by Aziza Jafarzade (December 29, 1921 - September 4, 2003)
From the book "My Mother's Tales"
Baku: Ganjlik, 1982
Great stories for kids!
Left: Stone monument resembling ram figures. 19th century. Kalbajar region in Azerbaijan
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 well up in my eyes". You're not supposed to cry over such a brave man, but rather pray for him instead.
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 ones 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 did find 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 any place 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 spring."
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 a rage: "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 am?"
"Of course, I know."
"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 life"
"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 they 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
Editor: Betty Blair
Webmaster: Aynura Huseinova
Launched on AZERI.org: February 2003
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