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Epic Manas  » The Hero Manas

The Hero Manas


Thus Manas is one of those legendary or ideal heroes who fights against external enemies and reunites all his scattered people. Hence one of the fixed epithets in the epic describing him as "Chachïlgandï jïinagan, chabïlgandï kuragan (He united those who went astray and put together those who were divided).

Manas is not considered a historical personality. However, some scholars claim Manas as a prototype of Chingiz Khan. The great thirteenth-century Mongolian epic, The Secret History of the Mongols, tells about the origin and history of the Mongols and builds the stories around the life of Chingiz Khan and his empire. One of the episodes in The Secret History contains a traditional theme of a heroic epic song, the birth of Chingiz Khan: "At the moment when he was born, he was born holding in his right hand a clot of blood the size of a knuckle bone..."

A similar theme exists in the epic Manas. The hero Manas is also born with a clot of blood in his hand. The wise man Akbaltai brings the happy news to Manas' father Jakïp and describes Manas' birth to him:

When your Manas came out [from the womb]
He landed straight on his feet!
In his right hand, khan Manas
Came out holding a clot of black blood . . .

However, this unusual birth of the hero is common in Turkic and Mongol epic songs.

Another interesting theme which the two epics share is a dream motif. In The Secret History, Chingiz Khan's future father-in-law, Dei Sechen, sees a dream and tells it to Yesügin and his son Chingiz when they come in search of a bride: "This is thy son, he is a son with fire in his eyes, with light in his face. Quda Yesügei, I, this night, dreamed a dream. A white gerfalcon, holding both sun and moon, flew hither and is lighted into my hand." Before his son Manas is born, Jakïp also sees a special dream which is similar to Dei Sechen's dream about Chingiz Khan.

In my last night's dream,
I settled down on the upper Ala-Too
And caught a young baarchin eagle.
When I took him hunting,
The sound of his flapping wings was heard,
Unable to withstand his wrath,
All the animals fell over in fright. . . .
Reaching with my right hand,
I grasped the sun for myself.
Reaching with my left hand,
I caught the moon for myself.
My right hand held the sun,
My left hand held the moon,
I took the sun
And put it in place of the moon,
I took the moon
And put it in place of the sun.
Together with the sun and moon,
I flew high into the sky.

These dreams foretell the arrival or birth of a future hero who will take over the entire world. Both Manas and The Secret History are heroic sagas glorifying the khan Manas and Chingiz Khan and their mighty power. "Genghis Khan personified for the Mongols the ideal ruler-strict, but just and generous. The Mongol nation, as Marco Polo attests, followed him blindly and revered him 'almost as god.'" Another interesting factor to be mentioned is that Chingiz Khan, who is usually known in world history as a "terrible world conqueror," is described from the perspective of the Mongols themselves who show great sympathy and admiration to their leader. He is portrayed as a great, just, and powerful man who is destined to be the khan and conquer the world. The idea that he is protected by "powerful Heaven and Mother Earth" seems to justify his destroying other nations. This notion can clearly be perceived in the epic during Chingiz Khan's military campaigns against the Karluks, Uighurs, Oirats, Kyrgyz and Tanguts who surrender to the Great Khan without any resistance, offering their daughters to him as wives and presenting white falcons, white geldings and black sables as a sign of submission.

As in the case of Chingiz Khan, khan Manas is also likened to the "image of mythic gods." The following excerpts are part of the fixed traditional descriptions of Manas in the epic:

He is created from the beam between the Sky and the Earth,
He is created from the waves of a river under the moon,
He is created from the blend of gold and silver. 

Manas is not an ordinary man, but a hero of tremendous power and wrath. When filled with rage, his eyes turn red like fire and he desires to drink human blood. He is destined to conquer the world even before he is born. In addition, Manas is always accompanied and protected by the spirits of powerful animals such as a black-striped tiger. A lion is by his side, a giant black bird flies above him, and a dragon in front of him. Traditionally, Turkic epic heroes, like the Mongolian heroes, were lonely. They fought with ogres or giants alone. When a hero was alone, he had to have some supernatural powers to defeat the enemy. In Manas we still see the traits of that ancient theme. Physical descriptions of Manas reflect the supernatural image of the ancient hero.

Although some of the main stories in the epic deal with recent history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there are many archaic elements and themes in the epic, which reflect its ancient origin. As time passed, the "primitive" plot as well as the archaic language of the epic went through many poetic transformations adapting to the new historical, socio-economic and religious developments of each century or decade. We find both ancient and recent poetical elements, e.g., in hero Manas' description. For example, as traditional epithets, Manas has kabïlan, "tiger," arstan, "lion," kökjal, "blue-maned," kankor, "bloodthirsty," etc., which reflect the ancient "totemic" religious worldview of the Kyrgyz. The new generations of epic singers added new characteristics to the hero according to their own personal knowledge and poetic innovations. Those supernatural descriptions of Manas' personality were renewed. For example, the nineteenth-century epic singers who lived during the peak of Islamic/Sufi influence among the nomadic Kyrgyz, made the hero Manas a "pious Muslim" who fought against the infidels. Saiakbai Karalaev had all the ancestors of Manas be blessed by Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, and Sufi saints.









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