The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XXII

How Men Know by the Idol, If the Sick Shall Die or Not. Of Folk of Diverse Shape and Marvellously DISFIGURED. AND OF THE Monks that Gave Their Relief to Baboons, Apes, and Marmosets, and to Other Beasts

FROM that isle, in going by sea toward the south, is another great isle that is clept Dondun. In that isle be folk of diverse kinds, so that the father eateth the son, the son the father, the husband the wife, and the wife the husband. And if it so befall, that the father or mother or any of their friends be sick, anon the son goeth to the priest of their law and prayeth him to ask the idol if his father or mother or friend shall die on that evil or not. And then the priest and the son go together before the idol and kneel full devoutly and ask of the idol their demand. And if the devil that is within answer that he shall live, they keep him well; and if he say that he shall die, then the priest goeth with the son, with the wife of him that is sick, and they put their hands upon his mouth and stop his breath, and so they slay him. And after that, they chop all the body in small pieces, and pray all his friends to come and eat of him that is dead. And they send for all the minstrels of the country and make a solemn feast. And when they have eaten the flesh, they take the bones and bury them, and sing and make great melody. And all those that be of his kin or pretend them to be his friends, an they come not to that feast, they be reproved for evermore and shamed, and make great dole, for never after shall they be holden as friends. And they say also, that men eat their flesh for to deliver them out of pain; for if the worms of the earth eat them the soul should suffer great pain, as they say. And namely when the flesh is tender and meagre, then say their friends, that they do great sin to let them have so long languor to suffer so much pain without reason. And when they find the flesh fat, then they say, that it is well done to send them soon to Paradise, and that they have not suffered him too long to endure in pain.

The king of this isle is a full great lord and a mighty, and hath under him fifty-four great isles that give tribute to him. And in everych of these isles is a king crowned; and all be obeissant to that king. And he hath in those isles many diverse folk.

In one of these isles be folk of great stature, as giants. And they be hideous for to look upon. And they have but one eye, and that is in the middle of the front. And they eat nothing but raw flesh and raw fish.

And in another isle toward the south dwell folk of foul stature and of cursed kind that have no heads. And their eyen be in their shoulders.

And in another isle be folk that have the face all flat, all plain, without nose and without mouth. But they have two small holes, all round, instead of their eyes, and their mouth is plat also without lips.

And in another isle be folk of foul fashion and shape that have the lip above the mouth so great, that when they sleep in the sun they cover all the face with that lip.

And in another isle there be little folk, as dwarfs. And they be two so much as the pigmies. And they have no mouth; but instead of their mouth they have a little round hole, and when they shall eat or drink, they take through a pipe or a pen or such a thing, and suck it in, for they have no tongue; and therefore they speak not, but they make a manner of hissing as an adder doth, and they make signs one to another as monks do, by the which every of them understandeth other.

And in another isle be folk that have great ears and long, that hang down to their knees.

And in another isle be folk that have horses’ feet. And they be strong and mighty, and swift runners; for they take wild beasts with running, and eat them.

And in another isle be folk that go upon their hands and their feet as beasts. And they be all skinned and feathered, and they will leap as lightly into trees, and from tree to tree, as it were squirrels or apes.

And in another isle be folk that be both man and woman, and they have kind; of that one and of that other. And they have but one pap on the one side, and on that other none. And they have members of generation of man and woman, and they use both when they list, once that one, and another time that other. And they get children, when they use the member of man; and they bear children, when they use the member of woman.

And in another isle be folk that go always upon their knees full marvellously. And at every pace that they go, it seemeth that they would fall. And they have in every foot eight toes.

Many other diverse folk of diverse natures be there in other isles about, of the which it were too long to tell, and therefore I pass over shortly.

From these isles, in passing by the sea ocean toward the east by many journeys, men find a great country and a great kingdom that men crepe Mancy. And that is in Ind the more. And it is the best land and one the fairest that may be in all the world, and the most delectable and the most plenteous of all goods that is in power of man. In that land dwell many Christian men and Saracens, for it is a good country and a great. And there be therein more than 2000 great cities and rich, without other great towns. And there is more plenty of people there than in any other part of Ind, for the bounty of the country. In that country is no needy man, ne none that goeth on begging. And they be full fair folk, but they be all pale. And the men have thin beards and few hairs, but they be long; but unnethe hath any man passing fifty hairs in his beard, and one hair sits here, another there, as the beard of a leopard or of a cat. In that land be many fairer women than in any other country beyond the sea, and therefore men clepe that land Albany, because that the folk be white.

And the chief city of that country is clept Latorin, and it is a journey from the sea, and it is much more than Paris. In that city is a great river bearing ships that go to all the coasts in the sea. No city of the world is so well stored of ships as is that. And all those of the city and of the country worship idols. In that country be double sithes more birds than be here. There be white geese, red about the neck, and they have a great crest as a cock’s comb upon their heads; and they be much more there than they be here, and men buy them there all quick, right great cheap. And there is great plenty of adders of whom men make great feasts and eat them at great solemnities; and he that maketh there a feast be it never so costly, an he have no adders he hath no thank for his travail.

Many good cities there be in that country and men have great plenty and great cheap of all wines and victuals. In that country be many churches of religious men, and of their law. And in those churches be idols as great as giants; and to these idols they give to eat at great festival days in this manner. They bring before them meat all sodden, as hot as they come from the fire, and they let the smoke go up towards the idols; and then they say that the idols have eaten; and then the religious men eat the meat afterwards.

In that country be white hens without feathers, but they bear white wool as sheep do here. In that country women that be unmarried, they have tokens on their heads like coronals to be known for unmarried. Also in that country there be beasts taught of men to go into waters, into rivers and into deep stanks for to take fish; the which beast is but little, and men clepe them loirs. And when men cast them into the water, anon they bring up great fishes, as many as men will. And if men will have more, they cast them in again, and they bring up as many as men list to have.

And from that city passing many journeys is another city, one the greatest of the world, that men clepe Cassay; that is to say, the ‘City of heaven.’ That city is well a fifty mile about, and it is strongly inhabited with people, insomuch that in one house men make ten households. In that city be twelve principal gates; and before every gate, a three mile or a four mile in length, is a great town or a great city. That city sits upon a great lake on the sea as doth Venice. And in that city be more than 12,000 bridges. And upon every bridge be strong towers and good, in the which dwell the wardens for to keep the city from the great Chan. And on that one part of the city runneth a great river all along the city. And there dwell Christian men and many merchants and other folk of diverse nations, because that the land is so good and so plenteous. And there groweth full good wine that men clepe Bigon, that is full mighty, and gentle in drinking. This is a city royal where the King of Mancy was wont to dwell. And there dwell many religious men, as it were of the Order of Friars, for they be mendicants.

From that city men go by water, solacing and disporting them, till they come to an abbey of monks that is fast by, that be good religious men after their faith and law. In that abbey is a great garden and a fair, where be many trees of diverse manner of fruits. And in this garden is a little hill full of delectable trees. In that hill and in that garden be many diverse beasts, as of apes, marmosets, baboons and many other diverse beasts. And every day, when the convent of this abbey hath eaten, the almoner let bear the relief to the garden, and he smiteth on the garden gate with a clicket of silver that he holdeth in his hand; and anon all the beasts of the hill and of diverse places of the garden come out a 3000, or a 4000; and they come in guise of poor men, and men give them the relief in fair vessels of silver, clean over-gilt. And when they have eaten, the monk smiteth eftsoons on the garden gate with the clicket, and then anon all the beasts return again to their places that they come from. And they say that these beasts be souls of worthy men that resemble in likeness of those beasts that be fair, and therefore they give them meat for the love of God; and the other beasts that be foul, they say be souls of poor men and of rude commons. And thus they believe, and no man may put them out of this opinion. These beasts above-said they let take when they be young, and nourish them so with alms, as many as they may find. And I asked them if it had not been better to have given that relief to poor men, rather than to those beasts. And they answered me and said, that they had no poor men amongst them in that country; and though it had been so that poor men had been among them, yet were it greater alms to give it to those souls that do there their penance. Many other marvels be in that city and in the country thereabout, that were too long to tell you.

From that city go men by the country a six journeys to another city that men clepe Chilenfo, of the which city the walls be twenty mile about. In that city be sixty bridges of stone, so fair that no man may see fairer. In that city was the first siege of the King of Mancy, for it is a fair and plenteous of all goods.

After, pass men overthwart a great river that men clepe Dalay. And that is the greatest river of fresh water that is in the world. For there, as it is most narrow, it is more than four mile of breadth. And then enter men again into the land of the great Chan.

That river goeth through the land of Pigmies, where that the folk be of little stature, that be but three span long, and they be right fair and gentle, after their quantities, both the men and the women. And they marry them when they be half year of age and get children. And they live not but six year or seven at the most; and he that liveth eight year, men hold him there right passing old. These men be the best workers of gold, silver, cotton, silk and of all such things, of any other that be in the world. And they have oftentimes war with the birds of the country that they take and eat. This little folk neither labour in lands ne in vines; but they have great men amongst them of our stature that till the land and labour amongst the vines for them. And of those men of our stature have they as great scorn and wonder as we would have among us of giants, if they were amongst us. There is a good city, amongst others, where there is dwelling great plenty of those little folk, and it is a great city and a fair. And the men be great that dwell amongst them, but when they get any children they be as little as the pigmies. And therefore they be, all for the most part, all pigmies; for the nature of the land is such. The great Chan let keep this city full well, for it is his. And albeit, that the pigmies be little, yet they be full reasonable after their age, and can both wit and good and malice enough.

From that city go men by the country by many cities and many towns unto a city that men clepe Jamchay; and it is a noble city and a rich and of great profit to the Lord, and thither go men to seek merchandise of all manner of thing. That city is full much worth yearly to the lord of the country. For he hath every year to rent of that city (as they of the city say) 50,000 cumants of florins of gold: for they count there all by cumants, and every cumant is 10,000 florins of gold. Now may men well reckon how much that it amounteth. The king of that country is full mighty, and yet he is under the great Chan. And the great Chan hath under him twelve such provinces. In that country in the good towns is a good custom: for whoso will make a feast to any of his friends, there be certain inns in every good town, and he that will make the feast will say to the hosteler, array for me tomorrow a good dinner for so many folk, and telleth him the number, and deviseth him the viands; and he saith also, thus much I will dispend and no more. And anon the hosteler arrayeth for him so fair and so well and so honestly, that there shall lack nothing; and it shall be done sooner and with less cost than an a man made it in his own house.

And a five mile from that city, toward the head of the river of Dalay, is another city that men clepe Menke. In that city is strong navy of ships. And all be white as snow of the kind of the trees that they be made of. And they be full great ships and fair, and well ordained, and made with halls and chambers and other easements, as though it were on the land.

From thence go men, by many towns and many cities, through the country, unto a city that men clepe Lanterine. And it is an eight journeys from the city above-said. This city sits upon a fair river, great and broad, that men clepe Caramaron. This river passeth throughout Cathay. And it doth often-time harm, and that full great, when it is over great.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10