The Hunter and The Nart
A long time ago, there once lived a husband with his wife. Every morning the husband put his wife up against the door, put an egg on her head and shot it with his rifle. The man’s wife to be sure was scared lest a bullet should hit her but she did not confess this to her husband. Seeing the difficult position she was in, she somehow managed to get the attention of an old wise woman and told the old hag everything.
The old wise woman asked, ‘What does he say to you after he shoots?’
‘He says, “What a man I am, what a hunter I am!”‘
‘When your husband says those words to you tomorrow say this, “There are better men and better hunters than you, who go everywhere and just don’t sit at home all the time.” Thus advised the old wise woman to the troubled wife.
The next day after the husband had shot at his wife she said to him, ‘You can find and gaze upon better men and better hunters than yourself if you only set off and wandered about for some time.’
‘Ha, I’ll see if there are better men or better hunters than me or not,’ said the hunter and off he set straight away. On the way he came to a tower. In the tower lived seven Narts and their mother.
‘You welcome guests?’ shouted the hunter as he approached the tower.
The mother was baking flat bread made from corn flour and her sons weren’t home. She answered, ‘Of course we welcome guests, how could one not? But if my sons find out about your coming they will kill you. Quickly hide in the hem of my dress.’
So she hid her guest in the hem of her dress.
Soon her seven children returned home.
‘Nana, who has come to see you?’ they asked.
‘If you give your word not to kill them than I will tell you.’
After hearing their promise their mother brought the hunter out from underneath her dress.
‘This is our guest Nana?’ laughed the seven Narts who without delay began pushing the visiting hunter about from one to another.
They amused themselves with their ‘toy’ but because of their promise to their mother, they did not kill the hunter in their home, but instead decided to kill him on the road once he had finally left their home.
They left their house early and sat in a place where the visiting hunter was sure to pass by. Their mother fed the hunter and pointed out to him the way to take, advising him to leave before her sons returned. The hunter quickly saddled up on his horse and was on his way. Once the Narts had spotted him they started shooting at him.
The hunter took to his heels and on the way he came across Nart Gonchu who was ploughing the earth with eight wild boars.
‘There are seven Narts chasing after me who want to kill me! Save me!’ the hunter pleaded with Nart Gonchu.
‘Get out of here and don’t scare my wild boars. You are ruining my strip of field!’ cried Gonchu.
‘Can it be that your ploughing is more precious to you than my life? Save me!’ the hunter begged once more.
So then Gonchu put the hunter and his horse into his mouth, into a huge cavity in his mouth where a tooth once stood.
The Narts rode up and said, ‘Give us our guest!’
‘The guest who asked for my help, I will not surrender. Be on your way and don’t walk all over my field.’
‘If you don’t give us our guest then we aren’t leaving!’ said the seven Narts and went to stop the ploughing.
Gonchu yelled at his wild boars and they attacked the Narts who suddenly became afraid for their lives and ran away. Meanwhile the hunter was whiling his time away in Gonchu’s cavity and thought, ‘I must ask him how he lost such a large tooth.’
As soon as the seven Narts had run away, Gonchu took the hunter and his horse out of his mouth.
The hunter asked, ‘Tell me please, how did you lose your tooth?’
‘I’m too busy ploughing and can’t stop now to tell you about it.’
‘I can wait till evening if you will tell me,’ said the hunter.
‘Very well, in the evening I will tell you about it, until then go to the hut and wait for me,’ said Gonchu.
Gonchu ploughed till evening and then had this to tell, ‘In my family there were seven brothers and I was the most feeble of us all. We had only one sister. She was stolen by a one-eyed Nart by the name of Sargan. My seven brothers and I set out to recapture her. We climbed over seven mountains which then brought us to Sargan’s dwelling. Sargan welcomed us well enough, questioned us and started a fire in the hearth. After that he stuck a dirty old metal rod in the corner. He put it there to warm in up red hot like, and then grabbed each of us and impaled us one by one onto the hot metal rod, then he put the rod back in the corner of the hearth and went to lie down and relax.
I was the last to be impaled, at the edge of the metal rod and it’s sharp edge did not pierce my heart. When Sargan had fallen asleep, I jumped free from the metal rod and then removed my brothers from it and then again heated the metal rod up and stuck it into the only eye Sargan had left and started to run.
Waking from the pain, Sargan filled the air with a horrible scream. He grabbed a rock and threw it after me. The rock fell not very far from me but hit another rock. A few pieces from it hit me and knocked out my tooth. I buried my brothers in one tomb and not finding any trace of my sister, left the wailing Sargan, and went home.
‘But you live in the mountains and not in the plains,’ said Gonchu at the end of his story, ‘return home and live with your labor.’
*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.