Monthly Archives: May 2010

The beautiful Dzerasshae

Here is the following part of the saga about Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg. The story continues and the intrigue deepens.   

Aexshaertaeg arrived at the house of Donbettyr on the bottom of the sea. While the house was such a house, that it’s walls were made mother of pearl, its floor from blue glass and on the roof the morning star. In the house sat seven brothers, above them, two sisters of them, each more beautiful than the other, the hair of their head shone golden. “Peace in your home and may your morning be good,” said Aexshaertaeg when he entered. “Then may your part be good as well!” they said to him as well and they got up, the seven brothers and their two sisters, and they made Aexshaertaeg sit down; then the seven borthers sat themselves down, three of them higher than Aexshaertaeg, four of them lower.

When they had been seated for a small while, the brothers looked at Aexshaertaeg and they said to him: “Never was brought to us a guest similar to you, also never will there be brought one to us, and of course it is necessary to make you at ease, but we are in bitterness. “May god say no bitterness to you! But because of what do you grieve?” Aexshaertaeg answered them. They said to him: “We have three sisters and to their misfortune they have the habit to go the garden of the Narts. There on one tree grew a golden apple. Repeatedly it ripened by day, but repeatedly at night our sister Dzerashae stole it in this way; every time she entered in the appearance of a dove. Of course we have said to her: “Youth is spoiled on the Narts, when not a bird in the heaven dares to fly. Don’t go to the apple! But she didn’t listen to us. Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg of the Narts –may they arrive on the swords of eachother!- they protected the apple tree and wounded her.”

There on that moment he heard moaning from the room. Aexshaertaeg answered: “Whose moaning is this?” “Alas! About that we say to you, this is our sister Dzerasshae.” “And is there no medicine for her?” answered Aexshaertaeg the brothers. And they said to him: “Of course there is a medicine for her.” “ And what is that medicine?” “Her drops of blood, these are her medicine; once you would collect these and once you would blow them upon her, then she will be saved, otherwise there is no more remedy for her. “What good will you do to him, who will save her?” answered Aexshaertaeg them. We would give him our beloved sister Dzerashae. God predestined him for her.” “Then I am Aexshaertaeg, the son of Waerxaeg of the Narts, I have her drops of blood, as I brougt her down, because I hit her, I will also heal her. Go and bring her here!”

The faces of the brothers are shining with joy. There was not an end to their happiness! And they said to Aexshaertaeg: “The girl is heavily ill, and it is not possible for her to go to you, but enter the room to go to her. The boy moved next to the patient. The girl lay in bed, her golden bangs hung loose to the ground, but from her face the suns seemed to laugh and from her neck two beautiful moons looked down. And she turned to Aexshaertaeg.
Then Aexshaertaeg smiled his smile out of great joy and pulled from his girdle, because of the powers in the silk handkerchief, the drops of blood of the girl and blew them on her. The beautiful Dzerashae stood up seven times more beautiful than she was before. Nine days and nine nights took the honeymoon of Aexshaertaeg and the girl of Donbettyr. And Dzerashae and Aexshaertaeg united as one as the sun and the moon in the sky.

They lived there days and weeks, then one day Aexshaertaeg was saddened, he remembered Aexshaer- and said: “It is no longer appropriate to me to live here – it is necessary that I will find my brother and that I will go for a while to my house. Dzerashae also rejoiced: “If you have a house, than why will we not go there –to us it is no longer appropriate to sit here.
They prepared for a footjourney. And on the miracle moment Dzerashae pulled a hair from her head and they became two fat mother-of-pearl-coloured fishes and they were on their way from the bottom of the sea to the surface of the sea.

Aexshaer had hunted untill that time, build on the seashore in a dark forest a tent from the hides of wild animals and awaited his brother. Then on a day he looked and the sea brought a white helm. Aexshaer rejoiced, whilst saying, my brothers goes up, and he thought: “Come and I will leave on a hunt, and that I may kill anything then for his return.” And he went off on the hunt.

In that time Waerxaeg of the Narts began to be very sad, saying “what became of my sons, when they don’t appear to me any more from anywhere. From day to day the sorrow conquered, his bodily strength broke to him. Then to the youth of the Narts this was very pleasant, after the sons of Waerxaeg didn’t arrive anymore, because to them Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg didn’t give right and did harm upon them. And the youth of the Narts began to make fun of the old head of Waerxaeg and they took revenge upon him by making him shepherd of the Narts. Waerxaeg also from malice drove the flock of the Narts far away and poured them into the sea, by throwing them down from the tip of the cliff. A couple of days Waerxaeg didn’t go from the cattle-river to the village – his leg carried him no more because of the sorrow for his sons.

Aexshaertaeg and Dzerashae rose from the sea and saw on the seashore the tent of Aexshaer. They went to the tent. Aexshar was on the hunt, the tent was unused. When Dzerashae looked from the door of the tent, from the shining of her face was the tent so beautiful, as she said: “Until I have gotten enough of sitting in that tent, I wil not move from there!” Aexshaertaeg said to her: “In that case sit here untill that moment; I will seek my brother. And Aexshaertaeg was away searching ofr Aexshaer. On that moment Aexhaer on the other hand went to his tent. The two brother are seperated from eachother.

The apple of the Narts

I want to publish another saga I translated from the Ossetian source text.
This one is the first part of a story which is found in all the Caucasian Nart
sagas, but one can safely assume that the story and the motives in it
originated from the Indo-European Iranians in the Caucasus. The story is very
interesting to the comparative mythologist! The halfgods have a tree with
golden apples, which possess magic healing power. But alas, a thief steals one
of them every night. Of course the apples must be protected by two semi-divine
twins (cfr. the Greek dioscouroi Castor and Pollux) to let life resume it’s
normal course. The motive of the theft and the retrieval of golden apples one
also encounters in Greek and Germanic mythology. To these ancient attestations
of cultural heritage the Indo-Europeanist can add the orally transmitted
Ossetian Nart-sagas, written down in fixed form in the nineteenth century, but
reaching back to the ancient beginnings of Indo-European culture.


Нарты фæткъуы


Нартæн сæ цæхæрадоны задис иу фæткъуы бæлас; йæ дидинджытæ-иу æрттывтой
æрвыгау, æмæ йыл задис иунæг фæткъуы. Фæткъуы уыдис сыгъзæрин фæткъуы, зынгау
æрттывдтытæ калдта. Æмæ уыдис æлутоны хос адæмæн: иу адзал не здæхта фæстæмæ, уый
йеддæмæ цы хъæдгом нæ дзæбæх кодта, цы низæй нæ ирвæзын кодта, ахæм нæ уыдис.Бон изæрмæ-иу арæгъæд ис уыцы фæткъуы, æхсæв та иу æй цыдæр адавта. Æмæ
йæ хъахъхъæдтой радыгай Нарт; æмæ йæ ничи фæрæзта бахъахъхъæнын.Уæд иу бон æрзылдис Уæрхæгæн йæхи рад. Æрбасидтис йæ фырттæм, Æхсар æмæ
Æхсæртæгмæ, Уæрхæг æмæ сын загъта:— Ай уын фæндаггаг. Ацæут, мæ хуртæ, æмæ уæ цæхæрадон бахъахъхъæнут, кæннод
райсом Æртæ Нарты хæдзарæн лæгæй æрбацæудзысты æмæ уæ иуæн йæ сæр ракæндзысты, иннæмæн
— иæ цонг æмæ сæ дыууæ михыл æрсадздзысты, æмæ Æртæ Нарты ’хсæн дзæгъæлæй
баззайдзынæн, æнæ дарæгæй.Цæхæрадон уыдис саджы сыкъатæй бæрзонд æхгæд — маргъ æрбатæхæн дæр æм нæ
уыд.Лæппутæ загътой:— Ма тæрс, нæ фыд, мах ацæудзыстæм æмæ бæлас бахъахъхъæндзыстæм!Уæрхæг сын загъта:— Цæугæ бæргæ акæндзыстут, фæлæ тæрсын, фæстæмæ куы нæуал æрцæуат — куы
нæ йæ бафæразат бахъахъæнын.

 Æхсар æмæ Æхсæртæг араст сты цæхæрадонмæ; цæхæрадоны астæу диссаджы
фæткъуы бæласы бын æрбадтысты. Æхсæвæр куы бахордтой, уæд кæстæр æфсымæр —
Æхсæртæг, загъта Æхсарæн:— Æрхуысс уал, Æхсар, радыгай хъахъхъæнæм — æмбисæхсæвмæ ды бафынæй кæн,
уырдыгæй бонмæ та — æз.Æхсар сразы ис æмæ ’рхуыссыди æмæ бафынæй ис. Æмбисæхсæв фехъал ис æмæ
дзуры Æхсæртæгмæ:— Хуыцау мын æй ныббарæд — æгæр афынæй дæн. Æхсæртæг æм фæстæмæ дзуры:— Нырма æмбисæхсæв нæу, æмæ уал хуысс. Хуыссæгхъæлдзæг лæппу та
’рхуыссыд фæстæмæ æмæ та афынæй ис. Æхсæв æмæ бон кæрæдзийæ куыд хицæн кодтой, афтæ
цæхæрадонмæ ’рбатахтысты æртæ маргъы.Æхсæртæг бады, йæ фат æмæ йе ’рдын йæ къухы, афтæмæй. Кæсы, æмæ
’виппайды бæлас ныррухс и, æмæ йыл бады æртæ ’хсинæджы. Фæткъуымæ куыддæр
фæцæйæвнæлдтой, афтæ сæ Æхсæртæг фехста, æмæ атахтысты, æрмæст сæ иуæн йæ туджы
’ртæхтæ ’ркалдысты зæхмæ. Æхсæртæг райхъал кодта Æхсары æмæ йын загъта:— Æхсинæг фæцæф кодтон фæткъуы бæласыл, æмæ мын цæфæй атахти.Мæнæ кæсыс йæ туджы ’ртæхтæм! Куы фæцæф ис, уæд ныллæджыты атахтис, æмæ
мæнæн йæ тугвæдыл æнæ цæугæ нæй. Кæнæ йæ хъуамæ æрцахсон, кæнæ йæ фæдыл хъуамæ
амæлон, æндæр гæнæн мын нæй.

 Æрбамбырд кодта туджы ’ртæхты, батыхта сæ зæлдаг кæлмæрзæны.Кæлмæрзæн йæ фæснахы атъыста æмæ, куы ’рбабон ис, уæд загъта Æхсарæн:— Æз ныр цæуын сæфты мæргъты фæдыл, æмæ цы зæгъыс?Æхсар ын загъта:— Æз дæр цæуын, ды кæдæм цæуай, уырдæм. Араст сты ’фсымæртæ æмæ цæуынц
тугвæдыл, æмæ сæ уый бахаста денджызы былмæ. Уым фæд денджызы бынмæ ныххызтис..
Æхсæртæг загъта Æхсарæн:— Æз цæуын денджызы бынмæ, ды мæм ам, денджызы был, æнхъæлмæ кæс, æмæ, кæд
денджыз сырх фынк хæсса, уæд-иу нæ хæдзармæ аздæх — мæнæй дын пайда нал ис; кæд
урс фынк хæсса, уæд мæм-иу афæдзы бонмæ банхъæлмæ кæс.Хорз,— загъта Æхсар æмæ баззад денджызы был, Æхсæртæг та йæ дзауматæ
’рбатымбыл кодта æмæ ныффардæг ис денджызы бынмæ.


The Apple of the Narts


In the garden of the Narts grew an apple tree; repeatedly its flowers
shone heavenly blue and on it grew a lonely apple. The apple was a golden apple
and it poured glitterings as fire. And it was a medicine of wonderous food for
the people. Except for that it did not reverse destiny, each wound it cured, such
a disease it did not cure, did not exist. During the day in the evening
repeatedly that apple ripened quickly, but at night somebody repeatedly took it
away. And the Narts by turn protected it; and nobody was able to protect it.

Then one day came the turn to
Waerxaeg himself. He summoned his sons, Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg, and Waerxaeg
said to them: “Here to you provisions. Go out, my suns, and protect ye your
garden, otherwise in the morning three of the Narts, a man from each family,
will go out and to one of you they will cut of the head, to the other the arm
and they will put these two on a stake and among the three families of the
Narts I will remain unattended, without a provider.” The garden was high
enclosed with the antlers of deer, even a birds flight was not enough to get
in. The boys spoke: “Don’t be afraid, father of ours, we will go out and
protect the tree!” Waerxaeg said to them: “Of course you will go, but I fear
that when you will not be able to protect it, you will not come back any more.”

Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg went
off to the garden; in the middle of the garden under the apple tree the two sat
down. When they ate dinner, the youngest brother, Aexshaertaeg, said to
Aexshaer: “Lie down for a while, Aexshaer, we will protect the garden in turns.
On midnight you can fall asleep, while from the decline to the day I will
protect the garden. Aexshaer agreed, lay down and was asleep. At midnight he
woke up and said to Aexshaertaeg: “May God forgive me this! I was asleep for
too long. Aexshaertaeg replied to him: “It is not yet midnight, sleep for a
while!” And the sleepy boy lay back down and was asleep. As day and night made
eachother evenly seperate, in this way three birds flew to the garden.
Aexshaertaeg sat thus, his arrow and bow in the hand. He looked up and suddenly
the tree was shining and three birds sat in the tree. Once they started to go
to the apple, Aexshaertaeg shot thus at them and they flew off, only by one of
them drops of blood poured down to the ground.

Aexshaertaeg awoke Aexshaer
and said to him: “I wounded a dove in the apple tree and because of the wound
it flew away. Here, look up to the drops of blood! When it is wounded, it flew
low flights, and to me there is no choice but to go after it’s bloodtrack. Or
it is necessary that I catch it, or it is necessary that I die on it’s track,
to me there is no other option.” He collected the drops of blood, he wrapped
them in a silk handkerchief. He tucked the handkerchief in his girdle and, when
dawn came, he said to Aexshaer: “I go now after the track of the wounded one of
the birds and what say you? Aexshaer said to him: “I go as well there, where
you will go. The brothers went off and went after the bloodtrack, and this
brought them at the seashore, There the track crept down to the bottom of the
sea. Aexshaertaeg said to Aexshaer: “I go to the bottom of the sea, wait for me
here, on the seashore, and, when the sea brings red foam, then return to our
home. From me to you there is no more profit; when it brings white foam, wait
then until the day of the following year. “ Good,”  said Aexshaer and sat down on the seashore,
while Aexshaertaeg took under his arm his things and arrived at the bottom of
the sea.

the Narts saga’s and Indo-European

High up in the Caucasian mountains there is a small autonomous republic within the Russian state called Ossetia-Alania. The inhabitants of this country historically descended from the Alans who played a significant role in the age of migrations. The word ‘path’ in Germanic is from Iranian origin and probably came into the Germanic languages by way of the Alan peoples who moved through Europe in the fifth century. The modern descendant of Alanic is Ossetian, the language of Allano-Ossetia, spoken by 600.000 Ossetians, linguistically related to the Iranian language family and very archaic in it’s case system (9 cases). Apart from being linguistically interesting, the Ossetian peoples introduced a rich Indo-European mythology into the northern Caucasus, which was rediscovered in modern science by Georges Dumézil. Georges Dumézil studied a lot  of Caucasian languages and their myths and published an invaluable translation of the Ossetic corpus of Nart-sagas. In Ossetian mythology a race of halfgods roams the mountains, a race which is called the ‘narts’ (word is IE for ‘man’ and cognate with greek anèr) and who lived heroic lives full of ‘kleos aphthiton’ (unsterbliche Rum). As a linguist, a philologist and as a student who is preparing his exam on the Ossetian language I would like to present you with one of these saga’s. In this particular tale the birth of two important Nart heroes is related. I wil translitterate the Cyrillic alphabet (in which Ossetian is transscribed) in personal names in my own manner, which means that I will translitterate the /x/ with <x>, the /æ/ with <ae>, the glottalized consonants with <C’> and the labialized with <Cw>.

   Нартæн уæд сæ хистæр Уæрхæг уыдис.

   Уæрхæгæн  райгуырдис дыууæ лæппуйы, фаззæттæ. Иу дзы райгуырдис
фыццаг   кæркуасæны,   иннæ  та  райгуырдис   дыккаг   кæркуасæны,
Бонвæрноны скастмæ.
   Рухс  хуры  тынтæ  ныккастис  Уæрхæгмæ,  базыдта,  хъæбул  куыд
адджын  у,  уый.  Уæрхæг йæ лæппуты райгуырды боны  фарнæн  скодта
нæртон куывд сырды фыдæй. Æрхуыдта уæларвæй Куырдалæгоны, фурдæй —
Донбеттыры, Нартæй та — Борæйы æмæ æндæрты.
   Уæрхæджы   уарзон   лæппутыл   буц   нæмттæ   сæвæрдта   уæларв
Куырдалæгон:  хистæрыл  — Ахсар, кæстæрыл — Ахсæртæг.  Номæвæрæджы
лæварæн  Куырдалæгон радта Уæрхæгæн удæвдз йæ  куырдадзы  фæтыгæй,
болат  æндонæй  арæзт. Удæвдзы Нарт сæвæрдтой сæ фынгыл,  æмæ  сын
кодта диссаджы зарæг уадындз хъæлæсæй:
   «Айс æй, аназ æй Хуыцауы хæларæй,
   Айс æй, аназ æй — ронджы нуазæн!»
   Уæрхæджы  хуынд  уазджытæ иннабонæй-иннабонмæ  минас  фæкодтой,
стæй  уæд фæфардæг сты: Куырдалæгон абадтис цæхæр уады хъисыл  æмæ
ныппæррæст  ласта уæларвмæ, хæдтæхгæ Пакъуындзæйау,  Донбеттыр  та
фестадис  æргъæуон  цæхæр кæсаг æмæ ныцъыллинг  кодта  стыр  фурды
бынмæ; Нарт дæр фæфардæг сты хæтæны, стæронтау.
   Уайтагъд  айрæзтысты Ахсар æмæ Ахсæртæг: бон  рæзтысты  уылынг,
æхсæв  та  — уыдисн. Фæлæ тынг фыдуаг рацыдысты. Сарæзтой  сæхицæн
фæттæ æмæ ‘рдынтæ æмæ арвыл маргъ тæхын нæ уагътой — æрмийæ-иу  æй
   Айхъуысти  дунейыл, зæгъгæ, Нарты Уæрхæгæн рахъомыл и  хъæбатыр
фырттæ, фаззæттæ — Ахсар æмæ Ахсæртæг. Ахсар æмæ Ахсæртæг та цæмæн
хуындысты?  Уымæн,  æмæ  Ахсар,  хистæр  æфсымæр,  уыд  Ахсарджын,
Ахсæртæг та, кæстæр æфсымæр— Ахсарæй Ахсарджындæр.

Waerxaeg and his sons


The birth of Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg


Waerxaeg was in that time the oldest of the Narts. To him two boys were born, twins. One of them was born on the first cockcrow, the other on the second, at the sunrise of Venus.   The rays of the burning sun looked down on Waerxaeg and he learned this; how sweet the child is. Waerxaeg made a feast because of the glory of the day of the birth of his sons from the meat of wild animals. He invited from the heaven Kwyrdalaegon, from the sea Donbettyr, the sea god – and from the Narts Borae and others. Upon the beloved boys of Waerxaeg the heavenly Kwyrdalaegon placed caring names; upon the older one, Aexshaer, upon the younger one, Aexshaertaeg. Kwyrdalaegon gave to Waerxaeg as the gift of the godfather a magic flute from the metal of his smithy, prepared from the Bolat steel. The Narts put the magic flute upon their table and to them the flute made a song of miracle with a voice:

"Take it, drink it, to the glory of God.

Take it, drink it, the goblet filled with Rong!"

The invited guests of Waerxaeg celebrated for a weak, then after that time they went off; Kwyrdalaegon sat on a string of a fiery storm and took flight in a flash, flying as the mythical bird Pak’wyndzae, while Donbettyr turned into a sparking fish made out of mother-of-pearl and made a plunge to the bottom of the great sea; Also the Narts went off in a campaign, as cattle-thiefs.

Immediately Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg grew; during daytime they grew the span of a forefinger to the thumb, but at night the span of a whole palm. But they came out very spoiled. They made arrows and bows and a bird flying in the sky they did not leave alone – repeatedly they shot them down from the arm. 

The people heard in the world, the saying, that indeed brave sons were grown up to Waerxaeg, twins -Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg. But to what call the people them Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg? Because Aexshaer, the oldest brother, was heroic, but Aexshaertaeg, the younger brother, was more heroic than Aexshaer.


Some notes:

  • the name Donbettyr was a folk-etymological (Don means river) epithet for the Ossetian seagod based on Saint Peter (Saint Peter was venerated by the Eastern Orthodox christians in Caucasian Georgia).
  • apparently a feast with the meat of wild animals was something special.
  • Rong was an alcoholic beverage.
  • mother-of-pearl was a a much sought-after material of decoration in the lands of the Ossetians.
  • being called a cattle-thief was something honourable