Sunday, June 11, 2006

Aldar Kose Tricks the Bai

On a bitterly cold winter's day, Aldar Kose was travelling across the steppe. "Crunch, crunch," went his rickety horse's hooves through the snow. "Brr, brr," went Aldar Kose, as he shivered in his thin, hole-ridden coat. As he struggled along, he saw the local bai, or rich man, headed toward him. Immediately, Aldar Kose threw open his coat and whipped off his hat.

"Greetings, Aldar Kose! Why, you are burning up. What is the matter?" said the bai.
"It is this magic coat," explained Aldar Kose. "It is far too warm. The holes let all of the cold out, and what little cool air does come in, blows right out through the next hole. I am melting from the heat."

Upon hearing this story, you would think that the bai should have known better. After all, Aldar Kose was known far and wide as the cleverest and trickiest man on the steppe. But the bai only heard that Aldar Kose had something wondrous that he himself did not, and was gripped by the desire to have it for his own.

"My poor man," said the bai. "How you suffer! Let me help you. I will trade my fur coat and hat, which are just right, for your holey, too-warm ones, so that you may be more comfortable on your journey."

Aldar Kose thought about the bai's offer, hiding his smile behind his hand. "Sir, you are generous, but I cannot accept the trade," he said. "This coat was enchanted and given to me by my father, whom I dearly miss."

Now the bai could not stand not to get what he wanted, and so wanted the coat even more. He said, "I see it is difficult for you to let me help you. Take my coat and hat, and my horse, which rides like the wind. The breeze will cool you."

Aldar Kose hesitated a moment. "On the one hand, I should honor my father's warning, though I don't recall what it was. On the other hand, he always did encourage generosity in others, so I should allow you to help me."

The bai could no longer hide his impatience to own the magic coat. "Then you cannot refuse my generous offer. Take the fur coat, hat, horse and this bag of gold for your father's wisdom, give me that coat and consider yourself fortunate in the trade!"

Well, quick as a flash, Aldar Kose surrendered that coat of holes and the tired old horse to the bai. He put on the fur coat and hat, took the bag of gold, and mounted his new horse. The bai now sat on the old horse, wearing the holey coat and looking very pleased with himself. As Aldar Kose turned to ride away, he paused. "Aha! I've just remembered my father's warning," he said. "The magic in the coat works only for me. Good-bye!"



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Aldar Kose is the trickster of Central Asian folklore, similar to Anansi the spider of West Africa, or Br'er Rabbit and Coyote in American tales. Often he uses his wit and cleverness to aid the common man, or to turn the tables on the greedy or selfish. He appears in Uzbek, Tatar, Kyrgiz, and Karakalpak folktales as well as in numerous Kazakh variants.



A more elaborate version of "Aldar Kose Tricks the Bai" is included in Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia.


Another nicely illustrated collection of Central Asian folktales is Stories from the Silk Road.

Visit the Silk Road Caravan

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi! Thanks for the story. I have been looking for stories of Aldar Kose. I read translated Kazakh folk tales (in Hindi) as a child. It's great to find him again :)

Ankur said...

hi

even i read kazakh lok kathayen in hindi, as a child. i am looking for them once again :)

anyone who can help may please write a comment here and it will get emailed to me...or u may reach me at mail2ankur (at) gmail (dot) com

ankur jain

Aditya said...

hey, me too have read the "kazakh lok kathaieyn" and I still have the book. I just love Aldar Kose tales..Thanks for sharing

Nyura said...

Hi Ankur -- Sorry for not replying for so long. A KZ publisher called Almaty Kitap published a series of Aldar Kose picture books that you can find here and there on the web. I believe they are now out of print, but I heard there was a plan to publish a one-volume collection at some point. Each book included 2 Aldar Kose stories, each in Russian, Kazakh, and English. See what they look like here and here

abhishek said...

When I was child, my father bought a book from Delhi " Neki Kar, Badi se dar"- Kazakh lok kathye of Aldar Kose. The storeis were translated in Hindi by Bhisham Sahani. One of my elder brother's friend borrowed the book & never returned.
I still recall reading those stories as sweetest memories of my childhood.
I would be grateful to if you could provide me the reference about the availibility of that book.

Anonymous said...

I read the Book "Kazzakh Lok Kathaein" when i was in 5th standarad. The book still is in my library well rpeserved for my children whome i will gift it when they will be able to read it. Book are like time machine and these are the best gifts you an give a child.

varsha said...

hi abhishek and ankur,
I too read Bhalai kar burai se dar in hindi,and yes the same ,friends never returned the book back.Now that the kids are hungry for stories every day these books are rare to find.