Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kyrgyzstan: Edelweiss and the Legend of the Broken Heart

Lilya Kas'yanova
Lilya Kas'yanova, one of Kyrgyzstan's finest guides, is passionate about the history, art and craft of her country. She regularly contributes articles to this website. A graduate in Linguistics and Intercultural Communications from I. Arabaev Kyrgyz State University, she is also a keen photographer and hiker. 

Kyrgyz nomads recite a wonderful, but sorrowful love story about a broken heart and edelweiss.

In the twilight of time, a maiden, who was as fair as a rose, dwelt in the southeastern part of the Issyk-Kul’ hollow. The time was ripe for her to be married, and she was mobbed by a great many eligible suitors.

The young woman, spoilt with exuberant and constant attention, decided to delay marrying. At first, just for the fun of it, she wanted to test the bachelors’ mettle, and she found the means of doing it.

Edelweiss felt brooch from Tumar Studio, Bishkek. Image: Lilya Kas'yanova
“I will marry the man who can find a rare and splendid edelweiss for me!” she announced.

The maid knew for sure that it would not be simple to comply with her wish. Edelweiss grow in difficult to access places, high in the mountains, on forbidding crags.

The bachelors gave up without even going flower hunting. Some did not have enough courage; some turned their attention to other desirable alliances.

Only one youth took up the challenge of obtaining an edelweiss and thereby finding a way to the heart of the inaccessible beauty. That venturesome man also caught the fancy of the radiant, wilful beauty.

However, she was determined to follow through with the challenge: “He has to obtain an edelweiss for me, and then I will reveal my soul to him and become his wife!”

The love-struck man set out in search of the mysterious flower of love, and never returned.

Edelweiss in a wall mosaic, Tamga sanatorium. Image: Lilya Kas'yanova
Many days passed. The maiden waited the return of her young man. Time and again she blamed herself for sending her beloved to his doom. She could not endure his absence any longer: with her loyal friends she went in search of him.

They searched for a long time, and, ultimately, found him. The brave youth was dead: he was like an ice statue, having died of exposure. But in his frozen hand, there was a snowy edelweiss - symbol of triumphant love.

Only then did the maiden fully understand that she would not be able to withstand the bitterness of eternal parting with her beloved.

She could not imagine her life without him.

Heavy with sorrow, the unfortunate maiden ripped her heart out of her chest, and it turned into a splintered rock.

Broken Heart rock in Jety-Oguz valley
In Kyrgyzstan’s Jety-Oguz valley the Broken Heart rock still stands today.

And the magnificent snow-white edelweiss still blooms in the mountains above the valley – a symbol of sorrow and love.

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Jamilia: A Kyrgyz Love Story
Kyrgyzstan's Fairy Tale Canyon
Kyrgyzstan: A Tale of Burana Tower
Kyrgyz Blues