Armenian Gamprs in “Zangi Zrangi”
Armenian myths and folklore praise the unrivaled courage, strength, beauty, wisdom, candor, loyalty and noble character of the Gampr. Such high esteem secured the Gampr a place in the pantheon of Armenian deities: Aralez, the canine deity, tended to the wounds of warriors in the battlefield by licking them and brought them back to life – a truly canine behaviour… The Gampr enjoys a well-deserved and important role in the history and culture of Armenians.
Armenian Fairy Tale
A man and his wife had a boy and a girl: the boy has come of age, and the girl was still in a cradle. When the girl was only five months of age, strange things started happening in their house: when there was nobody home except the baby girl, they saw that many things were disappearing. There was no milk and matzoun (Armenian yougurt) in the pots, no bread left in the trough, and no oil in the jug, and many other things were not there. They thought that may be a burglar broke into the house, but the boy thought otherwise and kept it to himself.
Once when there was nobody home, the boy hid in a dark corner and what did he see? His baby sister got up, gulped up the food left at her side, rushed to the trough, saw that there was no bread in it but only the dough, fell upon it and wiped it up clean; then she rushed hither and thither, sniffed around, saw that there was nothing else to eat, quietly returned to her place and lied down as if she was an innocent child.
Mother went out to heat the tonir; when she returned to take the dough she saw that it was not there. The boy stepped out from his shelter, took his mother out, and told her what he saw with his own eyes.
The boy said, “You know better, you and your daughter. Do as you choose, but I cannot stay in this house any more. When she grows up, she will devour us all. She is a daemon, a dragon, and not a girl.”
Having said that, the boy left the house. He walked away a little bit, and sat down on the side of the road. He was hungry and had nothing to eat, but three dry apricots in his pocket, so he took them out and ate them and buried the stones in the ground. From these stones, there grew three apricot trees.
The name of the boy was Tatough. Tatough went to the wastelands to find a new world, but found no city and no village. Instead, he saw flock of sheep grazing in a meadow, and walked towards it. And he saw that there was no shepherd with the sheep. In the dusk, when the flock of sheep headed for their enclosure, Tatough went with them. When the sheep reached the enclosure, a man and a woman, both of them blind, came out of a cavern, milked their sheep by touch, took their daily share in a jug, crumbled some bread into it and started eating. Tatough cautiously approached the jug and started eating from it next to them. The blind did not know that they had a new companion, and although they were not fools, they did not say anything. And so it went on. And one day, the man said to his wife:
– Lo, woman, for several days, I remain hungry, the milk is the same as always, but I am not full any more.
And the woman said:
– Lo, man, I thought that you eat more than always, and that is why I stay hungry. Then both of us stay hungry. Can it so happen that there is someone else joining us for dinner?
– It is likely to be so. And there is something else I have noticed. So far, we herded the sheep home, but now they come by themselves. Perhaps, someone is herding them. You know what? When we sit down to dinner, I will cough and you immediately stretch your hand and I will do the same from the opposite side, and if there is someone sitting between us, we will see who it is.
At dinner in the evening the man and his wife got hold of our Tatough.
“Who are you?” they asked, “and why do you conceal yourself from us?”
Tatough said, “I am an alien who came to your place. Be my father and mother, and I will be your son, and I will herd your sheep and take care of you.”
“Very well,” they said, “It seems that the God has sent you to us. We did not have a child, so be our son.”
Next day, the father summoned Tatough and told him.
– Lo, son, when you take the sheep to grease, take them neither to the left and nor to the right, but take them just straight to the facing hill.
– Very well, said Tatough, but he did not take his father’s word. On the second day, he took the sheep to the leftside hill and saw a demons’ wedding. All fiends got together and were making a wedding with zurna and dhol. As they saw Tatough, they seized him and dragged him to their feast. They said, “You see, we are busy making a wedding, so you have to chop some wood for us.”
Tatough acceded and taking an axe started chopping a huge log. And as soon as he cracked the log by driving several wedges into it, he called all the fiends, “Come along, hurry up, I will show you a trick to make your wedding merrier.” All the fiends rushed forward, including the groom and the bride. “Come on, show us your trick!”
Tatough said, “Put your hands in this crack, and then I will show it to you.”
The fiends hurried to put their hands in the crack so that they could see the trick.
Tatough quickly removed the wedges and all fields started shrieking plaintively.
– Ooh, ooh, we are ruined, what has this man done? What kind of joke was it?
Tatough said, “This is just the beginning, wait until the joke starts.” “Tell me, was it you who took away my father’s and mother’s eyes, and where do you keep them?.. Until you give me their eyes back, you will not be saved.”
– Yes, yes, ouch, ouch, one fiend said, whose heart was breaking most with pain… “Here they are, under this bush, go take them and let us free.”
Tatough went and took the eyes and came back and asked them.
– I found them, but how should I put them back?
– Put the eyes in their eye-sockets and wipe them over with our bride’s veil, they will heal right away.
Tatough went and took the bride’s veil.
– And now set us free, whined the fiends.
– I could have, but who can tell that you will not take revenge and tear me to pieces? No, do not have vain hopes, there is no salvation for you, so mourn your doom.
The fiends’ wedding turned into mourning. Pleading and whining had no effect on Tatough, and what a fool he would have been if he set them free. Axe in his hands, our Tatough chopped away all their heads and cleaned the hill from the evil fiends.
In the evening, when he came home, he put the eyes of his parents in their eye-sockets, wiped them with the veil of the fiend bride, and they were immediately cured. They embraced Tatough and kissing him, did not know how to express their gratitude and their unbounded joy.
Inspired with this event, next day Tatough took the sheep to the rightside hill. As soon as he reached the top, he heard a loud howl. The sheep also heard it and retreated shivering. Tatough did not stop them, but decided to see what was the beast that was making the howl.
He followed the sound until he reached a cave where a strange beast sat howling. A lion, it was not a lion, if a tiger, it was not a tiger, if a boar, it was not a boar, but an awesome beast that looked more like a dog, but a tenfold size of it.
While Tatough, concealed behind a rock, was watching the beast, it had already noticed him.
– Lo, man, called the beast in a human voice, “I am about to bear and cannot move, come and help me and do not have fear, I will not hurt you.”
When the beast spoke in human voice, Tatough rejoiced and thought to himself, “That who speaks in human voice will have human kindness, so let me go and help her.” As soon as Tatough approached the beast, she said, “If I give birth to an even litter, I will devour you, and if to an odd litter, I will let you live.”
– You know better, said Tatough, “whatever will be, will be.”
The first cub that was born to the beast Tatough put in his shepherd sack, the same he did with the second one, and as the third came out, he saw that there were no more, and put it in front of the beast and said.
– Only this one was born, and was it worth so much groaning?
The beast was ashamed of its savageness. “Go,” she said. “I give you your life, and if you happen to bring your flock this way, you should not beware of me, I will do you no harm.”
Tatough took the newborn cubs whose eyes were still closed, and fed them with the sheep’s milk. The cubs grew up and became his most devoted dogs.
Tatough called one dog Zangi, and the other one – Zrangi. When he went somewhere, he took them with him, and when at home, he kept them on the leash.
Ten years passed or less, God knows. Tatough decided to go to his birthplace to see how his parents were doing. He told his mother and father about this decision of his, and they acceded hoping that he would be back soon. Tatough poured some milk in a plate, put it on the shelf and told his father and mother:
– Watch this milk; when you see that it changed the color and turned red or black, it means that I am in dire straits. Unleash Zangi and Zrangi so that they come and rescue me.
Tatough went and reached the three apricot trees that grew and became rather BIG trees. He sat down to rest a little bit, and then went to his birthplace.
What birthplace?.. There was no living soul, the village was straight, but there were no dwellers there. He aimed the horse straight to his house and saw his sister sitting at the hearth, and there was no one else. The sister stood up, embraced him and said:
– Welcome home, my brother, the sunshine of my eyes, where have you been, why were you so late to come back? This is what the sister said and hurried out of the house.
She saw the horse hitched, the sack on its back. She gulped up the sack, returned home and asked her brother:
– Dear brother, my soul, you came without a sack?
– Yes, answered Tatough and immediately understood that she gulped the sack.
The sister went out again, and ate one leg of the horse and came back asking:
– Dear brother, my soul, your horse came with three legs?
– Yes, answered Tatough.
The sister went out and ate away the second leg of the hose and came back asking:
– Dear brother, my soul, your horse came with two legs?…
– Yes, answered Tatough.
The sister hurried out again and ate away the third leg of the horse, came back and asked:
– Dear brother, your horse came with one leg?
– Yes, answered Tatough, whose heart started trembling: “After she devours the horse, she will eat me. What should I do, how should I escape?” he thought.
The sister went out for the fourth time, ate away the fourth leg of the horse and coming back asked:
– Dear brother, you came on foot?
– Yes, dear sister, I came on foot, and I will go on foot, but will you let me to?
– Oh, I would be blind, how can I let you go, I have gazed at the road waiting so long for you to come back and fill my heart with joy. You should be hungry, let me go and bring some bread for you to eat.
As soon as the sister went out, a cock came out from the corner of the house and said to Tatough:
– Lo, lad, your sister went to sharpen her teeth to come and eat you, you have to save your soul.
– How am I going to save my soul, I don’t know, said the lad.
The cock said, “Take your robe off, fill it with ashes and hang it beneath the ceiling, and you run away. She will come, rush to your robe, and her eyes will fill with ashes. While she cleans up her eyes, you will be gone far away.”
The lad followed the cock’s advice and escaped.
Tatough was already far away when he realised that the sister was catching up at him, and he hastened and reached the three apricot trees and climbed one of them.
The sister caught up, tried to climb the tree but could not. She started gnawing at the tree and gnawed so much that cut it clean. The cut tree fell on the second one, and the lad jumped to the top of that tree. The girl started gnawing at the second tree. She cut this one as well. Then she rushed to the third tree and started gnawing at it.
At this moment, Tatough’s father and mother looked at the milk that he had left and saw that it turned red. They immediately unleashed Zangi-Zrangi. The devoted beasts immediately took their master’s trail, followed his path and in huge leaps in a flash reached the spot where he was. The last tree was about to fall when they came. Tatough saw them and called them:
– Zangi-Zrangi, come on, eat her up so that just one drip of blood is left of her.
They devoured the girl so that just one drip of blood fell on a leaf.
As the lad descended from the tree, Zangi-Zrangi curled at his feet and whined to express their joy about deliverance of their master. Tatough patted their heads and expressed his gratefulness. Then he took the bloodstained leaf, put it in his bosom and set off.
They walked far and wide, and came across a caravan.
When the master of the caravan saw Tatough’s dogs, he liked them and thought to himself, “If these lion dogs were mine, I would have no fear of villains, if there were hundred villains (caravan robbers), these two would have taken care of them all.”
Then he turned to Tatough and said:
– Lo, lad, give these dogs to me. Ask for as many mules as you want, take them from the caravan with all their load.
– If you gave me your whole caravan, I would not exchange it for my dogs.
– Then you are richer with your two dogs than me with this huge caravan?
– It appears I am, answered Tatough, this huge caravan of yours will not save your life, and may even bring you death, since when the villains come, they will first take your life, and then your goods. My life is safe as long as I have them. If I want, I can take the whole caravan from you with their help, but I am not a villain to act this way.”
They passed a long way so talking, and then the master of the caravan said:
– Since you would not give me your dogs at any price, I will give you an easy riddle. If you guess it, then my caravan is yours, and if not, I take your dogs.
– I agree, said Tatough, give me your riddle.
– See this tumbler? If you guess of what it is made, the caravan is yours, and if you do not, then the dogs are mine.
– Very well, said Tatough, and started giving names of all the trees he knew, “corneal, pear, ash-tree,…” so he gave names of all the trees he knew, but all of them were wrong.
– Then I take the dogs, said the master of the caravan. Leash them and give them to me.
– Wait, let me think a little bit more, said Tatough, there is one tree that I know, it is on the tip of my tongue, but I cannot recall it like that, wait, I am sure it is the one.
At that point something started scratching and squeaking,
– bloody dogwood…, bloody dogwood…, the thing that was saying it was the blood drop at Tagough’s chest.
– I got it, I got it, exclaimed Tatough and grasping the tumbler, said, – It is the bloody dogwood!
– Yes, you got it, said the master of the caravan. You deserve having my caravan.
– I do not need all of your caravan, said Tatough. I am a simple shepherd, and not a tradesman. Give me one bag of clothes so that I can woo a girl for myself to marry, and this will be enough.
The master of the caravan chose the best clothes and all the jewelry and adornments that were needed for the groom, loaded it on a mule and gave to Tatough.
As Tatough drove away from the caravan, he felt something stirring in his bosom. He got his hands on it and took out a monstrous serpent. The drip of blood turned into a serpent that thrust out its head and was aiming at Tatough’s throat. Tatough shook away the serpent that was growing bigger and thicker ever moment until it turned into a dragon, and said to his dogs.
– Zangi-Zrangi, come on, eat her up, so that no drip of blood is left.
The dogs did so, and the dragon girl disappeared. Tatough reached home and brought with him the mule loaded with goods. He wooed a girl and married her.
They had their dreams fulfilled, and so would you.
Source: Gh. Aghayan, Works, Yerevan, 1979, p. 530
Translated by Christine Karapetyan