Legends and Songs of the Nart Epos

 

Amjad Jaimoukha

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My great sabre is as fearsome as a crazed hound,

Streaming crimson blood down its twosome fangs.

 

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The Story of Lhepschs Iron Tongs

 

In the beginning Lhepsch (the patron of the smiths and the smithy) was not a blacksmith to use iron tongs yet. He used his bare hands to manipulate the red-hot iron. One morning, while his wife was driving the herd of cattle, she found a dead snake lying on the road, its two ends crossing one another.

Lhepschs wife came back and told him:

I came across a dead snake with its head and tail crossing each other. If you could make a pair of tongs in that shape to hold the iron, you will be able to work it without singeing your hands.

 

Lhepsch went out and had a look. He came back and fashioned pincers in that form. Thenceforward, he began to utilize them in his work. This was how tongs were invented. Afterwards they started to be manufactured. Lhepsch was not the sort of blacksmith to let anyone look up his sleeve (he was loath to let people in on his tricks). He guarded his secrets well. He always kept his smithy locked while he worked inside. However, after they looked inside his shrine, he gave up his craft, as the magic was gone.

 


 

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Sosriqwe Fetches Fire

 

(This is the story of how Nart Sosriqwe, the chief protagonist of the Epos, outwitted the One-eyed Giant to get away with stealing a fire-brand from his bleak tower to light a fire for the Nart horsemen who had been caught in a devilish blizzard)

 

Swarthy Sosriqwe,

The iron-eyed darksome man,

Most intrepid knight.

 

The Nart horsemen were riding for plunder.

Sosriqwe lingered behind.

A Satanic blizzard beat down on our heroes

For seven days and seven nights.

 

Yimis; Sosim; Zchindu-zchache; Areq-shu;

Wezirmej; Nisren-zchache;

Ashemez, Son of Ashe; Baterez, son of Ximisch;

Sibil-shiy; Toteresh, son of Albech;

Can any of you light a fire?

 

None of our brave-hearts had a fire.

Their Mothers Darlings lamented:

We are such fools,

To leave on a raid without Sosriqwe.

 

As they were thus bewailing,

Sosriqwe arrived.

Our Gilded Offspring,

Our Lustrous Progeny,

If you have a fire, kindle it for us.

 

I surely have.

Sosriqwe made a huge fire;

The whole army stampeded;

Enraged, Sosriqwe scattered the fire,

And flung it into the river.

 

Swarthy Sosriqwe,

Our Golden Issue,

The best of our best,

We beseech you.

 

I swear by Waschxwe, my Mentor,

That I no longer have fire,

Yet I will fetch it for you.

 

He jumped on his Txwe-zchey, [=name of Sosriqwes steed (literally: Little Dun)]

Tore up Hereme Hill and looked around.

He espied smoke issuing from

An old tumulous tower.

He dismounted and crept thither.

It was the Giants abode.

The Monster lay ring-like in a deep slumber:

His feet tucked under his head,

The fire in the middle.

 

Sosriqwe went back,

And consulted his steed:

My Txwe-zchey,

The fleetest of them all.

This is the Giants mound,

His feet are tucked under his head,

The fire in the middle.

The Ogre is sleeping.

Tell me, pray, how to steal a brand?

 

Swarthy Sosriqwe,

The iron-eyed darksome man,

Most dashing horseman.

 

Ride on my back;

I will turn the clatter of my hooves

Into the rude tread of a hound;

As we get nearer to the slumbering Giant

I will make my steps as soft as those

Of a gentle feline;

We will sneak up,

And you will snatch a fire-brand.

 

Sosriqwe mounted his Dun,

Stole up to the tower

And seized a brand.

 

They galloped for seven days and seven nights;

The fire-brand slipped from his hand, and,

Carried by the wind,

Landed on the Giants knee.

 

The Giant started from his slumber;

He reckoned his brands:

One was missing.

I will immolate the vile brigand

On my fathers altar, thundered the Ogre.

 

Without leaving his post,

He groped for the robber along the Seven Roads,

And caught him that had been galloping

For seven days and seven nights.

 

Young Nart,

Nart horseman,

I shall devour you whole,

If you fail to tell me where Sosriqwe is.

 

I have never met this fiend,

But I know of his exploits.

 

Spare thyself and shew me of his ploys.

 

With pleasure, said our wily hero,

Seizing on his chance.

 

Sosriqwe led the Giant on.

Sosriqwe stands at the foot of Mount Qapschiqay;

The Abra Stone*º is rolled down;

He knocks it with his brow,

And sends it back up faster than it came down.

 

I am game.

 

Sosriqwe ran up the mountain;

He let down the Abra Stone;

The Giant butted the Stone

Sending it up fast up the precipice.

The Giant cowered slightly.

 

This is a glorious game.

It has soothed my itchy brow.

If you know a better one, teach it to me.

 

Sosriqwe cursed the Heavens

For not divining the Giants demise.

 

I will shew you a more wonderful one.

 

He led the Giant further on.

Sosriqwe sits on his knees;

His wide-open mouth is filled with arrows;

He bites off the steel arrow-heads,

Swallows them and spits out the shafts.

 

The Giant dropped down to his knees.

He gaped his mouth.

Sosriqwe crammed it full of arrows.

The Giant snipped off the arrow-heads,

Gulped them down and spewed out the shafts.

 

Young Nart,

Nart horseman,

This is such a splendid game.

It has slaked the itch in my mouth.

If you know of a better one, teach it to me.

 

Sosriqwe damned Providence

For not divining the Giants ruin.

 

Sosriqwe opens his mouth wide.

A sharp red-hot ploughshare

Is thrown into his innards;

He cools it down in his stomach,

And casts it out from his behind.

 

Sosriqwe white-heated the ploughshare,

And tossed it into the Giants gaping jaws.

The Giant cooled it in his belly,

And flung it out.

 

Young Nart,

Nart horseman,

This is quite a marvelous game.

It has relieved my itching paunch.

Shew me a more daring one.

 

Sosriqwe imprecated fate

For not divining the Giants bane.

 

Hold on, Colossal One.

There is still one more to be played:

Sosriqwe is taken across the Seven Gulfs;

In the very deepest one,

He is placed such that his feet

Are just above the sea-floor,

His mouth barely above the water;

The gulf is then caused to freeze

For seven days and seven nights.

He adroitly wriggles out of the icy waters.

 

Sosriqwe froze the water around the Giant.

 

Now, extricate thyself.

 

As the ice began to crack:

Stay put, Giant.

It would do your muscles a world of good,

If the ice is made even harder.

 

Sosriqwe made sure that this time

The ice was rock-solid.

 

Try now.

 

Try as I might, I dont seem to be able

To get myself out of this one.

 

Sosriqwe unbared his sword,

And flew at the Giant.

 

Huff, the Giant blew Sosriqwe

The distance of a whole mornings gallop.

Sosriqwe returned swiftly, sword in hand.

As he made to cut the hapless Ogres head,

The Giant sobbed:

I must have been a complete fool

For failing to identify you, Sosriqwe, by your human knees*¹.

 

Sosriqwe beheaded the Giant,

And brought back a fire-brand.

 

The Nart warriors were huddled together for warmth,

Some had perished from the cold,

Some from the heat.

 

For the few survivors,

Sosriqwe kindled a huge blaze.

 

Reanimated, they continued on their expedition,

And made good spoil.

 

They were safely led back home by Sosriqwe.

 

*0 A stone of enormous size and immense weight.

*1 Sosriqwe had a body of steel. However, because he was held by a pair of tongs from his knees while he was being tempered by Lhepsch, the god of the smiths, they were rendered human-like.

 

 


More Nart tales

 

 

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