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The Little Human and The Daughter-in-law: Invisibles as Seen Through the Eyes of Different Kinds of People

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image of Inner Asia

This chapter focuses on two versions of a single story collected from North-west and North-east Mongolia. The story concerns a daughter-in-law’s relationship with ‘little humans’ (jijig hün) at her in-laws’ house. Although similar in their thematic content, the two stories differ in their endings. In the example from North-west Mongolia, the daughter-in-law successfully rids her in-laws ’house of a little human allowing them to prosper. In the example from North-east Mongolia, the daughter-in-law mistakenly throws a little human into the fire, causing her natal family to perish. At first sight, this divergence could be seen as reflective of the kind of perspectival difference established between a predominantly Buddhist ontology in Western Mongolia and a predominantly shamanist ontology in Eastern Mongolia. But the stories resist being viewed as allegorical texts by which to extract information concerning received ontological differences. Regardless of East/West differences, laypeople across all of Mongolia have varied relationships with aspects of the normally invisible world. We argue that, rather than establish ontological species-specific differentiations, such relations point to shifting scales of different ‘kinds’ of people in Mongolia.


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