The story of Ural-batyr

Out of Bashkortostan comes a medieval (13th c.) legend about a hero named Ural or Ural-batyr (or batir/batur/batyr means ‘brave man’). He sacrificed his life for the sake of his people and they poured a stone pile over his grave which later turned into the Ural Mountains (Source:  Ural (geographical)”. Great Soviet Encyclopedia.).

Based on the Turkic and, to some extent, Semitic folk song traditions, the folk epic poem narrates the story of the heroic deeds of Ural-batyr. Born to an elderly couple (Yanbike and Yanbirðe), Ural evinces from his very infancy all the features of a legendary hero, such as unflinching courage, honesty, kindheartedness, empathy, and great physical strength. Unlike his cunning and treacherous brother Shulgan (see Sulgan-tash), Ural is an eager enemy of the evil and of Death which personifies it. Having matured, Ural sets out on the quest for Death, with the desire to find and destroy Him. On his way, he meets with various people and legendary creatures and is often deferred by long adventures; in all cases, his actions serve to save lives or quell the evil. Riding his winged stallion Akbuthat, he saves young men and women prepared for sacrifice by the tyrannical Shah Katil from imminent death, tames a wild bull, destroys an immense number of devs, marries the legendary Humai (or Homai), a swan-maiden, and finally smites the chief dev Azraka, whose dead body is said to have formed Mount Yaman-tau in the South Urals. Ural-batyr perishes in his final grapple with the devs, as he is forced to drink up a whole lake where they had hidden from him, but he leaves his sons to continue his initiative.

“In my ranging though the whole world,
In my wandering around it.
‘Tis Death-Evil I am after,
It is Death I strive to finish,
And because I do not fear it,
I do not fear monstrous customs.
Death may come to any live thing,
Lay His hand on any creature,
Be it human being or fledgeling,
But I will not stand by idly,
Watching Life unjustly taken,
Though before it at my leisure
I can form my own opinion
Through the lore of local customs.” — Ural-batur

See other versions:   pt 6  pt 7

 

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2 thoughts on “The story of Ural-batyr

  1. Uri says:

    Thank you for the article. I wished to ask if this folklore is in any way related to Japanese mythology.

    • It’s hard to say, but I suspect the similar traditions existing in Japan point to a genetic connection in one or two royal lineages.
      The archer stories of heroes abound from the late Yayoi-Kofun (kurgan) period onwards, hero archers, and there is a Bato-kannon a crossroad deity, a horse-headed deity (Bato sounds like Batur or Batyr. In the tumulus mounds there are depictions of archers, quivers, some with ten arrows carved on them ( The hun or Turkic ten tribes?). And the two elderly couples are given a prominent place in the earliest part of the royal genealogy, only their names are Ashina-zuchi and Tenazuchi, see https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/ashinazuchi — zuchi means ‘elder’, pointing to a reference to the Elder couple of the Ashina royal clan…which is similar to the typical mention of the Elderly Couple in many of the Mongolian tribal genealogies and origin myths. The deer stag myth of the Ural Maeotis (and Hungarian myth) is also found in the royal genealogy and particularly associated with the most ancient of shrines in Kashima and where Maeotis appears transformed as Meoto. There are other red arrow stories that sound like Ural myths as well.

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