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.

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2 responses to “The apple of the Narts

  1. P.A. Kerkhof

    Dear Munin,

    I did read the story (although I am not really specialized in Old Irish and reading Old Irish texts takes me a long time) and I was also struck by the ressemblance. There are some good studies which go into the specifics of the parallel. I was quite charmed by Jarich G. Oosten’s book “The war of the Gods; the social code in Indo-European mythology” in which he tries to reconstruct the motives and the anthropological structures in the myth of the golden apples. The thing that intrigues me is how to account for the ressemblances. In the case of the Ossetic sagas we may have to consider the possibility that the migrations of the early middle ages, the high medieval invasion of the Magyars and the beginning of the European participation in the Silk route from the thirteenth century onwards could have transported mythical motives and stories from Europe to the Caucasus.

    greetz,

    Peter Alexander

  2. Nice website! Dumézil’s works got me interested in comparative mythology and the Nart saga.

    This Nart text you published reminds me of an Irish tale which involves three birds stealing healing golden apples. I don’t know if you’re aware of it. I don’t know if it has been compared to the Nart story, I just thought of this myself. Perhaps you’ve read about it?

    The irish text is called “Oidheadh Chloinne Tuireann” in which the “god” Lugh forces three brothers (sons of Tuireann) to go on quests to find seemingly impossible-to-get objects (this was compared to the Labours of Hercules). The first objects they must get are three golden apples from a kingdom of Greece, guarded preciously because they heal and can be eaten indefinitely. The three brothers manage to steal the apples by transforming into falcons above the guards and flying off with them.

    It just struck me that a comparison can be made of this. If you’re interested you can read the Irish legend on the URL I posted as “my website” (obviously, not truly my site 😉 ).

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