The Niveous Deer
Yiyi Zheng is an Arts student at University of the Arts London who is just about to graduate. Originally from China, she's a talented illustrator who draws inspiration from big names like Alphonse Mucha, Kay Nielson or Aubrey Beardsley. Her illustrations tend to be very colorful, complanate, many times resembling like if they were hand-drawn on a textile many decades ago.
For her final school project, Yiyi has decided to create an illustration for a tale she found in an ancient Chinese mythology book. The story is called "The Niveous Deer" and it has been adapted from a Buddhist Jataka tale called "The Deer Of Nine Colors" which was discovered in a form of cave paintings in the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, China.
I asked Yiyi what inspired her to illustrate a story of The Niveous Deer and this is what she said: "Compared to the books for adults, I enjoy children's books much more. I want to be a freelance illustrator and have my own book published in the future. I really like storytelling. In my point of view the narrative is a really important part of the illustration. I love tales, especially the ancient tales like mythology."
Yiyi was kind enough to share this beautiful story adaptation and her illustration with all of you readers of Lustin Style.
The Niveous Deer
A long time ago, there was a little kingdom, the kingdom was peaceful and harmonious, and it was administrated by a young prince.
However, after years and years, the prince witnessed so many births, senilities, illnesses and deaths, that in his opinion, were so very painful.
The prince was terrified of death. In order to avoid it, he decided to leave his kingdom and his people. He discovered a holy temple in which to pursue liberation, to be immortal.
The prince was very ambitious and strong-willed. He had an arduous journey to achieve his dream. Crossing mountains and rivers he went through many risks and difficulties.
Finally, he arrived at the temple and became a monk. After many days, through practices and cultivations, together with the other monks, the prince finally became immortal.
In the end, the prince turned into a niveous deer, as an embodiment of the god of nature, with the power to control the natural and human world and to help people in need.
Over the years, the legend of this magic niveous deer floated gradually throughout the kingdom. The story of “the niveous deer saves people” spread around, but no one knew where to find the deer.
Among the peoples in the kingdom, there was a snake charmer struggling for his life. He was quite upset, his business wasn’t going very well, so he came to this kingdom to find opportunity.
One day, in order to find more medicinal materials to sell, the snake charmer accidentally wandered into a mysterious forest. It was a silent place with no human inside.
The chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves appeared fitful which frightened the man. He was nervous and curious. Suddenly, he carelessly fell into the river that was across the forest.
The niveous deer in the forest heard the cry and arrived at the river just in time. The niveous deer was beautiful and strong. With his great strength and incredible power, the deer saved the man.
“Thank you so much!” The man knelt down, “What I can do for you in return?”
The deer told the man, “It’s fine, you don’t need to do anything. Just promise me you will never tell anyone I’m here.”
“Of course, I won’t!” The man kowtowed and promised he would never betray the deer.
The legend spread around in the palace as well. The emperor and empress of the kingdom were familiar with it, and the ministers and officers were all talking about it.
The empress especially believed it firmly without any doubts. The empress was selfish and self-willed. Once she wanted something, she had to have it.
The empress dreamed about this beautiful niveous deer. In the dream, she was wearing a niveous coat made of the deer’s beautiful magic fur.
“I want this deer. The magic fur can be my cloth. My dear emperor, could you please kill this deer for me?” The greedy woman ignored all other opposing views. She persisted in having the deer’s fur unreasonably. The emperor had no choice and finally agreed.
The emperor sent his men to put up an official notice to arrest the deer.
“If anyone has clues about this deer, and helps us to arrest it, there will be a huge reward for him!”
All the citizens gathered around to see the notice. They whispered to each other, “I do not understand it, why does the emperor want to find the magic deer so badly?”
“Kill it? Maybe, but nobody has ever seen it for real.”
“It is said that the deer is caring and nice, that it helps a lot of people. I don’t want the deer to die.”
The snake charmer’s life was getting better after his strange experience. One day, as he was hanging out in the bazaar, he found many people surrounding an official notice and discussing something. Out of curiosity, he came up to see what was happening, and the content he saw surprised him. Now, he had a chance to change his life.
However, when he looked up, there was a big figure in stone of “Xie Zhi”, a creature representing the laws and justice in front of the gate. He was frightened. He felt like those eyes were staring at him.
“I made a promise!” The snake charmer said to himself and tried to forget the notice.
Well, greed is human nature. The illusory feeling he built for himself didn’t last long...
“The reward could really change my entire life! I won’t need to catch any snakes or collect any medicinal materials to sell if I got the money and official position in the palace!”
Unfortunately, the man was ultimately tempted by the money and gave in to his greed. He pulled off the official notice. As he took the notice down, two officers quickly came up.
They were tall and strong. Each one took one of the man’s arms and dragged him to the palace. “Your majesty, I know where the deer is at. I have seen it once.” The man saw the empress first and he told her. The empress was ecstatic. “Great! Tell the emperor!”
Thereupon, the emperor knew the whereabouts of the niveous deer. “Excellent. Now let’s kill the deer.” Eventually, the emperor sent the troop forward to the mysterious forest.
The original calm of the forest was broken by the noises from a surge of the aggressive humans. All animals inside the forest were in panic. A frightened bird quickly flew to the deep place of the forest to tell the deer of the human invasion.
At this time, the emperor’s troop found the deer. People all rushed forward. “The deer is over there!” The humans started the attack. People pushed their way to the front with many bows and arrows in hand. Suddenly, an arrow shot the deer.
As the ‘God’ got hurt, the balance of nature was broken. The environment was destroyed. Many natural hazards came down. The leaves fell from the split trees. The mountains collapsed. The ground started to shake. It seemed like the end of the world. All the soldiers were in shock and ran back in panic.
The snake charmer was really regretful at this moment. He was in great desperation. He knelt down and waited for the end of the world. By the weak sunlight, he seemed to see the niveous deer in the distance, staring at every movement that was happening in the human world.
The soldiers were injured or died in the disaster. People were also in deep fear and self-reproach. They could never imagine this would happen. They could never imagine how terrible the consequence of their actions would be to the forest.
This was not the end of the world. The world would eventually restore itself to its normal appearance; the grass, flowers and trees would grow back… And more important, nobody would remember where the deer was, or the snake charmer.
“You can never be killed, right?”, the bird asked the deer. “Of course not. After all, this isn’t the first time.”