kids' book about a devil stealing food while on a man's back
March 27, 2011 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a children's book about someone who is eating rice with a devil/ghost on his back who keeps stealing the food from him before he can get it into his mouth.

I read this book when I was a kid back in the 70s or 80s. As far as I can remember, it was an Asian folktale illustrated for kids. The main character was either an old man, or maybe a monkey? Whichever it was, the main character was trying to eat, but this devil/ghost was on his back and kept moving the man/monkey's hand into his (the devil/ghost) mouth. The one trying to eat couldn't figure out why he was staying hungry. There were illustrations--picture book format.
posted by cmp4Meta to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This reminds me of something from one of my elementary school readers. I wish I could be more help than that. But that would fit the timeline you're thinking of.
posted by bardophile at 2:44 AM on March 27, 2011

Could it be the children's book Folk Tales from Siam by Alan Feinstein (1969), illustrated by Pat Pibulsonggram?

From the product description on Amazon: "Eighteen Siamese folk tales about the days when animals were as clever as men and men's lives were affected by spirits, magicians, princes, and the gods."

The story you're describing is similar to various popular superstitions.
posted by franc.o.bolos at 3:00 AM on March 27, 2011

Vikram aur Betal? About a king with a vampire on his back ?
posted by infini at 3:40 AM on March 27, 2011

FWIW, I remember it too. Elementary school in the late 80s.
posted by adamk at 3:48 AM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: It doesn't seem to be any of these, but thanks--anyone else have any ideas?
posted by cmp4Meta at 6:54 AM on March 27, 2011

There are quite a few, unfortunately, the Hungry Ghost is pretty common in Asian folklore.
posted by Duffington at 4:29 PM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: yes, but specifically a hungry ghost on someone's back. the ghost was holding its arms right on the one underneath's arms so that when he tried to bring the food to his mouth it was going into the ghost's mouth instead. the book was illustrated with black and red line drawings.
posted by cmp4Meta at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2011

George R R Martin's short story The Monkey Treatment is just like that. Are you sure the story was for kids?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 AM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: well, monkey treatment isn't quite the idea--because the man in that story knows the monkey is there; whereas in the story i am looking for the one eating is unaware that there is another one there stealing the food--he can't figure out why the food isn't going into his mouth
posted by cmp4Meta at 5:58 AM on March 31, 2011

Now I am really curious to know how it ends. Does he ever figure it out?
posted by infini at 9:11 AM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: honestly i can't remember the end, although given that it was a children's book i suppose it probably had a happy ending. hopefully someone can turn it up!
posted by cmp4Meta at 11:39 AM on April 4, 2011

Best answer: Nothing like answering your own question. After a lot of research, a helpful commenter from a forum on ABE books pointed out the correct title to me. It is "Ote: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale" by Pura Belpre. Strangely enough my childhood memory flipped it around backwards--in the story as written it is a man behind the back of a near-sighted devil, and he is stealing the food the devil is trying to eat. Whatever my transposition of the characters indicates about my Unconscious, I shall leave to the therapists to determine!
posted by cmp4Meta at 7:06 PM on July 21, 2011

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