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Yistir (Kalmyk fairytales)

Once upon a time there lived an old man with an old woman; they had nine sons and the youngest son was Yistir. He was a famous hunter.

One day the old man with the old woman set off, looking for brides for their sons. They went for a long time and came across a lonely white house and entered it. As they entered it, they saw eight very beautiful girls. They said what they had been looking for, spoke to them, joined their conversation and exacted a promise from the girls to marry their sons and left.

The old man and the old woman called their eight sons, brought the girls along and made a great party. Soon a yellow-speckled snake crawled to them. The eldest brother had known the language of snakes since the time when a snake's saliva had dropped into his mouth. The snake said:

Now I am going back. After you have finished your celebration, send your youngest brother to me. Or I will send mischief to all of you, he said.

The eldest brother told his younger ones what the snake had said and added:

My dear younger brothers, all of us love our youngest brother. So we must not lose him. Lets go to the snake together, protect him and die for him. We must not send him alone to the snake: although he is brave, shrewd, clever and wise as a hunter, it is dangerous for him to let him go alone.

Yistir said:

No, you must not compete against the snake: the snake is strong, venomous, wise and angry. And many men as strong as we were victims of the snake; they were afraid of his strength and surrendered to him. So it is a useless deed to resist and oppose the snake. All of you stay here! I will go alone by his will. I will escape from captivity and avoid being tortured by him anyway; I will get away from him. Help me as you did before, and I will back you up too; I will not let you down either; I will respect you wherever I am. I will sacrifice my life for you. I have no way to show how much I am grateful for you than die, the hunter Yistir said and started on his way.

He went for so long that he seemed to go for all eternity. He came across a big den. As he entered it, he saw a handsome man sitting. The man asked:

Are you the very man who was told to come?


Yes, I am, he said.

The man led Yistir along the lair. He brought him to the snake. The snake lay curled up and flat. The snake said to Yistir:

Bring me the beautiful daughter of the khan who is famous with his wealth. If you do not bring her, I will destroy you wherever you are, even in the sky or under the ground. If you do the task, ask me for what you want!

Yistir asked for a horse and went on horseback toward the great palace of the famous khan. He rode for so many days and nights that he lost the track of time. While he was on his way, he met a man sucking herbs. Yistir asked:

Poor man, why are you sucking the herbs? he said.

No, I am not a poor man; On the contrary, I am a happy man. I heard that Yistir, the youngest one of the nine brothers, should bring the khans daughter to the snake; I am doing this to help Yistir, the man said.

I am the very same Yistir you have spoken of! Yistir said.

They went farther together. While they were on their way, they met a man filling his mouth with two oceans.

What a poor man you are! they said.

I heard that Yistir, the youngest one of the nine brothers, should bring the khans daughter to the snake; I am doing this to help him, the man who fills his mouth with the two oceans said.

I am the very same Yistir! Come along, he said and they went toward the palace of the khan.

There was a great party at the khans; a great competition was held: he had been choosing a bridegroom for his daughter.

The competition included the following: a mixed heap of seventy kinds of mowed herbs was there, seventy years had passed and they had changed. One should put them separately in according with their kinds and tell their names. Yistirs helper, the man who sucks herbs, tasted the herbs, separated them according to their kinds and told their names. Yistir won the competition and went together with his helpers and the khans daughter. The khan, the girls father, regretted giving his daughter and blocked Yistirs way by making a great fire with a blazing flame. Yistirs helper, the man who fills his mouth with water, let it out of his mouth and extinguished the fire.

They were on their way and saw a red fox running. Yistir caught up with the fox on his horse and at the moment when he was about to kill her with his whip, the fox grinned and arched her back, asking him not to kill her:

Is a good piece of advice or a palm-sized skin better for you? Save my life, leave me alive; I will give you the best piece of advice! she said. Yistir:

What would I do with your palm-sized skin? Give me the best piece of advice! he said. The she-fox:

Leave the khans daughter for yourself, dress me in beautiful clothes and bring me to the snake instead of her. Ask the snake for the golden chest: his life is in it, she said.

The vixen turned into a beautiful girl. Yistir dressed her in gorgeous silky clothes and brought her to the snake. The snake was glad:

Yistir, you have done a good deed for me; what will you take? he said. Following the she-foxs advice, Yistir answered:

Give me your golden chest! he said. The snake laughed in his face and wept behind his back and gave him his golden chest. Yistir took the chest, went out, opened it and killed the essence of the snakes life. The snake died.

The girl turned back into a vixen, thanked Yistir and ran away to the steppe. Many thousands of people captured by the snake went out of the cave, weeping and laughing. They blessed Yistir and went their ways. Yistir, who had killed the serpent, married the khans beautiful daughter, suggested to his helpers that all of them should be brothers to one another, they swore it to each other, and he came back home to his father and mother and his eight elder brothers, and lived in great happiness.



Translated from Kalmyk into English by Danara Balayeva-Kokayeva

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