Saturday, April 4, 2015

D is for the Daredevils of Sassoun (Epics from A to Z)

Daredevils of Sassoun is the English title of the national epic of Armenia. As far as titles go, it is pretty badass, and also a genius translation: The heroes of this story are not simply strong and bold, but also slightly cracked in the head - and everybody likes them that way.

Origins
The epic takes place sometime between the 8th and 10th centuries AD. It lived in the oral tradition before it was collected from many different storytellers and written down in the late 19th century. The English translation, written by an Armenian poet, attempts to piece all the existing fragments together into one coherent story, and if you ask me, succeeds with flying colors.
The geographical center of the epic is Sassoun (now in modern day Turkey), the glorious city of the heroes of Armenia. It looks something like this today:

The Heroes
The epic follows four generations of one family of heroes - The twins Sanasar and Balthasar, Sanasar's son Meherr, Meherr's son David, and David's son Little Meherr. All of them are mostly known for their physical strength and prowess, and also for their daredevil attitudes of running headlong into trouble, and trying to solve every problem by repeatedly bashing it with a mace.
But all of this would make for a pretty boring read if it wasn't for the supporting cast of the epic: The wives - all of them warrior women in their own right, like the Chinese matriarch Golden-hair-of-Forty-Braids and her sister the Blue Bandit, or the Persian Khandout Khatoun, who had been married once before David, but she kinda accidentally broke her husband, and also gives David a bloody nose the first time he tries to fondle her out of wedlock. Another delightful character is Uncle Ohan, the Thunder-voiced, who looks after three generations of heroes by being the much needed (and epicly loud) voice of caution and reason.

The Highlights
Too many to count. Some of my favorites:
1. Everyone always drinks pomegranate wine. That's something I could get behind.
2. There is a hero called Batman's Sword in this epic, and he could definitely go for the title of "most accidentally badass name in history." (Batman is a river, by the way)
3. This line: "After his arm was broken in seven places, the prince made a half-hearted attempt to embrace Meherr."
4. The moment when the loving people of Sassoun describe their young defender David thus: "The son of a bitch is crazy."
5. The time when young David works as a goatherd, except has no idea what goats are, so he herds all the wild animals of the mountains back to the city, complaining that they are not very good goats, and they bite. It kind of reminded me of the worst cat in the world.
6. Barav, a widow that used to be Meherr's lover, and takes David under her wings when no one else does. She is smart, sassy, and manages to reign in the boy that cannot control his own strength. Despite her standing as an ex-mistress of the previous king, she is constantly there when important things are happening, and gives good advice, becoming a beloved mother figure for the motherless hero.
7. The narrative high point of the epic is definitely David coming into his own strength and inheritance. It is a scene of celebration, blessings, and him finally finding his place and purpose in the world. It was epic, in all the senses of the word.

36 comments:

  1. This seriously sounds liek fun. Sound slike there will be quiet some laugh... in a positive way, I mean :-)

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  2. LOL - this sounds like a brilliant romp! There's always something compelling about heroes who have a screw loose when it comes to their personal safety! David working as a goat herd made me laugh out loud!
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

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  3. Oh, I definitely like my heroes a little cracked! Both in the head and the heart... :D this one sounds like serious fun

    Best,
    Nilanjana
    from Madly-in-Verse

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  4. "most accidentally badass name in history." LOL! I love the sound of this. "The son of a bitch is crazy." ROTFLOL - now that's what you want in a hero :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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  5. Thunder-Voiced - I know many people who should have that as a nickname. The women are neat - it's an epic I could get behind and do a joint telling...OH and 'they aren't good goats, they bite." Cracked me right up! -- Jeri

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    1. It cracked me right up too when I was reading the book :D

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  6. Your highlights make me want to dive into this epic. I loved David and his "goat"-herding. Very funny! And I didn't know Batman was a river. I bet many folks don't know that one. Sounds like a fabulous read. Thanks for spotlighting it for us.
    Michele at Angels Bark

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  7. That bit about David's goat-herding skills is funny.
    Best part is knowing it's the woman that give this story its strength… that's smile worthy.

    Enjoy the A to Z Challenge. I'll be back for more.

    Jenny, Pearson Report
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador
    @PearsonReport

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  8. We all need an Uncle Ohan in our crazy families! We lived in Yalova, Turkey when Dad was in the Air Force back in the 60's - can't wait to share your enticing summary with the family! I've never been remotely interested in epics before but thank goodness a storyteller has brought them alive - thank you! Looking forward to future posts!

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    1. That is so good to hear - I love introducing people to stories I like! :)

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  9. Another great post! I'm loving these.

    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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  10. Another great post! I'm loving these.

    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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  11. Slightly cracked in the head heroes are the best!

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  12. Sounds like a great Lark!! The women clearly balance the drama! Thank you.

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  13. I love how modern this story sounds -- it's practically one long tumblr post. :)

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  14. I think I would be most drawn to Barav. She sounds like a delight. Thanks for sharing an epic I'd never heard of.

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  15. Cracked in the head, sounds fun. And I really think beating something with a mace is an effective way to deal with it. Plus I'd like to know how Khandout Khatoun broke her husband.

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  16. I love that there are strong women in this one. But I'm also sad to learn Batman is a river cuz that name diminished in coolness for me.

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    1. I did my best to find a lot of strong women in epics to show that not all of them are about dudes killing each other. There will be some fun ones later on :)

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  17. Great post! Now I have yet another book on my over long list of things to read! Love your A-to-Z posts! Keep on posting.

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  18. I like badass stories. And cracked in the head heroes. ;)

    -Chrys Fey
    Tremp’s Troops - A to Z Co-co-host
    Write with Fey

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  19. The Daredevils do sound interesting :) how fat is the book? always a concern with me :P. Enjoying the challenge. Modhukori :)

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  20. I'm v interested in this golden haired Chinese lady with cornrows.... I knew the Chinese invented just about everything but didn't have peroxide hair bleach on the list.... Live and learn....

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    1. Yeah, I wondered about that too. Then again there were Central Asian ethnic groups that were known to be blonde, she didn't necessarily have to be Han Chinese...

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  21. That is a good tale with heroic men needing the guidance of strong women. And generations are fun.

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  22. I've been a passionate Armenophile for just about 20 years now, so I'd love to read this. The Armenians are such a beautiful, strong, proud, spiritual, creative, loving people.

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  23. Pomegranate wine sounds so exotic!! and the part about david not knowing what goats are, is so cute too! sounds like an interesting epic...about finding your strengths and living your dreams!

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  24. Okay, the broken arm comment made this an instant add to the TBR. Love it! :D

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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  25. Great post! "The son of a bitch is crazy." - sounds promising to me!
    Charlotte @My Green Nook

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  26. This sounds very promising!

    Jean, back from the Grand Tour and visiting for the A-Z Challenge from <a href="http://jeanschara.com/randr" target=">Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer</a> Number 209 on the A-Z List.

    Jean Schara
    Blackbirds First Flight (Quin)
    Blackbirds Second Flight (Glaring Upheaval and Fluffy Malone)

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  27. Yes, I like, amazing shepherd all wild animals, very funny !!!

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  28. I think I would love pomegranate wine! Sounds like a fascinating tale!

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  29. David sounds awesome. I love him herding up all the animals and being all "WTF?!" haha.

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  30. Wow! This sounds almost like a slapstick comedy. I seriously need to read some of these.

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  31. I love your highlights of this epic. Batman's Sword and Golden-hair-of-Forty-Braids. This story sounds amazing.

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