He ran after a lot (great riches) and little remained in his hand
shadeen hedevuh vahzetch, keetchuh tzheritz toghetz
The five brothers – hing yeghpaiyrnehr
There were once five brothers. Four were blacksmiths and one was a donkey-driver. The four brothers who were blacksmiths decided among themselves to kill the donkey driver whose name was Khehlok jaghad, which means crazy bald man in Armenian. They would be free of his annoying presence and his miserable life would be ended. Crazy Bald had left earlier in the day to fetch dry wood in the forest. While plying his way, he stopped at the house of a rich man and borrowed three gold coins.
Later, Crazy Bald returned to the blacksmith shop of his brothers. He hid the three pieces of gold in the butt of the ass. When he entered the brother’s workshop, the ass passed excrement on the floor in front of everyone. Crazy Bald put his hand into the warm excrement as if he was looking for something.
“Amazing” said one brother to the other. “Look, look! Our bald brother is crazy. He’s looking for something of value in the crap of the ass and he actually found three gold coins. Let’s purchase his ass so that we can get the gold coins everyday. We need such an ass so that we don’t have to work likes asses ourselves to earn a living.”
The next day, at evening time, all four blacksmith brothers went to see Crazy Bald who was not home. After a short time, Crazy Bald returned to find his brothers waiting for him. The four brothers asked Crazy Bald to sell them his ass.
“May your homes be torn apart (duhn-ut kahntuhvee – an Armenian imprecation often used by villagers),” said Crazy Bald. You saw that the ass shits two or three gold coins everyday. You’re thinking that I am crazy enough to sell you the ass so you all can become rich. Is that why you have come to see me?”
“Not at all,” replied the four brothers. “We have a few debts here and there, and we need a pack animal. It is only for these urgent reasons that we want to buy the ass.”
“Okay, Okay,” said Crazy Bald. “Agreed, I’ll sell you the ass. Give me twenty scrotums (a scrotum is the testicle bag; this is a figurative way to refer to a male ass).
“My God,” chimed the brothers. “You are asking too much! But since you insist, we agree.” They gave him twenty male asses. In return, they asked Crazy Bald to explain how to take care of the ass so that it will shit frequently.
He replied, “Give the ass enough hay and grains for eight days. If the ass eats everything before the seventh day, put more provisions for it.
The four brothers did as they were advised. They re-provisioned the donkey on the third day as it finished the previous supplies. On the eighth day, they tried to open the door of the stable, but it wouldn’t open. They looked at each other and smiled. They were convinced the ass must have shit a big pile of gold, so much that the door wouldn’t open.
They called a carpenter to unhinge the door of the stable. He came and opened the door and lo and behold, the ass was dead of a bloated stomach. The four brothers were furious. They became determined to murder Crazy Bald. Arriving at Crazy Bald’s dwelling, they looked everywhere. They found his wife, but he was not there.
Before the eighth day, Crazy Bald went up into a forested mountainside and trapped two wild rabbits that looked exactly alike. He left one with his wife and took the other with him. He told his wife, “When my brothers come looking for me, let them see you talk to the rabbit and say, “Go and fetch my husband on the mountainside” She did as he said in front of the brothers. When she let the rabbit free, it ran and hopped right up the mountainside as he was ordered to do.
A short time later, Crazy Bald came back down the mountain holding a rabbit that looked exactly like the one his wife sent with a message to call him back. His brothers were stunned by the rapid and obedient rabbit. There were no telephones yet in the Armenian villages of Cicilia. Such a messenger rabbit was a marvel. So the brothers forgot about killing Crazy Bald and inquired how they could have the rabbit to replace the donkey that died.
Crazy Bald dickered with them by insisting that they should give him five scrotums for the miraculous messenger rabbit. They reluctantly agreed.
One of the brothers had a debtor in a distant village that he had not heard from for months. He tied a small bag on the rabbit’s neck with a message to his debtor. The message read, “This is my messenger rabbit. Please treat him to some good grass and water. Then please place the amount of two gold coins that you owe me in the small back on his neck and order him to bring them back to me.” He took the rabbit out of its cage and held it in his hands while another brother tied the bag to its neck. The rabbit was squirming like anything trying to get away. The brother talked to it, “Now go to the village called Hadjin and find the house Toros demerji (iron forger). Then wait for his instructions. The rabbit twitched his nose and moved its ears. The brother took that as a yes answer and then let it loose. The rabbit ran as fast at it could up the mountainside and disappeared.
The brothers waited nearly one month without seeing the rabbit return from Hadjin. They realized that were tricked again by their Crazy Bald. This time they were determined to kill him without being conned again by his quirky tricks.
Crazy Bald understood that his brothers were planning to kill him. He went to the public market and purchased sheep guts (intestines). He had the butcher fill them with fresh blood of a lamb and came home. He asked his wife to wrap the intestines full of blood around her belly and cover them with her dress. He asked her not to go to bed, but wait and see if his brothers paid a visit. If they did, he would invite them into the house. He would start an argument with her in front of his brothers. Gradually, he would become more and more angry; then grab her and stab her with a knife in the belly. He asked her to pretend that she was mortally wounded. His brothers would see the lamb’s blood squirt all over the room and she would scream and faint as if dead.
Once she seemed dead, Crazy Bald explained he would come up to her body and blow on a ram’s horn into her ear. “When you hear me blow on the ram’s horn,” said Crazy Bald, “rise up with a smile and praise Jesus for bringing you back from death.”
That night his four brothers came knocking on the door of his house. Their purpose was to kill him. He let them in. Crazy Bald began to argue with his wife in front of the brothers. He became very angry and started to shout because she became stubborn and talked back. Then, he ran toward her and plunged a knife into her belly. She screamed and grabbed her belly. Her blood squirted everywhere in the living room.
The four brothers were shocked and shouted at Crazy Bald, “Why did you kill your wife!” Crazy Bald smiled and walked up to his wife and blew the ram’s horn into her ear. She came back to life and smiled and begged forgiveness from her husband for talking back to him. The four brothers were puzzled by what happened and fascinated by the ram’s horn. They looked at each other and said, “We need a ram’s horn like that to teach our wives a lesson. They have a stubborn streak and talk harshly to us sometimes. If they do that again we can kill them and cut their heads off, then blow the ram’s horn and bring them back to life. They will become humble and be listen to what we say.”
Crazy Bald sold his magical ram’s horn for two scrotums. The eldest brother took the horn first and went home to his wife. He started a fight with her for no reason. She became very agitated and talked back to him for his mean words. He said, ‘Why don’t you listen to me and stop talking back, you crazy lady. You’re going to die now.” He grabbed her frightened body and threw her on the ground and cut her throat.
His children were horrified and let out wailing cries. The father smiled and told them not to be worried. He was going to bring mommy back to life. He blew into the ram’s horn pointing it in his wife’s ear. Nothing happened. She lay there dead as a doornail, her head severed from her body. The elder brother was furious. He called the other brothers. They were tricked again by Crazy Bald. But, this time they were more than determined to kill him without any more diversions by his tricks.
They rushed to his house. One of the brothers suggested that they torture him before they kill him. They agreed. They grabbed Crazy Bald and took him up a steep hill overlooking the ocean. They tied him to a tree and put a cloth sack over his head. They began to strike him one after the other. They left him there to suffer all night with the expectation that the next day they would come back and throw him into the ocean to drown. There was no hope of Crazy Bald to survive.
During the night, a sheepherder with his small flock of forty sheep came up the trail to let his sheep spend the night on the high hill and graze on the grass. Crazy Bald herd the sounds of the herd and understood that a lone sheepherder was close. He began to cry, “I’ll never marry the king’s daughter no matter how much they torture me.” Never , never.”
The sheepherder was amazed hearing the impassioned cries of Crazy Bald.
He said, “Brother, I’ll marry her any day. You have to be a fool to refuse to marry the king’s daughter.”
“Brother sheepherder,” said Crazy Bald, “I love someone else. I can never marry the king’s daughter. But, if you want to, then let’s change places. You untie me and I’ll tie you in my place with this sack over your head. At, dawn, the king’s men will come and ask you if you changed your mind. Just say yes, I’ll marry her. And they will let you free and honor you as the new prince. You will enjoy a life of royal pleasures with the beautiful princess. What do you say?”
The naïve sheepherder said yes. He unties Crazy Bald and let himself be tied by him to the tree with the sack over his head. The sheepherder gave his sheep to Crazy Bald who left congratulating him on his good fortune.
The next morning, the four brothers came and began to immediately pound who they thought was Crazy Bald under the sack. The sheepherder cried out that he wanted to marry the king’s daughter. The four brothers thought that Crazy Bald had really gone mad by suffering all night. They beat him to a pulp and dragged him to the edge of the precipice and threw him into the deep sea below to drown.“ Good riddance,” they chimed in unison and went back to their village to lament the death of the elder brother’s wife.
After a month’s time, Crazy Bald entered the village with his herd of thirty sheep and stood outside his brother’s blacksmith shop. The four brothers could not believe their eyes on seeing Crazy Bald. They were certain that he died by drowning in the sea. Yet, he was standing there smiling and apparently prosperous with a herd of sheep.
Crazy Bald said, “May tragedy befall all of you! Why did you throw me so close to the shoreline. If you had hurled me father out to drown, I would have receive more sheep as a blessing. That particular high hill overlooking the sea was once the hermitage of a holy man. He prayed that Jesus bless any person who throws themselves off that precipice to drown in the sea. The blessing is that they will not die, but receive as many sheep as the number of feet they fall from the shoreline. I only fell thirty feet from the shore and received only thirty sheep.”
The four brothers looked at one another. They were enticed by Crazy Bald’s tall tale. But, they could not disbelieve him because they threw him over the precipice into the sea below. No man could possibly survive such a steep fall into the deep waters of the sea from that height. They envy for Crazy Bald and their greed for wealth blinded their thoughts. They ran home and told their wives and children. The wives came running to the precipice with their children and relatives. On seeing Crazy Bald alive, they also believed his story. He helped them all jump as far into the water as possible. In the excitement, Crazy Bald’s wife also jumped before he could stop her.
Thus greed and the passion for wealth can completely blind a person’s rational sense and lead to tragedy. What appears to be true may not be true. In fact, most people strive for one illusory hope after another based on their own greed and lust for wealth and power.
Every grain is not a pearl
ahmehn hahdeek mahrkahreet cheh
He steals at night and the next day he says “God have mercy on us!”
keehsehruh koghoutioun eh ahnoum, tzehreguh “dehr voghormia” eh ahssoum
They guessed he was a Turk. It turned out he had a Christian cross under his shirt.
gahrzehtzeen vohr turk ehr, paiytz dzohtzeetz khahch touhrss yehlav
Boast of one’s generosity by using the purse of another
Oureesheen dohbrakeen vuhrah zuhrahl uhllahl
You don’t sell the fish while it is still swimming in the river
Tzouguh chouroum ahrehvdour chen ahnoum
You don.t sell the fish while it is still swimming in the river (You don’t sell the fish before you catch it)
Another way to say this is judehruh ahsnahnuh guh hahmrehn – count your chicks in the fall (this has the same meaning as don’t count your chickens before they hatch)
There is a short story by Hohvhaness Toumanian that illustrates this proverb – “The travelers.”
One day a red rooster flew up on the roof of the farmer’s house to have a panoramic view of the world. He stretched his neck as long as he could, but couldn’t see much. There was a vast mountain nearby that hindered the view.
“Dog brother, maybe you know what lies on the other side of the big mountain?” asked the rooster to the dog resting below in the farmhouse yard.
“I don’t know either!” said the dog.
“For heavens sake, how long should we live without knowing what’s beyond our little world. Come on, let’s go and see what’s in this vast world.” The farm dog agreed. On the spur of the moment, they both left on their adventure.
They walked and walked until the sun set. They reached a forest where they decided to take rest. The dog brother curled up under a bush. The rooster flew up a nearby tree and landed on a branch. They both closed their eyes for rest.
At dawn, the rooster called out, Cocka-doodle-doo.
“Good God, where did that come from? My lucky day, a good breakfast,” thought the fox who ran as fast as he could toward the rooster.
“Good morning, cousin rooster. What are you up to in these parts?”
“I have come here to see the world,” said the rooster.
“Oh, what a wonderful adventure you have embarked on,” said the fox. For me, it has been such a long time that I am trying to find a good friend. It is my luck that we have met today. So let’s join together, come down we’ll go quickly,” said the fox.
“I agree,” said the rooster. “Wait, perhaps my friend wants to come to. I’ll come down and we’ll go.”
“Where is your friend, rooster cousin?”
“He’s under that bush over there.”
The fox thought to himself, “His friend must be a rooster like him. I’ll eat him first since he is already on the ground.” The fox ran to the bush. Suddenly the dog came out from under the bush. Seeing the dog scared the hell out of the fox, who high tailed it as fast as he could away from the dog.
“Wait a minute, fox brother, don’t run so fast. We want to go with you. How can we be friends and travel partners if you run away?” called out the rooster as loud as he could.
He beats the dog, but is bashful in front of the boss
This proverb conveys the sense that a deceitful man when in a position of power will beat (or be mean and cruel to) a weak person or dependent. However, in front of an authority, the same person feigns bashfulness and humility.
Jesus tells the parable of the businessman who borrowed money from a king. As time went on the businessman did not repay the king. The king summoned him and asked why he didn’t pay back the debt. The businessman said that his affairs were not going well and he couldn’t pay back the money. The king forgave the debt as a gesture of good will.
One day a poor man asked the businessman for a loan. The businessman loaned him money with strict stipulations for paying it back. As time went on the poor man was unable to repay the loan. The businessman seized whatever belongings the poor man had and had him jailed for nonpayment of the loan.
News of this event was related to the king who summoned the businessman. The king reminded the businessman how he had forgiven the nonpayment of the loan he had given him. The king said, “I forgave your bad debt as a gesture of good will, yet you do not forgive the poor man’s debt to you. You seized his belongings and put him in jail. Therefore, I take back my reprieve to you and seize your belongings as well as sentence you to jail for nonpayment of my loan. How can you expect mercy if you refuse to be merciful yourself.”
The cat’s tail is sticking out of his mouth and still he insists he didn’t eat the cat.
Gadoueen bohchuh pehrnen duhngadzeh, noren guhseh vor gadoun chee gerha
The bread a traveler carries is not a heavy burden the tears of a deceptive person do not indicate real love
janabareen hatzuh pehr cheh gehdzavoreen latzuh shehr cheh
When I was student in Beirut, I lived in a part of the city called Ainum Rasi. It was mostly residential with a few bars. I lived across the street from a bar which was a typical place that had an open door with red lights, soft music and one or two hookers always sitting on stools beckoning men to walk in. I decided one night to walk in and see the fun. A hooker immediately asked me to sit with her at the bar.
She put her hand on my leg and spoke broken French interspersed with Arabic. Then she put her arms around me and began to pant and make sounds like she was going to have an orgasm. Her eyes rolled and she asked me to buy her a drink so she could make love. I told her I didn’t want to buy a drink. She looked at me impatiently and then again did her little drama of near orgasm and said she wanted me to buy her a drink so she could make love to me. I said, why can’t we make love without buying you a drink. At this point, she flew into a rage and started shouting out all sorts of vulgar Arabic profanities. It got so bad, I walked out with my head spinning. She was so warm and inviting and then she became like a vampire spitting fire and insults. The tears (or exhortations) of a deceptive person do not indicate real love.
Love for money is not a tenable arrangement. It becomes an unbearable burden in time. Yet, a traveler that carries his bread for his journey does not complain knowing well it is for his sustenance. There are thus burdens of love and other burdens that are unbearable.
Parents toil to raise their children with love and sacrifice. Usually they do not complain of the burden. When there is no love, however, the burden becomes a burden. Love and warmth makes the task bearable and light and the lack of it makes everything oppressive and suffocating.
False, false, false everything is false
Soudeh soudeh soudeh amehn pahn soudeh
A fun Armenian song with a serious message
Soudeh soudeh soudeh amehn pahn soudeh
False, false, false everything is false
Ays askharhin vurrah amehn pahn soudeh
In this world everything is false
Oudeh khmeh bareh arantz mudhahdzeh
Eat, drink, and dance without ever thinking
Ardouh gannough ereghoun ehssuh bes kordzeh
From early morning to late evening, work like an ass
Giankuh inch eh chi kideh meedkuh yerpek chi kordzeh
He doesn’t understand what life is meant for, he never uses his intelligence (to understand)
Barab panov guh nedveh giankuh tzerken gantzehneh
Always wasting time with useless things, life slips through his hands
Oghin kuhmeh mees goudeh ghineruh guh khahtzouneh
He drinks liquor, eats meat,and chases after women
Kumar khaghalh guh seereh tuhramuh tzerken guh paghkeh
He likes to gamble, money slips through his hands like water
Azneev geeneen kar guhnedeh yerehkhaneruh hokuh cheh
He insults his good women and doesn’t care about his children
Tuhramee missht bedk ouneh khapehpie muh yegher eh
Always in need of money, he has become a con (cheat)
Giankuh antzav deratzav klogheen tzaveruh shadtzav
Life has passed, he has grown old, but his worries have increased
Hivant doughour hoosahad kerezmanuh modehtzav
Sick, sad, and hopeless, he will soon enter the cemetary
Meg pahn keedeh jisht keedeh chee ouzer kerad luhseh
One thing he knows for sure, he will never listen to good advice
Meghk kordzeluh hokuh cheh asdduhvadzeen tem guynadz eh
He can commit any sin without embarressment, he is against God
Soudeh soudeh soudeh ahmehn pahn soudeh
False, false, false everything is false
Arantz sourp koghsk hedeveh souduh giankut guh deereh
Without heeding holy advice, falsity will misguide one throughout life
Soudeh soudeh soudeh amehn pahn soudeh
False, false, false everything is false
Mehdz dehreen kosghk merjehl anasounee bes merhnell
Rejecting the words of God, he will die like an animal
This is my own wording to an old country song that my parents and their friends would sing during family get togethers. They would sing a totally different wording that emphasized eat, drink, and be merry and don’t care about anything else. Why! Because everything else is false and only personal enjoyment is real.
My wording stresses the importance of developing self-realization and gradual understanding of our relation to God.
The pursuit of material happiness without the cultivation of self realization will lead to misery and confusion in life. Material happiness is always accompanied by misery. We work to be happy, yet misery comes anyway and we cannot avoid it.
There is a saying in Arabic, “The One who made the door and the lock also made a key to open the door.” God has given us the manual how to live life successfully in His instructions through scripture. A successful life includes reasonable and dignified fulfillment materially while gradually developing steady love of God through compassion, and works of devotion. Eventually all material needs pale with the transformation of animal urges to genuine love of God.
Just the pursuit of gratification without self realization will lead to some happiness punctuated by misery and frustration. I experienced this when, as a young kid, I attended the Armenian picnic. I always looked forward to the Armenian picnics. They were a cauldron of tradition when I could see my parents and the elderly old country folks living their culture happily. I remember once I attended the Armenian picnic in the far Northeast of Philadelphia. It was a country setting and the one thing that still stays in my mind was the fresh herbal scent of cut grass, the warm summer sunshine with brilliant light, and the wafting of shish kebab odors.
Mr. Mugherditchian was the master kebabji who labored over a metal rectangular box full of glowing charcoal and many skewers all turning mechanically with chunks of meat dripping their fat on the hot coals. The odors of the cooked flesh was intense.
Mr. Mugherditchian was a short but very sturdily built man. He had an apron over his tank top undershirt with no sleeves. You could see his strong body. He frequently used his handkerchief to wipe away the tears and sweat while laboring on the spinning spits. Every so often someone would insist he down a tumbler of ohghee (or whiskey). He had a very nice wife and two boys, Roger and George, who were excellent Armenian musicians. His boys struck up a tune called Laz Bar. This is traditional music of the Laz people of northeastern Turkey. Mr. Mugherditchian motioned to his wife to come. She seemed somewhat embarrassed, then she rushed to him like a young girl.
They stood side by side, she was on his left. He put his arm around the back of her waist and held her upper hip tightly. She did the same to him. She placed her free hand on her hip next to his and he raised his free hand in the air with his handkerchief waving like a flag. Sometimes he held his free hand behind his neck for a short while then began to wave it masterfully. My heart jumped to my throat seeing them together like that dancing as one body to the old country music.
They began their intricate steps moving sideways together with steps and little hops, then going forward together with steps and a big hop, then backtracking in unison with the handkerchief waving madly. They were an older couple, but now they were dancing like young gazelles so perfectly in step with the intricate beat. They seemed to gain energy in the back step and amazingly did half turns in the back step so as to orient themselves in new directions. They covered 360 degrees to face all the excited onlookers who were clapping and really enjoying this rare treat of husband and wife dancing joyfully.
When the music ended the Mrs. let go of him and made a gesture that she had enough of holding him and ran back to her girlfriends that were looking on laughing. Mr. Mugherditchian wiped the sweat off his brow with his handkerchief and contemplated his kebabs. Just then something happened that amazed me. My dear cousin Jimmy Vosbikian came running behind the old man in a drunken frenzy and let out a really loud whistle as he grabbed him from behind and wrapped his arms around his chest. Jimmy lifted Mr. Mugherditchian and screamed his approval of the man’s dancing while holding him in the air in his wild bear hug. He held the old man for over thirty seconds in the air and let him down. Mr. Mugherditchian gave a strange and troubled look when he was let down. He seemed to have trouble breathing and clutched his side with a painful look on his face. Jimmy broke the old man’s rib in his embrace of appreciation. The old man was rushed to the hospital. The mood of the picnic changed from being happy and carefree to one of anxiety and shock.
Years later reflecting on this event I can understand that although we make every possible arrangement to be happy, still suffering seems to accompany happiness in a mysterious and uninvited way. We do everything to be happy and still misery comes without our plans or expectation. Inevitably it seems that happiness is accompanied by suffering as if they are partners forever.
One should rather sing, “false, false, false, everything in this world is false for just when you think you are happy, misery will strike unexpectedly.”
He is pretending to be crazy (or a helpless simpleton) in order to eat the chickens at the monastery
Sooud khent yeghereh, vankeen haveruh oudeleh
The helpless, hapless and poor were offered charity at the Armenian monasteries which were often near mountain villages. There were some who feigned being mentally challenged in order to eat well at the monastery.
The crippled bed bug has already changed pillows seven times (or traversed seven pillows).
Topal vochiluh yoteh ankam partz eh pokhel
People who feign being handicapped can cleverly and agilely perform tasks for their own benefit while claiming they are physically incapable of such actions. There was a television program that secretly filmed individuals who claimed work related injuries. During their supposed convalescence they were filmed playing sports and other strenuous activities. However, when they went for their regular medical check-up, they were seen limping along with crutches and walkers for support.
This funny saying is directed at people who pretend they have some physical or mental incapacity to escape doing work. But, when their own interest is at stake, they demonstrate their agile abilities to perform work.