An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

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