Armenian Literature online

. (page 2 of 11)
Online LibraryAnonymousArmenian Literature → online text (page 2 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

maiden told her all, how and when. The next day the stepmother sent her
own daughter to the same mountain. The stepmother's daughter purposely
let her distaff fall and it rolled into the hole. She went in to get it,
but the old Dew mother turned her into a scarecrow and sent her home.

About that time there was a wedding in the royal castle; the King was
giving one of his sons in marriage, and the people came from all
directions to look on and enjoy themselves.

The stepmother threw on a kerchief and smartened up the head of her
daughter and took her to see the wedding. The girl with the golden hair
did not stay at home, but, putting on her golden dress so that she
became from head to foot a gleaming houri, she went after them.

But on the way home, she ran so fast to get there before her stepmother,
that she dropped one of her golden shoes in the fountain. When they led
the horses of the King's second son to drink, the horses caught sight of
the golden shoe in the water and drew back and would not drink. The King
caused the wise men to be called, and asked them to make known the
reason why the horses would not drink, and they found only the golden
shoe. The King sent out his herald to tell the people that he would
marry his son to whomsoever this shoe fitted.

He sent people throughout the whole city to try on the shoe, and they
came to the house where the sheep-brother was. The stepmother pushed the
maiden with the golden locks into the stove, and hid her, and showed
only her own daughter.

A cock came up to the threshold and crowed three times, "Cock-a-doodle
doo! The fairest of the fair is in the stove." The King's people brushed
the stepmother aside and led the maiden with golden hair from the stove,
tried on the shoe, which fitted as though moulded to the foot.

"Now stand up," said they, "and you shall be a royal bride."

The maiden put on her golden dress, drove her sheep-brother before her,
and went to the castle. She was married to the King's son, and seven
days and seven nights they feasted.

Again the stepmother took her daughter and went to the castle to visit
her stepdaughter, who in spite of all treated her as her mother and
invited her into the castle garden. From the garden they went to the
seashore and sat down to rest. The stepmother said, "Let us bathe in the
sea." While they were bathing she pushed the wife of the King's son far
out into the water, and a great fish came swimming by and swallowed her.

Meanwhile the stepmother put the golden dress on her own daughter and
led her to the royal castle and placed her in the seat where the young
wife always sat, covering her face and her head so that no one would
know her.

The young wife sat in the fish and heard the voice of the bell-ringer.
She called to him and pleaded: "Bell-ringer, O bell-ringer, thou hast
called the people to church; cross thyself seven times, and I entreat
thee, in the name of heaven, go to the prince and say that they must not
slaughter my sheep-brother."

Once, twice the bell-ringer heard this voice and told the King's son
about it.

The King's son took the bell-ringer with him and went at night to the
seashore. The same voice spoke the same words. He knew that it was his
dear wife that spoke, and drew his sword and ripped open the fish and
helped his loved one out.

They went home, and the prince had the stepmother brought to him, and
said to her: "Mother-in-law, tell me what kind of a present you would
like: a horse fed with barley or a knife with a black handle?"

The stepmother answered: "Let the knife with a black handle pierce the
breast of thine enemy; but give me the horse fed with barley."

The King's son commanded them to tie the stepmother and her daughter to
the tail of a horse, and to hunt them over mountain and rock till
nothing was left of them but their ears and a tuft of hair.

After that the King's son lived happily with his wife and her
sheep-brother. The others were punished and she rejoiced.

And three apples fell down from heaven.

* * * * *


There lived once upon a time a man and wife who had a son. The son arose
from his sleep one morning and said to his mother: "Mother dear, I had a
dream, but what it was I will not tell you."

The mother said, "Why will you not tell me?"

"I will not, and that settles it," answered the youth, and his mother
seized him and cudgelled him well.

Then he went to his father and said to him: "Father dear, I had a dream,
but what it was I would not tell mother, nor will I tell you," and his
father also gave him a good flogging. He began to sulk and ran away from
home. He walked and walked the whole day long and, meeting a traveller,
said after greeting him: "I had a dream, but what it was I would tell
neither father nor mother and I will not tell you," Then he went on his
way till finally he came to the Emir's house and said to the Emir:
"Emir, I had a dream, but what it was I would tell neither father nor
mother, nor yet the traveller, and I will not tell you."

The Emir had him seized and thrown into the garret, where he began to
cut through the floor with a knife he managed to get from some one of
the Emir's people. He cut and cut until he made an opening over the
chamber of the Emir's daughter, who had just filled a plate with food
and gone away. The youth jumped down, emptied the plate, ate what he
wanted, and crept back into the garret. The second, third, and fourth
days he did this also, and the Emir's daughter could not think who had
taken away her meal. The next day she hid herself under the table to
watch and find out. Seeing the youth jump down and begin to eat from her
plate, she rushed out and said to him, "Who are you?"

"I had a dream, but what it was I would tell neither father nor mother,
nor the traveller, nor yet the Emir. The Emir shut me up in the garret.
Now everything depends on you; do with me what you will."

The youth looked at the maiden, and they loved each other and saw each
other every day.

The King of the West came to the King of the East to court the daughter
of the King of the East for his son. He sent an iron bar with both ends
shaped alike and asked: "Which is the top and which is the bottom? If
you can guess that, good! If not, I will carry your daughter away with

The King asked everybody, but nobody could tell. The King's daughter
told her lover about it and he said: "Go tell your father the Emir to
throw the bar into a brook. The heavy end will sink. Make a hole in that
end and send the bar back to the King of the West." And it happened that
he was right, and the messengers returned to their King.

The King of the West sent three horses of the same size and color and
asked: "Which is the one-year-old, which is the two-year-old, and which
the mare? If you can guess that, good. If not, then I will carry off
your daughter."

The King of the East collected all the clever people, but no one could
guess. He was helpless and knew not what to do. Then his daughter went
to her lover and said, "They are going to take me away," and she told
him when and how.

The youth said: "Go and say to your father, 'Dip a bundle of hay in
water, strew it with salt, and put it near the horses' stall. In the
morning the mare will come first, the two-year-old second, the
one-year-old last.'"

They did this and sent the King of the West his answer.

He waited a little and sent a steel spear and a steel shield, and said:
"If you pierce the shield with the spear, I will give my daughter to
your son. If not, send your daughter to my son."

Many people tried, and among them the King himself, but they could find
no way of piercing the shield. The King's daughter told him of her
beloved prisoner, and the King sent for him. The youth thrust the spear
into the ground, and, striking the shield against it, pierced it

As the King had no son, he sent the youth in place of a son to the King
of the West to demand his daughter, according to agreement.

He went on and on - how long it is not known - and saw someone with his
ear to the ground listening.

"Who are you?" the youth asked.

"I am he who hears everything that is said in the whole world."

"This is a brave fellow," said the youth. "He knows everything that is
said in the world."

"I am no brave fellow. He who has pierced a steel shield with a steel
spear is a brave fellow," was the answer.

"I am he," said the youth. "Let us be brothers."

They journeyed on together and saw a man with a millstone on each foot,
and one leg stepped toward Chisan and the other toward Stambul.

"That seems to me a brave fellow! One leg steps toward Chisan and the
other toward Stambul."

"I am no brave fellow. He who has pierced a steel shield with a steel
spear is a brave fellow," said the man with the millstones.

"I am he. Let us be brothers."

They were three and they journeyed on together.

They went on and on and saw a mill with seven millstones grinding corn.
And one man ate all and was not satisfied, but grumbled and said, "O
little father, I die of hunger."

"That is a brave fellow," said the youth. "Seven millstones grind for him
and yet he has not enough, but cries, 'I die of hunger.'"

"I am no brave fellow. He who pierced a steel shield with a steel spear
is a brave fellow," said the hungry man.

"I am he. Let us be brothers," said the youth and the four journeyed on
together. They went on and on and saw a man who had loaded the whole
world on his back and even wished to lift it up.

"That is a brave fellow. He has loaded himself with the whole world and
wishes to lift it up," said the youth.

"I am no brave fellow. He who has pierced a steel shield with a steel
spear is a brave fellow," said the burdened man.

"I am he. Let us be brothers."

The five journeyed on together. They went on and on and saw a man lying
in a brook and he sipped up all its waters and yet cried, "O little
father, I am parched with thirst."

"That is a brave fellow. He drinks up the whole brook and still says he
is thirsty," said the youth.

"I am no brave fellow. He who has pierced a steel shield with a steel
spear is a brave fellow," said the thirsty man.

"I am he. Let us be brothers."

The six journeyed on together. They went on and on and saw a shepherd
who was playing the pipes, and mountains and valleys, fields and
forests, men and animals, danced to the music.

"That seems to me to be a brave fellow. He makes mountains and valleys
dance," said the youth.

"I am no brave fellow. He who has pierced a steel shield with a steel
spear is a brave fellow," said the musical man.

"I am he. Let us be brothers," said the youth.

The seven journeyed on together.

"Brother who hast pierced a steel shield with a steel spear, whither is
God leading us?"

"We are going to get the daughter of the King of the West," said the

"Only you can marry her," said they all.

They went on till they came to the King's castle, but when they asked
for the daughter the King would not let her go, but called his people
together and said: "They have come after the bride. They are not very
hungry, perhaps they will eat only a bite or two. Let one-and-twenty
ovens be filled with bread and make one-and-twenty kettles of soup. If
they eat all this I will give them my daughter; otherwise, I will not."

The seven brothers were in a distant room. He who listened with his ear
to the ground heard what the King commanded, and said:

"Brother who hast pierced a steel shield with a steel spear, do you
understand what the King said?"

"Rascal! how can I know what he says when I am not in the same room with
him? What did he say?"

"He has commanded them to bake bread in one-and-twenty ovens and to make
one-and-twenty kettles of soup. If we eat it all, we can take his
daughter; otherwise, not."

The brother who devoured all the meal that seven millstones, ground
said: "Fear not, I will eat everything that comes to hand, and then cry,
'Little father, I die of hunger.'"

When the King saw the hungry man eat he screamed: "May he perish! I
shall certainly meet defeat at his hands."

Again he called his people to him and said, "Kindle a great fire, strew
it with ashes and cover it with blankets. When they come in in the
evening they will be consumed, all seven of them."

The brother with the sharp ears said: "Brother who hast pierced a steel
shield with a steel spear, do you understand what the King said?"

"No; how can I know what he said?"

"He said, 'Kindle a fire, strew it with ashes, and cover it with
blankets, and when they come in in the evening they will be consumed,
all seven of them.'"

Then said the brother who drank up the brook: "I will drink all I can
and go in before you. I will spit it all out and turn the whole house
into a sea."

In the evening they begged the King to allow them to rest in the room
set apart for them. The water-drinker filled the whole room with water,
and they went into another.

The King lost his wits and knew not what to do. He called his people
together, and they said in one voice, "Let what will happen, we will not
let our princess go!"

The man with the sharp ears heard them, and said, "Brother who hast
pierced a steel shield with a steel spear, do you understand what the
King said?"

"How should I know what he said?"

"He said, 'Let what will happen, I will not let my daughter go.'"

The brother who had loaded himself with the whole world said: "Wait, I
will take his castle and all his land on my back and carry it away."

He took the castle on his back and started off. The shepherd played on
his pipes, and mountains and valleys danced to the music. He who had
fastened millstones to his feet led the march, and they all went
joyously forward, making a great noise.

The King began to weep, and begged them to leave him his castle. "Take
my daughter with you. You have earned her."

They put the castle back in its place, the shepherd stopped playing, and
mountain and valley stood still. They took the King's daughter and
departed, and each hero returned to his dwelling-place, and he who had
pierced the steel shield with the steel spear took the maiden and came
again to the King of the East. And the King of the East gave him his own
daughter, whom the youth had long loved, for his wife. So he had two
wives - one was the daughter of the King of the East, the other the
daughter of the King of the West.

At night, when they lay down to sleep, he said: "Now, I have one sun on
one side and another sun on the other side, and a bright star plays on
my breast."

In the morning he sent for his parents and called also the King to him,
and said, "Now, I will tell my dream." "What was it, then?" they all
said. He answered: "I saw in my dream one sun on one side of me and
another sun on the other, and a bright star played on my breast."

"Had you such a dream?" they asked.

"I swear I had such a dream."

And three apples fell from heaven: one for the story-teller, one for him
who made him tell it, and one for the hearer.

* * * * *


[_Translated by E.B. Collins, B.S._]

* * * * *


Several days ago I wished to visit an acquaintance, but it chanced he
was not at home. I came therefore through the gate again out into the
street, and stood looking to right and left and considering where I
could go. In front of me lay a vacant yard, which was, I thought, not
wholly like other vacant yards. On it was neither house nor barn nor
stable: true, none of these was there, but it was very evident that this
yard could not have been deserted long by its tenants. The house must,
also, in my opinion, have been torn down, for of traces of fire, as, for
example, charred beams, damaged stoves, and rubbish heaps, there was no

In a word, it could be plainly perceived that the house which once stood
there had been pulled down, and its beams and timbers carried away. In
the middle of the premises, near the line hedge, stood several high
trees, acacias, fig, and plum-trees; scattered among them were
gooseberry bushes, rose-trees, and blackthorns, while near the street,
just in the place where the window of the house was probably set, stood
a high, green fig-tree.

I have seen many vacant lots, yet never before have I given a passing
thought as to whom any one of them belonged, or who might have lived
there, or indeed where its future possessor might be. But in a peculiar
way the sight of this yard called up questions of this sort; and as I
looked at it many different thoughts came into my mind. Perhaps, I
thought to myself, a childless fellow, who spoiled old age with sighs
and complaints, and as his life waned the walls mouldered. Finally, the
house was without a master; the doors and windows stood open, and when
the dark winter nights came on, the neighbors fell upon it and stripped
off its boards, one after another. Yes, various thoughts came into my
head. How hard it is to build a house, and how easy to tear it down!

While I stood there lost in thought, an old woman, leaning on a staff,
passed me. I did not immediately recognize her, but at a second glance I
saw it was Hripsime. Nurse Hripsime was a woman of five-and-seventy,
yet, from her steady gait, her lively speech, and her fiery eyes, she
appeared to be scarcely fifty. She was vigorous and hearty, expressed
her opinions like a man, and was abrupt in her speech. Had she not worn
women's garments one could easily have taken her for a man. Indeed, in
conversation she held her own with ten men.

Once, I wot not for what reason, she was summoned to court. She went
thither, placed herself before the judge, and spoke so bravely that
everyone gaped and stared at her as at a prodigy. Another time thieves
tried to get into her house at night, knowing that she was alone like an
owl in the house. The thieves began to pry open the door with a crowbar,
and when Nurse Hripsime heard it she sprang nimbly out of bed, seized
her stick from its corner, and began to shout: "Ho, there! Simon,
Gabriel, Matthew, Stephan, Aswadur, get up quickly. Get your axes and
sticks. Thieves are here; collar the rascals; bind them, skin them,
strike them dead!" The thieves probably did not know with whom they had
to deal, and, when at the outcry of the old woman they conceived that a
half-dozen stout-handed fellows might be in the house, they took
themselves off. Just such a cunning, fearless woman was Aunt Hripsime.

"Good-morning, nurse," said I.

"God greet thee," she replied.

"Where have you been?"

"I have been with the sick," she rejoined.

Oh, yes! I had wholly forgotten to say that Nurse Hripsime, though she
could neither read nor write, was a skilful physician. She laid the sick
person on the grass, administered a sherbet, cured hemorrhoids and
epilepsy; and especially with sick women was she successful. Yes, to her
skill I myself can bear witness. About four years ago my child was taken
ill in the dog-days, and for three years my wife had had a fever, so
that she was very feeble. The daughter of Arutin, the gold-worker, and
the wife of Saak, the tile-maker, said to me: "There is an excellent
physician called Hripsime. Send for her, and you will not regret it."
To speak candidly, I have never found much brains in our doctor. He
turns round on his heels and scribbles out a great many prescriptions,
but his skill is not worth a toadstool.

I sent for Hripsime, and, sure enough, not three days had passed before
my wife's fever had ceased and my children's pain was allayed. For three
years, thank God, no sickness has visited my house. Whether it can be
laid to her skill and the lightness of her hand or to the medicine I
know not. I know well, however, that Nurse Hripsime is my family
physician. And what do I pay her? Five rubles a year, no more and no
less. When she comes to us it is a holiday for my children, so sweetly
does she speak to them and so well does she know how to win their
hearts. Indeed, if I were a sultan, she should be my vezir.

"How does the city stand in regard to sickness?" I asked her.

"Of that one would rather not speak," answered Hripsime. "Ten more such
years and our whole city will become a hospital. Heaven knows what kind
of diseases they are! Moreover, they are of a very peculiar kind, and
often the people die very suddenly. The bells fly in pieces almost from
so much tolling, the grave-diggers' shovels are blunt, and from the
great demand for coffins the price of wood is risen. What will become of
us, I know not."

"Is not, then, the cause of these diseases known to you?"

"Oh, that is clear enough," answered Hripsime. "It is a punishment for
our sins. What good deeds have we done that we should expect God's
mercy? Thieves, counterfeiters, all these you find among us. They snatch
the last shirt from the poor man's back, purloin trust moneys, church
money: in a word, there is no shameless deed we will not undertake for
profit. We need not wonder if God punishes us for it. Yes, God acts
justly, praised be his holy name! Indeed, it would be marvellous if God
let us go unpunished."

Hripsime was not a little excited, and that was just what I wished. When
she once began she could no longer hold in: her words gushed forth as
from a spring, and the more she spoke the smoother her speech.

"Do you know?" I began again, "that I have been standing a long while
before this deserted yard, and cannot recall whose house stood here, why
they have pulled it down, and what has become of its inhabitants? You
are an aged woman, and have peeped into every corner of our city: you
must have something to tell about it. If you have nothing important on
hand, be kind enough to tell me what you know of the former residents of
the vanished house."

Nurse Hripsime turned her gaze to the vacant yard, and, shaking her
head, said:

"My dear son, the history of that house is as long as one of our
fairy-tales. One must tell for seven days and seven nights in order to
reach the end.

"This yard was not always so desolate as you see it now," she went on.
"Once there stood here a house, not very large, but pretty and
attractive, and made of wood. The wooden houses of former days pleased
me much better than the present stone houses, which look like cheese
mats outside and are prisons within. An old proverb says, 'In stone or
brick houses life goes on sadly,'

"Here, on this spot, next to the fig-tree," she continued, "stood
formerly a house with a five-windowed front, green blinds, and a red
roof. Farther back there by the acacias stood the stable, and between
the house and the stable, the kitchen and the hen-house. Here to the
right of the gate a spring." With these words Nurse Hripsime took a step
forward, looked about, and said: "What is this? the spring gone, too! I
recollect as if to-day that there was a spring of sweet water on the
very spot where I am standing. What can have happened to it! I know that
everything can be lost - but a spring, how can that be lost?" Hripsime
stooped and began to scratch about with her stick. "Look here," she said
suddenly, "bad boys have filled up the beautiful spring with earth and
stones. Plague take it! Well, if one's head is cut off, he weeps not for
his beard. For the spring I care not, but for poor Sarkis and his family
I am very sorry."

"Are you certain that the house of Sarkis, the grocer, stood here? I had
wholly forgotten it. Now tell me, I pray, what has become of him? Does
he still live, or is he dead? Where is his family? I remember now that
he had a pretty daughter and also a son."

Nurse Hripsime gave no heed to my questions, but stood silently, poking
about with her stick near the choked-up spring.

The picture of Grocer Sarkis, as we called him, took form vividly in my
memory, and with it awoke many experiences of my childhood. I remembered
that when I was a child a dear old lady often visited us, who was
continually telling us about Grocer Sarkis, and used to hold up his
children as models. In summer, when the early fruit was ripe, she used
to visit his house, gather fruit in his garden, and would always come to
us with full pockets, bringing us egg-plums, saffron apples, fig-pears,
and many other fruits. From that time we knew Sarkis, and when my mother
wanted any little thing for the house I got it for her at his store. I
loved him well, this Sarkis; he was a quiet, mild man, around whose
mouth a smile hovered. "What do you want, my child?" he always asked

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryAnonymousArmenian Literature → online text (page 2 of 11)