The sparrow that lays golden eggs

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The sparrow that lays golden eggs

Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman who served a khan *; they had two sons.

They were poor and fed on bozo *, which they used to take from the khan.

Once the boys ran playing together and found a grey sparrow at the foot of a hill. They took it home and put it into their chest. The next morning they opened the chest: the sparrow had laid a lot of golden eggs. They took the gold and put the sparrow back and locked it in.

The old man with the old woman made their living out of selling the gold.

The khan came to the old man:

Why have you stopped taking bozo and food from us? he said. The old man said:

Our chest is full of gold. We have found the sparrow, which lays golden eggs.

Give all the gold to me! Boil the sparrow for me! the khan ordered and left.

The old man laughed in his face and wept behind his back *, and took his gold to the khan. Having stroked and caressed the sparrow, the old woman boiled it in a boiler, crying for it. The boys ran in from outside while she was boiling the sparrow. One of the boys opened the chest - the sparrow was not there; the other boy raised the boilers lid - the sparrow was boiled.

Mother, mother, what have you done? Why have you boiled my sparrow? My poor, poor sparrow! the boys cried.

My poor boys, we have received the cruel order from the khan and I could not do otherwise than boil it, their mother said.

They were sorry for their sparrow and cried much; there was nothing they could do, and the elder brother ate the head of the sparrow, the younger one ate the right wing of the sparrow. It turned out that anyone who ate the head of the sparrow would become a khan to govern the country, and anyone who ate the wing of the sparrow would belch gold.

The boys ate up and went away.

Soon the khan came and wanted to eat the sparrow. He looked into the boiler.

Where are the head that makes a khan of anyone and the wing that causes anyone to belch gold, old woman? he said.

I do not know, the old woman said.

The khan killed the old man and the old woman and went, looking for the boys. The boys learnt that the khan was looking for them and hid under the skirt of the khans washerwoman. The khan looked for the boys for a long time but could not find them.

Night fell; the washerwoman of the khan gave them big ball-shaped butter * and two strings of curd cakes * and handed canes to both of them:

It is dangerous for you to be here; the khan will kill you if he finds you.

The boys went and went on till dawn came. They went, calling to each other so as not to lose one another.

They covered a long distance, stopped at the foot of a hill and fell asleep at dawn. They slept for a long time, and when they awoke, they saw three heroes on the top of the hill. They noticed the boys too. They came down the hill and said:

We have been going by the khans order and carrying three magic things to him. One of us has found a sharp steel sword, which delivers anyone to any place that he wants by a stroke of his hand; the second one has found a black magic cap, which makes anyone invisible to people by putting it on; and the third one has found a yellow fleecy carpet, which is filled with all viands and fruits by spreading it out. Which of the three magic things will the khan like more than the others? Which of us will the khan thank more than the others? they asked to judge them.

The boys said:

Run to the poplar that you see in the distance and run back, competing. The one who finishes running first will gain the khans favour, they said.

The heroes started running, competing with each other. The boys took the black magic cap, the yellow fleecy carpet and took out the sharp steel sword: the boys found themselves in a very far land with mountains, water and thick grass. They landed near a straw house. As they entered the house, they saw an old man and an old woman like their parents had been. The elder brother became a khan of the country; the younger one became a son of the old man and the old woman. The country acquired a clever, wise khan and became rich in gold and money and three magic things and lived happily.



Bozo * - the name of sediment of a beverage called arza *. Kalmyks made a beverage of koumiss (fermented mares milk); it was called arza. They took two boilers of cast iron with a slightly arched long wooden tube between the boilers, which was inserted into their holes, and poured three to four pails of koumiss into that boiler, which was bigger than the second one; it was above a trivet * - a big, three - cornered boiler; the second boiler was empty and was in a trough with cool water. A fire was made in a trivet with kizyak * - cow pats dried in the sun. The boilers were covered with their lids so as not to access air, and people boiled the milk in the first boiler, keeping it above a trivet for an hour and half or two hours, and the mares milk was distilled from one boiler into the other boiler through the tube; drops of condensed steam penetrated into the empty boiler through the tube and then three to four bottles of a transparent beverage resulted. It was a strong beverage and could make one drunk; if one wanted to make the beverage stronger, he should boil it for longer - it became stronger, but its volume was less, and on the contrary, if one wanted to make it softer, he should boil it less and its volume was more. The sediment in the first boiler had a white colour, and its volume was much more than that of the beverage. It was called bozo.

To laugh in somebodys face and weep behind somebodys back * - the expression indicates the character of Kalmyk people: keeping in their feelings, not showing their despair, fear or other bad feelings because to express them was an unseemly and undignified manner of behaviour.

A khan * - a Kalmyk king.

Big ball-shaped butter * - Kalmyks made butter of cows milk and only in the shape of a big ball.

A string of curd cakes * - Kalmyks made flat cakes of dried curds and strung them.


Translated from Kalmyk into English by Danara Balayeva-Kokayeva

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