Timour (Fairy Tale)
Once there was a man that suffered from a sore old back and bad eyesight. It was more than he could bear, so he thought.
Without further delay, he sent his oldest son in search for a cure to his sufferings. Dutifully, the eldest traveled far and wide, for both a long time and a short time, until he came to what seemed to him to be one of the famed ends of the world where the snow was red. ‘What a wonder! Such a sight I certainly have not seen before,’ he thought.
Excited, he ran back home as quickly as he could with the red snow in his hand, hoping that this would cure the old suffering man.
As soon as he arrived, his father eagerly asked, ‘Have you brought me a cure for my sufferings?’ He felt like death was all around him.
‘Yes father, yes father! I have brought you what eyes have never seen before, red snow.’ The old man’s son answered.
Needless to say the old man was quite upset with his eldest son. He then sent his second son in search of a cure for his ailments. Well the second son traveled far and wide for both a long time and a short time, traveling past the place where the red snow fell. He traveled quite a ways before he came to what he thought was most certainly one of the ends of the world. It was a wondrous place, where the grass grew white. With the white grass in his hand he ran home as fast as he could, thinking the whole time that this white grass that had never been seen by anyone would most certainly cure his old and ailing father.
As soon as he arrived his father asked him, ‘What have you brought me for a cure for my sufferings?’
His son answered that he had brought white grass that had never been seen by anyone ever before. The old man was again upset and there was nothing left to be done but call for his youngest son.
The youngest son prepared himself for three days and three nights. His father made him jump with his horse over a stonewall just to see if he was big enough to set out on his own. He jumped easily over the stonewall three times. Then his father wished him a safe journey but forbade him to stop and pick anything up on the way or he would fall into the hands of misfortune.
The day came and the day went and by night the youngest son came to the place with red snow and then went on. He came to the place where the white grass grew and went on. He was riding along on his white horse when he saw a golden feather. He stopped his horse and picked up the golden feather. The horse said to him, ‘you have broken your promise to your father. He distinctly forbade you to pick up anything along the way.’
However the young lad took the golden feather, hid it and rode on farther. ‘He couldn’t have meant anything as beautiful as this!’
The youth had traveled far and wide for a long time and for a short time when he came upon a golden ball of thread. He stopped the horse and picked up the golden ball of thread. The horse again said to him, ‘you have again broken your promise to your father. He said, don’t you remember, that you were to pick nothing up along the way. This golden ball of thread is only going to bring you misfortune.’
However the young lad took the ball of thread. ‘What? Have you lost your mind? How could something as beautiful as this cause me misfortune?’
By sunset the youngest son had reached a strange and unknown land. Soon enough he saw a shepherd herding his cows. The young man asked, ‘Who lives in this strange and unknown land with the reputation of being a virtuous man and kind to guests?’
The shepherd pointed to a very high tower off in the distance. He said that there, there is said to be a prince who lives with respectable people and loves guests. The youngest son went to this prince. After heavy questioning at the gates he was allowed to stay and he with the entire household went off to pray together.
When the youngest son was bending down to do his prostrations, the golden feather fell out of his bosom. The prince picked it up and begged the young man to find the bird to which this feather belonged. If not the prince said he would die. The young man said that he would have to consult with his horse otherwise he would not be able to give an answer. The son went to his horse and told it of the prince’s request.
‘Well lets go and see what will come of all this,’ the horse said. ‘Have the king prepare a light and tasty meal for our trip. Lets say a kilo of cornmeal and a pitcher of Karaki.’
The prince had everything prepared and the next day the young son set off in search of the little bird.
He traveled far and wide, for a long time and a short time. Then he came to one of the ends of the world. The horse stopped high up in the mountains and said to the young son, ‘If you throw your sight about a bit, you’ll see a monster arising in the heavens. You see, doesn’t that look like his tall fur cap?’
‘Yes, I see.’
‘That’s the bird of which the prince was talking about. I will try to lead her this way and you better get in the mood to play a little game on her. She will ask you from which village you are from and you must answer that you are from the village where Timour lives. Then she will ask you how Timour is feeling these days. Then you must answer that Timour has hurt his back and his eyesight has gotten really bad. If the bird asks about Timour’s horse answer that if her master is infirm, the horse can go to hell and not getting any older is put out to pasture, high and dry. It’s better not to ask her anything about that though. The bird will then come down from the high mountain and start to bath in the river, to clean its plumage. That is when you must pour the sticky Karaki into the river and throw the cornmeal all about you.’
The young son did everything he was told. The bird started to bath in the river and then came closer to the youth to get a better look at him. The young son jumped on her and grabbed a hold of her. She wiggled in his hands but he didn’t let her go. ‘Is that you Timour?’ she trembled.
The young son answered, ‘I am Timour’s third son.’
‘Oh, I see. I must do my evening prayers and I must clean my plumage, please let me go,’ the bird started to beg.
The young son let her go. The little golden bird bathed herself and then rested herself on the young son’s shoulder. So with the bird on his shoulder and the sun sitting, the young man returned to the strange and unknown land where the prince lived.
A small time later when the young son was doing his prayers, the golden ball of thread fell out of his bosom. The prince took hold of the golden ball of thread and said, ‘I will die, if the girl who wound up this sweet golden ball of thread is not brought to me.’
The young son consulted with his horse. The horse told him to have the prince prepare a light and tasty meal for the trip.
The next day the young son set off with his horse in search of the girl. He traveled far and wide, for a long time and for a short time. Soon enough he was at another one of the ends of the world. His horse then said to him, ‘you see those tall mountains, and do you see the tower among them which has no entrance and no exit? Well at the top of that tower sits the girl who wound up the golden ball of thread. We’ll have the ball seemingly unravel all by itself, although you secretly are behind everything. She will ask you how Timour is feeling and you must answer that Timour has hurt his back and that his eyesight has gotten bad. If the girl asks about Timour’s horse, answer that if its master is infirm, the horse can go to hell and not getting any older is put out to pasture, high and dry. For her though, it will be a great joy. The girl will say that she is scared to come out of the tower because of Timour and that is why she is staying there and getting old. She will also say that she plays on the harmonica and will do so on the lower balcony if you are a good rider and will circle around the tower a few times on your horse. You must answer that you are in a hurry but in order to calm her heart you will ride around. We will ride around three times and on the forth I will jump up and get my hooves onto the balcony and if I don’t gallop then you can tear off my front legs! Then you grab her.
Timour’s son rode to the girl. She asked him, ‘Where are you from?’
He answered, ‘I am from the same village as Timour.’ He was though admittedly a little nervous to be talking to such a pretty girl. The girl asked about Timour and the young man said, ‘Timour is having a hard time these days. He has hurt his back and his eyesight is failing him. He fears that the legions of death are all around him.’
‘What about his horse?’ the girl asked.
‘When its master is infirm, the horse can go to hell and not getting any older is put out to pasture, high and dry.’ The girl was glad to hear this.
The girl went down to the lowest balcony and started to play her harmonica. She asked him to circle around the tower with his horse a couple of times. The young man and his horse rode around the tower three times and on the fourth round the horse galloped up and jumped landing his front hooves on the balcony. The youngest son grabbed the girl. She started to beat him with her hands but the young man held onto her with a tight grip even though his nose stung and his eyes curled.
‘Are you Timour?’ the girl asked.
‘I am not Timour. I am his third son,’ the young man answered.
‘I gave an oath that I would marry the one who took me away from that balcony,’ the girl said.
The youth held onto the girl and rode back to the prince. The prince went up to the girl and she said coolly to him, ‘Unless you cleanse yourself with the milk of a sea mare, then you have no right to touch me.’ She was firm on this point and everyone at court knew it not least of all, the prince.
The prince ordered everyone under his power to go out and find this special milk. His people however couldn’t find this milk and said to the prince that the one who brought the golden bird and the girl may be able to find and bring this milk from a sea mare. The prince pleaded with the youngest son of Timour to help him find this milk. The youth said that he would have to consult with his horse first.
‘Well, this was what I was afraid of all along,’ the horse sighed. ‘Have the prince kill three of his horses. From their hides make pieces of bright clothing and also have him give us some glue.’
They traveled far and wide, for a long time and for a short time before coming to the coast of the sea. The horse told the youth to dig two holes big enough for them to hide in. The youngest son put glue on the bright clothing and wrapped them around the horse. After this was done the horse kicked his hooves in the water, neighed and hid in one of the holes.
Not soon afterwards, a sea stallion jumped out of the sea, neighed and rushed about the coast and then again back he went into the sea. ‘Bloody fools, I thought they were all dead,’ was all that could be heard of him.
The horse asked the youth, ‘What was the stallion like when he jumped out of the sea and what was he like when he went back in again?’
‘When he jumped out of the sea, there was a lasso with three knots around his neck. When he went back into the sea one of the knots had come undone.’
Again the horse went to the water and kicked his hooves in the sea, neighed and jumped back into the hole to hide. As before, the stallion jumped out of the sea, rushed about the coast and not finding anything, went back into the sea again. ‘Bloody fools, I thought that they were all dead.’
The horse asked the youth, ‘What was the stallion like when he came out of the water and what was he like when he went back into the sea again?’
The youth answered, ‘When he jumped out of the water, two of the knots had come undone and when he went back into the sea only one knot was left.’
The horse went into the sea for a third time and kicked up the water with his hooves and then quickly jumped back into the hole to hide. The stallion again jumped out of the sea, rushed about the coast without any knots in the lasso around his neck and then sank back into the sea.
The next time the horse splashed in the sea with his hooves and stood his ground in the water. The stallion again jumped out of the water and started to fight with the youth’s horse. The stallion ripped apart the horse’s bright clothes. The horse however ripped apart the stallion at his turn and in this way the horse defeated the stallion.
‘I have the power of this big earth and of this sea so please let me do all that you order,’ the stallion begged.
‘Drive out all the sea mares and the sea stallions otherwise I will pour all the water out of this sea.’
The stallion drove all the sea mares and all the sea stallions from the sea; the youth straddled his horse and arrived back at the prince with all the sea mares.
They boiled a large pot of the sea mares’ milk. The prince suggested that the youth should cleanse himself first and then the prince would. The youth said that he would have to consult with his horse first. The horse said, ‘Say to the prince that if your horse is close to the pot, then you will cleanse yourself.’
The youth said all this to the prince. The prince ordered that the horse be brought in and placed next to the boiling pot of milk. The youth started to get into the pot and with one breathe the horse cooled the milk in the pot. The prince saw all this and ordered that the youth’s horse be placed next to the pot while he cleansed himself too. As he was getting into the pot the horse in one breath of hot air killed the prince.
Well with nothing more to talk about, the youngest son of Timour prepared to go home. He took with him the girl, the golden bird sat on his shoulder and the stallion herded all the sea mares. On the way though the son had lost a lot of weight. The girl asked, ‘You have a golden bird, which no one had ever seen before, An entire herd of sea mares and me to boot, so why have you lost weight? There is nothing to worry about.’
‘I was sent away from home to look for a cure to my father’s ailments. I didn’t find not one single cure and so now I am losing weight as a result.’
The golden bird, which sat on his shoulder said, ‘If you take one of my little golden feathers from my wing and run it lightly over your father then he will become younger than you.’
With nothing more to talk about, they arrived home. They arrived just in time as the old man was fighting death off with his bare hands. The youngest son took a feather from the right wing of the little golden bird and ran it softly over his father’s eyes and back. The father quickly became younger than his youngest son. He turned over and saw the bird which he couldn’t understand, a girl which he could never have had before and a herd of sea mares that he could only dream about. He said to his youngest son, ‘You have far surpassed me in everything that I have done. You have done more than I and without any energy being spent it seems.’
The son smiled and thought nothing of it. The youth gave the girl to his father.
Seven days and seven nights they celebrated the wedding. They had prepared such tasty food that it is a shame that my teeth couldn’t taste it. They had prepared such wine that my lips never got wet.
I was there and gave them each a whack and returned home. If you don’t believe me, then go away.
*This Chechen tale was translated from Russian version into English by Troy Morash, a Canadian story writer. Thanks him for shared his translation with us.