The Great Chain

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The Great Chain


by Nicholas P. Snoek

 Some sixty miles to the east of Nepal is the young kingdom of Bhutan, a mountainous country somewhat larger than Switzerland, consisting essentially of a portion of the southern slopes of the Great Himalayan Range.

The northern border is the crest of that range, Mt. Everest being about one hundred and thirty miles west; and the southern border lying along the edge of the flood plain of the Brahmaputra. The delta of the Ganges, and Calcutta, are some three hundred miles due south.

Not much is known about the early history of Bhutan. There are scrolls and manuscripts in various monastery archives in the mountains, but these have not been systematically studied. It seems that local lords, neptongs, long fought for supremacy. Archery is still the national sport.

Yaks graze on the dry and cool alpine meadows in the summer months. At the opposite extreme, no cultivation or any pasturing is possible in the dense semitropical rain forest of the lower southern slopes, exposed to the wet monsoons. Fifty feet of rain may fall there in three months.

Within the short distance of some ninety miles, elevation rises from 600 feet to 24,000 feet. This situation has restricted the development of transport, and kept Bhutan long isolated from the mainstream of world affairs. It is a country outside of time, beyond the normal march of progress.

More than half of the approximately one million people of Bhutan, mainly in the northern portion, are of Tibetan origin, speaking and writing Dzongkha, a Tibetan dialect, and following a lamaistic Buddhism. The other large group, primarily Nepalese, practice Hinduism.

Bhutan is unique among the member nations of the UN, in having declared the Yeti its official animal, issuing a series of postage stamps commemorating that creature to illustrate the fact. One of them shows a woman being carried off by a Yeti.

It is speculated the Yeti, or Yeh-Teh, and its variants, the Meh-Teh or Mi-Go, and the Almas, all varieties of the notorious Abominable Snowman, though known mostly from tracks in the Himalayan snows, normally inhabit rain forests, as do its North American cousins, the Sasquatch and Bigfoot. It is thought the wanderings in the mountaintops might have to do with the vitamin rich lichens on the rocks.

The community of Paro, elevation 7700 feet, sits on the banks of a tributary of the Wong Chhu, and is situated midway between the northern border with Tibet and the southern border with India, both being around forty miles distant.

The capital, Thimphu, lies to the east of Paro, again about forty miles away. Each of these population centers are in the western part of Bhutan, close to the border with the older and even smaller Sikkim, another Himalayan kingdom that was closely tied to India at the time of this narrative.

The year is 1940

In 1940 there are no roads in Bhutan. The population of this small country at this time is around seven hundred thousand. The capital is Punakha for most of the year, ceding the privilege to higher and cooler Thimphu forty miles west, in the summer.

What look like towns and cities on a map are really population centers of a unique type. Each one is essentially a huge fort or dzong, housing several thousand people. What we call Paro is actually the Paro Dzong, with three thousand occupants, and a surrounding valley sprinkled with the freehold homes of another thousand peasant farmers, the tre-ba.

Although the dzongs have come to be home to an increasing number of civil servants, they are still basically religious or monastic centers, where hundreds and hundreds of monks live and take their training. The monks are Buddhist; lamas are monks who are considered incarnations.

Women do not sleep in any dzong.

There are also separate monasteries as such, called gompas, scattered about the whole country in the most unlikely places. A rocky windswept cliff face, or a lush green valley, are equally likely to boast a colossal or a modest gompa, or monastery.

Bhutan is an absolute monarchy. At this time it has no postal service and no monetary system. The Indian rupee is used by a very few privileged persons who have limited contact with the outside world. For anyone from the outside to travel or trade in Bhutan, he must be invited by the king or queen, and trading would be in kind, as is the whole economy. Taxes and any other form of obligation are all paid in kind.

Everyone from the King on down wears the same basic costume, a ko for the men, and a kira for the women. Each is a robe, fastened in the middle with a belt, and for the kira, secured at the shoulder by one or two clasps. Unlike Tibetans, the vast majority of northern Bhutanese men and women wear their hair quite short. Exceptions are the nomadic herders, whose summer residence is the only center resembling a village, and the people of Laya, a community close to Tibet.

This same majority falls into three groups. The tre-ba (a short glossary for unfamiliar terms is appended at the end of this book) are the home and land-owning peasants who pay tribute to the King by way of the nearest dzong.

The tra-ba, who own homes but not land, farm for the monasteries, and pay most of their crop to the landlord monastery.

The third non-monastic group to live throughout the land is civil servants, all of whom are primarily elected, though some are appointed by the king on the basis of merit, to higher posts. To this privilege are attached no significant material benefits; the trading stock in the whole country is social status. And one’s status is decided, first by one’s peers, and then by the king.

Part One of Two

It is early in the spring of 1940. A young woman suns herself in a small clearing on the mountainside.
She is Queen of all that she surveys!

The Gods have made her tall and strong; she is

Envied by everyone she meets, and there

Are none who dare to challenge her.

  Could any woman not from far off Laya,

Come here to bathe her body in the April sun.

Would local wives have nerve to lie here naked

Upon this rock? How pathetic they are,

Most women. How subject to their men!

  In her house, it is the man who hears and heeds.

She is Woman! In all her life she has not

Known a man who could impress her. A man

To face her toe to toe without averted

Cringing eyes! There were some handsome men,

Some strong, some archers of renown; but none

With character and power. Perhaps in all those

Towns and cities in Tibet or India there are

Such men. But in her world, within her reach,

Anywhere she can ever go, in this

Section of Bhutan… where is there such a man?

He would be from far away, like the Traveler.

  Her little spouse would be so hurt if he

But knew that he can only ever be

A shadow of the man she wants. And almost

Two years now, that they are married, but still

No son. She hoped that if she could not find

A man she might succeed in making one.

If she thought less, and wanted less… would more

Then come to her? Her pride is in the way?

Some of the teacher monks have said as much:

A fit humility becomes a docile

Wife. But she can never be just docile;

The part of wife is sacrifice enough.

  And their small farm so far above the fertile

Valleys. What can they hope for. What could they

Achieve. Become, what? There is no hope…

  Hmm, such a beautiful day. The sun so gentle

In the early season warmth. Spring water

Rustling down the mountain; soft breezes playing

In the trees. So relaxed she feels, like a cat.

Will her big man come here today? The traveler

Coming from the east and leaving to

The west…curly black hair, flowing beard

A little gray. A lighter skin than hers.

And oh, such penetrating looks from those

Deep eyes. Where did he come from? What is he?

No monk or hermit. Perhaps a merchant. Or he

Could be a spokesman for a great Neptong,

From a far off country on some official but

A secret quest. Both times he came, he made

No sound. He suddenly appeared in front

Of her, and stood and looked, without a word.

Although she was completely nude she stood

Full length in front of him and felt no shame,

Nor any fear. She thought of putting on

Her kira, but she did not. He smiled then,

Just a bit, and bowed. He bowed to her!

And then he walked away. Without a backward

Look he just strode on with those long legs,

And disappeared. So quick! And she just stood,

A little lost. She did not want to see

Him go, especially the second time.

  It looks as if she hugs the earth,

Arms and legs spread wide, her shiny shoulder

Length black hair is reaching down as if

It too is holding to the rock. She is

Already tanned, her skin a soft and smooth

Dark brown in one unbroken tone the whole

Way down. She looks quite tall, though lying down,

And well proportioned.

  The late day sun is lengthening the shadows

Of stately pines across the rocky meadow;

The sky is losing blue to twilight gray.

The silver tips of springtime trees resist

This dying of the light; they wave a silent

Warning to the sunshine devotee…

  You’re not alone. You’re not alone!

Genesis 1.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. …And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof: And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man…. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

The woman in the clearing is oblivious to a furtive movement between the trees, some seventy feet away, on the right. Something or someone is coming! A large and almost upright form. An ape? A man? It’s moving towards the woman on the rock, keeping her in sight. Stalking her.

She lies there motionless, absorbing the last of the waning sun, thinking of her childhood in far away Laya close to Tibet, where women wear their hair long and wild.

She hears a sound on her left. She looks around quickly. Yes! It’s him! The Traveler has found her again. He comes confidently towards her. He looks the same except for a bundle over his shoulder.

She rises, and faces him. Now she does not even think about her kira. He stops, closer this time than before. He smiles, and puts down the bundle to one side. And he speaks…

“Hello. What is your name?”


“May I rest here with you?”

“Yes, of course.”

They sit down side by side. He does not stare, or act in any way uncomfortable about her nakedness.

“You enjoy the sunshine.”

“It feels so good.”

“It does.” And without another word he too, removes his robe. She is surprised. She does not know what to do, so she just sits without moving or speaking. And he does the same.

He is well built, and surprisingly muscular for one so lean. After a few minutes, he puts his arm around her, and pulls her gently closer. She does not protest. He puts his head down to hers, and caresses her temple with his lips.

She tips up her head, and he kisses her forehead, her eyes, her mouth. And his other hand now slides along her cheek, and her neck, and down her arm, and up over her breast.

He explores her yielding body, with his hands and his mouth. There is no sound. They are intent on each other and do not notice they are being watched.

Thirty feet away is a hairy two legged man-ape, or ape-man, standing half hidden behind a tree. He is completely covered with reddish blond hair, about two inches long.

He has strange deep set eyes. They are green-yellowish, like a cat. His ears are a bit pointed, and the hair on his head looks piled up like a cone. A massive jaw, but almost no chin, like an ape. There is less hair on his face, almost none on the upper part, and no beard or whiskers.

His hands are like a man, but hairy on top. His legs are man-like, but short for his height. Very wide feet, also hairy. A barrel chest, muscles on muscles!

He watches the man and woman as they come together; they strain and heave, and then slow-move with gentle touch, turn by turn. He is aroused. He seems uncertain what to do, several times turning to go, but then drawn back to watch.

Then slowly he walks towards them. He has a limp. One leg seems shorter. He stops about fifteen feet away. The woman is on her back; the man lies on her, spent. They do not see the apeman till they roll aside and part, still breathing hard.

She gasps, “Who’s that, look! What is that?”

The traveler quickly grabs his ko and pulls a long knife from its folds. He steps between the woman and the creature and waits to see what will happen. The apeman does not move. He also waits. The traveler takes two quick steps towards the beast and with a threatening gesture, yells “Go, get away. Go! Go!”

The creature seems to understand. He half turns and backs away a little, then gets behind some bushes. But he does not leave. He stays just out of sight, and watches.

Hastily the man and woman get dressed again, and, looking back often to see if they are followed, hurry down the mountain. The apeman does not look at them. His long arms hanging limp, he wanders erratically into the trees.

Cheoki, “Was that a Yeh-Teh?”

“Yes, I guess so. Have you seen any around here before?”

“No, never. I’ve never heard of anyone else seeing them here either.”

“Probably just passing through, then. He did not seem dangerous. Just curious.”

“I suppose so.”

“Will you be here again?”


Without another word, they separate. She wanders homeward, thinking. Is this the way of a lover. Is he her lover? What sort of woman is she, to let him do this. She should feel shame. But she does not. It seemed… right. How strange. A powerful man.

Her little husband would go crazy to learn of this. It will be hard to keep him from seeing the bruises on her back, as he likes to make the creature with two backs and six legs.

But what a man, this traveler!

It is two weeks later. Cheoki has several times come to the spot of her tryst, but without undressing, and staying back a good distance, watching to see if anyone is around.

Having seen no one since then, she is back to sunbathing today.

How smooth this naked rock against her naked belly. She could dream and sleep and sleep and dream all day. About a man, about no man. About a son. She should get back to that poor little farm.

Genesis 6.

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”

What! No!

A sudden weight on her legs and back. She heard no sound! What is this? Some hairy smelly foul big monster is crushing her! “Get off me, brute!”

Is this the Sa-Bdag spirit-creature come to take her into some cave to punish her for her mockery? Can this be happening?

“Get your paw off my mouth! You’re hurting me; I’m not yelling! And get your hairy arm off me!”

She struggles with all her might to pull away but it’s no use. How can he hold her with such force and yet be so quiet? He is not even breathing hard.

If she cries out he may choke her! She will keep still.

Yes, he takes his mitt away. She dares not turn to look. His arm still locks her to him. What strength!

He bends her forward. One hand is doing something between them. “Oh no, No, NO!” He wants me! “No, NO, HELP, someone Help!” She fights, she pulls, pushes, twists and turns, in vain!

Without effort, almost gently, he enters her. “Get out of there, you bastard!” She tries to pull away, but there’s no point… she is a fussing child before him. Two ham hands one on each hip hold her like a doll, and there is nothing she can do! She tries desperately to reach him, but the only way is down past her legs. She scratches and claws at his legs, and tries to move them. Her nails don’t penetrate at all; they have no effect. His feet seem rooted to the rock and his legs are just like tree trunks.

He hardly moves his body, pushing her back and forth over his member like an oversized foreskin. How belittling!

Degrading! He makes her feel so small, so helpless.

He stinks.

He is growling his contentment. A deep earthquake guttural sound. Not human. This must be the Yeh-Teh!

He is done!

But he does not let her go. He turns her, and looks her up and down. She feels dirty! She feels used. Her knees shake so bad she cannot stand, and slowly she sinks down.

Luke 1.

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused… And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son… Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee….”

He holds her arm with his left hand, not very tight but when she tries to move, his grip almost breaks her bones.

“Okay, what now you beast, you’ve had what you want, let go. Let me go!” He just looks at her without a sound.

This is the creature who watched them.

“Okay, okay, let me go. What do you want?” He pokes her breast with his finger. He grunts.

“Stop that!”

He grabs her hair and pulls as if to see if it comes loose. He smells it and snorts. He starts to sniff her all over. He licks her down there.

He stands upright and looks up and down the hillside.

Then into her eyes, calmly. He seems almost human now. With one swift move he girdles her with his long arm and picks her up.

She groans, “What now!” How humiliating! How maddening!

He strides along the side of the mountain, and after two or three steps he swings her over his shoulder, like a sack. She can feel the extra sway as he limps, when the weight goes on his left leg. The stink is bad, and his shoulder burrowing in her belly… she gets suddenly sick, and vomits violently. Just misses getting it all over his back. He takes no notice of this, and keeps on walking.

Here we go. A piece of baggage. A Yeh-Teh toy. A pet!

A pet! No, she will NOT be an AMUSEMENT! She has to do something. He held her mouth, before. She wonders if noise might have an effect, maybe frighten him.

She starts to scream with all her might.

He sets her down. And she continues screaming. He puts his hand over her mouth forcing her to stop. He looks around uncertainly, and seems to wonder what to do.

And the moment he takes his hand away she screams again. He covers his ears. He cannot stand her screams! She starts to run away but he follows her. She turns and faces him and screeches her loudest. He stands and looks at her in annoyed disbelief.

She turns and runs again. This time he just watches.

She scoops up her kira and runs, not looking back at all.

She runs and runs, as fast as she can, till she gets to the stream behind the shed.

She washes and washes in the icy water, and puts on her kira, and straightens her hair.

And softly she enters the house, the home of her sweet husband!


Chapter 2

Bhutan, July 1940

A young woman is working her way through a small stand of barley, stooping now and then to pull a weed.

“Hello, Tesla.”

“What? Cheoki? What a nice surprise! How good to see you.”

“Tesla, I am with child!”

“Well! That’s good. What did Gendun say. Or does he know? You aren’t big yet, are you.”

“No, he doesn’t know. It’s still early. But this is my first, and well, I’ve been very worried. I just thought I should stay with you for a while. Is that alright?”

“Of course it is. I haven’t seen you for so long! But you know I have no experience in these things. I haven’t married or even been with a man. I know nothing about babies.”

“That’s okay, I can tell you what to do. I helped others with this before, so I can show you what you have to know. We’ve got a lot to catch up on anyway. When I get closer we can decide exactly what needs to be done.”

“But that’s a long time. What’s Gendun going to think?”

“I’ve told him I need to see a shaman about not having a baby these last two years, and I would be gone as long as five months. And not to look for me, because that might interfere.”

“Well I must say. You have a way with that man of yours. It’s unbelievable!”

Tesla is a smaller woman than Cheoki, and plainer. She too grew up in Laya, but unlike her more confident sister, she has adopted the short cropped hair of her neighbors, and her kira is of the local variety. But she has some of her sister’s spirit. She lives alone, as she has not found a man she cares to be with, and because of this, a thing very much frowned on, she has a tiny house, and a tiny plot of ground to farm. But, she manages well enough.

The two sisters live contentedly for several months. The house is in Haa, a little place close to the border.

Summer passes quietly into autumn. Harvesting the barley by hand, stripping the stalks between two sticks as is the custom, keeps them busy for many weeks. The mountain winds blow colder, and the oak and walnut leaves are turning red and brown.

“Well, you’re getting bigger every day.”

“Tesla, I’ve got to tell you something. This baby may not be Gendun’s. One day in the spring I was sunning myself up the hill, and a traveler came and raped me. He was a big strong hairy man. He was so fast and so powerful, there was nothing I could do, nothing. You have to believe me. I couldn’t stop him no matter what I tried. Do you understand?”

“Well, I guess so. You and your headstrong ways! What do you mean, sunning yourself. Naked? Defying the gods! Can you blame a man? Does Gendun know anything at all about this?”

“Of course not. You can’t expect a husband to accept such a thing. He would be crushed. And it would be even worse if the baby is not his. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yes, right. But how will you know? A baby is a baby. The little thing can hardly tell you who his father was!”

“I know, I know. But that’s the biggest reason I’m here. If there is anything different about this baby, anything at all, I will not keep it. You’d have to help me do something with it, Tesla. And Gendun must never know.”

“Oh, may the Gods protect us. What are we getting into now! Of all the people in the world who could be my sister… nice quiet gentle people, who never get into trouble. Women who do not fill their heads with strange ideas about who they are, or could be. Cheoki, Cheoki. What will become of us!”

“Now don’t get all excited, Tesla. Probably the baby will be perfectly normal and everything will be fine. Relax. I’m not talking about killing it. Besides, it’ll be a while yet.”

“If this is not about killing it, what are you talking about? What could we do with it?”

“Do you remember that Christian monastery close to Sikkim about two days from here? Well, if there’s anything strange about this baby I think we should take it there.”

“They’ll tell us to take it somewhere else, for sure! We’re supposed to be Buddhist, remember.”

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