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19 наурыз 2015 1097

Musrepov Gabit «Legend of Er-Kaptagai»

Негізгі тіл: Легенда о Ер-Каптагае

Бастапқы авторы: Musrepov Gabit

Аударма авторы: not specified

Дата: 19 наурыз 2015

            This legend is told by the people from from the grand and ancient lineage of Naiman: those who still live in southern Kazakhstan, in Sarkanda, on the banks of the Aksa River, which flows to the Sirdarya.

            The legend is told by the kin of Naiman, and I, a diligent scribe, am the one who is entrusted to write on paper their story, kept unchanged since time immemorial.

            Cold and endless winds raced to the south from the ice-bound Lake Balhash.

            The last blizzard of that year thrashed furiously from tent to tent in the village of Naiman, as if to wipe it off the face of the earth. It howled angrily in despair because it knew its time was coming to an end. And if it was forced to yield to the coming Spring, then, at least, it wanted to bequeath such a memory of itself that would leave everybody shuddering until next winter!

            A little distance from the village, near some sharp rocks, like dragon's teeth, there was the big black tent of Er-Kaptagiy[1]. Sparks flew from the smoke hole, each the size of a large swarm of bees. The blizzard, fearless of being stung picked them up and slammed them against the rock.

            Drawling trumpet sounds were intermittently heard emitted from the tent, which over-road the incessant howling of a snowstorm. Er-Kaptagiy was sneezing.

            He made himself comfortable by the fire, staring at the crimson tongues of fire and thought about what he'd been forced to hear today from his relatives. They informed him that the famous giant Azret Ali[2] known for his exploits was on his way to the lands of the Naiman. He intended to take his campaign further than Eskender Zulkarnayn[3] ever went. Azret Ali possessed an argamak[4], which could travel a nine month journey in just nine steps.

            They also said Azret Ali is holding forth a new word, and demands that everyone would accept this word and repeat it with enthusiasm and faith. Those who don't want to listen to him, he would compel by the force of arms. And Azret Ali possessed a sekira[5] that was nine times longer than usual. There, far away, in his native land, mighty lions who know nothing of fear, would meekly make way for him whenever they met.

            While Er-Kaptagai thought about all this, Azret Ali indeed stopped his argamak at the rock that sheltered the big black tent from the blizzard. And when he crossed the threshold, Er-Kaptagai had just sat down for dinner.

            There lived in this home such people who could not eat from one plate. Their fingers would interfere with each other. Therefore, before Er-Kaptagai, and before each of his four adult sons sat a separate plate. There was set on the table enough boiled meat that, in these days, would glut an entire village. The sons didn't start to eat, they respectfully waited until their aged father touched his food first.

            Azret Ali was surprised when he observed them. Previously, he'd assumed that these giants could only be found in his mother land.

            “Assalamagaleykum,” he said, but no one returned the greeting. Not knowing how to behave now, he silently watched: with huge fingers the old man lifted from his plate a camel's head. In those days the giants kept giant cattle. The camel's head was the size of a normal tent.

            Er-Kaptagai was so hungry that he stuffed into his mouth all the meat that was on camel cheekbones, the camel tongue, and soft throat cartilage. Just after swallowing it all, he raised his eyes to the Azreti Ali, who was still standing at the door.

            His first impression of the guest was favorable, though he did not understand the guest's language. Thick black mustache, the same black beard, rounded, well-groomed. Tall and stately, like a real horseman. With such, Er-Kaptagai would talk decently, as an equal.

            “Sit down by our fire, a visiting hero,” he said and held out to the guest a hand full of the best pieces: a half of a huge liver, and separated from the shoulder-blade fat that would melt in your mouth, and chose a bone that was loaded with meat.

            According to the law of hospitality, he wanted to honor the guest, so the guest is obliged take the food out of his host's hands. But Azret Ali, apparently, did not know this little steppe custom and drew back as the treats were proffered.

            Azret Ali said, “Before I eat, I'd like to be offered lodging for the night in this home.” He gently pronounced the unfamiliar melodious words, and these words touched the ears of Er-Kaptagai. But how could the old man understand their meaning? He did not know the language of the stranger, and the stranger, an Arab, didn't know his host's language.

            “What are you singing to me?” Asked Er-Kaptagai, starting to be annoyed, “Don't you know our words? But this, anyone could understand! You are offered meat, so this means that you should eat meat. Will you eat it or not?”

            Azret Ali put his right hand to his heart and again repeated his night lodging request. Again Er-Kaptagai pestered him. Stung by the fact that his treats were twice rejected, the old man himself swallowed the liver and fat, and then grabbed the head of a camel from a plate and threw it at the stranger.

            The head, with fleshless jaw, flew very close to Azret Ali, he barely had time to dodge, saying, “Oh Allah!”

            They heard the thud of the camel's head softly striking a rock outside.

            Perhaps, in other places, in his long and warlike journey, he had not been so patient. But what could he do here on the river Aksa, if in the tent in front of him sat the hero-giants Er-Kaptagai and his sons.

            Azret Ali for the third time repeated his request, but there was no tolmach[6] near at hand who would have made his words understandable to the host. Therefore, the heart of Er-Kaptagai softened not and he took not his suspicious eyes from stranger.

            Er-Kaptagai tensed when the guest reached into his bosom. But it was not a weapon that Azret Ali produced but an unfamiliar book, and he said as he rustled its parchment pages, “I have brought zikr[7] to you, so that such backward folk, as you, would ponder about your way, your destiny. I have brought you a new word that will cause you to establish a new order and live a new life. I have spoken, and have heard.”

            But now, after the guest had violated the law of hospitality, refusing to take food, it became impossible for him to win over the old Er-Kaptagai.

            Er-Kaptagai did not let him finish, “Stop your chattering! Otherwise,” and he grabbed a bone the size of a sapling from a plate and waved it menacingly.

            And his sons also armed themselves. One raised a heavy, back-leg thigh bone as a club, the other the same but from the front leg, and the other two were left the camel shoulder blades, sharp as a sekira. And thus they stood poised, at the first sign of their father, to bring down upon the alien irresistible blows.

            But Er-Kaptagai stopped them with a hand signal. He himself had enough strength to cope with anyone, without calling on his sons for help.

            Azret Ali realized that he had no power over them and backed out of the tent.

            Perhaps, it was not very pleasant for him to stand in the wind and listen to the angry howling blizzard. After all, giants likewise have giant self-esteem. Until this night, Azret Ali had never had an idea that such humiliation would fall into his life!

            He had gone to wars in Africa and Asia, he had conquered people with various skin colors, black and white, red and yellow. Many surrendered under his arm, not even taking the risk of engaging him in single combat. And now, having met with Er-Kaptagai and his sons, Ali Azret could not help thinking, was it an accident that Eskender Zulkarnayn himself couldn't go any further? Could it be that fate itself put in front of him a thick wall, which not even the most light-footed horse could jump over, which could not be circumvented?

            Azret Ali, now prepared to deal with anything in this country of giants, stood waiting, waiting to see if anyone would come after him.

            But over and above the strength of Er-Kaptagai and his sons, they possessed nobility. They did not pursue the stranger, who'd left their home.

            Azret Ali took his argamak by the bridle, led him to the lee side a rock, and lay down on the ground, leaning back against the large rock.

            An aroma pleasantly tickled his nostrils and Azret Ali realized that it was the scent of boiled bone marrow. The camel's head, that had been tossed by the mighty hand, had stuck a rock and shattered. Azret Ali realized that he was famished, and groped around until he found the bones and some pieces of meat that had not quite had time to cool down.

            One by one, he stuffed them into his mouth and thought, Yes, these people happen to know a lot about good food. Then he realized that it was necessary, before starting a conversation, to accept a treat from the old man. Then matters could turn out differently.

            After eating the meat and wiping his hands with snow, Azret Ali became convinced that nothing has been lost yet, in the morning he will return to the Er-Kaptagai and will speak with him.

            Having made this decision, he loosened his chain mail a little, wrapped himself tighter into his warm cloak, and pulled his helmet all the way to to his nose. He slept all night without moving, as all heroes sleep.

            Before dawn, a south wind blew up from the south toward the ice barbed blizzard and prevailed against it. The blizzard was forced to flee to the north, to Lake Balhash, where spring would follow later. As the sun arose, the south wind began to clean up and soon melted all the snow, which the blizzard had disgorged before parting.

            And the fifth, the youngest son of Er-Kaptagai, Munaitpasu, had to drive the horses on the black wet mud. He clenched his heels against the flanks of the chestnut filly. He hurried home, as a baby camel that had strayed from its elders hurries back.

            Even from a distance, he paid attention to the fact that the canopy tent flap was thrown back and his older brothers were moving toward the herd, carrying inlaid bridles; they had to be going somewhere, and he, as always, would be left at home; they would say, you're too small.

            Munaitpas then noticed, some unknown hero let his argamak graze here, and he went into the tent. Azret Ali woke up and decided to fulfill his intention from the previous day and went again to see Er-Kaptagai.

            Munaitpas had no knowledge of what had happened here the previous day. He could have asked his brothers when they approached him, but was it any of his business, in any case? He was unable to take his eyes off of the argamak.

            Oh, the lad had never had an occasion to see such a horse, though if one were to wonder a hundred different ways in the county his father's horses were far from the worst. A warm wind played along the long, silvery mane, and he wanted to carefully comb it. The eyes of the beautiful Arabian horse sparkled like jewels. Sensitive ears caught the slightest rustle, and the head on the gracefully curved neck immediately turned toward the arriving herd.

            The argamak began to neigh like yodel, welcoming the mares, but warning the stallions so that they would not even think of competing with him.

            Munaitpas froze, admiring still the unparalleled and luxurious horse, while at the time Azret Ali stood in the tent before Er-Kaptagai continuing his speech that had been interrupted the previous evening.

            Azret Ali realized that force would not prevail here, thus he made his voice soft, purling like the River Aksu, after the wild melt-water rapids had settled down in the middle of the summer.

            Azret Ali, as yesterday, pulled from his breast pocket a bundle of leather sheets, thin, almost transparent, covered with unintelligible characters.

            This bundle he loudly called, kitab[8], and started singing the verses with a sonorous, pleasant voice. Er-Kaptagai did not interrupt him, but the words that the stranger sang still made no sense to the old man.

            Still, he began to perceive that these sounds contained some hidden mystery, that he was on the verge of comprehending, and it will straightway become clear why this man deserted his home. But the old man also sensed in those sounds something more, if he surrendered then his life would be changed beyond recognition, and he would cease to be like himself.

            Azret Ali had finished singing and handed the kitab to the old man, so that he could touch it and hold it in his hands. This was a sign of highest trust: to give the sacred book.

            But Er-Kaptagai did not understand it, and therefore, did not appreciate it.

            He took the kitab in the hope that in his hands it would utter the same marvelous sounds. “What a wonder and incomparable voice your kitab has,” Er-Kaptagai said, thinking that if he would praise the mysterious bundle, then the song would flow again which had acted upon his soul in an inexplicable manner.

            But the kitab was silent.

            “You, like yesterday, are making a fool out of me!” the old man said Azret Ali. “What does it profit me if your kitab sings only in your hands? Then you keep it. And go away, go away. I don't want to see you, and my sons don't want to see you!

            And while they were having this conversation between them, incomprehensible to both of them, Munaitpas continued to dreamily watch the argamak, imagining what a joy it would be to ride such a horse at least once! After that, there would be no sorrow even in dying. The horses of his father looked like pitiful nags compared to this argamak, and the lad's heart immediately cooled down toward them.

            He jumped down from his bay filly and, leading it by the reins, went to the argamak.

            Bewitched, Munaitpas still had no idea what he would do: whether to steal horse, and let come what may; or just ride it, while the owner is not looking, reasoning that one or two stripes with a whip would be worth it.

            The argamak, pricked up his ears and watched the lad approach. But it was clear that the argamak was not at all interested in the lad. His attention was fixed on the bay filly, the most beautiful, the most elegant in the herd, marked by the brand Er-Kaptagai.

            Moreover, the filly could not resist such handsome manliness. She did not pull to either side but obediently followed Munaitpas as soon as she realized that he was leading her to the tall, light-colored stallion.

            Throughout the long harsh campaigns, Azret Ali would never let his horse mingle with the herds, thus he was deprived of affection, which more than just human hearts need to exist. And that's why the stallion reared up, almost brushing his head against the clouds, showing how agile, strong and handsome he was; and thus, on his hind legs he went to the bay filly, who, flaring her nostrils and proudly raising her head, waited for him.

            Munaitpas instantly realized that, even if he could never take the argamak away, at least his offspring would remain in their herd. The lad quickly jumped to the side.

            Azret Ali, whose conversation with Er-Kaptagai had again produced no results, walked out of the tent at the same time that the short love affair between the argamak and the bay filly had ended; there was nothing he could have done to prevent it.

            He was screamed, cursing and swearing; and from giants came really giant cursing and swearing! But Munaitpas's four older brothers stood nearby with swords in their hands; therefore, Azret Ali could not hazard soundly boxing the impudent boy's ears. In wrath, he was about to jump on the argamak, but the horse had not yet recovered from his love affair and did not want to move on.

            Shaking his head, Azret Ali said, “Many impregnable peaks fell prostrate before me. And now my path has come up against this little rock and I am forced to turn back. I, who has never retreated before anybody!”

            Munaitpas and his brothers did not understand the stranger. They just watched as Azret Ali took the reins and led his horse away, and soon disappeared behind the rocks, and the wind swept away his tracks.

            And while Er-Kaptagai and his sons lived, Azret Ali never returned.

            That rock, stands today in the Sarkand district in southern Kazakhstan.

            The locals call it the Argamak Rock.

            And as a reminder of those distant times, in Naiman the legend remains that neither by force, nor by cunning, nor feigned affection, could the epic-giants, such as Er-Kaptagai and his sons were, be defeated. And still to this day, there are horses running here which can overtake the wind.



(Translated by Elena and Damian Stich – 2013)



[1]     Er – Epic hero athlete, giant.

[2]     Azret Ali (aezret – holiest) – a Muslim righteous man, warrior and chief, Ali; the son in law of the Prophet Mohammad.

[3]     Eskender Zulkarnayn (vyrogie – having two horns) – Alexander Makedonskie, a famous ancient warrior.

[4]     argamak – a horse of a good (or mythical, magical) breed.

[5]     sekira – antique weapon that looks like an ax with a long haft (somewhat like a halberd).

[6]     tolmach – archaic for interpreter.

[7]     zikr – an admonition, caution or warning; also, one of the ancient of the ancient names for the Koran.

[8]     kitab – one of the ancient names for the Koran.

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