The Transposed Heads: A Legend of India

The Transposed Heads: A Legend of India - Thomas Mann, Helen T. Lowe-Porter If this is a real Indian legend, there's something deeply unsettling about Indian culture. At the same time, it's fascinating to see how different motives are found all around the world.

Those "transposed heads" in the title refer to exactly that - the exchange of heads (or bodies, however you want to see it) between two of this short story's main characters. The two men fight over a woman that they're both in love with. One of them first saw her when she was little, and helped her with an Indian ritual, while the other one first saw her while she was bathing, naked, and fell in love with her beautiful body, her perfect breasts, her strong hips and long legs, fragile hands and beautiful, almond-shaped face, with hazel eyes looking from between long lashes.

After cutting their own heads in a godess' temple in order to profess their love for her, Sita is called upon by the goddess and receives a harsh lecture, because the goddess sees in her the root of all problems: she is a woman, a beautiful creation, for which she receives attention from men, and she is also stupid, so as she never understands the implications of her appearance. Sita is commissioned to put their heads back together and is warned to not place them backwards on their bodies. After she finished the job, she realizes that, in her haste, she has put the wrong heads on the wrong bodies and blames the goddess for not telling her about that possible mistake too! (that's how shallow she is).

The problem is, Sita was in love with both of them, but for different reasons: from her husband (the one who first saw her bathing) she wants his head, but from Nanda she wants the masculine body. Now, she has both of them on her hands. Even so, she still doesn't feel happy and soon realizes their love only functions when there's three around, not just two of them.

The legend ends with a burning sacrifice and a promise of better lives.