One-day news arrived
To the ayïl of Kojajash.
But Kojojash didn’t get
The message which had arrived.
A letter came to his ayïl,
Someone had delivered it.
The hunter was somewhere in the wilds then,
He had no companion with him.
His people read the letter,
They had heard of him before,
Of the man named Karakojo,
But they hadn’t seen his city.
They heard what the letter said:
“He’ll throw a feast, gather people
And test the strong men,” it said.
Even though she is a woman,
This Kojo’s daughter, Zulayka,
The head of the forty maidens,
Wants to choose a man for herself.
She wants to gather all the people,
She wants to see and test
Who will suit her heart best.”
In his letter, Karakojo
Had stated many things:
  “Zulayka is my child," he said,
"I’ll inform my people," he said,
"My daughter will marry a man
Whom her heart likes," he said.
"If I sell my daughter to others
By asking cattle for kalïng[1]
It will be haram[2] in hell," he said.
Someone might please her, he hoped,
For his daughter’s sake, he sent the news
To all the cities that existed.
So what kind of a man wouldn’t go
To this girl’s city after that?
What kind of a lucky man
Will this beautiful girl meet?
When hearing the news from the girl
Karïpbay became excited.
Karïpbay said the following:
“My only 'crow-like'[3] Kojojash,
Where are you now?” He said.
“If my son would be home,
He would go with the people.
His life is spent in the mountains,
Not coming to the ayïl."
Karïpbay thought about his son,
He looked for him but didn’t find him.
Kojojash, who was in the wilderness,
Wouldn’t listen and come home.
Everyone, the aksakals[4],
The young and the old,
All of his people set off to
The city of Karakojo.
Zulayka of sheer wisdom,
If she dislikes someone
She won’t listen to the crowd.
Everyone who heard the news
All gathered, no one was left.
It was crowded and noisy
In the city of Karakojo.
Covering her face with parda,[5]
Holding that famous red apple[6]
His daughter named Zulayka
Observed those who came.
“May my daughter see from high up,” he said,
And put her on the top of the tower.
Everybody felt nervous
While passing in front of her
They hoped to marry her.
All the people who came,
Were tested, not one was left.
Shining like a new moon,
Zulayka, daughter of Kojo,
Held her gold-like body elegantly.
She couldn’t find her partner
Among the people before her.
Not even one man who came
Pleased the heart of the girl.
Among the crowd at her wedding,
She didn’t find her own partner.
“May you dry up with your daughter!” People cursed,
Those who came to the feast,
Disappointed, returned home,
  “Among the gathered people
She didn’t like even one man,
She is a cursed girl,” they said.
Those who came went away,
Putting the blame on the girl.
Mankind didn’t please her,
Everybody was upset for
No one was left who didn’t come,
People were almost gone now.
“His daughter is cursed,” they said,
The crowd thus left in chaos,
Being angry with Karakojo.
When the people were almost gone,
Zulayka asked the following:
“Is there anyone who didn’t come
To the gathering at this place?”
Then someone from the Kïtay [tribe]
Told about Kojojash:
“Yes, there is one left among us,” he said,
“He is the only son of Karïp.
He doesn’t come home for many months,
On cliffs and mountains he lives.”
Zulayka said the following:
“May that hunter come,” she said,
“I want to test him, too,” she said,
“If he doesn’t suit my pure heart,
I’ll pass away from this world,” she said.
The girl couldn’t choose anyone,
People were, too, troubled by that.
Even though she was a woman
Her words were heard by many.
Due to his hunting duties,
Kojojash also couldn’t come.
But whoever would marry the girl,
Would surely win his honor.
“She won’t waive the bride price,” they said,
“Even though she is intelligent,
She is very spoiled,” they said.
But in situations like this
No one dares to criticize.
In the evening they all gathered,
The relatives of Kojojash.
That very day came Kojojash,
And said greetings to his people.
People greeted him back and
Told him about the girl:
“Oh, hero, hunter! You didn’t go,” they said,
“Saying that your tribe is poor,” they said,
“The kalïng free bride, the free girl
Sent us the news and we went.
You, the hunter, didn’t know about it.
Now, you also should go and see
What Zulayka is up to.
Since she asked who was left out,
We told her about you.
Go no later than tomorrow,
If you like her, bring her home.
Take off your charïk[7]
And your beldik[8]from your waist.
All of us went to her wedding
Not even one stayed behind.”
Hearing his relatives’ words,
The hunter thought for a while.
After hearing about the girl,
He also had to think hard.
In the morning Kojojash
Got up early from his bed
And washed his face and hands.
He decided to go there
And prepared himself now:
“I’ll show my true self [to her]
I’ll go to her in these clothes,
Let her find out who I am.
Zulayka indeed likes someone
Who is dressed in nice clothes.
Inside my ragged clothes,
If she likes myself she’ll marry me.
Being in a lot of debts,
The poor destitute people,
Have suffered enough!”[9]
Saying thus, Kojojash
Tied his çarïk onto his feet.
“These clothes of yours are no good!”
Those who saw him all yelled.
The winged-hoofed and copper-wristed[10]
Is the horse the hunter rode,
He didn’t listen to their words.
As a proud and dignified hunter,
He set off to see Zulayka . . .
Far from her ayïl
She had two white örgöös erected.[11]
“Bring to these yurts, she said.
Those who come looking for me.”
  “I wonder when he’ll come,” she thought,
Zulayka had in her mind
The son of Karïp, the hunter.
There was a slave girl named Shabïr,
Letting her black hair loose,
Carrying two buckets of water,
She had been working outside,
With a gun on his shoulder
A man approached the yurt.
Shabïr put her buckets down and ran
When she saw the man:
“You always wished that he came
The only light [son] of Karïp,
Oh, the head of the forty girls
Zulayka, listen to my words.
Hurry up and see him yourself,
He came to the erected yurt,
Your love you longed to see.
Come on, hurry up, go, and see,
He’s the man for whom you longed
Zulayka, your groom has arrived now.”
In front of everyone,
Listen to Shabïr’s words!
Her words embarrassed Zulayka.
Then Zulayka said the following:
“You, Shabïr, are speaking nonsense!
Words said with patience are valued,
What makes you say my groom came?!
Or, had my dear father in the past
Received a kalïng from that man?
Oh, poor Shabïr, you just talk
Without thinking about what you say.
As if I had a pledged groom,
Where do you want to take me?
Resume with your buckets, my slave!
I don’t believe in your words.
As if you gave the kalïng,
How do you know my secrets?
You praise him even before he comes,
Is he really like what you said?
You’ll destroy yourself for nothing.
When had he given the bride price?
What makes you say my groom came?
Or, have I a pledged marriage?
I’ll have your tongue cut off, Shabïr!
Speaking much nonsense as words,
Don’t you dare to make me mad!
As if my pledged groom arrived,
Don’t hold me so low, Shabïr
Don’t humiliate my soul.
Oh, silly slave with messy hair,
Learn your lesson from now on,
Do you really know who I am?!
I’m not one of the forty girls
To utter nonsense easily,
I’m not in any way like you,
The slave, who serves [people].
If you like the hunter, marry him,
Your words aren’t worthy to listen.
Don’t tie me to the hunter!
You hurried off leaving your water behind
And came without being ashamed.
Don’t rush my slave, wait a moment,
We’ll find out the truth when we see [him]
As if he gave herds of cattle,
As if he gave two humped camels,
As if he gave gold and silver,
As if my vowed groom has come,
Oh, foolish Shabïr, the slave,
Don’t mock me before the people!
My father has sent the news
To so many different peoples,
'My daughter will marry without kalïng,'" he said,
"'The man whom her heart loves
And her character matches.'”
This hunter isn’t the only one,
I turned away all the people
Who came to the wedding.
To speak lightly just like that
I’m not such an easy-going person,
To tie me to anyone who comes.
These words of yours are no good.
Even if you cover him in gold.
That hunter, negligent to his own father,
Is not equal to me.
To mediate for a groom
You aren’t the one to marry me [off]
I’ll marry the man if I like,
Without taking a half a coin.
I’m Kojo’s only daughter,
Shabïr, the slave,
Your behavior isn’t right.
You seem to mock me by saying
That the hunter has arrived.
Why are you so into gossip?
You don’t act like a slave,
Like a jealous rival to me
Where did you learn this wickedness?”
Then Shabïr, the slave speaks out:
“Although you’re a young woman,
You can lead the forty maidens.
You got so angry and nervous,
You think my words are so wrong?
Even if you turn into a white swan
And fly up high to the sky,
We are still women in nature.
You aren’t better than a man
Among the many who came [to your town]
You couldn’t find a partner?
You aren’t better than a male,
These words of yours are no good.
You longed for the hunter from Kïtay
I know you had him in your mind.
'He's the groom who gave the bride price'
When have I told you that?
Since he came hearing the news,
Please have a look at him like the others.
If you don’t like him, let it be,
Or, are these words of mine bad?
He’s also someone’s only one son,
From the outside of the yurt,
Go slowly and have a look at him.
If you like him, marry him,
I can’t be a mediator.
You didn’t like any men among all humankind,
If you think that he won’t marry you,
Perhaps, he’s the Prophet's son.
You’re the master, I’m the slave,
To be able to go up to him,
Shabïr doesn’t have enough courage.
Don’t hate me, Zulayka,
Like a barely walking soul,
I was created in this world,
You aren’t the one, who made me poor,
My fate is such in this world.
Don’t strike against your slave
With all your strength, Zulayka!
I said you should go and see him,
Don’t be ashamed of my words!”
Those who watched them gossiped thus:
“Maybe she’ll hit her slave, they said,
Why is she [Shabïr] troubling herself,
By siding with the hunter? They said,
The girl for the hunter isn’t her,
He isn’t marrying Shabïr, they said.
She shouldn’t say bad words, get scolded,
Shabïr should know her own place.
Without her scarf on her unkempt head,
What does this poor one know?" They said.
"Or, is she the hunter’s sister?
By trying to tell the news [to her]
Poor Shabïr got scolded," they said.
"Did she make herself proud?
For the hunter’s sake,
She was humiliated by Zulay."
In the two örgöös that were erected,
She had promised to see him,
In order to see the hunter, Zulayka
Slowly got up from her place:
“Shabïr slave praises her poor one,
What can I say to this cursed slave?
One who collects wood and makes fire,
Now became a mediator,
I’ll have a look at him in the white örgöö,
The hunter who came from a far.
If he doesn’t suit my heart,
I’ll get back at Shabïr and grant her her punishment.”

1. Kalïng is a bridal price paid by the groom.  Here the poet sends a political message about kalïng. He was aware of the political environment of his time. Soviets outlawed the tradition of paying the kalïng and therefore, the poet had to vilify this custom, which continues to exist until today. Traditionally, in Central Asian Turkic oral epics, the bride’s father asks for a lot of kalïng which is usually paid in cattle among the nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakhs.
2. Haram (from Arabic) not clean; sin.
3. The expression “kargaday”  (crow-like) is used in the Kyrgyz text. In most contexts, it means “little” in some cases, it gives the meaning of “alone, only.”
4. Aksakal is a respectful traditional term used in Central Asia for a white-bearded elderly.
5. Parda is a kind of a head covering similar to a paranji or hijab  which Uzbek and Tajik women wore. The original meaning of the word is “curtain.”
6.Holding an apple is a common theme in many folktales of the world. However, it is less common in Central Asian epic songs.
7. arïk, shoes that are made from leather with thick soles.
8. Beldik is a belt which holds the leather case for knives and other manly tools.
9. The singer inserted a political message through these lines. He is making a point that the poor people now should enjoy their freedom “bestowed” by the Soviets and that they should no longer suffer under the rich.
10.This is the fixed epithet for his horse.
11. Örgöö is a yurt with white felt coverings. Mostly khans and tribal leaders lived in a white örgöö.

© 2004 Elmira Kmkulkz