Harry Terhanian.com

Wisdom from the son of Armenia.

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  • There was a wise soldier whose both feet were lame. He was off to war. A fellow soldier said to him.

    “Oh, miserable one, where are you going? You won’t be able to escape, thus you will quickly be slain.”

    The lame footed soldier replied.

    “Oh mindless fellow, I am going to war not to flee from the battlefield, but to stay my ground, fight, and win the war.”

    This is a fable by Vartan Ayhkegtzee (1142-1235).

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  • The old woman and her son

    An old woman had ten sheep and a son. Every day her son would take the sheep to pasture, and the mother would mix a cup of water with the sheep’s milk that she sold to the neighbors. One day the son asked his mother why she mixed water with the milk. The mother answered:
    “Son, we have very little milk, so I mix water with the milk to make make more money so that in winter we have more to eat.”

    One day, when the boy took the sheep again to pasture, it began to rain. A bad storm with torrents of rain fell and the raging river swept the sheep away and they drowned. The son was luckily able to return home before sunset that day. His mother asked, “Son, where are the sheep, and why have you come home so early?”

    The boy answered, “Mother, that cup of water you added to the milk everyday to sell more milk to the neighbors accumulated and swelled to the size of a great tidal wave that swept away and drowned our sheep.”

    This is a fable by Vartan Ayhkegtzee (1170-1235).

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  • A lion, wolf and fox became brothers and went off to hunt together. They killed a ram, a sheep and a baby lamb. Before dinner, the lion said to the wolf.

    “Divide the spoils of the hunt for us.”

    The wolf said.

    “Oh Lion king, God has already divided it for us. The ram is yours, the sheep mine and the lamb is for the fox.”

    The lion became enraged and gave such a blow to the snout of the wolf that the wolf’s eyes burst out of their sockets.
    The wolf was thrown violently down and yelped and cried in agony.

    Now the lion addressed the fox..

    “Divide the spoils.”

    “Oh Lion king, God has already divided it,” said the fox. The ram is your dinner, the sheep your breakfast and the lamb your lunch.”

    The lion said.

    “Oh wise fox, who taught you to divide the spoils in such an equitable way?”

    The fox replied.

    “I learned from the eyes of the wolf that were beaten out of their sockets.”

    This is a fable by Vartan Ayhkegtzee (1170-1235).

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  • Live our children, but not like us.

    This is a blessing given by the older generation to the youth. The great Armenian poet HohvanessToumanian
    has written a short poem illustrating this proverbial blessing.

    The Old Blessing

    Under a giant, green walnut tree
    Crosslegged together knee to knee
    Our elders sat in a group
    an august circle, wizened troup
    They were having a good time
    laughing at song and rhyme
    Our stately grandfathers and fathers
    The stewards and village guarders

    We, active, village youth
    Students seeking the truth
    standing before them unaware of our fate
    submissive to our destiny in wait
    Reciting choice poetry out loud
    Singing songs of our culture proud
    Blissfully we ended by bowing to the revered host
    Who twirled his beard and rose for a toast

    All our hallowed elders raised their mugs
    And blessed us saying,
    Live our children but not like us.

    Time passed and so did they
    Our joyful song became a sad lay
    I remembered our young days with tears
    How they blessed us in past years
    And why they said, Live our children but not like us.

    Peace to you, our ill-fated fathers dear
    We too have endured many years.
    Either in days of joy or misery
    We will bless our children solemnly
    With your words,
    Live our children but not like us.

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  • toun teh keedehs hahzahr pahn, mehg keetzogheen pahn hahrtzur, koutzeh ahrnees bahdaskhan, kou hahzahret nohr yehv suur.

    If you know a thousand things, still ask an expert a question,
    perhaps you’ll get an answer, that is more sharp and new (or profound and full of wisdom) than your thousand.

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  • kehdeenuh tahpahdz yeghuh chee lehtzveer nohrehn deghuh

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  • ahseegah togh khuhrahd uhlah pohlohr ahnontz vohronk guh chahrakhosehn vohyeveh mehgoun mahseen

    Once a lion became sick. All the forest animals came to visit him. Only the fox did not appear. The bear took advantage of the fox’s late arrival to bad- mouth him.

    Just then the fox arrived on the threshold of the door. Hearing the bear’s maligning him, he entered the assembly. The fox bowed down in front of the lion.

    The lion said to the fox.

    Why are you so late, you miserable beast. Tell me why you are so late.”

    The fox replied.

    “Please don’t be angry, my kind soverign. I swear on your head that I have been seriously concerned about your health.
    I went to the trouble of visiting many physicians in order to find the means and medicine to heal your sickness.”

    “You are most welcome then, wise fox,” said the lion softening his tone. “Please tell me what is that medicine?”

    “It is a very beneficial and easy to find this medicine,” replied the fox. “The expert doctors advised me that you should skin alive the furry skin of a
    big bear. Then, wrap yourself in the still warm flesh of that beast so that the bearskin will imbibe the sickness and pain from your body.”

    The lion ordered that the bear be seized and skinned alive. When the bear lay on the ground bleeding and writhing in pain and bellowing out frightening sounds of suffering, the fox came close to him and spoke.

    “Let this be a warning and advice for you and all others who dare to bad- mouth anyone in a royal assembly.”

    This is a fable by Vartan Ayhkegtzee (1142-1235).

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  • hahroustuh yehrpehk kohhahnahl chee keedehr

    The greed of the rich is never satisfied. (Or literally, the rich do not know how to be satisfied)

    There is a story that illustrates this saying.

    The Greedy Man

    There was a very rich man. He owned many valuable properties, vast forests, palatial like estates, camel caravans, sand heep and cattle herds.
    His numerous servants worked day and night. They toiled to fill his silos with precious grains and cereals.

    But the rich man was never satisfied. He always desired to increase his wealth, to triple it, to increase it ten fold. He especially liked gold.
    He would sit for hours and admire his chests full of gold. He was charmed by the yellowish, bright color. Continually he meditated how to amass more gold.

    One day he overheard the following discussion. Supposedly, there is one night during the year, when stars from the east and west meet during a split second. They “kiss” or embrace each other and again go their ways. If, during that exceptional moment of embrace of the stars, a person loudly calls out his most cherished and passionate desire to the stars, it will immediately be fulfilled.

    That particular night is called “hampartzman keesher,” or the night of ascension.

    On the ascension night, the rich man prepared a a bowl of pure spring water and a mirror. When the day’s work was finished and all his tired workers were home sleeping, the rich man left his mansion to reach the summit of a very high hill nearby. He carried the plate of spring water and the mirror. On top of the hill, he could see the vast celestial vault of the heavens “decorated” with innumerable stars.

    The rich man was amazed by the grandeur of the sight.

    His mind flashed with the thought, “I wish all the stars would turn to gold and they all belonged to me.”

    He found a suitable place to sit. He placed the plate of water so that the moon was reflected in the plate. Then he held the mirror in such a way that
    he could see the refection of the moon in the plate of water.

    He then beheld the mirror and refrained from blinking his eyes while seeing the moon’s reflection on the plate of water.

    Suddenly, the heavens because resplendent with a celestial light. A mysterious voice of nature began to speak as if the mountains, trees, hills and forests developed the the power of locution and greeted one another joyfully. Suddenly, the rich man beheld a miraculous event. From both ends of the sky (east and west), the stars with lightening speed came together and “kissed” each other affectionately.

    The rich man immediately began to address them loudly.

    “Oh heaven celest, fulfill my heartfelt wish. Whatever I touch, let it turn to gold, gold, gold”

    It is said that the heavens fulfilled his desire because the rich man spoke at just the right moment.

    The rich miser full of unbounded glee hurried back home to inform his wife of his amazing fortune.

    His happiness was so overpowering that he immediately embraced his wife before he even spoke a word.

    He kissed her joyfully, but then he frightfully stepped back as bitten by a poisonous snake. His wife was turned into a golden statue as if frozen in time.

    In his extreme state of distress, he touched her soft hair which also immediately turned to gold fibers and became hard like the hairs of wild pigs.

    Seeing this sad turn of events the rich man became depressed. He sequestered himsel in a room and remained alone for several days without eating or drinking.

    He could not, of course, remain like that for long. After some days, he called his servants and ordered them to bring him food and drink. They quickly brought him a feast and set his table royally.

    The rich man as if crazed by the greed of a miser grabbed a piece of bread. But as soon as he touched the bread, it turned into gold. The same thing happened to whatever else he touched. Everything, including the dishes, the food and the table turned to gold.

    The rich man could not eat a morcel of food even though he was surrounded by a sumptuous feast. He soon died of starvation and thirst.

    Three apples fell from the heavens. Whoever is not a miser, can pick them up and eat. The apples turned to gold in the hands of the miser.

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  • You can recognize a real friend in times of diffuculty.

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  • In the presence of the strong, the weak are always guilty.

    There is a beautiful poem by Khungo-Sehber

    The wolf and the lamb

    A baby lamb
    was drinking water
    from a stream
    When a wolf
    looked piercingly
    from high ground
    Began to speak.
    “What shameless ways,
    such foolish boldness,
    such a peewee
    sheep’s urchin,
    who do you think you are,
    sticking your nose here,
    busybody nosing around
    messing up my clean waters.
    I’ll pinch your nose
    Choke you dead.”
    “Oh don’t get angry,
    Sir wolf,
    I am so lowly
    you are saying things untrue…”
    “Am I lying, you twurp,
    Suppose you forgot last year,
    But I remember the past,
    In this same place, same time,
    you spoke curse words to my Dad.”
    “I am not even one year old.”
    “So you think it was your brother, little fool.”
    “I am an only child without brother.”
    “Then it was one of your inlaws
    or a member of your impure race.
    So don’t you dare move.”
    Your guard dogs’
    your shepherders’
    revenge I will exact from you.”
    The fox thus spoke,
    leaped at the lamb,
    grabbed him
    Ran with him
    Into the dark forest.
    What is most important to understand,
    Amongst the powerful
    the weak are always guilty.

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  • mehguh pohloree hahmar, pohlorhuh mehgee

    One for all and all for one

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  • ahzneev ou pahree uhlahlou hahmahr uhnduhrek uhnghehrnehr meesht kaghahkavahr
    (To develop gentle behavior and decency, choose friends who act morally and exemplify modesty)

    There is a wonderful poem by the 19th century Armenian poetess named Seebil.

    The butterfly and the tulip
    Teetehrneekuh yehv gahgackuh

    Perched on a tulip was a butterfly
    whose wings were so delicate and soft
    The butterfly said to the tulip,
    How did you develop such a heavenly scent
    emanating from you like fragrant flowers?
    The tulip said, “I am so fortunate
    to have had a rose as a neighbor.”
    To become moral and good,
    choose friends who are always well behaved.

    There is also another Armenian proverb that has its counterpart in English.

    uhs seh teh ohv eh uhngehrut, kehzee uhsehm teh ohv ehs toun

    Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are; or,
    birds of a feather flock together.

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  • You cried loudly at your birth
    But your family rejoiced with mirth

    Now live this life, work hard, serve with honor and grace
    At death , your family will lament, but a smile will light your face

    Let me speak unto your heart
    Listen if you can comprehend
    Keep aloof from fools, be smart
    Their flatteries and lies have no end

    The fool like fire lust and heat
    Burns all things to ashes and peat
    yet the wise like water sweet
    Wet the desert making nature’s lushness repeat

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  • khahpogheen khahpogh ou gehss

    A thief who is a greater cheat than another thief.

    The Armenian female poet Seebeel wrote this poem that I have translated in English
    that illustrates how the treacherous can be subjected to treachery.

    Red crested and sharp claws
    a green chest, with many spots
    a head held high, proud,
    eating grains, eating grains.

    In the farmyard chicken coup
    striding proudly with a slow pompous gait
    the handsome cock with golden feathers
    eating grains, eating grains

    Then low and behold, stealthily slow
    head hung low, and a ruthless heart,
    a fox reduced to skin and bones
    approached our proud cock

    “Hello,” he said, “you bird of epic stature
    what an opulent presence, such a sight of rich feathers.
    where did you find such silver feathers,
    whose tips seem to have precious stones, like emerald droplets.
    your crest like silken fibers the color of apricots,
    resembling the metal caps of ancient heros.
    your beak appears more precious than a sapphire,
    you use it to sing songs of mirth to uplift the world.
    I don’t know a bird as charming as you,
    Lo even the swams are far beneath your noble mien.
    There was only one I knew like you, your father,
    He would also charm us with his flights of song.
    But he had a particular skill, you seem to lack,
    ( How can I forget the talent of that sweet bird)
    When he sang he closed his eyes.
    What a beautiful voice like a flute, violin, vina, or lyre.

    The rooster’s inexperienced boy,
    believed the fox’s word ploy,
    Closed his eyes and raised his voice,
    “gougouleek-gou” he rejoiced
    With a loud song and much energy.
    The fox jumped toward the boy
    grabbed him with his paws and jaws
    and quickly made off light and fast.
    But the shepherders awake in the fields,
    observed the wily fox’s mad foray,
    pursued with their dogs with sprightly gait
    armed with thick long sticks ready to kill.

    Although in the tight grips of the fox,
    the rooster said, “Fox brother, tell the dogs
    And the stupid, lazy shepherders
    that they have no hope of retrieving this cock.”
    The fearless fox wagging his tail,
    Intoxicated by the pride of a victorious predator
    Opened wide his mouth and shouted with all his might.
    “The cock is mine, don’t waste your time chasing after it.”
    Suddenly the cock flew up to the branch of a tree.
    The skinny fox looked up with a crazed look
    depressed and angry a fire burned in his heart.
    “You bereft, foolish faceless beast
    How could I fall into such deceit.
    Oh you vain and stupid mouth,” he said crying.
    “Instead of staying silent, you blab uselessly.”
    A witness crow yelled from above.

    “Alas the eye that closes in sleep
    when it must stay awake , the prize to keep.”

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  • We blind people see better than those who have eyes.

    There is a story about a blind girl who had a neighbor who watched her movements very carefully. She worked hard to save her money. She would quietly go out in her garden at night and bury her savings under a fruit tree. The neighbor noticed her secret. One day he stole her savings and didn’t care anymore about her movements. She quickly noticed that her savings were missing from her secret hiding place and began to ponder how it happened.

    She realized that someone close to her had seen her movements and found out her secret. As she only had one close neighbor, she decided to test his honesty. One day she approached her neighbor and confided in him that she had recently inheritesd a large sum of money but was uncertain how to keep it. She told him that she kept her savings in a secret spot but was heritant whether she should put this money in the same spot or in a new one. She asked his advice. He reassured her that she should place the money in the same spot as it was a secret and apparently very safe. She agreed and said she would do it the next day. That night the neighbor quietly replaced the money he had stolen with the expectation that she would add a large sum to it and then he would steal all. The next day when she went to examine her secret hiding spot. She emptied the money the neighbor placed there the previous day and took it into the house. When the neighbor went that night to get the booty, he found nothing. But there was a handwritten note that said, “we blind people see better than those who have eyes.”

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