Ge-sar is the most extraordinary Tibetan legendary figure and remains, despite various
unsuccessful attempts to tie him down into a context of historical reality a great mythological
Figure of Ge-sar (the name is modeled on the western Cae-sar-Kaiser) has served as a repository
of traditions that, through the corridor o the Eurasian steppe belt, reach back into the world of
Germanic and Greek legends and into Megalithic religious beliefs.
The hero Ge-sar, sent down from heaven and returned thereto, has indicated in the course of his
eventful journey on earth how on the occasion of his return the hope for a reign of justice and
peace and the striving for salvation and liberation will be fulfilled. Thus Ge-sar is both hero
and saviour at once.
Utilizing the Tibetan versions of the epic, Professor Hummel provides us with a wealth of
mythological legendary and folkloric motifs which over the course of centuries sedimented around
the initial crystallization kernel. He thus manages to bring to life on of the most fascinating
legends of world literature.
Siegbert Hummel, was born in Rodewisch, Germany in 1908, and after completing his studies as a
commercial clerk began in 1926 study theology and philosophy, then art history and oriental
disciplines (Egyptology, Tibetology, Sinology, Japanese and Mongolian Studies) at the
universities of Tubingen, Rostock, Leipzig and Munich.
After obtaining his doctorate in 1944 with Prof. Erkes of Leipzig (Sinology), he was first keeper
of the Asian section and thereafter director of the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Leipzig from 1947
until his dismissal in 1955 (due to political reasons).
Since 1955 Prof. Hummel has been living in retirement in a small village in Vogtland (Saxony)
For the English translation the text of this book has been revised and explained with respect to
the original German edition, and the bibliography is now much more comprehensive. I wish to
express my gratitude to Prof. S. Hummel for his constant guidance throughout this work.
Special thanks are also due to Dr. Erberto Lo Bue for reading the manuscript and providing useful
advice and to Ms. Maura Ginty for her deidicated editorial assistance.
The Library of Tibetan works and Archives is pleased to present Guido Vogliotti’s translation of
Siegbert Hummel’s work on Eurasian mythology and its influence on the most renowned of Tibet’s
legendary figures, Ge-sar.
This important work explores the variety of themes and motifs of the Ge-sar epic and the
influence under which they deveioped, and theorizes o the central legend which has served as a
repository for all of these traditions.
Hummel’s innovative and inspired scholasticism is the kind of effort which the Library applauds
and welcomes. We hope that this astute treatment of on of Tibet’s greatest folklore heroes will
be of benefit to scholars and the general public alike.
Ge-sar is the most extraordinary legendary figure of the Tibetans. Despite numerous attempts to
link him with glorious events of Tibetan history, thus rooting him into his native ground, he
remains and enigmatical, paramount mythological figure in which myths of the most varied
provenance have come together. As such he is more than just an idealized personification of
political expectation, more than a saviour in the stream of popular history. Though longed for as
a redeemer, he rather indicates that liberation from the constant threat which the demons of life
pose on man is possible, which turns this escort of souls into a leader and helper on the way to
salvation. Over the course of time the figure of this carrier of hope become a living repository
of the different expectations expressed in the motifs of several myths. These myths spread to the
east along the steppe belt as far as Tibet that large Eurasian cultural repository –a process
that has not come to an end yet, particularly in the western and northeastern border regions on
the fringe of the plateau and has developed into an outgrowth with secondary ramifications. What
is remarkable about this crystallization kernel of the epic is the fact that it assimilated
traditions reaching into the world of the Greek and Germanic legends, and further into the
religious ideas of the Megalithic, the gnosis of which is reflected in many folk-tale motifs that
were absorbed into the Ge-sar epic and that have been preserved down to the present time. It is
to the description of these motifs that our research will be dedicated.
Ge-sar (his name refers to the eastern Roman emperor, Caesar-Kaiser) is a heavenly figure
descended upon the earth and then re-ascended to heaven. The hopes for a reign of justice and
peace on earth and for certainty on the redemptory way of the inner liberation and deliverance of
man, are closely associated with his return. This Ge-sar is world ruler, hero and saviour all at
I am aware of having gone my own way through the Tibetan epic of Ge-sar by following the traces
of the oldest Eurasian mythological traditions, some of which reach as far back as the
Megalithic. The facts I present here may speak for themselves even though a purely
nature-mythological interpretation of the epic cannot any longer bear scrutiny ever since
Berthold Laufer expressed his earnest criticism in 1901.
My contributions on the Ge-sar span the years from 1959 to 1976. The literature that has since
been published does not, as far as I am aware, affect the scope of this book.
I have bound myself to the classical versions of the Tibetan epic. in the respect the historical
and pseudo-historical accretions. as well as the constant and seemingly never ending
proliferation of mainly folkloric traits around the still controversial kernel of the epic (in
the neighboring regions outside Tibet), Must remain the subject of specific research the same
applies with regard to possible mythological realia. Historical facts worthy of notice are a
snarl in which one easily becomes hopelessly entangled in spite of the best power of
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