Mahrtmuh hahtzoutz, “ohv eh kogh eem khugheen metch”
Keedtzahv poloruh, buzdeekuh meechev mehdz
A man inquired: who is a thief in my village?
He discovered after his survey that all the villagers from the poorest to the chief are thieves.
Mahrtmuh hahtzoutz, “ohv eh kogh eem khugheen metch”
Keedtzahv poloruh, buzdeekuh meechev mehdz
A man inquired: who is a thief in my village?
He discovered after his survey that all the villagers from the poorest to the chief are thieves.
A gracious leader attracts humble followers
who will help him prevail through every difficult struggle.
They will strive cooperatively for all to thrive.
Never asking for recognition or a bribe.
They who give now will be gifted all things; those who withhold will receive nothing.
Douhr heemah vohr vehrchuh ushsdahnahss, chee duhvoghuh vehrcuh chee uhsdahnahr
Eat fresh vegetables everyday, so doctor’s pills will stay away
Ahvehlee lahv poiyssahgehr kahn teghahgehr
A poisonous drink will not satisfy thirst
Touynohv chess hanktznehl tzahravut
Learn the value of politeness from the impolite
Pahreegeehrtoutiahn ahrzehkuh uhngeertehn sohrveh
He grew up on milk and died of liquor
Gahtohv metzahv ogheeohv mehrahv
mahrt mahrtou kahhanah,
mahrt mahrtou sadahnah
Literally one man may serve as another’s priest
and one may serve as a devil
Ouur vartabed kuhnahnah hon artouneh sadanah
(pronounce the “ouur” like “our” in your without the y)
sadanaheen bocheen dzayhruh
Once, Satan’s wife held her child in her arms and and flew through the wind and alighted on top of a wall to view the world. They saw an old farmer’s wife milking a cow with one hand and pointing the teat into a clay pot which she held with her other hand. The cow suddenly kicked the old woman. She fell over bloodied, dropped the pot, which broke and the milk spilled on the ground. The injured elder, flat on her back, began to curse the devil,
“May your children go blind, evil Satan, may your home and family be destroyed, why did you have to do this to me?”
The devil’s son began to speak to his mother after hearing the curses of the old woman.
“Mother, why are these humans so unjust. We were sitting here peacefully, not bothering anyone or anything. Why does this old woman blame us for her misfortune and curse us?”
The mother devil calmly informed her son, “Hold your peace, dear son, the woman is actually right in her condemnation. Although I am sitting here with you seemingly aloof from her suffering, the tip of my tail caused the cow to kick the woman.”
ohr muh cheh, ohr muh
Yes ajahlah kordzi kuhlugh chouneem
Ajahlah is a Turkish word for quick (and in this context it implies sloppy or mediocre). The Armenian word would be arak (or quick with the same implications as ajahlah).
During the construction of the Taj Mahal in India, an expert worker mixed the plaster that was used. The plaster was hand mixed and required the attention and care of the master worker to attain its remarkable sticking capacity.
One day a worker patiently mixed his plaster getting it ready to apply. A work foreman impatiently watched him. Being concerned about the pace of work, the foreman urged the worker to finish the mix so that it could be used. The worker continued his meticulous artisan’s labor ignoring the foreman. After many hours, the foreman came to his wits’ end and screamed at the worker to finish his mixing.
The master plasterer became so upset that he threw some of the plaster at the worker who sidestepped the projectile. The plaster hit the wall of the building. To this day, over four hundred years later the plaster that was thrown by the worker is still visible. It attests to the incredible craftsmanship of the workers that built the Taj Mahal. “Yes ajahlah kordzi kuhlugh chouneem – I don’t do quick, bad quality work.”
Patience and diligence in work gives quality results.
ahmen mahrt togh eer yughohv dahp-kuhvee- everyone fries in his own oil
The language and wisdom of common folk often has a sharp edge of stark truth that bares the soul and tears apart the temporary human flesh. Regardless of what nationality, ethnic identity, religion, social status, everyone person is the architect of their own destiny. Personal responsibility is the theme of this proverb. One cannot blame another person for the success or failure one experiences in life. It is the destiny one has carved out by the decisions and actions made in this life and previous lives. Man proposes and God disposes. We receive what we deserve. God facilitates our actions based on our desires and then rewards or punishes us accordingly. The punishment is always remedial and is meant to help us reflect on our mistakes and correct them in the future.
At all times, we are free to accept or reject God’s instructions on how to orient our desires and actions to please Him instead of our own desires. A new mother will orient her desires to protect and nurture her child instinctively. If she doesn’t she becomes reprehensible. So in the life of every person either we orient ourselves to serve God with love and attention and share that depth of conviction with others or we “fry in our own oil” of misguided and selfish desires that invariably will leave a trail of victims of our lust and greed for personal satisfaction.
eench vor puhrtehs ahmanut, ehn ehl goukah pehrahnut – what you put on your plate, will go in your mouth (literally – what you crumble on your plate will end up in your mouth)
This proverb indicates the responsibility one accrues for his own acts. The consequences of one’s own acts is an important theme in eastern and western philosophy. God endows us with the facility of limited free will. We are never independent of God, but God does not predetermine our destiny or future. What happens to us in the future is a result of our own actions either good or bad or mixed. Whatever we sow, we shall reap. (eench vor tzahnes, aiyn guh hntzehs) This is expressed with a slight variation in the Armenian proverb, puhchadzut tuhkalut bidee kah – what you blow away shall come back into your spoon.
Another Armenian proverb expresses this same point more forcefully, yehpadz ahbourut gehr heemah – You made the soup, so eat it now. The laws of nature as established by God hold us always responsible for our acts unless we are released from such implacable laws by the mercy of God.
Sometimes people work very hard and have very little to show for it. (oujegh ahskahdetz, ahnoti pohrov bargetz – he worked so hard, but went to bed on an empty stomach) This is the result of their destiny as determined by their previous acts in this life and previous lives. Whatever we sow, we shall reap. (eench vor tzahnes, aiyn guh hntzehs) Some people work hard their whole lives and are hardly able to make ends meet. Others are born with a golden spoon in their mouth and go through life enjoying opulence without working hard. Happiness and distress are predetermined by destiny or our previous acts.
Man is always subject to God’s will. God gives man codes of good behavior (10 commandments) and encourages him to follow them with the understanding that transgressions to the laws will bring consequences. Armenian proverbs point this out.
tahdastan gah kahloust, bahdasghan gah dahloust
Judgement day will come, you will be held accountable (answerable to God)
ahnmehn mahrtou ahradzuh eehr ahchehvuh gehrtah
Every man’s deeds walk in front of him
The wisdom put forward by the Armenian spirit is
muhnehr ahnohrehn, guh kudnahs yehrgnahvorehn –
Do no wrong, God will pay you before long.
Eench vor uhnehs, ahyit guh kutnehs
What action you perform, that (its result) you will find
Man is responsible for his actions in life. If he does good, he will find good, if he does bad, he will find bad. The result he gets, either good or bad, entangles him to act again and the cycle continues unending until he is fed up with self-interested activity and decides to hear about the path of liberation through unselfish acts for the unique pleasure of God.
kuhrvadzuh cahvreer, chee kuhrvadzuh yerpeck chee gahdahvreer
What is written will never be destroyed and what is not written
will never take place
There is a book of records of every person’s past deeds and future destiny. If a future event is written in the book, it cannot be erased or changed. Similarly, if a future event is not written in the book, it will not happen according to this proverb because destiny is predetermined. This is not an endorsed Christian concept. It is coming from a very ancient pre-Christian past. In Armenian folk belief there is the concept of jahgahdakeer, which means what is written on one’s forehead is destined to take place. In other words, it means that one’s destiny is written on the forehead or pre-determined. In Turkish, it is called “alin yazuhsuhn” which means what is written on your forehead will happen.
In Islamic belief, during judgment, a person’s own “book of deeds” will be shown, and the person will be apprised of every deed and every word one spoke (Qur’an 54.52-53). If given in the right hand, that Person will go to Jannah (paradise). If he gets it in his left, he’s going to Jahannam (Hell). Actions during childhood are not judged. Even minor and trivial deeds are included in the account.
There is an interesting story that illustrates this idea of “what is written on the forehead will happen.”
It is narrated by the personality of death. “There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the marketplace to buy provisions. After a short while, the servant came back to his master, white and trembling, and said, “Sir, while I was in the market-place, I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death personified. She looked at me and gave me a menacing glance. Please lend me your horse. I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. My plan is ride as quick as possible to Samarra and hide so that Death will not find me.”
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it. He dug his spurs in the horse’s shanks so that the horse galloped as fast as it could. The merchant went down to the marketplace. He noticed Death standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?”
“That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “It was only my expression of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
Similarly, there was a man in India who wanted to avoid death. The agent of death is called Yamaraj. He comes to extract the soul of man from his dying body at the moment of death so that the person can be judged according to his deeds. This man reasoned that Yamaraj is a first class brahmin (a priestly servant of God) and that brahmins never touch human or animal stools. Therefore, the man smeared his own excrement all over his body thinking that as long as his body is covered in feces, Yamaraj would not touch him for fear of violating brahminical principles.
This is an example of being over intelligent or foolish. Yamaraj is always accompanied by his assistants
called the Yamaduttas who can easily grab someone regardless of their physical condition whether clean or unclean.
douh kouh ouzahzut ouzee, dehss paghdut eench ouzee
You desire what you want, but you will see what your destiny wants (or will give you)
There is a beautiful short story written by Hovhaness Toumanian that illustrates this wisdom. The story is entitled, “The Jar of Gold.”
“I have heard from our elders, who heard from their revered fathers, who heard from their holy wise men that once upon a time there was a poor farmer who had a small plot of land and two bulls.
During a difficult winter, his two bulls died. When spring came, it was time to plant the fields but he didn’t have his oxen to plow the earth. He decided to rent his small plot to a neighbor.
When the neighbor plowed the field, his plow struck something that obstructed its forward motion. A large clay pot was unearthed and it contained a considerable amount of gold coins. The renter tied his oxen securely to a stake and ran as quick as he could to the village to his landlord.
Hey, May your eyes light up, said the renter neighbor, I unearthed a large clay pot full of gold that was buried in your farmland, come and fetch it.
No way brother, it doesn’t belong to me said the landlord. You have paid me rent money, you plowed the land, so whatever comes out of that land is yours. If gold came out of the land, so be it, it belongs to you.
The two villagers began to argue. One said, it is yours, and the other, No, it is yours. The discussion heated up and finally they came to blows. They went to the king to complain against each other.
As soon as the king heard that there was a large clay pot of gold, his eyes became wide open and he said, it is neither yours nor his. This is my kingdom, therefore the pot of gold belongs to me.
The king left with an group of his men to the field to bring back the pot of gold. They reached the field and found the pot. He ordered his men to open the lid. They were all shocked to see that the pot was not filled with gold, but with poisonous snakes.
The king became wild with fury and rushed back to the palace. He ordered the two villagers to be punished for trying to mislead him into a life threatening trap.
May the king live long, please spare us, we never meant to mislead you. Why condemn us to death. We’ll prove to you that you made a mistake of perception. There are no snakes in the pot. There is only gold, pure gold.
The king ordered his men to go back and examine the pot again. The men went and came back quickly. They swore that they saw only gold in the pot.
Oh my god, said the king, shocked and perturbed, I must not have looked carefully or I examined the wrong pot. He quickly got up and went again to the field.
He opened the pot and again saw it was full of snakes.
What kind of magic is this. I really do not understand. There is some hidden meaning to this phenomena.
The king issued a royal decree that all the most expert wise men of the kingdom come immediately to his palace from the four corners of his kingdom.
Honored sages, said the king, please explain for me what is the nature of this strange event. These two villagers found a pot of gold in their field. When I went to observe myself, I was shocked to see the pot full of poisonous snakes. When I sent my men to see a second time, they only saw it full of gold as the two villagers said. What is the meaning of this strange event.
The sages answered in a solemn tone, we can explain this extraordinary affair if you promise not to get angry with us. The pot of clay filled with gold is a blessing that was given to these two poor farmers because they have worked honestly and honorably. When they opened the pot they saw their just wages and had the right to collect the fruit of their virtuous work. But when you went, your purpose was to usurp their good fortune. Because of this ignoble attempt on your part, you saw poisonous snakes instead of precious gold.
The king was shocked into silence for a moment. He gathered his thoughts and spoke.
Very well, he said. But now you must decide which one of these villagers has the right to claim the gold treasure.
For sure, it is my landlord, said the renter.
Not at all, said the landlord emphatically. The two villagers began to quarrel like cats and dogs again.
That’s enough, said the wise men. Now tell us how many children you have and whether they are boys or girls.
One villager had a boy and the other a girl.
The wise men decided that the villagers arrange a marriage of the boy and girl and gift the new couple the pot of gold. The two villagers accepted this decision and became very happy that the wise men made such a auspicious resolution of their dispute. They stopped fighting and made preparations for the wedding.
The wedding ceremonies and joyful festivities lasted for seven days and seven nights. The pot of gold which was a blessing for the honest and virtuous work of the two villagers was given to their newly married children.
May goodness stay always with virtuous people, and misfortune teach the greedy king to change his ways.”
Hovhaness Toumanian was certainly, in my opinion, the one Armenian writer who captured the quintessence of the Armenian villagers’ virtuous and noble spirit. He was a master storyteller, poet, writer and voice of the common Armenian people.
Good deeds and attitudes of goodness are emphasized as the best standard for human behavior and worthy of God’s favorable reward. The opposite is implied. Bad deeds will engender bad results.
The Armenian wisdom goes further insisting on the merit of doing good even in the face of evil.
lahvoutioun lahvoutioun ahnmehn mahrtou pahnuneh,
vahdoutiouneen lahvoutioun, mahrt mahrtoun panuneh
Return in kind good for good, everyone can do
Return good for evil, only the exceptional man can do
God as the ultimate witness of everything we do. He will favorably look upon the humble person who acts with virtue, honesty and honor.
lahvoutioun uhreh, chouruh nehdeh, tzouguh chee dehsneh, ahstvadtz guh teedeh
Do a good deed and throw it in the water, if the fish don’t see it, God will. This proverb reassures the humble person that there is ultimate justice with God who never forsakes his sincere servant. Even though, others may ignore the good deeds one does, God never forgets such actions.
The theme of goodness engendering goodness is heard in the proverb,
lahvoutioun ahrah, chouruh tzkeer, tehmut gehlnee – do a good deed and throw it in the water, it will appear before you again. There is a value in doing good deeds for they will return to you in kind.
A favorite Armenian proverb of mine is the following
eench dahs hokout, aiyn gehrtah ahrevout – what you give (or do) for your soul, goes to your sun (meaning it benefits your life).
The sun is the source of light and sustains life in the universe by its warmth and unending life giving energy. Therefore, it is used in the Armenian folk language as a metaphor for “life.”
One who disregards God’s exhortation to do good and plots evil will end up with dire consequences.
ouhrisheen hahmar pohss pohroghuh, eenkuh metchuh geenah
Who digs a pit for another will fall into it himself
People suffer or enjoy based on the choices they make in their lives. Overindulgence is a frequent cause of unhappiness and sickness.
sahd kahtzuhr kahtzuhr guh guhllehn, ahveli tahrun tahrun guh pughtzehn – the more sweets sweets they eat, more bitter bitter they throw up. Another version of this proverb with a slight twist is kahtzuhr hahmegh ouhntounetz, tahrun touynuh hehd dvehtz – he ate delicious sweets, but vomited bitter poison.
Happiness and distress in this life are predetermined by our acts in this life and previous lives. However, our ability to surrender to the will of God is not predetermined. We are free at any moment to surrender to God and immediately the weight of our destiny will be put on hold to give us a chance to advance spiritually and gradually clean the slate of our previous deeds.
When Jesus saved the prostitute from being stoned to death, we are witness to the immediate change of destiny by the Son of God who intervenes to save her life. Then Jesus blessed her to forsake the life of sin and take up the holy life.
There are other interesting proverbs with an edge such as
eench tzangahs eenzee, ahstuhvadz tzangah kehzee – whatever you wish for me, may God wish (the same) for you.
One day Shiva and Parvati were traveling together. Parvati devi saw a poor beggar whose sight made her feel pity and compassion. She asked her husband to help the poor man. Shiva looked at the beggar and understood that he was unfortunate due to having a sinful and dishonest nature. Parvati ignored his evaluation of the man and insisted he help him. Shiva agreed but on condition that he offer the beggar a disguised treasure of great value. If the beggar was truly virtuous he would understand the value of the charitable gift and accept it for his long term benefit. Parvati agreed.
Shiva disguised himself as a brahmin priest carrying a lopsided or crooked watermelon. He mysteriously placed precious jewels in the watermelon which did not reveal any trace of being open. As Shiva walked past the beggar, the mendicant called out to him: “Have mercy! Help this poor beggar. I need money to eat.”
Shiva stopped and spoke to the beggar, “I have this watermelon. You can have it and quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger.”
The beggar scoffed at him, “I don’t need or like a watermelon. Give me some money to eat.”
Shiva left the watermelon beside the beggar and walked away.
The beggar didn’t appreciate the gift. He said, “What am I going to do with your miserable watermelon. Have you no decency. I don’t want your watermelon. Give me money.”
Shiva hurried away. The beggar looked at the watermelon derisively. He picked it up and noticed it was lopsided. He was convinced there was something wrong with it. He saw another man coming his way. He quickly began to praise the sweetness of the watermelon and offered it to the new passerby for a few coins. The passerby looked at the watermelon and thought, “I am thirsty and hungry. That watermelon will satisfy me tonight.” He offered a few coins for it and the beggar gave it to him convinced he had made a good deal getting rid of it for enough money to buy some cheap wine.
Shiva and Parvati were watching the fateful doings and were amazed at what happened.
Parvati said, “How is it possible that the beggar is so unfortunate?”
Shiva replied, “He is offensive to holy men. Generally, he is ungrateful and is not at all interested in
any spiritual understanding of the nature of life. His mind is consumed by the everyday striving for money, wine, meat, sex and a place to sleep. He is profoundly unfortunate due to his ignorance of spiritual knowledge.
The beggar, however, was convinced that he made a good deal by getting a few coins for the watermelon. From his perspective, the watermelon was lopsided and useless. His objective was to get a few coins to purchase his daily ration of wine. He also disdained the kind gesture of Shiva who left the watermelon for his benefit. The beggar’s selfish and petty desires blinded him from accepting such a precious gift that would have solved all his financial problems. Selfish desires limit one’s vision of life and prohibit the possibility of loving exchanges. Such exchanges enrich one’s life with greater benefit than any monetary ones. Having the purity of heart to accept a gift given with love and compassion is a great blessing. Giving gifts with the same spirit of love opens one’s soul to a wonderful world of sharing. Poverty is no longer a problem when one is surrounded by loving friends. And God showers His mercy on such persons whose heart’s are pure, free from lust, anger, greed, envy, madness and illusion.
There was and there wasn’t a king who wanted to distribute his wealth to the “deserving poor.” He wanted to also witness in secret how the deserving accepted his charity. He employed a baker who was a man of confidence. He asked the baker to make a loaf of bread with precious jewels mixed into the interior of the dough so as not to be seen.
When the baker opened his shop, the king observed from an adjacent room. He asked the baker to give the loaf with the jewels to the most pious person entering his shop and a regular loaf to might appear to be an impious person. Two customers came in at the same time. One was a holy man dressed in his robes and the other a nondescript man with a tattoo of a skull on his hand. The baker assumed that the holy man was pious and the the man with a skull tattoo was impious. Ha gave the loaf of bread with the jewels to the holy man and the regular loaf to the other man.
The holy man sensed that there were lumps in his loaf and he suspected that they might be lumps of uncooked wet flour. He prided himself on always getting the best value for his money. He looked at the other customer and thought that he was a person of lesser discrimination that he could manipulate for his advantage. While the baker attended to retrieving new baked loaves from his oven, the holy man smiled at the other customer and said, “Friend, I always want to help others who might be in need. This loaf that I have is bigger than the one you got. Why not exchange yours for mine and get a better value.” The second man, whose disposition was one of always accepting the generosity of others agreed. They exchanged their loaves.
The king observed this exchange. He was surprised and somewhat perplexed at what happened. He tried to justify it by concluding that fate has its mysterious ways. Perhaps, the holy man was precluded from receiving the wealth to protect him from temptation of worldliness. The king was not sure.
After the two customers left the king discussed the outcome with the baker, who defended himself by saying, “I simply followed your instruction.”
The king accepted that Fate is mysterious and cannot be comprehended by ordinary men.
The holy man was very pleased with the outcome thinking that he always was more astute in his judgment than others which resulted in his getting the best bargain.
The man with the tattoo did not realize what happened until he returned home and began to eat the loaf with his family. While eating, he and his family discovered the hidden precious jewels. He went back to the baker with the jewels and showed him what he found. The baker, who was an honest man, insisted that the customer keep the jewels for it was his destiny to get them especially since he was honest and humble.
There is an Armenian saying, ahgh ou hatz chem ghehrerr ou jahnabahr chem kuhnatzehr vor mahrtoun ahrjehkuh jahatchem – I haven’t eaten bread nor traveled on a journey with him in order to understand his true value (or character).
One needs to have experience with a person to judge their character. What better experience than traveling with or eating with a person to understand their values and character.
It is said in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) that God is in the heart of every person and from Him come knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. When a person opens their heart to acceptance of an Almighty God and humbles himself before Him, then so many wonderful opportunities become manifest. Such a humble soul can accept God’s mercy which often manifests in mysterious ways that are unexpected.
A person, however, who is atheistic and attempts to control destiny by material strategies will often make mistakes by overlooking vital details. For the faithful person, God gives the intelligence to make the right decisions in life. For the atheist, God gives partial knowledge and forgetfulness by which important decisions will often be mistaken and lead to missed opportunities. Ultimately, knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness are inspired or given by God, not by any manipulation of material
It is also said in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61) that God is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. God is present in the heart of every living being and directs their activities according to what they deserve by their previous acts and desires. The living entity gets what he deserves and is carried by the material body, which is created in the material energy under the direction of God. As soon as a living entity is placed in a particular type of body, he has to work under the spell of that body, which acts under the influence of natural forces such as goodness, passion, ignorance (lust, anger, greed, etc.). By the order of God, material nature fashions a particular type of body to a particular type of living entity so that he may work according to his past unfulfilled desires. The living entity is not independent nor is the material nature. One should never think that he is independent. God is always the Supreme Controller of living entities and nature.
Therefore, by remaining humble and respectful, we will recognize the grace of God when it manifests.
While waiting patiently, and maintaining our faith that God resides in our heart as the protector and guardian of our well being, we will be relieved of all miseries of material existence. Everything material is actually spiritual because God is the creator of all things and life. He is sitting in everyone’s heart. Once we realize the closeness of God, we should surrender to His almighty power and accept His Words as our guiding principle in life. Then, He will give us the knowledge and remembrance to come back to Him eternally. If our desires are materially oriented, then He gives partial knowledge and remembrance and at crucial times, forgetfulness so that we will miss spiritual opportunities and stay anchored in the material world of illusory pleasures, hopes and false interpretations of events. Such false interpretations keep us chained to continual reactive work with little hope of liberation.
Winter ends and spring arrives
Dead trees again come alive
So do sorrows come and go
Likewise joys, how? I don’t know
There is an unseen unknown
Behind the harsh play of fate
By which my destiny groans
It seems, I cannot negate
Yet I yearn, pray and hope
That destiny can change course
To avoid the slippery slope
Toward death, the darkest remorse
At the end of the black night
Sun’s warm glow will brightly rise
Dispersing the dreary fright
Heralding hope for the wise
Hope rests on the surety
God exists, is almighty
He can change dark destiny
By His heaven sent Mercy
kuhrvadzuh cahvreer, chee kuhrvadzuh yerpeck chee gahdahvreer
What is written will never be destroyed (or changed) and what is not written will never take place( or happen).
One can never exact taxes from the sun for passing over a country.
There is an old Armenian story about fate that explains this proverb.
There was a king who may have been or may not have been.
This king had an only child, a wonderful daughter, who he loved dearly.
One day the king addressed his vizier (or personal adviser}, “Make all necessary preparations
so that you and I can roam disguised in the pleasant pastures for two days to relax.” The vizier
arranged all the preparations. The vizier and the king dressed as merchants traveled away from the capital city
for two days and arrived in beautiful park like country spot.
After two days of enjoying the scenic pastoral sights, they began their journey back. They met a mendicant dervish.
They greeted him with respect, parev-ahsduhdzoh pareen hello, May God bless you. Then the king and the dervish had the following discussion.
“What are you doing on this path, dervish baba ( dervish father)”, said the king.
“I am a fortune telling dervish. I am foretelling the future for the travelers I encounter”, said the dervish.
“Can you tell me what my fate is”, said the king.
“Why not, my Lord”, said the dervish.
“How did you find out that I am the king.”
“God told me that you are the king of this country and traveling with you is your vizer”, said the dervish.
“Very good,” said the king, “How many children do I have?”
“One daughter, you do not have any other children, and you are a very nice person.”
“Very good, now tell me, who will marry my daughter?”, asked the king.
Your most trustworthy servant who is a black Arab! Many prominent high class youths have asked for the hand of your daughter, but you have not been impressed by any of them, because the black servant is destined to marry your daughter.”
The king stopped asking any further questions and seemed to become pensive, but without revealing his troubled mind. He politely offered a gift to the dervish, who refused and commented: “My gift will be your well being, My Lord.” God will look out for me.”
The next day when the king and his vizier returned to the palace, the king ordered his vizier to not reveal the dervish’s prophecy to anyone. The king and the vizier began to consult and plan head to head how they would find a pretext to send the black servant away for good without resorting to murdering him.
It was providential that the king could not imagine putting to death his black servant, who served him so faithfully for so many years, without having a very serious reason. Yet, he could not accept what he considered the dervish’s vile prophecy for his daughter. The king and the vizier
agreed on a plan to send the black servant on such an impossible mission that he would not be able to return alive. They devised a plan to send him to meet the sun and demand that the sun pay a tax to cross over the king’s kingdom. The king and his vizier were certain that the servant would never return from such an impossible task. The king would then be free to choose the future husband of his preference for his daughter.
The next day, the vizier called the black servant to his quarters and communicated the king’s order. The servant was ordered by the king to find the spot where and the exact time when the sun rises. The black servant was commanded to demand the sun to pay a daily tax for crossing over the sky that overlooked the king’s kingdom.
“I accept as my duty and destiny (kuhloughus vrai – which literally means in Armenian “on my head”) the order of my most esteemed king,” said the black servant.
“My son,” continued the vizier, “the king puts at your disposal the best horse available in the palace stable along with a saddle bag full of gold coins to cover your travel expenses. The king will allow you six months time to accomplish the task. However, be aware that if you fail to exact a tax for passage from the sun, the king will have you beheaded on your return.”
“My most esteemed king’s will is my duty and destiny,” repeated the servant for a second time. He immediately began to prepare himself and set out on his impossible task the next day.
He went far and wide ( shad knatz, keetch kehnatz which literally means he went far, and didn’t go far), going over mountains and through valleys, the servant finally found himself in a deserted pasture where he espied a vast troupe of wild horses who were grazing freely without (without any human supervision – the Armenian says undehr or undehragan meaning literally no master and no supervisor) without a human trainer or troupe master. The trustworthy servant was amazed by this extraordinary find but didn’t waver or slow down his gait nor did he take too much interest in the horses because he had his inalienable duty to perform for the king. He continued his journey.
He went far and didn’t go far (shad knatz, keetch kenatz), suddenly two small lakes appeared before his eyes. He saw a flock of black birds enter one lake and became all white like snow, then they entered the other lake and became black like amber.
Seeing this, the black servant said to himself, “Let me also try and test the power of these two lake waters. Perhaps my black skin can also become white.” He remembered God by saying, “In the name of the almighty God the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit,” he immersed his hands in the lake that whitened the birds. He was amazed to see that his hands became white. He pulled his horse into the water so that his legs were immersed and he saw the horse’s legs whiten like snow. Next, he took off all his clothes except his leather belt which he tightened around his waist and again praised God: “In the name of the almighty God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He completely immersed himself into the miraculous water and saw that from his feet to his head his entire body became white. Coming out of the lake, he unloosened his belt and saw that that the skin under the belt remained black. He began to smile happily and said to himself, “This is great. When I return to the palace I can prove my original identity to the king who might otherwise doubt that I am his faithful servant. Saying this, he again praised God for permitting him to change the color of his skin. He now continued his journey.
His went little and he went far, he espied a very large mountain in the distance. “That must be the place from which the sun rises,” he thought to himself. Again he praised God for permitting him to find his journey’s goal. He came to the base of the mountain and started to ride up it. He rode
up the mountain on his horse until the approach of night and saw a small hut. He heard a voice speaking to him, “Son of man, come here.” He approached the direction of the voice and found a blind man in the hut. After saying hello, the blind man asked him, “Why have you come to this place?” The king’s servant answered his query by explaining his mission which was to exact a tax from the sun.
“Very good,” said the blind man, “It is good you found me.” “This is indeed the place from which the sun rises on its journey everyday. I will now explain to you the only way by which you can speak to the sun. On the summit of this mountain is a vast cliff with a hole-like cave. That hole is the only refuge from which those who desire to converse with the sun can protect themselves from the scorching rays of the sun when it rises up. Very early in the morning before the sunrise, you must find that hole and wait there until the sun rises and ascend the heavens enough for its burning rays to lessen their intensity. Only at that time can you exit from your safe haven and call out loudly to the sun to hear you. If you don’t do as I say you will burn and turn to ashes because the sun’s rays at that time are so intense that they nearly turn everything into molten lava. Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir,” said the servant.
“Go now and take rest. When the time comes for you to wake up, I will call you. But wait a minute, I also have a wish to beg from you. When you speak with the sun, ask him why he blinded my eyes. Beg the sun to heal my eyes, please.”
“Very well, I promise,” said the servant.
“Then good night, rest yourself. I will call you to awaken at the right time.”
Very early the next morning before sunrise, the blind man wakened the servant, who began his climb to the summit. He reached the cliff and found the cave which he entered. He could feel the heat of the approaching sun increase in intensity. Squeezed into the tight cave, he waited patiently until the mighty sun rose up into the heavens. He gradually felt the intense heat of the sun diminish enough that he would not burn to death. He climbed out of the cave and stood up on the cliff and began to call out loudly.
“My lord sun, my king has sent me to collect from you the right of passage tax.”
The sun answered.
“My son, go and tell your king, “what is written can never be destroyed, and what is not written can never be accomplished,
therefore, you can never collect a right of passage tax from the sun.”
The helpless servant reiterated his request. The sun repeated his response.
The servant repeated his request a third time and added, “If I return without collecting the right of passage tax from you, my most noble king will sever my head off.
The sun repeated his response again for the third time and advised him, ” You return and tell the king what I have said. He cannot harm you be cause his entire kingdom and wealth will be inherited by you, my dear boy.”
Being encouraged by the sun’s authoritative and explicit statement, the servant said:
“Therefore, I have two more requests of you: First, during my journey here I encountered a seemingly unlimited number of wild horses in a vast pasture, please tell me who owns those horses.”
The sun answered, “When you reach those horses on your return journey, rope one of those valuable wild horses and tie him to your horse. All the other wild horses will follow the roped horse and will make the journey with you back to the kingdom.”
“My second request is on behalf of a blind man living in a small hut on one side of this mountain who begs you to confer on him a medicinal cure for his blindness, Oh Lord sun.”
“Yes, I know, ” said the sun. “On awakening every morning from his bed that shameless man faces me and relieves his body’s wastes. For that reason I have punished him by blinding his eyes. If he can discipline himself to stop disrespecting me in such a disgusting manner, then quickly I will heal his blindness and end his suffering.”
“I thank you very much, My Lord Sun.”
“May you go in peace and experience only goodness, my son.”
Returning to the blind man, the servant explained the cause of his blindness and the promise of the sun to heal him if he stops his shameless behavior toward the sun. The blind man came to his senses and promised by falling on his knees to beg forgiveness and from that moment on
to act most respectfully in the presence of the sun.
Without losing a second the servant jumped back on his horse and prompted the animal to gallop at full speed toward the kingdom. On reaching the vast pasture where the unlimited number of valuable horses were grazing, the servant descended from his horse. Following the advice of the sun, the boy roped one of the wild horses and tied him to his horse. He mounted his horse and proceeded on his journey. All the herd of wild horses followed him.
While the servant journeys back, let us return to the palace of the king.
Five months had passed since the king sent his servant on the impossible mission. The king and his vizier were confident that the servant would not return. The many noble and princely suitors who vied to win the hand of the king’s daughter were delayed in their attempts because the king , as are all noble rulers, felt bound by the spoken prophecy (of the dervish) to wait until the end of the six month period he set for his loyal servant to return.
With only three days remaining until the end of the six month period, the king and his vizier decided to mount as watchmen on the palace roof and carefully observe the direction the servant had departed toward (and from where he would most probably return). On the last day of the designated period, before noon, the king noticed a dust like cloud rising from the distant fog. He offered his binoculars to his vizier and said: “Vizier, I am observing a dust cloud rising up to the sky in the direction from where the servant should return. You take a look and verify you see the same thing too.” With undivided attention the vizier methodically examined the cloud of dust and noticed the cause of the dust was a vast herd of horses that were fast approaching the palace. The vizier said: “My dear King, I see a large number of horses with only one lone horseman.” The king took back the binoculars and verified the vizier’s observation. He looked at the vizier and said: ‘Vizier, the horseman does not seem to be a ordinary person. He is probably a man of noble birth or a prince. He will probably want to stay as a guest in our palace. We must welcome him in a fitting manner.”
The vizier immediately summoned an experienced horseman mounted on a fast horse and dispatched him as a messenger to find out the identity of the vast horse herd’s master. He asked the messenger to report back from where the herdsman has come, where he plans to travel next and why he has come to his noble king’s country.
The messenger quickly approached the lone horseman and received the following answers to the king’s questions. The lone horseman said that he was proceeding directly to the king’s palace. He wanted to personally explain to the king his identity and purpose.
On returning to the palace, the messenger related the answer (to the questions of the vizier) of the person who was directing the vast herd of horses (fast approaching the palace). Quickly the vizier organized a welcome party of military horsemen to greet the honored guest at main entrance of the royal city and escort him respectfully to the palace.
The vast number of horses that were following the lone horseman were barely sheltered in all the stables of the palace and throughout the royal city. The horse that the honored guest was riding was quartered in the private and exclusive stable reserved only for the noble king’s precious horses.
Without losing a second the honored guest who was in reality the loyal servant of the king was directed into the reception hall of the palace that was reserved for kings, princes and emperors. A large number of servants began to cater to the personal needs of the honored guest. Meanwhile, the king and his vizier met privately to determine how to broach the question of the stranger’s identity. The king’s stable chamberlain approached and motioned to the vizier to speak privately. He began to whisper into the ear of the vizier about what he considered extraordinary things he witnessed. He explained that the honored guest horse appeared to be the same horse that was given to the king’s loyal servant, but with one difference: the horse’s hooves were very beautiful and his legs from the thighs upward were black and below the knees white. The horse also seemed to be very familiar with the palace’s surroundings and the horse was able to find the king’s stables without any guidance and entered his original stable.
The king was insistent to know what the chamberlain reported. The vizier related what he heard and both he and the king were amazed. They were, however, rushed and turned their attention again to determining what timing would be appropriate to ask their guest to explain his identity. They decided to ask him after his dinner.
The mysterious guest had some light refreshment alone. He was impatient and reflected that he was a man facing death because he returned to his noble king without having secured the right of passage tax from the sun as he promised the king. He thought that when he presented to the king the gift of the horses, it could also prompt the king to ask him to reveal his identity. The revelation of his identity could make his destiny worse because the king could order his execution immediately without hearing his explanations or his apologies. The loyal servant was not sure what to do. He became resigned to accept his fate.
When dinner time arrived, the king, the vizier and the honored guest sat together with the palace guests and dined. After dinner, they went to the royal reception hall where the king addressed the honored guest with respect and royal protocol. “You are our honored guest. We humbly request you to stay in the royal palace as long as you desire or as long as your schedule permits you. It is appropriate that we become well acquainted with each other. Can you please explain about yourself and the purpose of your visit.”
The guest was anticipating the king’s question, yet he was still somewhat distressed by it. He masked his alarm and requested that only the king and his vizier hear about his identity.
All the other guests left the royal assembly hall. When the three were alone, the loyal servant prostrated himself before the noble king and embraced his feet and spoke the following:
“I am the worthless black servant of my noble king and am destined to be executed because I was not able to satisfy the order of my noble king.
I was not able to exact a right of passage tax from the sun. However, I beg you to allow me to explain my story. I know very well that my head will be severed for not satisfying your order, but I did not want to run away from my fate. I could have easily run away and enjoyed the incredible wealth accrued by owning the vast herd of wild horses that I could have taken to a foreign country and sought shelter there. I chose rather to be executed by my own king than live under the protection of an unknown king. The loyal servant then began his narration about how he encountered the enormous herd of horses grazing in the wild without any master or herdsman. He told how he was not interested in them and continued his journey. He next related his discovery of the contiguous small lakes in which he witnessed how small birds were transformed in color from black to white by entering one lake and black again by entering the other lake. He tested the lake water by immersing his hands first and then the feet of his horse. Seeing the transformation of color, he immersed his whole body after tying a tight belt around his waist so that he could prove that he was indeed the same person whose body changed from black to white. He then asked permission to take off his shirt and show the king and the vizier the part of his waist that was still his original black color.
The king and the vizier looked at each other and with facial expressions and raising of their eyebrows they signaled each other while they listened and gradually their countenances revealed their utter stupefaction resulting from the servant’s narration. They did not interrupt the servant’s recounting of his adventures.
The loyal servant explained how after changing the color of his skin he continued his journey. Next, he encountered the blind man who made him promise to ask the sun why he was blinded. The blind man instructed the servant how to avoid being burned by the sun’s scorching rays. Finally,
he retold the conversation he had with the sun and how he demanded the sun to pay a tax and how he repeated it. The sun repeatedly refused to comply and stated authoritatively,” What is written can never be destroyed (or changed), what is not written can never be accomplished, and a tax on the sun’s passage can never be collected.”
The loyal servant deftly cut short his narration to not reveal his complaint to the sun that if he returned empty handed his king would cut off his head. The sun answered in such a way as to give the servant hope. The sun said, “You return my son and tell the king what I have spoken. The king cannot dare to harm you because his entire kingdom and wealth will be inherited by you. ” He left out this part of his narration.
He continued by explaining the sun’s revelation why he blinded old man and his instructions how the old man could see again by stopping his evacuation facing the sun. The sun also revealed to the servant how he would become the master of the herd of wild horses. The sun said, “Those horses belong to you my son.” Remembering the words of the sun, the loyal servant asked the king innocently, “My noble Lord, I clearly understand the sun’s final words, “a tax on the sun’s passage can never be collected.” “However, my Lord, I don’t understand why the sun said, ‘What is written can never be destroyed (or changed), what is not written can never be accomplished.’” “What did the sun mean by those words?”
At that moment the king made a sign with his eyes and eyebrows to the vizier who began to explain in detail the old dervish’s prophecy. He continued by relating what he and the king discussed as to how they would remove the loyal servant from the palace by sending him on an impossible mission from which he would never return and make the prophecy void.
The king cut short the vizier’s narration. He addressed his loyal servant with the following words: “My dear loyal and most faithful servant you will soon be my son in law and rightful hereditary of my kingdom and wealth. The sun’s words will come to pass and the dervish’s prophecy will become reality for my daughter will become as fated your bride. It was predestined that she has not become attracted to any of the other suitors until now because “what is not written can never be accomplished.” Therefore, it did not happen. But, you were “written” and thus you will succeed to my throne.”
The king announced a royal decree to all his subjects in all the corners of his kingdom that destiny had ordained his only daughter will be married to his most faithful black servant whose skin has become snow white and he has become the darling of his dearest daughter.
For forty days and forty nights the royal wedding was feted by the tens of thousands of the king’s subjects who came from the four corners of his kingdom. They all ate, drank and danced to their heart’s content to celebrate the marriage of the king’s only daughter to his most loyal black servant.
They all attained their most cherished wishes and may you also achieve your cherished wishes.