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


Gulambara and Sulambara

THERE was and there was not at all, there was a blind monarch; all the doctors in the kingdom had been applied to, but the king could not be cured.

At last one doctor said: 'In a certain sea is a fish red as blood. If this is caught, killed, and its blood sprinkled on your eyes, it may do good--the light will come back into your eyes--if not, there can be no other cure for you.'

Then the king assembled every fisherman in his realm, and commanded: 'Go wherever it may be or may not be, catch such a fish as this, and I shall give you a rich reward.'

Some time passed by. An old fisherman caught just such a crimson fish, and took it to the king. The king was asleep, and they did not dare to wake him, so they put the fish into a basin full of water.

Just then his son returned from his lessons. He saw the blood-red fish swimming in the basin. He took it up in

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his hands, caressed it, and said: 'What do you want with the pretty fish in the basin?' They said to him: 'This is good for your father, it must be killed, its blood sprinkled on his eyes, and he will regain his sight.' 'But is it not a sin to kill it?' asked the prince; and he took the fish out to a stream in the meadow, and gave it freedom.

A little while after, the king awoke; his viziers said to him: 'An old fisherman brought td you a blood-red fish, but your son, who had just returned from his lessons, let it away.'

The king was very angry, and sent his son from the house. 'Go hence, I shall be well when thou art no longer remembered in the kingdom; with my eyes I cannot look upon thee, but never let me hear thine unpleasant voice again.' The boy was grieved, rose, and went away.

He went, he went, and he knew not whither he went. On the way he saw a stream. He was weary and sat down to rest on the bank. Behold, a boy of his own age came out of the water. He came to the prince, greeted him, and said: 'Whence comest thou? and what troubles thee?' The prince went to him and told him all that had happened to him. His new acquaintance said: 'I also am discontented with my lot, so let us become brothers, and live together.' The prince agreed, and they went on their way.

They travelled on some distance, when they came to a town, and they dwelt there. When the next day dawned, his adopted brother said to the prince: 'Stay thou at home, do not go out of doors, lest they eat thee, for such is the custom here.' The prince promised, and from morning until night he sat indoors. The other boy was away in the

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town all day. At twilight, when he came home, he had a handkerchief quite full of provisions.

Several days slipped by. The prince stayed in all day, and his brother brought the food and drink. At last the prince said to himself: 'This is shameful! My adopted brother goes out and brings in food and drink. Why do I not do something? What an idle fellow I am! I will go and do something!'

And so it happened that one day the king's son went into the town; he wandered here and there, and in one place saw his brother, who was sitting cross-legged on the ground, at his feet was stretched a pocket handkerchief, in his hand he held a chonguri (a stringed instrument), which he played, and he chanted to it with a sweet voice. Whoever passed by placed money in the handkerchief.

The king's son listened and listened, and said: 'No, this must not be; this is not my business.' So he turned and went back.

Near there he saw a tower. Outside was a wall, and on the top were arranged in rows men's heads: some were quite shrivelled up, some had an unpleasant odour of decay, and some had just been placed there.

He looked and looked, and could not understand what it meant. He asked a man: 'Whose tower is this, and why are men's heads arranged in rows in this way?' He was told: 'In this tower dwells a maiden beautiful as the sun. Any king's son may ask her in marriage. She asks him a question: if he cannot answer it his head is cut off, but if he can he may demand her in marriage. No one has yet been able to answer her question.'

The prince thought and thought, and said to himself: 'I will go. I will ask this maiden in marriage: I will know if

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this is my fate. What is to be will be. What can she ask me that I shall not know?' So he rose and went.

He came to the sunlike maiden and asked her in marriage. She answered: 'It is well, but first I have a question to ask thee; if thou canst answer, then I am thine, if not, I shall cut off thy head.' 'So let it be,' said the prince. 'I ask thee this, Who are Gulambara and Sulambara?' enquired the beautiful maiden. The king's son said to himself: 'I know indeed that Gulambara and Sulambara are names of flowers, but I never heard in all my life of human beings thus named.' He asked three days grace and went away.

He went home and told his brother what had happened, and said: 'If thou canst not help me now, in three days I shall lose my head.' His brother reproached him, saying: 'Did I not tell thee to stay indoors? This is a wicked town.' But then he comforted him, saying: 'Go now, buy a pennyworth of aromatic gum and a candle. I have a grandmother, I shall take thee to her, and she will help thee. But at the moment when my grandmother looks at us, give her the gum and the candle, or she will eat thee.'

He bought the gum and the candle, and they set out. The grandmother was standing in her doorway; the prince immediately gave her the gum and the candle. 'What is it? what is the matter with thee?' enquired the grandmother of the prince's adopted brother. He came forward, and told everything in detail. Then he added: 'This is my good brother, and certainly thou shouldst help him.' 'Very well,' said the old woman to the prince; 'sit down on my back.' The prince seated himself on her back. The old woman flew up high, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, she flew down into the depths.

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She took him into a town there, and went to the entrance of a bazaar. She pointed out a shopkeeper and said: 'Go and engage thyself as assistant to this shopkeeper; but in the evening, when he leaves business and goes home, tell him that he must take thee with him, and must not leave thee in the shop. Where thou goest with him thou wilt learn the story of Gulambara and Sulambara. Then when thou hast need of me, whistle and I shall be there.'

The prince did exactly as the old woman had instructed him; he went to the butcher, as his assistant. At twilight, when the butcher spoke of going home, the prince said to him: 'Do not leave me here; I am a stranger in this land. I am afraid; take me with thee.' The butcher objected strongly, but the prince entreated him until he agreed.

The butcher went home, and took the prince with him. They came to a wall, opened a door, went in, and it closed. Inside that, was another wall; they went through that, and it closed. They passed thus through nine walls, and then they entered a house. The butcher opened a cupboard door, took out a woman's head, and then an iron whip. He put down the decaying head and struck it. He struck and struck until the head was completely gone.

When the prince saw this he was astonished, and enquired: 'Tell me, why do you strike this head that is so mutilated, and whose head is this?' The butcher made answer: 'I tell this to no one, this is my secret, but if I do tell any one he must then lose his head.' 'I still wish to know,' said the prince. The butcher rose, took a sword, prepared himself, and said to the prince. 'I had a wife who was so lovely that she excelled the sun; her name was Gulambara. I kept her under these nine locks, and I took care of her so that not even the wind of heaven blew

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on her. Whatever she asked me I gave her at once. I loved her to distraction, and trusted her, and she told me that she loved no one in the world but me. At that time I had an assistant who was called Sulambara, and my wife loved him and deceived me. Once I found them together, and seized them. I locked one in one cupboard and the other in another. Whenever I came home from business I went to the cupboards, and took out first one and then the other, and beat them as hard as I could. I struck so hard that Sulambara crumbled away yesterday, and only Gulambara's head remained, and that has just now crumbled away before thine eyes.'

The story ended, he took his sword and said to the prince: 'Now I am going to fulfil my threat, so come here and I shall cut off thy head.' The prince entreated him: 'Give me a little time. I will go to the door and pray to my God, and then do to me even as thou wishest.' The butcher thought: 'It can do no harm to let him go to the door for a short time, for he certainly cannot open the nine doors; let him pray to his God and have his wish.'

The prince went to the gate and whistled. Immediately the old woman flew down, took him on her back, and flew off. The youth went to the town where the beautiful maiden dwelt, and told the sunlike one the story of Gulambara and Sulambara. The maiden was very much surprised; when she had heard all, she agreed to marry him. They were married; she collected all her worldly possessions, and set out with the prince for his father's kingdom.

When he came to the brook, his adopted brother appeared before him, and said: 'In thy trouble I befriended thee, and now, when thou art happy, shall this friendship cease? Whatever thou hast obtained has been by my counsel,

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therefore thou shouldst share it with me.' The prince divided everything in halves, but still his adopted brother was not pleased. 'It is all very well to share this with me, whilst thou hast the beautiful maiden.' The prince arose and gave up his own share of the goods.

His adopted brother would not take it, and spoke thus: 'If thou holdest fast to our friendship thou shouldst share with me this maiden, the most precious of thy possessions!' As he said this he seized the maiden's hand, bound her to a tree, stretched forth his sword, and, as he was about to strike, a green stream flowed from the terror-stricken maiden's mouth. Again the youth raised his sword. The same thing happened. A third time he prepared to strike, with the same result. Then he came, unbound her from the tree, gave her to the prince, and said: 'Although this maiden was beautiful, yet she was venomous, and, sooner or later, would have killed thee. Now whatever poison was in her is completely gone, so do not fear her in the slightest degree. 1 Go! and God guide thee. As for these possessions, they are thine; I do not want them. May God give thee His peace.' From his pocket he took out a handkerchief, gave it to the prince, and said: 'Take this handkerchief with thee; when thou reachest home wipe thy father's eyes with it and he will see. I am the fish that was in the basin, and thou didst set me free. Know, then, that kindness of heart is never lost.' So saying, the prince's adopted brother disappeared.

The prince remained astonished. Before he had time to express his gratitude the young man had suddenly disappeared. At last, when he had recovered himself, he

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took his wife and went to his father. He laid the handkerchief on the king's eyes, and his sight came back to him. When he saw his only son and his beautiful daughter-in-law his joy was so great that his eyes filled with tears. His son sat down and told him all that had happened since he left him.


48:1 Cf. Paspati, Études sur les Tchinghianés (Constantinople, 1870), p. 605, Conte 2me.

Next: IX. The Two Brothers