Monday, October 12, 2020

Mountains of gemstones (Following folktales around the world 172. - Turkmenistan)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Turkmen Folk Tales: 
Turkmen national tales
Iqroriddin Sayfutdinov
Kindle, 2016.

I was hesitant about this book when I bought it on Kindle: the digital layout is a bit of a mess, and the text reads as if someone put the original folktales into Google Translate (possibly in Russian). With all of this said, I managed to read it (it is easy to follow if you have read folktales before), and it actually had quite a few great, entertaining and unique stories.


The favorite hero of Turkmen folktales is Yarty-Gulak, the tiny boy ("half a camel's ear"), who is also a trickster figure: he goes on adventures, gets into trouble, and especially enjoys tricking greedy rich men. His old father and mother find him in the desert and adopt him. In one story, Yarty goes into the neighbor's vineyard to eat some grapes, and accidentally manages to scare the lights out of the neighbor's family. In another, he is trapped in a clay pot that a greedy man takes from a poor potter - and he manages to trick the guy into smashing all of his own pots. In a third story he is taking three cakes to his father working the fields, and he gets into a series of adventures, including falling into a pit and being chased by a dog and a crow.
I loved the Turkmen version of the Bluebeard tale where a girl saves her two sisters. In it, a dev kidnapped three girls, and filled his palace with their tears that turned into beads. Eventually, the youngest girl managed to kill him. The story started out as a Beauty and Beast tale, by the way, with the youngest girl asking for beads as a gift, and the dev followed the father home along the trail of beads he dropped.
I enjoyed the tale of Ahmed, who wanted to be a merchant even though no one believed he could do it. He managed to gather a lot of pearls in secret, and prove people wrong. There was a dark tale about a princess whose father asked for an impossibly high bride price to keep a prince away - but the prince was so intent on marrying her that he ruined his whole family and kingdom, and sunk into crime. When he finally paid the bride prince he decided to spy on his bride - however, she mistook him for a bandit, and had him blinded by her maids. There was a similar moral to the story of the man who spoke the language of animals, and used it to sell his pets whenever they were about to die. In the end, he was about to die too, and there was no one left to help him.


There were some familiar tales in the book as well. The widow's son was a classic "three kidnapped princesses in the underworld" tale, with peris instead of princesses, divs instead of dragons, and a Simurgh bird instead of a griffin (we are close to Iran here). I especially liked that the hero didn't marry the underworld princess, instead he was adopted as her brother. In the end, when he found his bride, they flew back to the underworld on the Simurgh, and lived happily there.
There was a version of the "silent princess" tale; here the hero managed to get her to talk with the help of a golden carp. The dilemma tale embedded in this story was similar to the "woman carved from wood" stories, except here with wooden birds, which is a lot nicer.
The story of Mamed was an animal brothers-in-law tale (wolf, tiger, and lion in this case), combined with a "princess on a glass mountain" type plot. It was a neat combination.
There was once again an "ungrateful animal" story, this time with a snake locked in a box, who was tricked by a young boy to gab into the trap.
Turkmenistan is also the country where I originally got my version of Gemstone Mountain (the version I first told). This book has two versions of this tale type.

Where to next?

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