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The Alpamysh, part 13: Karajan’s first trial

Pamiri Kyrgyz in a match of Oğlak-Tartış (click image for more information).

As Karajan races against the Kalmaks to win the hand of Barchin for his friend Alpamysh, he undergoes a series of challenges. The first: the Kalmaks call him a betrayer of tradition for his conversion to Islam — a dreadful accusation!

The horse was covered with foamy sweat. Karajan cried out for the Saints’ help to progress for forty days.

After five days, Karajan was was running along the edge of the four hundred and ninety other horsemen. He slept for a while, then remounted Chobar.

After ten days, he made another stop: rested for a while, slept a spell, and tested his friend’s horse.

After fifteen days, he reached the fountain of Ak Bulak, where the Kalmaks were entertaining themselves. They were saying over and again, so that Karajan would hear them:

“I cried heartily in the field,
my heart is heavy with tears.
Do not leave these prosperous lands on account of a Sunni;
your bone is like ours.
[The Sunni's] mount is a carriage horse,
due to his stupidity he thinks it is a racehorse.
[The Sunni] combed his tail;
he asked directions from the elders [i.e., he is ignorant].
Go back to your land Karajan!
What good is it to be a vagabond? [i.e., to have betrayed the tribe]
We tightened the girth on the horse’s back,
but you accepted the religion of Mohammed; [i.e., they kept tradition]
there is no place for you in this race. [i.e., which is traditional]
Do not race your horse, Karajan.
Go back to your own kind.”

Baychobar thought about these words. His understanding was better than men’s, for he was a horse protected by the Saints. Upon hearing these words, he fell down as if hit by an arrow. Karajan hit him with his whip, but Baychobar did not move. Karajan became angry and lifted Baychobar by picking him up by his tail and ears. The horse’s weight was not of consequence to Karajan compared to the words weighing down his heart.

Karajan let the horse down on his four feet, then carried him again for three stages in succession. Finally, he picked up a piece of wood and hit the horse, hit it every which way. The horse neighed noisily as if saying, “Do not hit, my flesh is in pain!”

Karajan, born as a batir, mounted the horse once again, and rode for a day and a night.

Five days passed; twenty days ended. The riders reached Kok Derbend, where the horses were scheduled to turn back. White faces turned [even more] pale; Karajan’s heart was filled with sorrow…

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