When experts in literature or literary critics start to discuss Mukhtar Auezov’s writings, first of all, they address to his well-known story “Kokserek”.
“Kokserek” is a unique story where the writer articulated his high aesthetic principles. A story filled with characters that breathe so real on the page, is the first piece of work that made Mukhtar Auezov known in twenties of the last century across the Soviet Union. The story is as luminous as a perfect photograph shimmering with true light.
What is the meaning behind the story “Kokserek”?
Experts in literature and literary critics have several opinions on the main idea of the story “Kokserek”. One of them says, that the meaning of the story is to demonstrate “an inbred love of freedom”. A prominent Qazaq writer Abdyzhamil Nurpeisov believed, that “the artistic strength and color of the story “Kokserek” could be compared, perhaps, with the “White Fang” of Jack London”. Another Qazaq writer Marat Adibayev considered, that Mukhtar Auezov wanted to criticize betrayal in his story “Kokserek”.
Many researchers believe that the story “Kokserek” was influenced by the “White Fang” by Jack London. It is quite possible. However, in its deep essence, the story echoes the sad lines of the founder of Qazaq written literature and its first classic, Abay. He wrote:
I raised a dog from a puppy,
I made it a good shot
It bit my leg.
And it almost killed me.
The plot of the story is as follows.
“Kokserek” is a gray wolf which was raised at home. At the beginning of the story, the uncle of the main character Kurmash kills a wolf with its wolf cubs in its hole, leaving the smallest of them alive. He brings a wolf cub home as a gift to his nephew. All aul (“an aul” means “a village” in Qazaq) dogs do not like a little wolf, they scoff at him every day. A year later, the little wolf becomes a big wolf. Now he has a power to repulse attacks of local dogs. A wolf’s confrontation with local dogs ends with his struggle with the most impudent dog, which has taken food from him since childhood. Kokserek wins the dog in a fight. All this time, in addition to dogs, the local people also dislike the little wolf. They ask Kurmash to get rid of Kokserek. But Kurmash, who grew up without parents deeply sympathizes with Kokserek. Kurmash protects his wolf from all the attacks of his neighbors. It seems to him that he and Kokserek are alike in their solitude and orphan hood. However, the most interesting thing is to observe the behavior of a predator which grows up at home.
If there are people nearby, Kokserek never eats the food, he turns away his snout from food. But as soon as the man disappears, Kokserek chokes down the food in a bowl. The wolf steals food when it is left unattended. Usually it was meat or some dairy products. Kokserek chews raw skins of a sheep, a cow, that is carried out to dry on the skeleton of the yurt (a “yurt” is a traditional movable Qazaq house).
Kokserek is hungry all the time and scours about the yurt in search of food. He gets often caught in the act of crime. In such cases the wolf is beaten mercilessly with a strong stick and a whip. But, he dodges a blow, silently grinds his white fangs. Kokserek has never made a sound or growl. As he matures, a predator begins to awaken in a wolf. His grey eyes become green, like those of a beast. At night he steals into a small paddock of cow and calf or sheep unnoticed by dogs, attacks them, and in the morning the neighbors find their cattle bitten or dead. Kurmash’s grandmother, a very kind woman asks Kurmash to kill and skin the wolf. Despite all the efforts of Kurmash to stop his wolf to steal, Kokserek continued to do so.
Finally, becoming a wolf as big as a calf, Kokserek leaves his Master. First, the wolf occasionally visits Kurmash, only when he feels hungry, and then completely forgets about him. In the steppe, he finds a companion, a big white wolf.
On one of the winter days, when there was a strong snowstorm, Kokserek, and his companion meet 7 hungry wolves and they attacked the herd of horses belonging to the inhabitants of the aul, where Kurmash lived. From that day Kokserek became the leader of a kennel of wolves, and they constantly attacked the livestock of Kurmash’s neigbours. The inhabitants of that settlement were full of indignation and readiness to kill that kennel of predators.
Once, when Kurmash's grandfather, who usually tends a flock of sheep, fell ill, Kurmash himself came out to tend the sheep. It was a winter day, there was a strong snowstorm outside. Kokserek and his kennel of wolves decided to attack those sheep. Kurmash, who was sitting on the horse's saddle, trying to resist the attack of wolves, suddenly fell from the horse on the ground.
Suddenly Kokserek attacked him. Kurmash recognized his pet by notching on the ear. He made that earmarking when he was small. He called him “Kokserek! Kokserek!”. But Kurmash’s voice did not stop the wolf. He got his claws into Kurmash’s neck, causing him to die. Kurmash, to the last, believed that Kokserek would not do him any harm, but the predator in Kokserek won him.
Finding the boy's corpse, the men of the aul brought him home. The grief and despair of Kurmash’s grandmother knew no bounds. She hated Kokserek. After that event, there was made a decision by inhabitants of the aul to kill Kokserek.
They asked a hunter Khasen to help them to kill the predator. He had a big dog of the Qazaq breed “tobet” (Qazaq wolfhound) named Akkaska. This Qazaq breed of dogs has always protected livestock from wolf attacks. Khasen spent several days with herdsmen, studying the habits and behavior of Kokserek. They spent the nights at pastures. Then one day the hunter, his dog and Kokserek met.
The wolf and the dog fought long. Both bit into each other's jaw and neither could knock down the other. “Khasen arrived on horseback. He threw the gun, jumped out of the saddle and, without thinking about himself, fell all over onto the wolf’s back. He pulled a wide knife under his left armpit”. At last, Kokserek was killed. “The wolf carcass was taken to the aul. The hunter threw the body of the wolf in front of Kurmash’s yurt, and the old lady recognized Kokserek on his notching on the ear. “It is Kokserek, Kokserek!”, Kurmash’s grandmother cried, “Where is your conscience? Bloodsucker!”.
“Kokserek” is a piece of work that shows us a close connection between human beings and nature. Through the narrative's plot and character development, actions, reactions, motivations we see one idea, that is people conduct the initial assault, then the wolves respond to it.
When human being moves away from nature his heart becomes hard. He step by step turns into a predator, the top of the food chain. Becoming stronger and more prosperous, the human being does not become more humane in relation to the Mother-Nature, on the contrary, his behavior became more and more consumptive, ruder and more soulless.
On the other hand, the plot of the story as if confirms the well-known Russian parable: “Give the wolf the best food, but he would hanker for the wood”. Its English equivalent is: “The leopard cannot change its spots”. That means, that it is impossible to make a domestic animal or your pet from a predator.
The story “Kokserek” was written by Mukhtar Auezov in 1922, its Russian version was made by A. Pantielev in 1997. O. Chorakaev translated the story into English. In 2011, A. Zhaksylykov made a more accurate, adequate translation of the work into Russian.