Oh, skin of the opposite sex is touching your skin with such a passionate embrace…
The Shadow of the Cat People

Maybe that is why there was the first man whose name also was “Moor” not from here; he was a Buddhist monk from a distant land.  People who by chance met this Buddhist monk were surprised by his shadow which had the figure of a strange cat with an erect tail.  Whether he was truly a Buddhist monk is unknown. Maybe it is not correct to call him a monk.  This so-called Buddhist monk, “Moor-guai[1],” was born with a terrible curse of his mouth; when opened, an ugly smell came out.  And he never spoke with anyone his whole life.  People thought he was a monk. It always seemed as though he was meditating because he never spoke with anyone and was only inside himself, deep in his mind.  People came to name his “clan of cat people,” the “clan of monks,” but only decided this a long time after his death. 

I never heard about anyone from the “clan of monks” who actually studied in a monastery.  People thought those from the “clan of monks” must have been monks, but in fact they were not monks at all.  They were all hunters and killers, armed with weapons like shields, bows and arrows, walking along mountain ridges.  They were, in fact, the best hunters.  They could trap along wild goats path’s and jump down and land on their feet from the top of any high rock.  They were so cunning and resourceful!  They didn’t permit outsiders into their clan and were very quiet.  Not in the habit of talking with others, they never gave their daughters to another clan.  In fact, on Altai Mountain and the surrounding lands, to become a son-in-law and take up residence with the wife’s family was the worst reputation one could have.  It is because of this the children of this “clan of monks” were fatherless. Since they would not allow outsiders to marry into the clan, this clan’s men would usually lead their nephews to hunt instead of their own sons.  They were people such as this. 


This story was told to me by an old man who took part in the Hovd War of 1912[2].  This old man, whose name was Khas, also was in the People’s Revolution of 1921 and given the highest medal for this fight for independence.  The saber which Khas used in this war is in the provincial capital’s museum to this day

Khas-guai went from his land with many men to battle.

 Khas explained, “Among these men was one warrior who was really young and quick.  He was good in battle.  The leader of the Hovd War, Ja Lam[3], made this young quick warrior his own personal bodyguard.  This Ja Lam is very famous in the history of black magic, but is infamous for having been a cruel man.  Once, Ja Lam tore open the chest of a Chinese man with his bare hands and ripped out his heart, dedicating this to his flag.  A perfect sacrifice!  He also once collected the ears of some Kazakh thieves and bundled them into the skinned body pouch of a Kazakh man.  When full, he sent this bag of ears to their leader.  The cruel monk’s close bodyguards were three brothers who were from the ‘clan of cats.’  These three brothers moved like cats; they were talented at jumping and stepped lightly.  Maybe because of Ja Lam, ‘clan of cats’ was renamed ‘clan of monks.’  Maybe that man whose mouth smells so very bad was not their grand ancestor but was in fact, Ja Lam himself!  Every story depends on one’s own fate.  Ja Lam liked that nobody knew his background or where he or the cat’s clan came from.  Some say he’s from the land along the Volga River.  Some same his ethnicity is Oirat and that he’s from the Tsaidom basin in northwest China.  Some people say he’s from Kuko Khot in Inner Mongolia but was born in the province of Alshaa, and so on.  Some admired Ja Lam because he wore a hat which was similar to that which the golden ochert[4] wore.   Exactly because of that hat, some likened Ja Lam to Galdan Boshegt[5] and believed he had fallen from heaven and was, in their minds, a reincarnation of the great hero Amarsanaa.[6]

 “By the way,” Khas continued with this tale, “this guy from my native homeland became a close friend of those quick tiger-like guys who were the private bodyguards of that strange monk and married their youngest sister.  Yearly, the wife would deliver a still-born.  Three or four months after becoming pregnant she would miscarry.  Ja Lam tried many ways to help.  Once, if I’m not mistaken, he struck one of the still-born with a saber.  The poor woman then let out a cry like a wounded animal.  And after that, one son was born and lived. 

When the Russians came to catch Ja Lam, they found that the young quick warrior had fled to Tibet.  The three brothers-in-law were shot until they resembled blood sausage.  After the eventual capture of Ja Lam, and the death of the three brothers-in-law, the guy from Khas’s land, the young quick warrior, took his wife and son together and returned home.  People said that the wife moved as fast as a lynx on a rocky mountain.  The wife was so fast she could catch a young wild goat.

Ten years passed.  Suddenly after being arrested, Ja Lam’s ghost came back to life, the bodyguards discovered. Everyone thought Ja Lam had died but his spirit truly wasn’t killed.  After serving prison time in Russia, it was as if Ja Lam had returned to Mongolia but Khas says it was actually the spirit of Ja Lam who returned.  If Ja Lam’s spirit were to catch someone, he would possess them. Ja Lam would squeeze and refuse to release anyone whom he has his eye on.  No one could escape from his eyesight.  He was like the king of the dark world.  Several years absent, this married man (the young, quick warrior), at last was heard to be in the prison in Uliastai[7].  The wife went to get her husband out of the prison. She walked in seductively like a cat which most of the men liked.  Then she presented a good saddle to the prison head in an illegal bribe to release him.  After completing her goal she discovered the severed head of Ja Lam hanging on a pole at the central market in Uliastai.” 

Khas-guai asked the warrior where he had been, 

The cunning warrior confessed, “Okay, I’ll tell you my most important words.  I sat for three years along a wall in a building on the mountains in the center of the Gobi desert, a place where even birds never fly. At that place, where it’s perfectly silent all day long like a graveyard and during the night one can hear the devil screech – I robbed the desert’s path and did dirty work which most people only dream of in nightmares. And I attempted to rob the caravan of the Dalai Lama. There is so much gold and jewels reserved there in that mountain. Any greedy person’s spirit can’t leave that treasure. This is all I’m going to tell you.  Maybe, Ja Lam will live again somehow and summon me. Then...”, he ordered, “Watch over my wife and son!”  

Khas-guai continued “I heard this man slept with his clothes on each night waiting for Ja Lam’s recall.  After that his son grew up to become a soldier, old warrior continued to sleep clothed through the night.  His son went to Army in wartime in Bayantumen and after his military service completed, returned home and married a young woman, had a daughter.  A short time after wife’s death, old warrior began to quickly advance in age and soon came to chaffy an old man.  When he heard about that how the Russians have separated Ja Lam’s head from his body, he told:  “Hey, Ja Lam wasn’t exactly killed!  I mean, he came back to life and could be anywhere! Ja Lam did know that revolutionists were arrived to kill him. That wasn’t the real Ja Lam who arrived but someone who looked like him, a fake. They took another head.  If I’ll see that head, I can recognize who’s head is!”

With concern, the old man passed away.  Before he died he said to Khas-guai,

“Now Ja lam doesn’t need me anymore. That devil with a strange look in his eye can to ask about my descendents.  Only you can recognize him.  If he will come here, hide my son from his eyes. Promise me. And look at my son’s children. I don’t wanna have someone with my blood, who will be quick like lynx at rocky mountain. It is my most important words.’”

Khas continued.  “The son of the warrior didn’t bore more children. His only daughter grew up and married a man with whom she moved and took up residence in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.  Together with her husband they worked and within two years she had given birth to three girls.  She gave birth like her grandmother every the season.  It was known just for a Russian doctor, who helped this family to move to new flat in Ulaanbaatar.

One evening, the three clever daughters’ father didn’t return home.  It was such time, somehow people so disappeared no any news.  The mother headed to the hospital to give birth for the last time. After giving birth, she died.  Because of this, the daughters were given up for adoption to different families[8].  One girl went to a Russian family; another to a Hungarian family.

The eldest daughter went on to marry a scholar of zoology.  As he was a bright scholar he was asked to attend a meeting in the Caucasus.  During this meeting a sudden storm happened upon the mountain and great flood ensued.  His death was accidental.  After this, the poor wife became crazy, and began to act like a cat.  People said she would walk the streets crying and yowling like a cat.  The bad boys of the neighborhood would beat her and grab her attention by breaking branches off of trees.  This poor cat-like woman with a curved spine would cry, ‘Meow!’ Sometimes she would jump up onto the fences which surrounded the buildings.  Generally, the entire family was unfortunate.” 



By the way, it’s true.  Yeah, there was one such crazy woman! I too once followed all those children and saw how it is that she could jump onto the top of any fence, like a cat.  While I was thinking, the old man shuddered suddenly and began to speak again.

Khas continued, “Yes, generally they were so unlucky! Eventually the police discovered that the people who had adopted this crazy woman’s younger sister as a child were some sort of foreign spies. Years later I heard that unlucky orphan died of some sort of birth sickness.”

As I bore from the dull speech, one memory sharpens and comes to me.


Yes this crazy woman I knew very well.

“Cat Woman! Moor-avgai! Cat Woman! Moor-avgai!” the children shouted and yelled out, again and again. The poor crazy woman was being chased away like by a dog.  In one violent movement suddenly, she jumped away.  The children rejoiced and fought to yell louder than one another and began to cast stones.  One small boy threw a stone. The stone was targeted to land exactly on the center of the spine of the woman who ran with the movement of an unhealthy man.  The woman, then half-way sitting cried.

“Meow!” she cried loudly.  The children were scared from this woman’s sudden cry.  However all were joyful and everyone took a stone giggling.  The crazy woman stopped running and crouched down on the corner of a building, in an attempt to hide.  From under two torn baggy sleeves peered out two shiny scared and angry eyes.  Every child pitched stones at the woman.

“Hey, I threw the stone exactly on her hand. . .”

“You always miss target.”

Every stone missed her . . . . And while everyone enjoyed this game, I also pitched one stone which I had in my pocket that was perfect for throwing.  I had this stone in my pocket for a lucky situation. Though every stone is different, I knew this stone was perfect for pitching.  So, I took this stone and pitched it at the woman.  

At that time the cat woman removed her hands from her face, turned toward the children and let out a strange growl.  Perhaps she wanted to scare them.  Exactly when she growled was when I threw the stone which landed right between her eyebrows. Tog! “Meow!” she cried, unable to do anything else but release a loud cry. The sound didn’t seem near; in fact it could have been from another universe. 

The crazy woman covered her face with her hands leaving space between through which blood flowed.  The children joyfully cried and those who could whistle did so.   

“Cool!” “Nice shoot.” “Exactly on target!” they exclaimed. 

I don’t know how many stones they can to pitch at the cat woman but they were jealous because mine was perfect!  Now I think, at that moment those redfacing from so much sweating the boys were ready to kill that poor woman.  Out of nowhere an adult yelled and the children began to run, trying to escape.  I too ran.  Each child tried to run faster than each other.  I was trying with all of the boys to run faster when I felt a sudden pain in my chest for the first time in my life. 

Several days later, the cat woman’s two eyes swelled leaving an unpleasant expression like an angry Gods’ mask. 

“Monster! Mangas! Cat Monster! Moor-Mangas!” the children cried joyfully.

            The crazy woman moved her eyes, looking for adults who couldn’t be found.  When I saw her crazy eyes so swollen, I suddenly felt at fault, wrong.  I shied of everyone, and felt remorse, truly sorry, not like myself, not pleasant.  Each time the small boys of my city district met the crazy cat woman, they would surround her and fight in all sorts of ways, yet she was always able to escape.  And I, from that day forth never threw a stone, a branch or anything again.  But I didn’t stop seeing other children hit that poor woman with branches, she who can’t save herself, and hearing how she would cry like a cat. 

How terrible!  Childhood!  Everyone talks about childhood as innocent and pure!  How is it that childhood can be so exceptionally innocent and pure when instead it is so cruel, so stupid, so . . . hmm . . . and the cycle continues to this day.  Randomly cheating each other, doing so many bad things, maybe we are shaping someone’s unfortunate destiny and continue to unintentionally do harm to one another.


When I sigh drunkenly because of this story, somewhere an animal with a light body and sharp nails awakens, shakes itself, pulls in its abdomen and stretches exquisitely.  Momentarily forgetting what I just told you, I look inside myself again.  I see the shadow of the cat that is in everyone’s mind and it’s creeping toward my heart.  I enter inside myself and see that which is in everyone. 

It’s shadow.




[1] A polite form of address used after the name of a person senior in age or position.

[2] The Hovd War was a short war lasting only three months.  Though it was short, it is remembered very well.  It is popular in Mongolian history because it was the first great war which was organized by the government of Bogd Khan – a symbol of Mongolian independence from Manchuria.  The capital of Hovd province itself was an important location for the Manchu government and was the first big city in western Mongolia. 

[3] Lama; a Buddhist monk.

[4] One kind of noble hats.

[5] One of the last kings of western Mongolia. In youth he was a leader in Tibet, who became a politician after his brother’s assassin, did religious work and became king.  

[6] Another noble man for western Mongols who helped organize the strike against the Manchurian dynasty.

[7] The capital of Zavhan, a central-western province in Mongolia, northeast of Hovd province.

[8] This was typical of the socialist period.  People were suspicious and whether or not they were guilty of anything didn’t really matter.  People were still arrested if they were at all suspicious.