The Grey Hawk

Written down by K. Eshmambetov from Umarkul Jakiev in 1952 in the village Jylamysh, Sokuluksky region,
Kyrgyzstan.

One day a poor man decided he wanted a bird of prey. He set up some nets, tied two live
pigeons to them as bait, and hid and waited to see whether he’d get lucky. Some time went by,
and into the net fell a Grey Hawk.

The poor man rejoiced, tied up the bird, gathered the nets, put away the pigeons and went
home. In his yurt he tied a leash to the hawk’s legs and put him on a perch. The Grey Hawk
realized that he had been captured and started to plead to the poor man with the voice of a
man:

“Please set me free! I will never forget your kindness. I will be eternally grateful. Whatever
you wish, I will grant.”

“And where will I find you?”, asked the man.

“Look for me in the east. Go along the road, and whoever you ask will tell you where to find
me.

The poor man untied the bird and let him go. Several days passed. The poor man set out on
his journey. He met a herd of sheep, so many that he couldn’t count.

“Whose cattle are these?”, asked the poor man.

“This is the cattle of the Grey Hawk”, answered the shepherds.

“The Grey Hawk and I are now lifelong friends. He promised to fulfill any of my wishes.
That’s why I’m going to him. I just don’t know where to find him. And what should I ask?”

“It’s clear that you’re poor, like us, so we guess we can help you. Don’t ask for cattle, or gold,
or silver. The hawk has an old cauldron covered in soot. You can ask for that. But it’s not
your usual cauldron: put it on the ground and say ‘Black cauldron, fill up with food!’ Then
the food that you asked for will magically appear.”

The poor man thanked them and kept on his way. When he saw a big white yurt, he went
inside. There sat a man with a grey beard. It was the Grey Hawk! The man recognized his
guest, jumped up, gave him a big hug, and sat him in the place of honor. He ordered that a
tablecloth be put down and a feast be brought. For several days he fed and entertained the
poor man, and then he said:

“My friend, I wanted to become a Grey Hawk and fly in the sky, but then I fell into your net.
You pitied me and let me go. For that, you may ask of me whatever you wish.”

The poor man pretended to think, and then he asked for the blackened cauldron. The Grey
Hawk gave the poor man the pot. The poor man headed home, but on the way he grew tired
and hungry. He wanted to test out the magical cauldron. He put it on the ground and
ordered, “Hey, black cauldron, quick, boil me some fatty lamb!”

At once, a bunch of fatty lamb appeared in the cauldron. The poor man filled himself up,
hoisted the cauldron on his back and continued onward. Along the road he saw a village
where there stood a big yurt. Children were playing outside. He went up to them, put down
the cauldron and said:

“Kids, don’t touch this cauldron and whatever you do, don’t say to him, ‘Black cauldron, fill
up with food!’”

Then he went into the yurt to rest.The naughty kids didn’t listen to him, but circled the
cauldron and started to shout:

“Black cauldron, fill up with food!”

Right away, the cauldron filled up with meat. The kids ate up, hid the cauldron, and in its
place they put a different one, black and sooty just like the magic one. The poor man came
out of the yurt, didn’t notice that they had switched out his cauldron, heaved it up onto his
back and kept on down the road. He finally arrived home, and when his wife saw that her
husband had brought an old cauldron, she started to scold him.

“Your friend the Grey Hawk promised to give you anything you would ask for, and this is
what you bring me?”

The man wanted to show his wife what a magical cauldron it was. He put it on the ground
and ordered it to fill up with food, but the cauldron stayed just as empty as before. Then the
wife got even angrier, so the man headed back to the Grey Hawk, depressed. Along the way,
he met the very same shepherds and told them what happened. The shepherds felt bad for
him and gave him a different piece of advice:

“Don’t worry, go along to your friend. He has an old chest. If you open it and just say ‘Chest,
give me some cattle!’, sheep, cows, horses, and camels will suddenly appear. As long as you
don’t close the chest, they’ll keep coming out.”

The poor man thanked them and went on. At the Grey Hawk’s place he asked for the chest,
and when he was going back home, he again came to the village where the white yurt was
standing. The same naughty kids were playing out front. He put down the chest and said:

“Kids, don’t open this chest and whatever you do, don’t ask for any cattle to come out.”

Then he went into the yurt to rest. The boys didn’t listen to him, but ran around the chest,
opened it up, and demanded the cattle to come out. Out of the chest tumbled sheeps, cows,
horses, camels, and a whole herd filled the neighborhood. Then the kids closed the chest, hid
it and put a similar one in its place. The poor man came out of the yurt, didn’t notice the
change, put the chest up on his back and headed home.When he arrived and his wife saw that
her husband had brought home a shoddy wooden chest, she again began to scold him. The
man wanted to show his wife just what kind of chest he had brought, so he put it on the
ground, opened it up and commanded, “Chest, give me some cattle!”

No cattle came out of the chest at all. The wife became furious, broke up the chest and threw
it into the fire. The poor man cursed himself and went for a third time to see the Grey Hawk.
Once again he saw the shepherds and told them what happened. The shepherds thought for a
while and gave him this advice:

“Don’t worry. Go to your friend. He has a wooden hammer. Just ask for it. Although it looks
like a regular hammer, if you say, ‘Bash ‘em, hammer, bash ‘em!’, then it begins to beat to
death anybody you tell it to.”

The poor man thanked them and went on. At the White Hawk’s home, he asked for the
hammer. On the way home the poor man came to village, where the white yurt stood. The
same children were playing outside. He put down the hammer and said:

“Kids, don’t touch this hammer, and whatever you do, don’t tell it, ‘Bash ‘em, hammer, bash
‘em!’”

Then he went into the yurt to relax. Right away the naughty kids shouted all at once, “‘Bash
‘em, hammer, bash ‘em!” and the hammer started to beat everybody in sight. The kids fled in
all directions, but the hammer caught up with them, beating one, then the other, showing
mercy to no one.They ran to the yurt where the poor man was sitting and started to beg him
to stop the hammer. For this, they promised to return his magical cauldron and enchanted
chest. The poor man felt sorry for them and stopped the hammer. He put the cauldron and
chest up on his back, stashed away the hammer and headed home.

At home he immediately got a full cauldron of meat, and from the chest he requested a
bunch of cattle. When he saw that he’d made enough of a fortune, he closed the chest and
lived happily ever after.





Japalak’s Wife

From the manuscript archive of the Institute of Language and Literature, a department of the Kyrgyz SSR
Academy of Sciences.

Once upon a time there lived a poor peasant named Japalak, which means “owl” in Kyrgyz.
His wife’s beauty was without peer. Some of the khan’s horsemen saw her and said, “How did
a poor man get a wife like that? That kind of beauty should be only for the khan.”They told
the khan, and right away he wanted to see this beautiful woman.

Japalaka’s wife saw from a distance that the king was coming, and climbed up a little hill in
front of their yurt. When the khan approached, she greeted him politely, invited him into their
poor home, and gave whatever food she had. The khan ate and asked:

“Why does a swan live with an owl?”

“It means the swan really loves the owl and she doesn’t needed anybody else, even if it were a
lion!”, answered the woman.

The khan jumped up, gave the beautiful woman a kiss, went out of the yurt, sat on his horse
and sped away. After a few days, the woman asked her husband to catch a baby owl. When he
had fulfilled her request, she sewed a tomogo [A hood for birds of prey. It is taken off before
setting the bird on prey and before feeding] and put it on the young owl. To its legs she tied
cords of silk, and she fed it with meat three times a day. Some time passed, and Japalak’s wife
told her husband:

“Put the young chick on your fist and go to see the khan.”

“Are you crazy?” asked Japalak, surprised. “Is this actually a falcon or an eagle? Everybody
will laugh at me.”

His wife wouldn’t relent:

“Put the owl on your fist and go to see the khan. Go to him at nightfall. The khan will ask,
‘Oy, Japalak, what’s that bird you’ve got there on your fist? Can it actually catch anything?’
And you will answer, ‘It can catch anything it sees before it.’ The khan’s wife isn’t particularly
smart, and she’ll say ‘Don’t lie, Japalak. Come on, take off the tomogo.’ Then say, ‘It can catch
even you, your highness,’ and right after that take the tomogo off the bird. The owl will mistake
the queen’s red necklace for meat and immediately attack her. Then the queen will begin to
cry, ‘Oy, Japalak, get your bird off of me!’ and you, retrieving the bird, shall kiss her on the
cheek.”

Japalak sat on his horse, put the young owl on his fist and set off. When the khan’s horsemen
saw what kind of gift Japalak had brought the khan, they began to laugh at him. Japalak went
into the khan’s yurt.

“Oy, Japalak, what’s that bird you’ve got there on your fist?”, asked the khan.

“It’s an owl”, answered the peasant.

The khan burst out laughing and again asked, “Can it actually catch anything?”

“My khan, it can catch anything it sees before it.”

The khan’s wife sat to their side drinking tea. Calmy, she said, ‘Can we actually test it? It’s not
even an owl, but a lousy little owlet. Don’t lie, Japalak, it can’t catch anything. Go on, try to
take off its tomogo.” She sneered at the man.

“O, my beauty, it can catch even you!” said Japalak, taking the tomogo off the bird. The young
owl saw the red necklace and seized the queen by the chest.

“Japalak, quick!” she shouted, “get this bird of of me!”

Japalak, removing the bird, kissed the queen hard on both cheeks.

“Who trained this bird, Japalak?”, asked the khan.

“My wife.”

The the khan remembered how he’d been in Japalak’s yurt, and he bit his tongue. And that’s
how a poor man’s wife got revenge on the khan.





























The Ak-Shumkar

From D.P. Dementyev’s “Kyrgyz Legends About Birds,” from the sixth edition of Okhrana Prirody (Nature
Conservation) from May 1948.

“The Ak-Shumkar is a white gyrfalcon. In the national imagination it represents beauty, courage and honor.”

In the upper reaches of the river Arpa, in the land of Jaiyik, a brave, proud bird called
Ak-Shumkar had long built its nest. Many brave hunters tried to master it, but she went to
only one - the glorious hero Manas. For many years the bird lived with Manas, and they never
parted, and when there was a tragedy in Talas and Manas died, Ak-Shumkar wept bitterly over
the death of the hero and flew away to her homeland, promising to return to Talas after
twelve years with her child for Semetei, the son of Manas.

Twelve years went by. True to her promise, Ak-Shumkar returned to Talas. Semetei was at
that time in a foreign land, but when he heard that Ak-Shumkar was waiting for him in Talas,
he hurried back home. Ak-Shumkar gave him her young child, and then flew off to spend the
rest of her days in her native valley in the upper reaches of the river Arpa.

And so it has repeated every time: an old bird returns to it’s native valley to live out its days,
while the young serve the heirs of Manas and Semetei.