The A Bao A Qu is special for a few reasons, not only is this the first creature on my list, it is also the first creature that I had never heard of.
Bao A Qu is a fictional Mewar legendary creature described in Jorge Luis Borges’s 1967 Book of Imaginary Beings. Borges claimed that he found this particular creature in an introduction to the Arabian Nights by Richard Francis Burton, or in the book On Malay Witchcraft (1937) by C.C. Iturvuru.
The Burton reference was given in the original Spanish, but it was changed to the Iturvuru reference in the English text, possibly to make it sound more exotic, or as a reference to Borges’ friend C. C. Iturburu. Borges’s tale might be inspired by the Orang Asli myth of “Abang Aku”.
As with most good creatures, there is an interesting tale to go with it. In Borges’s story, the A Bao A Qu lives on the steps of the Tower of Victory in Chitor – a tower from which one can see “the loveliest landscape in the world”.The A Bao A Qu waits on the first step for a man brave enough to try to climb up. Until that point, it lies sleeping, shapeless and translucent, until someone passes. Then, when a man starts climbing, the creature
The A Bao A Qu waits, sleeping, on the first step of the tower for a man brave enough to try to climb up. The A Bao A Qu is shapeless and translucent – essentially invisible – until someone passes the creature. Once a person starts climbing, the creature wakes and follows the person close behind. Creepy right?
As the A Bao A Qu climbs further and further up, nearer the top, it begins to become clearer, regaining its opacity and becoming more colourful. It apparently starts to give off a blue light which increases in intensity as it ascends. However, the A Bao A Qu only reaches “perfection” or fully realised self, when the climber reaches the top of the tower and achieves Nirvana, so his acts don’t cast any shadows.But almost all the time, the climber cannot reach the top, for they are not perfect. When the A Bao A Qu
However as the task of reaching Nirvana is almost insurmountable, the climber is unlikely to be able to reach the top. Ultimately they are imperfect and do not make it. When the A Bao A Qu realises this, it hangs back and slows down, losing colour and visibility – reverting to it’s translucent, almost invisible form – and tumbles back down the staircase until it reaches the bottom. Once again it lies dormant and shapeless, in wait for the next person that might have what it takes to reach the top. When it settles on the step it gives a small cry, so soft that it sounds similar to the rustling of silk. When touched, it feels like the fuzz on the skin of a peach. Only once in its everlasting life has the A Bao A Qu reached its destination at the top of the tower.
The A Bao A Qu – Opinions
What initially sounds quite creepy and sinister, actually has a rather different spin. This is about reaching Nirvana, and unlike many imaginary creatures, it does not wish human harm. However, I am not sure why it wants to make it to the top and why it needs a human to do so. Perhaps it is about wanting humanity to succeed, but being let down by our humanity and inability to reach “perfection”. I feel similar when I watch the news at the moment and we seem to be regressing rather than progressing. The A Bao A Qu would be tumbling back down to the first step.
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