The person who answers this question will also be visited by a spirit of some kind
March 2, 2010 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the name of a folk tale, probably of Asian origin, where a thief is caught by being convinced that a spirit will mark his back with ash

The story was in a book of mythology, mostly Greek, but with a few other folk tales. This one is Asian in origin, I think.

The story is of a king (or other authority figure) who suspects that one of three suspects is a thief. The three are locked in a room for a night and told a spirit of some kind will come and mark the guilty person's back.

The trick of the story is that there is no spirit. Instead, the real thief would fear the spirit and sit with his back pressed to the wall all night - the walls being covered in ash.

This way, the next morning, the guilty one has the mark on his back.

If anyone knows the name of this story/fable/folk tale/etc, or can point me in the right direction, that'd be great.
posted by allen.spaulding to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
John Napier? Scan down to "Napier and the Powers of Darkness"
posted by chairface at 2:45 PM on March 2, 2010

Best answer: This appears to be "Chang Fu-Yen and the Wise Judge" which is in "Myths and Folktales Around the World" by Robert R. Potter:

Here is a recording of Susan Danoff telling the story:
posted by derforsher at 5:04 PM on March 2, 2010

Response by poster: That's the one. Thanks!
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:39 PM on March 2, 2010

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