'Lhepsch and the Lady Tree' Translation & Annotation by

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


  1. Lhepsch and the Lady Tree

Kabardian text


Lhepsch made and created all what the Narts needed, thus he had nothing left to do, and became engulfed in boredom. Unable to bear the situation, he went to Lady Seteney and requested,

- Lady Seteney, I am bored, and cannot find anything else to do; I have hammered every piece of iron I had, and there was nothing new to make out of them. They say you are the wisest of all women, tell me what can be done?

- What is there to be told? –Said Lady Seteney- you fashioned weapons when the Narts required them, and when they needed a sickle you invented one. You have made all what the Narts requested.  Go and journey the world, watch how other people live and bring back your knowledge to the Narts. You shall find something new, that is if god has not abandoned you.

- What do I need to roam the world?

- You do not require much. Make an attire for yourself. All the farmers are fond of you, and the herdsmen are your friends, they will provide you with food wherever you go.

Lhepsch made the hardest boots and cane out of steel and off he went. Lhepsch strolled rapidly; in one day he would cross the distance of a month, and in one month, he would cross a distance of one year. Once he came across a mountain, he leapt over it with one-step, and when he came across a river, he jumped over it. Lhepsch continued to journey strolling and leaping. After crossing seven rivers, he reached seashore. He uprooted one hundred trees, removed their branches and tied them together, made a boat and crossed the sea. As soon as Lhepsch reached land, he saw the most beautiful maidens playing on the shore. They were the most beautiful his eyes had ever seen. He instantly fell in love with them, but as soon as he reached his hand to catch one of them, they quickly slipped from his fingers because of their smooth skin. He ran after them, but could not reach any, thus requested,

- By god do tell me who you are, I have never seen your equal in my whole life.

- We are the maidens of Lady Tree. –Said the girls- if you arrive as a guest upon our Lady Tree, she will grant you your wishes.

- Take me to her. – said Lhepsch while walking behind the maidens.

Once they arrived, he saw a phenomenal tree that looked like nothing he had seen before; it is impossible to tell if it were a human or a tree. Her roots sunk deep into the earth, whilst her hair (branches) swam like clouds in the sky. She had human hands, and the most beautiful face made of gold and silver.

Lady Tree received Lhepsch delightly; she was hospitable and offered him food, drink and a place to sleep. In the middle of the night, Lhepsch woke up, held Lady Tree, and requested to make love to her.

- How? – refused the Lady Tree – I am a maiden, and I have never been touched by a human before,

- I am one of the gods. –said Lhepsch and made love to her.

Lady Tree grew fond of Lhepsch and requested from him saying, “ stay with me, and do not go”

- No, I cannot stay – refused Lhepsch – I must find the earth’s end, and bring back knowledge to the Narts.

- Do not make a mistake Lhepsch, I can give you the knowledge you seek, for my roots sink deep into the core of the earth, and my hair that swims in the skies knows all what happens in the universe. There is no end to the earth. – said Lady Tree, but Lhepsch did not believe her,

- All things have an end except for earth…do not go. I will show the stars in the skies, place in your hands all the earth’s wealth, and grant you all what you desire.

Lhepsch did not believe Lady Tree and took off. He journeyed until his boots fell off his shanks, his cane melted and no longer filled his palm, and his hat fell to his neck like a necklace. He returned to Lady Tree without finding the earth’s end.

- Did you find the earth’s end? Asked Lady Tree.

- No,

- What did you find?

- I learnt there is no end to the world

- What else?

- I learnt that our bodies are harder than steel

- What else?

- I also learnt that there is nothing harder than travelling alone.

- This is all good. –Said Lady Tree – but what knowledge did you learn that will enhance the Narts lives?

- Nothing.

- You should not have insisted on traveling then. If you listened to my advice, I would have given you knowledge that will sustain your people for a lifetime. You Narts are stubborn and haughty; it will lead to your demise. Despite this, I shall grant you this so as the rest of you can continue living from its benefits. –Said the Lady Tree and placed a ‘baby-sun’ between Lhepsch’s hands – this is your son take him with you. I infused all my knowledge and skill into him. You shall see what he will become when he grows up.

- Lhepsch carried the child and returned to the Narts. When the time for him to speak had arrived, the baby-sun told the Narts,

- Do you see the white horse path in the skies?

- Yes, we see it.

- When you are out raiding and lose your way, follow its path, it will never lead you astray.

- Our god! He will invent great things for us when he grows older. – said the Narts, and brought seven women to take care of him and raise him.

One day, while the women were busy quarelling among themselves, they forgot to watch over the baby, who went out to play, lost his way, and never came back. The women only remembered the baby when darkness set, and out of fear, they did not inform the Narts about what happened; they ran in all directions to look for him, but could not find him.

Once the Narts found out, they rushed looking for him in hope of finding someone who had spotted him. Alas, they did not find him.

- Maybe he returned to his mother. – The Narts said, and sent Lhepsch to his mother, but the child did not return to his mother.

- What can be done? Lhepsch asked Lady Tree.

- You cannot do anything. When his time comes, he will return by himself. God only knows when he shall come back. You are lucky if he returns while you Narts are still alive, but what a misfortune it is if he never returns, because all of you shall be brought to ruin because of it. – said the Lady Tree.

Lhepsch returned humiliated.


(Hedeghel’e, Vol.I, 1968, p. 263)


*Lady Tree or Zhigh Gwasche is the goddess of trees, and she represents a variant of the Tree of Life. Lady Tree is all-knowledgeable; her roots that sink in the core of earth and branches that hang high in sky enable her to encompass and possess all knowledge and hold the vertical position of the earth with the heavens. She is also endowed with anthropomorphic features; she is a tree in reality, yet she possesses human features and attributes.  Lhepsch who seeks to sustain the Narts with novel knowledge travels the earth and convenes with the Lady Tree - a divine being like him self- and through their sexual-union, they created the baby-sun (Milky Way); which would soon aid the Narts during their frequent raids. In a sense, the baby-sun (Milky Way) was a divine creation formed between iron (the god of metallurgy) and the cosmos (branches of Lady Tree that hangs in the sky).

The other significant factor is the realization that the world is spherical rather than horizontal, a fact already known to Lady Tree. She also discerned that the Narts end would transpire following the arrogant state they were developing into. In essence, this account manifests astronomical aqciuantnce and discovery of the Milky Way, additionally; it reveals a sense of revereance and adoration perceived by the Circassians towards the trees.  This account is similar to the Greek account of Odysseus with Nausikaa’ meeting on the island of Scheria.

Submitted: September 30, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Zaina El-Said. All rights reserved.

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