balázs was also a prolific writer of fairy tales and a political activist who often compromised his ideals to survive the turbulent years he spent in exile, first in Austria and Germany during the 1920s and then in the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s. He was not an easy man, but the times were not easy on him. One of his biographers, Joseph Zsuffa, summarizes his...

  5. A Note on the Mysterious Illustrator Mariette Lydis
    (pp. 58-64)

    Most of the publications ofThe Cloak of Dreamsin German, Italian, and English and the biographies of Béla Balázs refer to Mariette Lydis as a Greek millionaire and painter and merely give her birth and death dates, or they do not refer to her at all. In fact, Mariette Lydis was a gifted painter and illustrator, whose adventurous life and accomplishments are worth a book.

    She was born in Baden, near Vienna, as Marietta Ronsperger on August 24, 1887. Very little is known of her youth, for she was reluctant to write about her personal life. Nevertheless, some biographical...

  6. 1 The Cloak of Dreams
    (pp. 65-69)

    The emperor Ming-Huang, a descendant of the T’ang dynasty, had a wife named Nai-Fe, who was as beautiful as the moon in May. However, they were never seen conversing with one another, sitting together, or holding hands. His wife Nai-Fe only appeared when the emperor put on his marvelous embroidered cloak. Then she walked behind him, keeping a great distance between them, and the yearning of her soul rested on him with her gaze. Let me tell you how all this came about.

    Ming-Huang had a glorious garden that had such a powerful fragrance you could fetch an aroma out...

  7. 2 Li-Tai-Pe and the Thief
    (pp. 70-73)

    The poet Li-Tai-Pe sang so gloriously that his songs intoxicated the gods above, and they often became inebriated and dropped to the earth from the clouds like little sleeping birds from their nest. This is why Li-Tai-Pe was so highly honored during his lifetime. Temples were built on mountain peaks in his honor. The emperor presented him with the most beautiful empress clothes, and the most beautiful empress undressed him. And when he stayed in a city, the men of this city would go looking for him with worried expressions on their faces, and they searched in all the gutters of...

  8. 3 The Parasols
    (pp. 74-79)

    There once lived a man by the name of Yang-Tsu. He was a peddler and spent the entire day wandering from street to street with a basket hanging from his chest. In this way he managed to see all the splendors of the rich city. He saw the magnificent mandarins with their retinues. He saw the powerful warriors with the shadows of distant adventures on their faces. And he felt the aroma of almonds coming from the invisible ladies in the veiled, gilt-embroidered sedan chairs that smacked him in his sweaty face.

    In the evening, however, when he returned home...

  9. 4 The Clumsy God
    (pp. 80-85)

    Fu-Hi had been covered by a mountain for a thousand long years. This was how the Lord of the Heavens had punished him for his clumsiness.

    It all began right after Fu-Hi’s mortal death, when he was appointed god of friendship. He had not governed very long in his office and had not yet been registered in the imperial sacrificial lists when, one day, a golden dragon appeared before him as messenger and summoned him to the Lord of the Heavens. All at once clouds billowed from Fu-Hi’s feet. Then he climbed upon them and flew past the nineteen houses...

  10. 5 The Opium Smokers
    (pp. 86-89)

    Once upon a time there were two friends, Hu-Fu and Chen-Hu. They never spoke with another because they were deaf-mutes. The first time they crossed paths was when they were out begging and a rich stranger came walking by them. Hu-Fu stood still and pretended to be blind. Chen-Hu lifted his foot and pretended to be lame. But the stranger didn’t give either one of them anything because they didn’t block his way. They didn’t block his way because neither wanted to ruin the other’s chance for some business. After the stranger had passed by them, Hu-Fu opened his eyes,...

  11. 6 The Flea
    (pp. 90-94)

    Many years ago there lived a man named Dung-Fu. One day he treaded on some bread and was punished for this. Consequently, after his death he was reborn as a wild beast and lived as a gray wolf in dark forests. As a wolf, Dung-Fu suffered great torment and, therefore, he sought a better incarnation. In his next life he was reborn as a guard dog, and this way he came closer to people. Even though he was only a dog, he could watch the daily lives and activities of people and had more time to think about all this...

  12. 7 The Old Child
    (pp. 95-103)

    Laotse means “old child.” The ancient yellow man had been given this name because his mother had carried him inside her body in one of his human incarnations for seventy-two years before giving birth to him. Right from the beginning he had white hair, and that’s why he was called “old child.”

    One time Laotse sat on top of the seventh mountain of heaven and began teaching about hidden meanings. All the gods sat around him in a circle on alabaster chairs. They held their writing slates on their knees and pens in their hands as they listened and wrote...

  13. 8 The Robbers of Divine Power
    (pp. 104-108)

    Sometimes, at the beginning of the rainy period, there are enormous storms that come from the Gobi Desert. In just a matter of minutes the sky becomes pitch black. Then red lightning splits the sky, and the wind tosses entire villages into the air as if they were dust. Many people and animals perish in the process. When such a storm is at its worst, a horde of wild riders with swinging black sabers can immediately be seen in the sky reflected by the lightning. They roar and charge through the clouds. Then it’s best to hide because they mow...

  14. 9 Li-Tai-Pe and Springtime
    (pp. 109-113)

    The divine poet sat in his garden surrounded by a bamboo fence and drank tea. It was springtime in the country. The moon water trickled from the jasmine blossoms into the pond, and the nightingale sobbed in its sleep. The heavenly weaver wove fluttering silk. But in many places heaven was so exposed and naked that the shudder of love rippled over the skin of the poet, and he sang:

    “Oh, spring, how much your beauty hurts my eyes,

    For I see you and don’t know, however, whether you see me!

    All the days of spring and all the springs...

  15. 10 The Ancestors
    (pp. 114-118)

    Once upon a time there lived a customs officer by the name of Hu, who had a middling position as bureaucrat in the civil service. He performed his duties precisely and conscientiously and led a quiet, contented life.

    One night, as Hu was in his bed sleeping, he awoke because his straw pillow started to rustle. When he opened his eyes, the moon shone into the room, and he saw that there was another head lying on the pillow right before his face. At first he thought it was his dead wife who had come for a nocturnal visit. He...

  16. 11 The Moon Fish
    (pp. 119-122)

    Once upon a time there lived a fisherman in Manchuria, and his name was Sia. One day a fox stole his net from him, and ever since then he fished only with a rod, which didn’t help him catch many fish. He became so poor that he had to live in a cave, and this cave was so small that he hit his head on the ceiling whenever he stood up in bed, and when he stretched his arms, they touched the walls. However, Sia didn’t want to change his trade, because only if you pursue one course to its...

  17. 12 The Friends
    (pp. 123-132)

    Once upon a time, in the old capital of Lo-Yang, there lived two young men who came from good families. Their names were Aduan and Ho-Huan. They happened to have met one spring evening in a peach orchard, and as they walked home together, they fell into deep conversation. When they eventually caught sight of the city, the sun happened to be setting right behind the pagodas, and everything seemed to be made out of red gold. The two young men stood still, and as they looked at the beautiful picture, they were very moved and turned silent. Then they...

  18. 13 The Revenge of the Chestnut Tree
    (pp. 133-138)

    Once upon a time there was a wild and strong robber by the name of Yuan-Dzsau. He was so wild and strong that nobody could withstand him. Courage radiated from his eyes like glowing lances, and they emanated such power that he broke the shields of his enemies with his glance.

    One day he attacked a merchant in the forest just as this man was counting his gold coins in the shade of a chestnut tree. Yuan-Dzsau stabbed him to death with his dagger. Then he sat down in the shadow to count the stolen gold. However, the blood of...

  19. 14 Tearful Gaze
    (pp. 139-144)

    Yuo-Djung lived in the city of Sianfu and was preparing for the supreme state examination. He studied night after night in solitude by candlelight. This was how he spent the winter, and when spring arrived, fresh aromas drifted through his window. At first they came one at a time—the aroma of melting snow, the aroma of the damp, wilted foliage, and the aroma of the first violets. The smells came in droves. They pushed their way through the window like herds of sheep when driven into a corral in the evening. Yuo-Djung had a very fine sense of smell...

  20. 15 The Clay Child
    (pp. 145-149)

    There once lived a man by the name of Liu-I in a village near the Bay of Kiau-Tschau. He was already many thousands of years old, but his beard was still black, and he had a glowing gaze. This was because Liu-I had repeated the first year of life, the period in which children learn the art of living, thirty times. Indeed, he had brought this art to great perfection. Every age has its secret meaning, which human beings cannot grasp, because they stay in this age for only a brief time.

    Long ago, when Liu-I was born, his mother...

  21. 16 The Victor
    (pp. 150-154)

    During the T’ang dynasty there was a mighty general by the name of Du-Dsi-Tsun who was known for his sense of justice and kindness. Because he had grown up in camps among soldiers and had spent his entire life in ferocious wars and endured great hardship, he became stronger than all other men, but he had a deep yearning for a woman’s warm love and tender care.

    One day he heard that the king of the Land of Four Rivers wanted to marry off his daughters and had called all of the noble warriors to his court. The king announced...

  22. Appendix A A Beautiful Book
    (pp. 155-158)
    Thomas Mann
  23. Appendix B The Book of Wan Hu-Chen
    (pp. 159-172)
    Béla Balázs
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-177)