AMIRANI. In Georgian mythology,
Amirani is a hero, the son of the goddess Dali and a mortal hunter. According to the Svan version, the hunterís wife learned about her husbandís affair with Dali and killed her by cutting her hair while she was asleep. At Daliís death, the hunter extracted from her womb a boy whom he called Amirani. The child had marks of his semi-divine origins with symbols of the Sun and the Moon on his shoulder-blades and a golden tooth.
Georgian myths describe the rise of the titan Amirani, who
fights devis (ogres), challenges the gods, kidnaps Kamar
(the daughter of gods), and teaches metallurgy to humans. In punishment, the gods (in some versions, Jesus Christ) chain Amirani to a cliff (or an iron pole) in the Caucasus Mountains, where the titan continues to defy the gods and struggles to break the chains; an eagle ravages his liver every day, but it heals at night. Amiraniís loyal dog, meantime, licks the chain to thin it out, but every year, on Thursday or in some versions the day before Christmas, the gods send smiths to repair it. In some versions, every seven years the cave where Amirani is chained can be seen in the Caucasus.
Scholars agree that this folk epic about Amirani must have been formed in the third
millennium BCE and later went through numerous transformation, the most important of them being morphing pagan and Christian elements after the spread of Christianity.
The myth could have been assimilated by the Greek colonists or
travelers and embodied in the corpus of the famous Greek myth of Prometheus. In the Georgian literature and culture, Amirani is often used as a symbol of the Georgian nation, its ordeals and struggle for survival.
There was and there was not (of God's best may it be!), there was an old hunter, named
Sulkalmakhi. He lived in a forest with his wife Darejan and his two little sons, Badri and
Usupi. His eldest son Tsamtsumi lived in a distant country.
One evening, on his way home, after a weary day of hunting, he came to a high cliff. As
it was late, he spent the night in a cave near this cliff. At dawn he heard a scream that came
from the top of the cliff. After much difficulty, he reached the top. And there, in a cave, he
beheld Dali, the Goddess of the wood (hunt). She lay writhing on the ground. The Goddess on
seeing him begged him to take a knife and cut open her womb and take from it the baby that
was there. She told him that a stranger had come to her while she was sleeping, and had cut off
her long golden hair, and had remained with her that night-"If it be a boy, name him Amirani. Take him, and bring him up and love him as thine
own." The hunter did as she told him. He cut open her womb with his knife and took out the
infant. It was a boy who" had a golden tooth in his mouth.
The hunter took the infant home to his wife, who soon loved him even more than her
own sons, so that he was called "Darejani's son". Amirani grew as much in a day as other
children grow in a year.
Soon the hunter and his wife died, leaving the children to look after themselves. As for Amirani
Astounding was the quantity of wine he drank and food he ate.
For dinner he a bull devoured; for supper more than three he ate.
Now Badri was as gentle and as lovely as a virgin maid.
A crystal tower did Usup seem, so strong and graceful was he made.
But like a dark and lowering cloud was Amirani, ever grave.
Once Amirani and his brothers went ahunting far from home.
O'er many mountains did they wander, over plains where devils roam.
They passed the Algetisni mountain, heeding neither heat nor cold,
When sudden from its lofty summit sprang a deer with horns of gold.
Upon this strange and distant mount they saw a crystal castle fair.
They walked around the lofty tower, but could not find an entrance there,
Then Amirani struck the wall on which the sun its light did pour;
And there the castle oped its mouth, and lo! before them stood a door.
A warrior dead upon the floor, and near his head a steed they spied;
At his right side a giant sword sent flashing lustre far and wide.
His shield reached heavens high, and tore the lining of the spacious sky;
And in one corner of the room in heaps did gold and silver lie.
With loosened hair his mother knelt, and for her child she loudly cried.
His wife whose tears o'erflowed the seas sat weeping at her husband's side.
The dead man held a letter in his hand, which he had written before his death. Amirani,
stooped down, took it and read aloud...
"I beg of ye, to list to me. Usup's brother's son am I.
All trembled at my strength and might; the foe from me in fear did fly
Yet while the devi Baqbaqi is alive, no peace have I,
So, whoe'er slays that monstrous giant to him my flashing shield give I;
Whoever brings the tidings glad to him my peerless sword give I;
Whoe'er my parents buries well to him my wealth and land give I;
Whoever finds my sister's fate to him my hoard of gold give I;
Whoever buries me to him my wife and faithful steed give I."
On hearing this the brothers were greatly troubled, for it was then that they learned of
the brother whom they had never seen or known of. Amirani was the first to speak. "Why do we
stand here doing nothing. Let us go and seek the devi Baqbaqi. But wait, let us take away the
lady, the steed and all this gold and silver before we go."
But the brothers said:
"O Amirani of the sun, desire not that what is not thine.
Else thy good name be spat upon for robbing a dead man's riches fine."
They buried the dead and locked the castle. Then they set out to find the devi. Soon they
met the devi Baqbaqi who had heard of Tsamtsumi's death, and was coming to eat him.
But Amirani rushed upon the devi with his sword on high.
"No Christian wilt thou touch," he cried, "thou monster vile, I dare thee try!"
Then Amirani and the giant to all the world their strength disclosed.
Their cries like thunder echoed far as both in deadly struggle closed.
The devi felt his strength give way and down he fell upon the plain.
His arm was cleft, he howled aloud as on the ground he rolled in pain.
"Darejani's son," he cried, "O kill me not, I beg of thee!
And I shall tell thee of a maid who lives beyond a magic sea.
So fair is she that ev'n the sun has never seen the like before.
Her dress is made of wondrous silks and gold that sunbeams o'er it pour.
But one must pass great seas and mounts to reach Qamari's native strand.
I'll give to thee a cunning slave to help thee find that distant land."
Amirani wished to let the devi go free, but his brothers said: "Kill him, otherwise thouwilt regret it."
The devi had three heads. Amirani, listening to his brothers' words, cut off Baqbaqi's
heads. But before he had cut off the third the devi said: "One thing I ask of thee before I die. Do
not kill the three worms that will crawl out of my heads."
Amirani cut off the third head. From Baqbaqi's heads three worms crawled out. Usupi
told Amirani to kill them at once, but Amirani laughed and said: "The devi could not do me any
harm, so can three tiny worms do anything to me?" Then he turned to the guide Baqbaqi had given them and told him to lead the way to
Qamari, a maid such as the sun had never seen the like of.
Thus they went over hill and vale, without a rest, without delay,
Hoping to reach the destined place at close of every weary day.
They followed e'er the wary guide, and thus went on an endless way.
But soon the brothers understood the guide was leading them astray!
Then Amirani shouted loud: "Thou wretch, I'll make thee howl in woe.
Mislead us not or else I'll strike thee flat upon the ground below."
The guide soon led them to a plain where they beheld in dread dismay
Baqbaqi's worms to dragons three had grown and there before them lay!
One worm was red, the other black, the third was white; and all the three
Sang: "Amirani do we seek," as they came prancing o'er the lea.
"Come, brothers mine, and let us kill the dragons!" Amirani cried.
"Thou didst not kill the worms; so fight alone the dragons," they replied.
Then Amirani clutched the sword that like the wrath of heaven flashed:
"Help me in my distress, my sword!" and towards the dragons three he dashed.
A dreadful struggle took place. Amirani killed the white dragon. Then he killed the red
one. The black dragon rushed forward belching fire and smoke. Amirani was so exhausted and
weak that the monster swallowed him, and off it went to its mother, the sea. Usupi and Badri
were greatly distressed. They resolved to kill the dragon. Usupi drew his bow and lo! the
dragon's tail was severed off. The monster wished to wind itself about a tree and crush its prey.
But it strove in vain and could only flap the stump of its tail on the ground. The dragon groaned:
"O mother, help! my entrails burn and render me wild!"
"None but the son of Darejan can ever harm thee, dearest child."
"He who is in me has a tooth of gold." the dragon writhing sighed.
"Woe to thy mother and to thee, for that is Darejani's child!"
In the meantime Amirani had taken out a sharp knife which he had in his boot. He cut
through the dragon's belly, and came out. Once again the three brothers set out in search of Qamari. They went on and on beyond
the sky, across the earth, through forests, across the plains, over the mountains, through storm
and battle and through fire and blood. At last they came to a large castle where nine devis lived
together with their wives and children. It was impossible to count the number of their sons and
daughters and grandchildren.
Then Amirani rushed within and killed the devis at one blow.
Blood flowed and overflowed the house; the world gleamed in a crimson glow.
The blood rose up and filled the tower, and Amirani felt the dread
Of being drowned within the sea of blood that now had reached his head!
But suddenly his eyes beheld a struggling devi floating nigh;
He caught and threw it at the door, which opened wide, and with a cry
The blood rolled up, and like a ball of thunder left the castle high.
The brothers came into the tower and found a mount of devis dead.
They cleared the house and washed the floor which devis' blood had stained with red.
And thereafter the brothers three a life of peace and comfort led.
Thus Amirani and his brothers lived happily together for some time. But, as time passed,
Amirani grew sad. The thought of Qamari, the maiden unseen even by the sun, was ever in his
mind. He grew restless. So one day he turned to Badri...
"Give me thy steed Snow-white," he said, "'twill lead me safe o'er land and sea;
We'll fly along the tempest's breast, and bring Qamari back with me."
Badri gave him his steed Snow-white. Amirani together with his brothers went forth to
find Qamari. Soon they came to a great sea. Amirani, leaving Usupi and Badri on the shore plunged
into the sea. Snow-white cut through the waves and Amirani in the twinkling of an eye found himself
on the opposite shore, where Qamari lived.
Qamari's parents lived amidst the suns and stars in heavens high;
Above the world their castle fine hung swinging in the azure sky.
Then Amirani spurred his horse, and like an arrow made it fly;
And with his sword he cut the chain that tied the castle to the sky.
The castle fell, and Amirani to the window rode and cried:
"Qamari, come, and be my wife, in happiness with me abide."
Qamari was tidying up the house when she heard Amirani call.
"Thou must wait," she replied, "I must wash these dishes before I go with thee."
Amirani tied his horse and went in. The beautiful maiden asked him to help her.
He placed each dainty dish upon a shelf. But one little dish would not stand upright.
He tried and tried and tried in vain, he tried with all his might and zeal;
And then impatiently he threw it down and crushed it with his heel.
Then piece with piece, and dish with dish, began to speak in deafening cry;
And all the dishes upwards flew to Qamari's father in the sky.
Qamari told Amirani to make haste for ó
"If my father finds us here, to escape his anger will be late."
So Amirani and Qamari rode away in great haste...
The whirling winds in fury blew; the rain like torrents flowed from high.
But Amirani wondered much to see the sun shine in the sky.
"The wind," explained Qamari, "is the dust blown up by the rushing feet of my father's
men. The rain is the tears shed by my mother who is weeping for me. But Amirani, quick, lest
we be overtaken."
"My Qamari," answered Amirani, "why this haste? Fear them not.
No tiny forest bird am I caught by a falcon when on high;
No rabbit caught by dogs am I; no little leaf wind-tossed am I.
My brothers two and I will cut the heads of all the coming foe,
And all thy father's men I'll lay stone dead before thee with one blow.
So let them come! Let thousands come! I'll meet them with my dagger bright.
However great their number be, however great their strength and might."
Amirani and Qamari soon reached the shore where Usupi and Badri were waiting. They
looked back and saw the sea covered with ships sent by Qamari's father. The ships were full of
devis and Kajis. Usupi mounted the steed Snow-white and plunged into the sea. He fell upon
the Kajis and devis and killed half their number. But he was wounded and fell dead. Now Badri
rushed at the enemy, and hewed and hacked them down. But he also fell wounded and died.
Amirani shot an arrow, but before following it cried:
"Far better than a shameful life is gloried death within a grave!"
Now Amirani forward rushed and made the foe before him fall;
But there was one whom none could kill, the strongest, mightiest of them all.
The lord of the devis and Kajis was Qamari's father, who was wroth to see all his army
slain. He rushed in fury and anger at Amirani. Fire lighted up the sky as sword met sword. They
struggled a long time, but neither could strike the other. Qamari saw with a sinking heart that
Amirani was about to fall. She knew that it was impossible to kill the lord of the devis and
Kajis. She called to Amirani:
"Thou fightest not as warriors should," and tears flowed from her anxious eye.
"Strike lower down to bring him down! Thy sword thou wieldest up too high."
"A house that's shattered at the base will fall, however large or high."
Her father on hearing her words cried:
"Cursed be the hussy! Hear her words! How to her father she is blind.
Like leaves do husbands thrive, but can she another father find?
Why did thy mother care for thee. It would have been better if she had brought forth a
dog instead, for it would have been more faithful and true to her."
"I never sucked my mother's breast, nor ever heard a lullaby;
None cared if I lived on or died, alone, abandoned I would cry."
When Amirani heard the words he swung his mighty sword around,
And in one lightning stroke his foe, deprived of life, fell on the ground.
Amirani, victorious and happy hurried back to Qamari. But on the way he met a woman.
She said to him: "Where goest thou? Why this haste? For thy beloved thou hast slain her father
and his men. But who is grateful to thee for the deed? If thou wert a man thou wouldst
unsheathe thy steel, and find thy brothers." Amirani suddenly remembered Usupi's words, "For thy lady love thy brothers are
willing to die." Amirani forgot Qamari. His only thought and desire was to find Usupi and
Badri. He said to himself, "If I find my brothers alive, I will rejoice and be happy with them, but
if they are dead, I will dig a grave, and lay myself beside them."
On the fields covered with the bodies of the devis and Kajis vultures and beasts of prey
were feasting and revelling. After a long search Amirani found the dead bodies of his brothers.
"O brothers mine," he wailed aloud, "Hear how I mourn for you and cry.
Have pity! be not wroth with me; to ye I come; with ye I die."
He tried to plunge into his heart his dagger, but in vain the strife;
He knew not that if he had cut his little finger with a knife,
Then he would bleed to death and thus, with gladness, leave this woeful life.
But Amirani knew this not, so down he sat and grieving said:
"Unworthy am I ev'n of death." And on the ground his dagger laid.
But one dead Kaji sudden sat, and to the other Kajis said:
"O Kajis, listen to me now and know of what the world is made.
You hear how Amirani weeps and grieves because he cannot die;
If he cuts off his finger then the blood will flow and he will die."
On saying this the Kaji lay down again. All was as still as before.
Amirani, who had heard the words of the dead Kaji, took his dagger and cut his little
finger off. The blood flowed out and he lay down beside his brothers.
"Qamari," he whispered weakly, "give up thy life for me, and die with me. Prefer me
dead to even the glory of a living lion."Amirani breathed his last. Qamari with loud wailings ran up to him.
With loosened hair, she mourns her mate; her tears with seas and oceans blend.
In pity leaves from trees drop down, and to her wailings rustlings lend.
At that moment there jumped out a little mouse. It began to lick Amirani's blood but
Qamari in rage took off her shoe and throwing it at the mouse killed it.
At this the mother of the mouse came out and to Qamari said:
"Thou wanton, for thy love and sake thy mate and all thy kin are dead.
Thou canst do naught for all thy dead, while I can bring my child to life."
When both the mice had disappeared within their holes beneath the ground,
Qamari rose with beating heart, and soon that very herb she found.
Qamari applied it to Amirani, and he was restored to life. When he saw Qamari he said:
"What a long time I have slept!" But Qamari said: "Thy sleep would indeed have been a long
one but for the mouse." She told him what had happened. Then she applied the herb to Usupi
and Badri. They both came back to life.
Then all the four, Qamari, Amirani, Usupi and Badri went home rejoicing.
O happy they, three brothers true, for whom the golden sunbeams glow;
Their wives none dare to carry off, none dare to face their deadly blow;
None dare to break within their homes, nor to their lives bring grief and woe.
Thus they lived happily. Amirani was always in search of new adventures. He killed
many giants and dragons. And the wonder of his deeds spread throughout the world. For fear of
him no bird flew under heaven, no ant crawled on earth. And soon there were but three devis,
three wild boars, and three oak trees left standing in the world.
Many times had Amirani offended God but had always been forgiven, nevertheless ó
Amirani, who had nowhere met his match, became so confident of himself, that he
desired to try his strength with his Godfather, Jesus Christ.
So once when Jesus Christ stood before him he expressed his desire to wrestle with
Him. Jesus Christ said that it was a sin to fight with one's Godfather. But Amirani would not be
persuaded and wishing to test. His strength challenged his Godfather to wrestle with him.
"Very well, have thy wish." said Christ. He waved a large stick above His head, and driving it deep into the ground, told Amirani
to pull it pout. Amirani pulled, and with one hand drew the stick out. Then his Godfather drove
another stick into the ground. Again did Amirani draw it out.
"Art Thou playing with me?" he asked angrily.
"Try to draw this one out," said Jesus Christ.
And saying this He swung His stick and fixed it firmly in the ground.
The stick took root which grew so long that soon about the world it wound.
Amirani could not pull the stick from the ground. Then Jesus Christ cursed Amirani.
Upon the highest peak of the Caucasus He stuck a huge iron pole, and bound Amirani to it with
a chain. He left a black-eared dog with Amirani, for the dog had killed many deer loved by
God. A vulture had given it birth, so that it had wings. Every day a raven brought to them a loaf
of bread and a glass of wine. Amirani and the dog pulled ceaselessly at the chain the whole year
long; The pole was almost out when lo! a bird would perch upon its top.
Amirani knew that the bird was sent by God, and wishing to kill it, he flung a large iron
hammer at it. The bird flew away in time to avoid the hammer.
The hammer strikes the iron pole which sinks into the ground again.
And every year do Amirani and the dog pull at the chain.
The chain thus strained at soon wears out and when about to break in twain,
The blacksmiths of the world come there and quickly make it whole again.
And Amirani's dagger lies beside him on the ground below;
But rust hath eaten up its blade; no more doth it with lustre glow.
"God forbid!" every Georgian prays, that Amirani ever break the chain and become free "He
will first kill all the blacksmiths, and then dare defy even God."
Let woe be far, and joy be near; chaff be there, and flour be here;
God's blessings on the minstrel old, and all who list with eager ear!
And up a mount I push a cart; then down the hill it rolling flies.
We'll live in joy and die in peace, and then we'll dwell in Paradise.