Translated from: Russian
Authors: Aitmatovas, Čingizas
Translated by: Šulcaitė, Vilija
Published in: Vilnius
Published on: 1973
The novella tells an unforgettable story about a seven-year-old boy and San Tao cordon’s residents. This story will not only transport to a wonderful nostalgic world of childhood full of pure and bright memories, but will also introduce the Kirgiz culture and show the peculiarities of the gloomy Soviet life. This story is not consecutive — it distances itself from the main theme because even more enlivening nature (mountains, forests, lakes, marals, etc.) descriptions, that we see through the eyes of the boy, interrupt the text. Besides that, there are a lot of internal monologues that allow readers to get more acquainted with the characters.
The boy, whose divorced parents left him with his grandfather Momunas and his grandfather’s new wife, spends his lonely childhood in San Tao’s cordon with other residents. The most prominent cordon’s inhabitant is the forest’s supervisor – the terrible tyrant, alcoholic Orozkulas, whose wife is Momunas’s daughter Bekeja. The life of this family is described as the most tragic one, because poor Bekeja is infertile, and instead of feeling sorry for his wife, frequently drunk Orozkulas, beats her. And from this, not only the Bekeja but also the good Momunas, whom is tormented by his conscience because of the daughter’s fate, suffers. In addition to these disagreeing characters, there is also a happy family of Seidachmatas and Guldziamale who already has a daughter. So the main action of the book is the conflict between these people and, in particular, Orozkulas, who feels like a superior.
However, the tense episodes of Cordon’s residents’ conflict, are swept away by the child’s adventures and reflections of the visible world and also by episodes in which they tell about Momunas and the boy. It was Momunas who opposed mankurdism and told the boy various stories which included the main story of the book – the tale of the Horned Mother Deer. This legend, as the grandfather said, must be known by every person who lives near Issyk-Kul lake (the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan). Unfortunately, almost all the other characters of the book were affected by the Soviet life, and to them this story seemed stupid and meaningless. People did not care about their nation’s history anymore.
Orozkulas and his associates were so cruel and so affected by the ideologies of the Soviet life that they even forced Momunas to shoot the beautiful Horned Mother Deer. And thus, crushed his and his grandson’s beliefs and hopes that a brighter future might come. When the boy saw the image of such cruel handling of the innocent Horned Mother Deer, when he saw Orozkulas chopping the head of the deer, not only the boy was horrified but also the reader himself. Thus, Orozkulas symbolically destroyed the legend of its people and the customs that taught them to respect the marals. Even the grandparent, who always cared for the child, was now deadly drunk, left with a broken soul and found laying next to the elk’s horns. The boy realized that there was nobody left who could overcome Orozkulas. Since there was nothing left of the boy’s beliefs, last thing he could do was to travel to his long aspired white steamboat.
So amazingly, albeit sadly, through the eyes of the child, Chingiz Aitmatov conveyed the importance of knowing the history of your own nation, the importance of cherishing your nations’ customs and the importance of respecting your ancestors. He reminded us about the simple joyful things of childhood and the purest world of childhood itself, where there is no room for any deception. Showed the difficult life of the Kirgiz people which was exhausted by Soviet life. He also emphasized the stunning beauty of nature.