On the trail of the beast: cruel tales for Armenian children
By Leyla, Day.Az
It is said that tales and legends reflect the essence of the people that created them. As a rule, tales and legends reflect the notion of good and evil and the moral laws of one or another nation. In principle, all nations should have universal notions of what is good and what is bad, but the example of Armenian storytellers makes it evident – in the literal sense of the word – that these categories were and are not necessarily given a universal meaning. As regards Armenian mythology, “my good is better, while another’s evil is worse”…
What does it mean? Here is what it means. On March 31, the Azerbaijani people mark a tragic date – Day of Azerbaijani Genocide. Our nation has been subjected to genocide more than once. It had so many losses, was betrayed so many times and was on the verge of survival so many times. But it never complained, never had its eye on something that did not belong to it, never took revenge and never bore a grudge. It simply rose to its feet and kept moving forward.
The attempts to force the Azerbaijanis out of their historic lands and exterminate them as a nation that started on the territory of present-day Armenia one hundred years ago went on in Ganja, Shamakhi, Guba, Baku, later extended to Karabakh and ended in a terrible slaughter in Khojaly that became the culmination of realization of the “great Armenian dream.” Different epochs, identical fates…Why does it happen and will it come to an end, with the evil being incurable, blind and deaf to entreaties and tears?
Armenian tales and myths will answer why. Yes, tales and myths. Where else to look for the seeds and spores, from which the big evil grows later, if not in folk stories and legends? Admittedly, Armenian storytellers have always stood out for their rich imagination and capability to take the “idea” to an unsuitable point. So, the current generation of Armenian mythologists is not original as they only continue the great forgery launched by their ancestors with far-reaching goals.
Armenian mythology is quite rich, with the pantheon of gods, deities and minor gods being almost not numerically inferior to the Greek one. A huge number of some sort of demonic creatures, demigods and all sorts of minor evil spirits bring it closer to Asian mythology. It is quite natural that since earliest times, tales and legends were passed from mouth to mouth, were spread around the world by caravans, and that is why these things are intertwined this way. Oriental motifs run all through European tales, while the legends of Oriental peoples are hard to distribute among countries and peoples since they have so many similarities.
However, Armenian tales have certain differences that can attract the attention of even a curious reader, and especially those who want to figure it out and find the answer to the question “WHY.”
Let’s start with a strange trend. You can see many bloody moments in Armenian tales. One of them is when the hero, after defeating his rival, as a rule, cuts off his rival’s nose, ears or other parts of his body and takes them away with him. Thus, the hero of the tale Azaran Blbul cuts off the noses and lips of the demons defeated by him and puts them into his bag. There is no indication as to what he did with those terrible trophies later. Maybe he carried them as a talisman or they served as evidence of his bravery… Passion for terrible trophies is characteristic of many of the heroes of Armenian tales. For instance, let us take a look at the tale Zangi and Zrangi. The hero of the narration, admittedly, of quite a strange one, orders huge dogs to swallow his sister (who nearly ate him right before that!), but “leave only one drop of blood.” Why does he need that drop of blood? Nothing is said about it. “He took a leaf with a drop of blood, put it into his bosom and went away from that place.” What a heathen, even a satanic, custom is this, observed by Armenian “epical heroes!”
A strange regularity vividly characterizing the creators of these tales is observed here. One cannot but draw parallels between the actions of heroes of tales and acts of real Armenian murderers who, as evidence of their “heroism,” take away from fields of massacre the ears and scalps of Azerbaijani children they killed.
Someone may say, however, that tales of many peoples feature cruelty. Yes, but only Armenian tales give such detailed (and knowing) description of tortures. Legend about King Tiridates is one of these cruel tales. The positive hero is “beaten with sticks, poisoned with smoke, has sulphur with salt and vinegar pushed into his nostrils, nails are driven into his shoe soles and he is made to walk, he is dragged along the ground studded with nails,” and on top of it he is “thrown into a deep ditch full of snakes.” One of the heroines of that story has her “teeth hit with a stone, then is expelled from the palace.” But that’s not the half of it. The evil king gets angry and “the next morning all the girls are subjected to terrible tortures – they are burnt with candles and cut into pieces…” And so on and so forth.
The parable Sick Lion and Donkey without Heart and Ears is one more example. It leaves a nasty taste in one’s mouth. And not only because the meanness and cunning of the fox automatically reflect the features characteristic of our neighboring country. The story in itself is quite cruel, and features eating of parts of body of the wretched donkey, in particular its heart and ears. It would not be out of place to remind you that the bloody rite of eating heart was a key one in heathen cults. It is simply a note, for no special reason…
A question emerges: should such tales be read to children? Even if the evil king is punished in the end or becomes kinder and a philosophical conclusion is drawn from the parable. The fact that these stories are published on many websites on Armenian mythology makes one suppose that they are most popular. To be honest, it is somewhat terrifying. Where is the beautiful, the kind and the eternal?... However, if one takes into account some peculiarities of Armenian character…Perhaps Armenian authors had exact reference points while creating such texts. For nice stories about fairies or beautiful princesses cannot help create the “great Armenia” and cultivate hatred for neighbors and those whose bread you eat.
About neighbors, by the way. After what happened over the past decades, it is no longer surprising that the topics of many Armenian tales and parables feature the idea of “sufferings of the Armenian people.” It is also an instrument, a tool. For example, this one: “The enemy plunders Armenia – one settlement after another. The wind brings the sound of child’s crying. The live are driven to slavery on the bodies of the dead. The death is behind. Blood and tears are ahead…” This is how the legend Making a Path begins. The tale Shah and Hawker tells how the Armenians were taken to “Persian captivity,” and from nowhere else but the territory that historically belonged to Azerbaijan. It gives a sad description of their “sufferings” and dreams to return to their “native land.” Senses and feelings intensify, “sobbing, screams…terrible moment…” Indication of geographical names outlining the border – or more exactly boundlessness– of “historical homeland,” is present in many tales and parables. For instance, don’t the names Shaki or Baki, mentioned in Azaran Blbul, remind of something?...
Armenian authors did not pass over an issue very important to the “matter” – “heavenly,” or more exactly “divine” substantiation of the claims of the Armenians to the territories that never belonged to them. Judge for yourselves. The following quote gives a clear idea about where, in the opinion of our neighbors, their Promised Land should be situated. “The Gods decided to beautify the future cradle, to make its look worthy of the Gods. Tir built mountain ridges in the north and south with his skilled hands to protect the newly born God from the winds blowing from steppes. Queen of seas Tsovinar created seas on the western and eastern borders of the cradle and decorated the cradle with lakes and rivers” (Mystery of Creation)… This is the beautiful dream described in Armenian legends, paradise to where the guides have been leading the Armenian people throughout the history, hopeful to climb the peak of mythical “Ararat.” They are constantly haunted by the laurels of the Olympians.
They regard their myths too seriously, they believe in their own tales too much. It is time to grow up at last. However hard the awakening is, it is time to understand that the “Promised Land” allegedly created by the Gods for the Armenian people “from sea to sea,” “the Armenian universe” is simply a myth. A myth created by inhabitants of dry steppes and deserts dreaming about unrealizable. It's not for nothing that sea is present in most of the Armenian tales. It's not for nothing that there are so many mentions about “expulsion” and “capture” of the Armenian people. It is done to justify, centuries later, everything to be done in order to achieve that aim. But this path is impossible to pass because it leads to nowhere. Especially, it is impossible to get there by stepping on corpses. But those who killed the Azerbaijanis in the remote 1918, those who cut off the heads of Azerbaijani children in the terrible February of 1992 wanted to achieve their aim by stepping on corpses…
They say when God wants to punish a man, he deprives him of the capability to distinguish between good and evil. But the Armenian people have not absolutely forgotten about the boundary between these notions. The Armenian tales and legends also have their own wisdom. From the Armenian parables, one can draw sensible moments, even moments prophetic, to some extent, to Armenia itself, reflecting its current acts and crimes and indicating to us that we should be alert. This, one parable wisely advises not to trust “those who are accustomed to evil – habit turns into character and draws to itself and the man becomes the son of Satan.” Another one warns that not always “the one who can speak like a human can be humane like a human.” Another wise parable is concluded with clear and prophetic words: “We all went mad in exactly the same way, we became stupid and willingly gave ourselves up to Satan who kills our souls…” The tale about the cruel King Tiridates condemns those who burnt and killed the defenseless: “Some sort of strange, unknown disease suddenly fell upon them. They started growling, biting one another, attacking people…”
…Predisposition to the evil is characteristic of not only the individuals, but also of peoples and even entire countries. Everything starts with the first seed of hatred, insatiability and ingratitude falling on fertile ground.
Arguments of greed and treachery are also compulsory. Of course, paranoia shaped as idea is something that cannot be done without. All these seeds are laid in Armenian mythology. A big evil grew luxuriantly from them centuries later, determining the present of the Armenian people that will have no rest until the cruel tales are left in the past…