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Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop [1894], at


Ghvthisavari (I am of God)

THERE was once a king, who had a daughter so beautiful, that he was in constant fear lest some one should carry her away by force and marry her. So he had a huge tower built in the sea. He shut his daughter up in this tower, with an attendant, and felt relieved.

Some time passed, when one day the attendant noticed something floating on the water. She was surprised when she saw that it was a large apple. She stretched out her dress, and the sea waves rolled in and left the apple in her skirt; she took it in her hand, and ran to her mistress. The beautiful maiden had never in her life seen such a big apple, and was very much astonished. After dinner she peeled it, gave the skin to her companion, who quickly finished it, and ate the inside herself.

In a short time they both became pregnant. The king was informed of this. On hearing the news, he pressed his head between his hands, and could not contain his wrath.

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[paragraph continues] He commanded one of his huntsmen, saying: 'Go to the tower in the sea, take thence my daughter and her companion, and carry them to the wildest and most desert spot in my kingdom. Kill them, and bring me their hearts and livers to show me that they are dead. No one must know this story, save thee and me; if it becomes known it shall cost thee thy life.'

The huntsman went to the tower, and declared the king's orders to the princess and her companion. The beautiful maiden said: 'What will it avail thee to kill us? Take us to a lonely place, and no one will know whether we are dead or alive.'

The huntsman was not moved by these entreaties; he took them to a desert place, drew his dagger and was about to strike the fatal blow, but at the last moment he felt sorry for them, and gave up his intention. He caught two hares, killed them instead of the women, took out their hearts and livers, and returned with them to the king. The king believed them to be the hearts and livers of the princess and her attendant; he gave the huntsman gifts, and sent him away.

The princess and her companion were left alone in the wild wood, and they had nothing to eat and drink.

In a short time the princess brought forth a beautiful boy, and the attendant, eight tiny little dogs. The princess called her son Ghvthisavari (I am of God). He grew as much in a day as other children grow in a year; he became so handsome, brave, and strong, that everybody loved him.

Ghvthisavari used to go out hunting; he took his dogs with him, and provided game for his mother and her companion.

Once he went into a town to a smith, and asked him to

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make a bow and arrows. The smith made from nine litras of iron (a litra = 9 lbs.) a bow and arrows. Ghvthisavari bent it. Then the smith added more iron, and made the bow again. Ghvthisavari slung his arrows over his shoulders, his dogs followed him, and he went away. On the way he hunted, and took food home to his mother.

The next day he went to hunt again. He shot an arrow and killed a goat, he shot another, and killed a stag; he drew his bow a third time, and his arrow stuck in a devis' house. In this house there were five brothers, devis--one two-headed, one three-headed, one five-headed, one nine-headed, and one ten-headed----and their mother, who had only one head. They saw an arrow suddenly fall down and stick in the fire. They all jumped up and pulled the arrow to draw it out, but they were not able to move it. The mother helped them, but it was of no use. Then all the brothers rose up, they left their mother to watch, and set out to seek him who had shot the arrow. Ghvthisavari bethought himself, and set out he followed the flight of the arrow to see where it had fallen.

He went on and on until he came to the devis' house. He looked in and saw in the middle a fire burning, in which stuck his arrow. He went in, and was about to draw the arrow out when the devis' mother cried: 'Who art thou, wretch, who darest to venture here? Art thou not afraid that I shall eat thee?' 'Thou shalt not eat me,' said Ghvthisavari, drawing out his arrow and hurling it at the old woman. He cut her into a hundred pieces, gave her to the dogs, and told them to throw her into the sea. He lay down in the devis' house and rested.

The devis wandered far and wide in their search, but nowhere could they learn any tidings of him they sought.

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[paragraph continues] Then they said: 'Perhaps some one will enter our house and steal, while we are here. Let one of us go home, and the rest watch here.' Each wished to go, and promised to run back again as quickly as possible. But the devis chose the two-headed brother, and sent him.

The two-headed brother came, and saw that his mother was no longer there, but in her place was a strange youth. He clapped him on the shoulder, and cried out: 'Who art thou, wretch, who darest to venture here? For fear of me, bird cannot fly under heaven, nor can ant crawl on earth. Art thou not afraid that I shall eat thee?' 'Thou shalt not eat me,' said Ghvthisavari, throwing an arrow. He cut him into a hundred pieces, gave him to the dogs, and made them throw him into the sea.

The four remaining devis waited for their two-headed brother, but he did not come. They thought that perhaps he was staying eating him who had shot the arrow, so they sent the three-headed brother.

The three-headed devi came home, and found neither his mother nor brother, and called out: 'For fear of me bird cannot fly in air, nor can ant creep on earth. Who art thou who darest to venture here? Art thou not afraid that I shall eat thee?' 'Thou shalt not eat me,' said Ghvthisavari, casting an arrow. He cut him into a hundred pieces, gave him to the dogs, and made them throw him into the sea.

The remaining brothers waited and waited, and then sent the five-headed devi. He too boasted, but Ghvthisavari did unto him that day even as he had done unto the others. Then the nine-headed devi went. The same thing befell him as his brothers.

The ten-headed devi was now the only one left. He

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thought to himself: 'My brothers are probably eating, and will not leave anything for me.' He rose and went too.

He went in and saw that his mother and brothers were not there. Instead, there was a strange youth, lying down resting. The devi called out: 'From fear of me the bird in heaven dare not fly, on earth the ant dare not crawl. Who art thou who darest to venture here? Art thou not afraid that I shall eat thee?' Thou shalt not eat me,' said Ghvthisavari, throwing an arrow and killing him. He drew out his sword, cut off his heads, and gave him to the dogs to throw into the sea.

Ghvthisavari was left master of the field. Then he said to himself: 'I will go and bring my mother and her companion here, and I shall live as I like.' He went forth and brought them, settled them in the house, and prepared for the chase.

From the sea there staggered forth the last ten-headed devi, and hid under a tree. When Ghvthisavari had cut off his heads, in his haste he had left the tenth on. Now, it was in this head that the soul was placed, so the devi came out on to the shore, full of wrath.

The next day Ghvthisavari again went out hunting. His mother, wishing to see the surroundings, went out of the house into the garden. As she walked about, the devi suddenly appeared at the foot of a tree. The devi pleaded, saying: 'Do not give me up! Do not tell thy son that I am hidden here!' Ghvthisavari's mother promised, and when Ghvthisavari went out to the chase, his mother always took food and drink to the devi. And at last she loved him.

Once the devi said to her: 'Why should we live thus?

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[paragraph continues] We see each other only in secret, I am continually in terror of thy son. Go home now, lie down in bed and pretend to be ill. When thy son comes home and asks thee what is the matter, say to him: "Go to such and such a place and bring me some pieces of stag's horns as a remedy." When thy son goes to the stag, it will butt him with its horns, and then thou and I shall remain here alone.'

The woman agreed to this plan, went in and lay down in her bed. Ghvthisavari came home, and seeing his mother sick, he said to her: 'What is the matter? Tell me what will cure thee, and I will find it, even if it be bird's milk.' 1 His mother said: 'If thou canst bring to me a piece of such and such a stag's horn, from a certain place, I shall be well; if not, I shall die.' Ghvthisavari slung his bow and arrows over his shoulders, took his dogs and set out.

When he had gone some way, he came to an immense wide plain, where he saw a stag feeding. It had such large horns that they reached to heaven.

He sat down and took an arrow. Just as he was about to let it fly, the stag made a sign, and cried out: 'Ghvthisavari! Ghvthisavari! why shoot me? What have I done to deserve this of thee? Dost thou not know that thy mother has deceived thee. She seeks thy ruin, therefore has she sent thee hither. Behold, here is a piece of my horn, take it, and here is one of my hairs, take it with thee also, and when thou art in trouble, think of me, and I shall be there.' Ghvthisavari thanked the stag joyfully, and went away.

He went home with the stag's horn to his mother. She took it, and thanked him.

The next day Ghvthisavari again went to the chase.

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[paragraph continues] His mother immediately hastened to the devi and said: 'Ghvthisavari has returned unharmed, and has brought the stag's horn.' 'Well,' said the devi, pretend to be ill as before, and tell him that he must bring a wild boar's bristle from such and such a place, else there is no cure for thee.'

The woman ran in, lay down in bed, and began to moan. Ghvthisavari returned, and seeing his mother ill, he asked her: 'What is this, mother? What aileth thee? Tell me what will cure thee, and even bird's milk I will not leave unfound.' 'If thou wilt seek in such and such a place, and bring me a bristle from a certain wild boar, then all will be well, but if not, I shall die.' 'May thy Ghvthisavari die if he find not this!' said Ghvthisavari, slinging his bow and arrows on his shoulders, and taking his dogs, he set forth on the quest.

He went a long way, and came into a wood. There he found a boar's lair, but boar was there none. He went on a little, and saw another lair, but again there was no boar in it. He went away once more, and saw the boar itself. It had changed its lair twice, and now lay in a third. Ghvthisavari approached it, took aim with an arrow, but, as he was about to let it fly, the boar cried out: 'Ghvthisavari! Ghvthisavari! what have I done to harm thee? Why kill me? Dost thou not know that thy mother has deceived thee? She wishes for thy death, therefore has she sent thee hither. But since thou wouldst like a bristle, pull out as many as thou wishest, and take them with thee.' Ghvthisavari came up, took a bristle, and was going away, when the boar took out a hair, gave it to him, and said: 'Here is also a hair for thee; when thou art in trouble remember me, and I shall come to thee.' Ghvthisavari took the hair, thanked the boar, and went away.

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He came home, gave his mother the bristle, and again hastened out to the chase. His mother ran immediately to the devi, and said complainingly: 'Ghvthisavari has returned unharmed, and has brought me the boar's bristle.' The devi replied: 'Then go, again, pretend to be ill, and say to Ghvthisavari: "If thou wilt go to a certain place, where a certain griffin (phascundzi) lives, and bring me the flesh of its young, I shall be well; if not, I shall die." Thou knowest he cannot do that, and thou and I shall stay here together.'

The woman rejoiced, ran quickly back to bed, and began to moan. Ghvthisavari came in, saw his mother in bed, and asked the cause. His mother replied as the devi had commanded. Ghvthisavari answered: 'Then may Ghvthisavari die if he find not what thou wishest.' He went away.

He went on and on, and at last came to a plain, where stood a very big tree, whose top stretched to heaven. On a branch there was a nest, from which fledglings peeped out. Then, from far away in the sky, there appeared a huge, strange bird, something like an eagle. It swooped down, and just as it was about to seize the young birds, Ghvthisavari drew his bow, and killed it. Just then appeared the griffin, mother of the young ones. She thought Ghvthisavari her enemy, and was about to seize him, but her fledglings cried out that he had killed the bird that would have drunk their blood, and had saved them.

Although the griffin did not bring up more than three birds in a year, yet she was in constant terror until they had learnt to fly, because this same bird used to seize and eat them.

When she learnt that Ghvthisavari had killed their cruel enemy, she came to him, and said: 'Tell me what thou

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wishest? why art thou come hither? and I will immediately satisfy thy desire.' Ghvthisavari said: 'I have a mother who is ill; unless I take her young griffin's flesh she will die.' The griffin said in reply 'Thy mother deceives thee, and is not ill at all; she seeks thy death. Here are my fledglings, if thou wantest them, but do not kill them, take them with thee alive.' She pulled out a feather, and gave it to him, saying: 'Take this with thee, and when thou art in trouble think of me, and I shall be there.' Ghvthisavari thanked her heartily, took away a fledgling, and went home.

He came in, gave the young griffin to his mother, who said: 'Now, my child, I am quite well, and shall want nothing else,' and she sent him away. Ghvthisavari went out hunting. The woman went out hastily to the devi, and complained, saying: 'Ghvthisavari has brought the fledgling, and he himself has returned alive.' The devi was very angry, but calmed down and said: 'When Ghvthisavari comes in, tell him he must be bathed, and when he sits down in the tub, put a cover over him and call for me. I will come and hammer down the lid, and throw him into the sea.' The woman rejoiced at this plan, went in and heated water. When Ghvthisavari came in, his mother said: 'Come, child, I will bathe thee, it is some time since thou wert bathed.' Ghvthisavari did not like this, but at last he consented. He sat down in the tub, his mother shut the lid, and called the devi. The devi ran in and hammered down the lid. Then he lifted the tub up and rolled it into the sea.

Ghvthisavari's dogs saw this; they went to the edge of the water and barked. They barked until the very stones might have been moved with pity. Then they said: 'Let

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us go and seek his friends, they may perchance help us.' Four remained and four went to seek his friends. They came to the stag, then to the boar, and then to the griffin. These all arose and immediately went to the water's edge.

They thought and planned, and at last decided what to do. They said to the griffin: 'Fly up high, strike and cleave the water with thy wings, the tub will appear, the stag will throw it on to the shore with its horns; then the boar will strike with his tusk, the tub will break, and Ghvthisavari will come forth.' They all did as they were told.

The griffin flew up high in the air, beat with its wings as hard as it could; it cleft the sea into three. The tub was seen, and the stag did not let it fall, but threw it with its horns, and let it down on the shore. Then the boar struck it, crying out: 'Ghvthisavari, lie down in the bottom!' He struck with his tusk, broke the tub, and Ghvthisavari came forth unharmed.

After this the friends went away, each to his own home. Ghvthisavari remained thinking. Just then a ragged swineherd came along. Ghvthisavari said to this swineherd: 'Come, give me thy clothes, and I will put them on.' The swineherd was afraid, and thought: 'This stranger will take my coat and not give me his,' and he ran away. Ghvthisavari pursued him, took off his clothes, and put them on himself; he gave the man his coat, left with him his dogs, and went away.

He came home as if he were a beggar, and asked alms of his mother. When the devi saw him, he looked ferociously at him, and said: 'Go back to the place whence thou camest, lest I do to thee as thou deservest.'

Just then Ghvthisavari saw his bow and arrow in the

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corner, and cried out: 'We shall see who goes hence! I am Ghvthisavari!' Saying this he drew his bow, shot first the devi and then his mother, killing them both. Then he went to the companion, scolded her well for not warning him, and killed her too. He went away, brought his dogs, and returned to the house to rest.

There came then, no one knows whence, a certain youth; he saw his father, mother, and their servant were all killed, and asked Ghvthisavari to fight. He was Ghvthisavari's mother's son by the devi; Ghvthisavari did not know this, and came to the combat. A long time they struggled, a long time they strove, but neither could strike the other. Then Ghvthisavari said: 'Come, friend, let us each tell the other his story, and afterwards we can fight.' 'Good!' 'Very well,' they said, and each told his tale.

When Ghvthisavari learnt that this was his own brother, he said: 'It is indeed fortunate that we told our tales first. for if we had killed each other there would have been no help for it.' After this the two brothers went into the house, and they lived happily together.

Once Ghvthisavari said to his younger brother: 'Let us go, brother, and seek our fortunes, we shall become like old women if we live thus.' 'I am willing,' replied the younger; so they set out.

They wandered on until they came to a place where two roads met. One led to the right and one to the left. In the middle of the roads stood a stone pillar, on which was written: 'Whoever goes to the left will come back, but he who goes to the right will never return.' Ghvthisavari took the road to the right and his brother went to the left. Ghvthisavari said: 'Know that if the water on the roof changes into blood I shall be in trouble. Come then to

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my aid. If the water on my roof turns into blood, I shall come and help thee in thy trouble.' Then they divided the dogs: each took four, said farewell, and set out.

Ghvthisavari went on until he came to the shore of a sea, so vast that the eye could not measure it. Twelve men were on this side, twelve on that. Whoever comes to this sea must jump over; if he leaps over without wetting his feet he may marry the king's daughter, who is very beautiful; if not, he is drowned in the sea; and whoever dares not jump at all is seized by the sentinels, and taken before the king.

Ghvthisavari came, and the sentinels told him the conditions. Ghvthisavari took a spring with all his might and main, and leaped over so that not a drop of water touched him. He saw the other sentinels, and they told him that they must take him before the king. When the king saw him he rejoiced, and gave him his fair daughter to wife.

That night Ghvthisavari asked his wife: 'Where is the best hunting to be had in the kingdom?' She replied: 'If thou goest to the left thou wilt return; if thou goest to the right thou wilt never return.' The next morning Ghvthisavari arose at daybreak, took his bow and arrow, and went to the right hand.

He shot an arrow and killed a hare, he tied its feet and left it; he shot another arrow and killed a stag, he bound its feet together and left it too. He shot a third arrow, and it stuck in a burning fire.

He went on and on until he reached this fire. Then he killed a stag, put it on the fire, and sat down at the side. He roasted meat, ate some, and gave some to his dogs. Behold, no one knows whence, a toothless old woman appeared. She begged Ghvthisavari to give her something

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to eat. He did so; he ate, but the old woman ate ten times more. For every mouthful Ghvthisavari took she took a basketful. Ghvthisavari looked on in amazement. The old woman finished all the food. Then she took a little stone and threw it at Ghvthisavari's bow and arrow. They turned into stone, and fell on the ground. Then she took the little stone and threw it at the dogs, who also became petrified. She took them one by one in her hand and swallowed them. Ghvthisavari was stupefied; he seized his bow and arrow to kill the old woman, but he could not move it; it fell to earth. Then the old woman turned her stone towards Ghvthisavari, who lost his strength, and became as a corpse. The old woman lifted him up in her hand and swallowed him. At that moment the water changed to blood, and the younger brother knew that Ghvthisavari had fallen into misfortune, and set out to help him.

When he had gone some way he came to the water's edge, on each side of which stood the twelve sentinels. He leaped across. The sentinels were surprised, they thought it was Ghvthisavari, and asked him whence he came and whither he was going. The youth told them nothing, and did not let them know who he was. He came to the king. That night he was given his brother's wife, but when he lay down he put a sword between them, and did not touch her. Then he asked her: 'Where is the best hunting?' She replied: 'If thou goest to the left thou wilt return, if to the right thou wilt never return. Do not go; did I not tell thee the same thing yesterday?' 'I asked thee, and I went one way, but did not like it; now I ask thee again,' said the youth. He rose the next morning, and went to the right hand.

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When he had gone a little way he saw the dead hare with its feet bound; he went on further and saw the dead stag with its feet bound. He said to himself: 'My brother must have come this way; this is some of the game he has killed.' He again went on, and saw the fire burning. Beside it lay Ghvthisavari's bow and arrow, and he said to himself: 'Here my brother has met his fate.' Then he killed some game and roasted it on the fire.

There appeared, no one knows whence, the same old woman. She sat down and waited for her share of roast meat. In eating, the old woman's behaviour was the same as before. When she had finished the food she was still hungry. She took a little stone, and lifted it to throw at the dogs. The youth thought to himself: 'It must have been in this way that this old woman swallowed my brother Ghvthisavari.' He seized the old woman by the throat, cleft her breast open, and took out Ghvthisavari and his dogs. Then he killed the old woman, and poured her blood over Ghvthisavari, the dogs, and the bow and arrow. Ghvthisavari and his dogs came back to life, and the bow and arrow were raised from the earth. When Ghvthisavari woke to consciousness he said: 'Ugh! I have had such a dream.' Then his brother said: 'Thou hast not dreamt'; and he told him what had happened.

Ghvthisavari rejoiced, and they both went to their new kinsman, the king. On the way, Ghvthisavari was very melancholy, for he thought that his brother must have married his wife. His brother looked at him and said: 'May this arrow strike me on the part of my body that has touched thy wife, and kill me.' Thus spoke Ghvthisavari's brother, and threw up an arrow. It fell, struck him in the little finger, and he died.

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Ghvthisavari left his brother, went in, and, when he had learnt all, was deeply grieved. He went, no one knows where, found immortal water, and brought his brother back to life. Then he found him a fair wife, and they dwelt together, happy in fraternal affection and in love.


30:1 The expression 'bird's milk' is often used in Georgian to signify a great rarity.

Next: VII. The Serpent and the Peasant