From the book "My Mother's Tales"
Many brave and courageous men have lived in this world, my dears, and now I'm
going to tell you about one of them. Even though his name is not written down
in any book, everyone speaks about his courage and heroism. Anyone who has
heard of his exploits will never forget them. Nor can I forget them. Every
time I hear about him, "the tears dry up in my eyes" [Azeri expression].
You're not supposed to cry over such a brave man, but rather pray for him
They say that this story took place at the
time when Timur the Lame [In English Timur is often referred to as Tamerlane,
who was born in 1336 near Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and died 1405 in Chimkent,
Kazakhstan. Tamerlane was a cruel Turkic conqueror of the region].
- Timur the Lame was
destroying the land and killing many of the people near Shirvan. In those
times, the Shirvan region was ruled by a very wise king. He was able to
persuade Timur the Lame not to attack [Azeri expression, meaning that he
offered gifts to get his own way].
- Even if the people
of the Shirvan region lost all of their possessions, at least the King was
able to save the Motherland from being destroyed. Wise old men ["the
white-bearded ones"] and wise old women ["the old women with white sideburns"]
offered the king advice.
- It was during those
years that a shepherd's son was keeping watch over his herd of sheep on the
plains of Kudru. He had heard that Timur the Lame was somewhere in that
region. He had heard it from the caravans that had passed, or perhaps even
from peddlers and goods sellers. So even though he had not seen Timur, he had
heard of him.
- The plain of Kudru.
Springtime. At that time, the grass is very high there, taller than one's
knees. The shepherd was very young; you might even have called him a child.
His father had recently passed away. Now he was taking on the responsibility
of shepherding and taking care of his family-that is, his mother and sister.
- And now, dear, let
me tell you about Timur the Lame. By then, his troops had reached the plain of
Kudru. I don't know if this story is true, but they say that some of his
troops had lost their way in the endless desert. Timur the Lame himself was
among them. They wanted to go and join up with the rest of their troops, which
were resting somewhere. But they were very thirsty. The sun was blazing hot
and their horses were panting from thirst. The animals were panting so much
and the people were sweating so much that their clothes and the saddlecloths
had become salty with sweat.
- They started to
imagine a murmuring river, a babbling spring or a wave-swept lake. But all of
these were mirages. There was no river or spring or lake on the Kudru plains.
There were only small pools. In the summer pastures, the waters of the rain
and snow left over from winter gathered in these pools. Both people and sheep
would drink from those pools.
- Timur the Lame's
troops didn't come across any of these pools, and the ones that they came upon
were all dried up. Finally, when the troops were very tired, they came upon
the shepherd boy with his herd of sheep. Timur the Lame told his people: "I
bet this boy knows where water is. Where would he water his sheep if he didn't
know? Go and ask him."
- One of the horsemen
went up to the boy and asked: "Hey, boy, is there anyplace nearby where we can
water our horses?"
- The boy looked up
at the horseman and then started poking the ground with his stick. He replied:
"Where could there be any water around here? There is no river, no lake and no
- Just then, Timur
the Lame arrived with his men. When he heard the boy's answer, he said: "Then
where do you water your sheep?"
- The boy didn't
reply. Timur the Lame asked again:
"Didn't you hear what I said? Where do you water your sheep?"
- The boy pointed to
one of the dry pools with the end of his stick: "Over there in the pools..."
- "Don't lie to me,
shepherd, there is no water in the pools. They have all long since dried up."
- The boy thought to
himself: "Everything dries out wherever you appear." Then he answered: "But
the spring where I water my sheep is very small. It wouldn't be large enough
for your troops."
- The ruler flew into
"That doesn't concern you, shepherd. Tell me where the water is! I'll give you
gifts. I'll give you money - whatever you want..."
- The boy replied
again, poking the ground with his stick: "I don't need any money. And I won't
tell you where the spring is. Or you will dry it out, too."
- "Do you know who I
- "Of course, I
- "Then who am I?"
- "Timur the Lame..."
- "Do you know that I
can have you hanged? That I can make you food for dogs? I can have you cut
into very small pieces. Do you know that?"
- The boy looked
straight into Timur the Lame's eyes and said: "I know."
- All of Timur the
Lame's men and troop leaders were astounded at the boy's courage. Could a
child be so brave?
- "Boy, show me where
the spring is, don't make me angry!"
- "The water is as
holy as the land, your Majesty. One isn't supposed to show it to strangers. I
wouldn't do anything dishonest."
- "This will cost you
very dear, shepherd. I feel so sorry for you because you are so young."
- "Don't pity me. Let
me be the one who is afraid. I'm the one who will have to pay with my own
- "Cut out his
tongue... No, don't cut out his tongue. Then he won't be able to tell us where
the water is. Beat him! Beat him until he tells us where the water is!"
- Two of Timur's men
stepped forward and started beating the boy. The blows struck, like a snake,
hitting the boy on his head, eyes, shoulders and back. But still the boy would
not speak. He was as silent as a stone. He didn't utter a word. Timur servants
kept hitting the child. At last they stopped, seeing that they couldn't get a
word out of the boy, who was now covered in his own blood.
- "Bastard! It's as
if he is a body of stone rather than flesh."
- Suddenly, Timur the
Lame's eyes caught those of the little shepherd. He froze in astonishment. He
raised the boy's shirt. Timur's people held their breath in astonishment: the
shepherd boy had turned into stone. They looked around and saw that the boy's
sheep had also turned into stone.
- Timur the Lame's
men became scared. They quickly mounted their horses, as if they had seen the
devil himself, and galloped away out of that mysterious, strange land. Since
those times, you can see sheep made of stone and other stone monuments
everywhere in those lands. They say that the shepherd boy's courage spread
everywhere throughout the villages, hamlets and even graveyards. It spread
everywhere so that everybody could see what brave sons this land had. May this
country always be the Motherland of brave men.
- Translation from
Azeri: Gulnar Aydamirova