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.
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 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.
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.