DYJHICON: THE COWARD-HERO
These tales were originally translated to the English language by A. G. Seklemian and Z. C. Boyajian
Dyjhicon was a poor unfortunate fellow who had only two goats and a cow. His wife was an ambitious woman, and annoyed him by her frequent demands.
“I want you to go out and work,” she often said. “I want you to build a new house, I want to buy myself some new dresses, oxen and sheep, a horse and wagon.”
Dyjhicon, tiring of her endless complaints and scoldings, one day took his great stick and drove the cow out of the house, saying to himself:
“Let me run from this wicked wife to the wilderness and there die.”
This was what the woman wanted. Thus he ran from her and wandered in the wilderness. When he was hungry he milked the cow and drank the milk, and when he was tired he mounted the cow. He was very timid—a typical coward. The sight of a running rat was enough to make him tremble.
“Eh!” he thought, nevertheless, “it is better to be torn by wild beasts than to become the slave of a wicked woman.”
One day, as the cow was pasturing on a green meadow and Dyjhicon was lying down lazily, the flies stung him. He cursed his wife and clapped his hands to kill the flies. Then he counted to see how many flies he had killed at one stroke, and lo! They were seven in number. This encouraged him, and he took his knife and carved upon his stick these words:
“I am Dyjhicon; I have killed seven by one stroke of the hand.”
Then he got astride the cow and rode away. After a long journey he came to a green meadow in the center of which there was a magnificent castle with an orchard around it. He let the cow graze in the meadow and he lay down to sleep. Seven brothers lived in that castle. One of them, seeing Dyjhicon and his cow in the meadow came to find who it was that had ventured to enter their ground. Dyjhicon was sleeping, with his stick standing near him. The man approached and, reading the inscription, was terrified.
“What a hero!” he thought to himself, “he has killed seven men by one stroke of the hand. He must be a brave man, else he would not dare to sleep here so carelessly. What courage! What boldness! He has come so far without arms, without a horse, without a companion. This man is surely a great hero.”
He went and informed his brothers as to what he had seen; and all the seven brothers came to pay their respects to the unknown hero, and to invite him to their humble home. The cow, being frightened by their approach, began to leap and bellow. Her voice wakened Dyjhicon, who, seeing seven men standing before him, was terrified, and snatching his club, stood aside trembling. The seven brothers thought that he was angry with them, and was trembling on account of his wrath, and that he would kill all of them by one stroke of his stick. Thereupon they began to supplicate him to pardon their rudeness in disturbing his repose. Then they invited him to go with them, saying:
“We are seven brothers and have a great reputation as good fighters in this district. But we shall be entirely invincible, if you will join us and become our elder brother. We will take great pleasure in placing our house and all that belongs to us at the service of such a hero as yourself.”
Hearing this, Dyjhicon ceased trembling, and said:
“Very well, let it be as you say.”
They took him to the castle with great pomp and served to him a grand banquet, at which all the seven brothers stood before him, folding their arms upon their breasts and awaiting his permission to sit. Dyjhicon was in great alarm, his heart was faint and he had fallen into meditation as to the manner in which he might free himself from this perplexing situation. The seven brothers thought that he was not only a very brave hero, but was also such a great sage, that he did not care even to look at their faces. They began to cough in a low voice to draw his attention. On account of his internal fear Dyjhicon suddenly shook his head. The seven brothers took this as a permission to sit. After the banquet they said to him:
“My lord, where have you left your horse, arms and servants? Will you command us to go and bring them?”
“Horse and arms are necessary for timid men,” said Dyjhicon; “I have never had need of them. I use horse and arms only when I fight a great battle. As to servants, I never need them; all men are my servants. You see, I have come so far having only a cow and my stick. Dyjhicon is my name; I have killed seven by one stroke of the hand.”
Their esteem and admiration for Dyjhicon increased every day, and at last they were so much fascinated by his alleged bravery that they gave him in marriage their only sister, who was a very beautiful maiden. Dyjhicon knew that he was unworthy, but he could not refuse this gift.
“Eh!” he said, “I will do you the favor of marrying her since you entreat me so earnestly.”
They brought costly garments, and putting them on Dyjhicon, made him a handsome bridegroom. They had a splendid wedding festival, talked about in all the neighboring countries. The four princes of the neighboring countries had asked the hand of the maiden in marriage, and all of them had been refused. Now hearing that the maiden was given in marriage to a stranger, the four princes waged war against the seven brothers. Dyjhicon, hearing this, was stricken with fear, and longed that the earth might open its mouth and swallow him. He thought to run away, but there were no means of escaping. While he indulged in these sad meditations, the seven brothers came, and bowing down before him, said:
“What is your order, my lord? Will you go fight yourself, or will you have us go first?”
This caused Dyjhicon’s heart to melt. He began to tremble in his whole body, and to strike his teeth one against another. The seven brothers thought that it was because of his violent rage, and that in his fury he would destroy whole armies.
“My lord,” they said, finally, “let us seven brothers go fight them at first, and if we find them hard to conquer we will send you word, that you may come to our assistance.”
“Well, well; do so,” answered Dyjhicon, somewhat relieved.
They went and began the battle. Their neighboring peoples were in constant terror of the seven brothers, who were famous as brave fighters. Now that they had also a brother-in-law who could kill seven men by one stroke of the hand, their foes were the more afraid of them. But this time the men of the four princes were united, and they fought with unusual zeal and determination. This caused the seven brothers to retreat a little, and they sent to brother Dyjhicon, saying:
“We are in trouble; come to our assistance.”
A fast horse and magnificent arms awaited him. He began to curse the day when he came to that house. But what could he do now? At last he decided to go to the battlefield, cast himself against the swords of the enemy and die; death was preferable to such a disgraceful life. As soon as he mounted the horse, the beast, knowing that the rider was inexperienced, ran away like a winged eagle. Dyjhicon could not stop or manage it. The seven brothers thought he was so brave that he left the horse free in order to reach and slaughter the enemy. The horse broke into the line of the enemy, who began to fly, saying:
“Who can stand before this great hero?”
In their hurry to retreat they began to slaughter one another. Dyjhicon, who had never been on horseback before, was so much afraid that he thought he was already lost. As the horse was running through the forest, he threw his arms around an oak tree and embraced it, letting the horse go from under him. The tree happened to be rotten and was rooted out when he took hold of it. This caused a great panic among the enemy, who ran away exclaiming:
“Aha! He has pulled up by the roots an enormous oak, and now he means to batter us into pieces with it. Who can stand before this strong warrior?”
So crying as they ran away, they slaughtered one another. Thereupon, the seven brothers came and embracing the feet of their heroic brother-in-law, exclaimed:
“What magnificent courage! What a great victory!”
With these words they brought Dyjhicon home with great pomp and glory. The four princes who waged the war, being greatly humiliated, sued for reconciliation, and in order to gain Dyjhicon’s favor, each of them sent him as a present one thousand ewes with their lambs, ten mares with their colts, and other costly offerings.
Thus the greatest coward became the greatest hero.