Saturday, September 1, 2007
THE TRAVELING STAR
THE TRAVELING STAR
by G. Mend-Ooyo
Once upon a time there were two boys called Altan Bombarai and Mungun Bombarai, who lived with their parents, King Altai Sumber and Queen Oyu Sundel, in Alag Buur Gobi. They had flocks of wild asses and wild, light-bay horses scattered all over the steppe, wild sheep and mountain goats covering the talus, and as many herds of camels as caravans and bushes.
It had not rained for many years, and Alag Buur Gobi had dried out. The grass had become sparse and water was scarce.
King Altai Sumber's family loaded up all their possessions, and one day before dawn an unbelievably long migrating carava started off towards the mountain of the Azure Stupa which could be seen on the horizon.
The older boy, Altan Bombarai, led the caravan riding his golden-white horse. The caravan was so long that, when the front of the caravan was already crossing the Khangai Mountains, the rear still had not emerged from the mists of Gobi. At the head of the caravan, Queen Oyu Sundel, the mother of the two boys Altan Bombarai and Mungun Bombarai, was sitting in a sandalwood coach, whose roof was of juniper and conifer, and which was harnessed to a precious white camel gelding.
King Altai Sumber brought the long migrating train to the great road through Khangai Mountains and said: “Well, my children! During the day, proceed in the direction of the mountain of the Azure Stupa, which seems to touch the sky. At night, go towards the star of azure pearl right above the mountain. Do not stop! Once I have rounded up the beasts and animals left behind, I shall catch up with you." The King left on his mottled brown horse, which is faster than rain and wind, leading his velvet black horse, which is never overtaken by air or wind.
The boy Altan Bombarai led the long caravan through a valley of blue mountains, in the direction of the mountain of the Azure Stupa, which touches the sky. When the front of the caravan, led by Altan Bombarai, was reaching the top of the mountain of the Azure Stupa, and while the rear was still traveling through the valley of the Blue Mountains, the King still had not returned to his family. The caravan kept going and going. The night fell as they were still traversing the mountain slope.
The star of azure pearl on the horizon seemed very close by, and there was an azure bridge connecting the mountain of the Azure Stupa with the star.
When the mountain of the Azure Stupa came to an end, and when the caravan turned to cross the azure bridge over the limitless blue Sky to the star of azure pearl, Altan Bombarai asked his Mother: “Mommy, Mommy! Should we keep going? Here Earth comes to an end and the Sky starts. Shouldn’t we stop here?"
Queen Oyu Sundel said: “I am worried about your Father’s delay." "What did he tell you about stopping?"
“He told me to go towards the mountain of the Azure Stupa during the day, and towards the star of azure pearl at night, and he told me not to stop anywhere.” Altan Bombarai replied.
"How can we go against what your Father has said?" answered Queen Oyu Sundel. So Altan Bombarai led the caravan and kept going over the bridge which linked the Earth and the Sky. And still there was neither sight nor sound of Father returning.
The Sky Bridge came to an end, and the front of the caravan arrived at the star of azure pearl. The caravan kept on moving.
Altan Bombarai asked: “Mommy, Mommy! Should we still keep going? Earth had come to an end and we went on the Sky Bridge. Now that the Sky Bridge has come to an end, we are traveling on the star of azure pearl. Shouldn’t we stop here?”
“It has been a long time since your Father left”, replied Queen Oyu Sundel. “I am so worried, that I am unable to sleep and I can't hold back my tears. We'd better do something now.”
The three of them discussed the matter and decided to go back to the foot of the mountain of the Azure Stupa and wait for Father there. They thought that something terrible must have happened to him, or else he would have caught up with them at the foot of the mountain of the Azure Stupa.
While they were getting ready to go back, with Mungun Bombarai leading the caravan and Altan Bombarai following it, the azure bridge of the Sky detached from Earth and folded up. It is said that the Sky Bridge connects to Earth once in nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years and that it also detaches from the Earth once in nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years. This was the very moment that the Sky Bridge detached from Earth.
Thus Altan Bombarai, Mungun Bombarai and Queen Oyu Sundel ended up in the blue Sky, separated from their home in Alag Buur Gobi and from the Earth, where King Altai Sumber remained.
Everything in the blue Sky world is made up of gems. The buildings have topaz walls, golden and silver roofs and coral pillars. The roads are covered with pearl and the soil is of turquoise and azure. Everything illuminates itself. There is no suffering, no weeping, sadness, hunger, or thirst.
The Milky Way starts from the star of azure pearl. It takes nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years to travel from one end of the Milky Way to the other end. The caravan kept going and going. After nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years it will reach the other end of the Milky Way and from there they will land on another star of azure pearl. Once again, an azure bridge will appear between the star and Earth. The caravan will come down this bridge onto the mountain of the Azure Stupa. From the mountain of the Azure Stupa they will descend the mountains and reach their Alag Buur Gobi. The caravan kept going and going.
Apparently, they took a lunch break right in the middle of the Milky Way. Right there is the King of Heaven’s palace, made of crystals and topaz. Outside the crystal palace they unharnessed the camel geldings from the carts so that the camels' backs could have a rest.
The people in Heaven do not know how to light a fire. They cook only by magic. So Queen Oyu Sundel borrowed the Dung-basket and Rake constellations from the Sky and collected the camel dung to light a fire. They took a rest while having milky tea, dried meat, and fried pastry from the load.
The golden white and silver white horses tied up to the Golden Stake, or Pole Star, look like the two yellowy white stars in the Sky. The Seven Old Men of the Big Dipper, who once lived on Earth and later went to Heaven, came across Altan Bombarai, Mungun Bombarai and Queen Oyu Sundel and showed them the way.
In the Sky World, nine hundred and ninety-nine years pass by for one lunch break. The family was to move on after the lunch break.
While the caravan was passing through the crystal streets of the King of Heaven's topaz city, the Children of Heaven looked at them in wonder and said they should feel at home in the Sky world. “There is no lack of anything. You can tend to your camels, and you can get as much clothes and food as you wish by magic. And there is no death, the people here have eternal life,” the children said, hoping that they would stay.
Altan Bombarai, Mungun Bombarai and Queen Oyu Sundel expressed their gratitude to the people of Heaven and said: “At the end of the Milky Way there is a star of azure pearl. A bridge appears and links that star to Earth once in nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years. We should, given time, cross that bridge. On the horizon, we will find the mountain of the Azure Stupa, which we should descend. From there we will cross the valley of a thousand Blue Mountains and arrive at our Alag Buur Gobi. In our Great Gobi of Alag Buur, it must have rained, water must have filled rivers and streams, and flowers must have blossomed. As the wild asses, horses, camels, sheep and mountain goats are scattered for grazing, Father Altai Sumber must be there, waiting for us”, they said with a sigh.
The King of Heaven's astrologer said: “On the wide, sun-drenched valley of the Great Gobi of Alag Buur, there is a big rocky mountain. Also there is a large circle. In the middle of the circle, there are four directions. Right in the middle of the four directions there is a burning flame. That is your Father’s heart. But right there your Father is sleeping soundly and forever. Take some holy water in this crystal urn with you. When you sprinkle the water over your Father, he will wake up from his eternal sleep. Continue your journey from there and all four of you please come visit our King of Heaven's topaz city after nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years again”. Thus saying, he saw them off.
Altan Bombarai and Mungun Bombarai left their golden white and silver white horses tied up to the Golden Stake as a symbol of their return and proceeded on the Heavenly Prince’s twin brown horses as fast as clouds. Now they are on their way down the Milky Way with their Mother Oyu Sundel sitting in the sandalwood coach whose roof is of conifer and juniper.
“There is a star of azure pearl at the end of the Milky Way. Sky stairs will extend from the star of azure pearl down to the mountain of the Azure Stupa once in nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand years. We will climb down the stairs, descend the mountain of the Azure Stupa, cross the valley of the thousand Blue Mountains and reach the Great Gobi of Alag Buur. Our Father is there, and we will wake up our Father by sprinkling the holy water from the crystal urn that was given to us by the King of Heaven’s astrologer. When our Father wakes up he will know that we have traveled on the Milky Way and brought him the holy water of eternal life, and he will be overjoyed. From a three years' distance, our Father will call his speckled brown horse, which is faster than rain and wind, and his velvet black horse, which is never overtaken by air and wind. He will count the animals and beasts spread over the northern and southern sides of the mountain. We will erect our big, white ger palace. Then Father, Mother, and we two sons – the four of us - will live happily ever after.” This is what they’re saying to one another while continuing their journey down the Milky Way. When Altan Bombarai and Mungun Bombarai, along with their Mother Oyu Sundel, come down on Earth, all their wishes will come true and they will live happily ever after.
Translated from Mongolian by Surenjavyn SUMIYA