of thangka; Dukmo, Gesar's wife is seated next to
his throne. Gesar is also depicted as a divine warrior
near the top.
The synoptic version of the epic given later in this
text is adapted from Francke’s manuscript collections to
give an idea of this thematic kernel.
The epic is built around the hero’s duality, centering
on his repulsive character and appearance in youth and his
lordly nature as an adult.
In his youth, he is known as Joru, a name David-Neel
suggests signifies caste or descent. It is a corruption, she believes, of a term
meaning “having honorable ancestors.”
Used in derision, it refers to the hero’s birth as
the son of a servant by an unknown father.
This segment of the epic resembles the well-known
story type, the “divine trickster.” Only when he is enthroned as king of Ling does
the ugly, nasty child reveal his true character as the great
messianic warrior. Then
he receives the name Gesar.
But glimmers of his early career shine through in
his military strategems and practical jokes.
The later chapters are still evolving. The oldest portion, “The Conquest of the Eighteen
Great Castles,” depicts the expansion of Gesar’s empire
and thus of heavenly law.
But the newest chapters, dating from 1931 and 1975,
have known authors. These
texts, “Conquest of Germany” and “Victory over the Lord
of Death,” borrow the style of the older works, and demonstrate
that the Gesar epic remains a living source of literature.
Even the government of the People’s Republic of China
points to the Gesar epic as a cultural treasure.
Last July, the China Tibetan Music Art Troupe staged
a one-hour performance of “King Gesar” in London, carried
live on BBC.
synoptic view of the epic
The street child
The Gods knew that Ling was chiefless. Not that the land was without a king, but that
that king would be unable to defeat the evil that was growing
around the country.