Tag Archives: Armenian legend

Armenian Donkey Laser

[Translated from Armenian] When the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, the whole world was on scared about the type of technology the country had. One day the Armenian general heard that Turkish forces were planning some kind of attack on the Armenian border (which was a part of the USSR). The area have enough troops stationed there, and reinforcements would have taken days to arrive. Armenian is known for its mountains, and the general had the idea to strap a donkey with a bunch of flashlights and use it as a way to trick the Turks. That night, soldiers taped a bunch of flashlights on a donkey, and kicks the donkey in the rear on top of a mountain near the border. The donkey started running  down the mountain kicking around from being startled, which made the flashlights swing around everywhere. The Turkish forces at the bottom of the mountain see something unusual approaching them. Not knowing what it was, they feared it was some sort of advanced Soviet war laser and retreated from the border, not realizing it was just a donkey.

Context: This was story the informant heard from his father, who heard during his time in soviet army 

Analysis: This story parallels a Persian war story I have collected (see Nader Shah – 10,000 Goats), however this version takes place hundreds of years after the Iranian one. In both versions animals (goats/donkey) were used to outsmart and scare enemy forces from an attack using elements of light (fire/flashlights) in dark settings. Being that Iran and Armenia are neighbors, it is not unlikely a story like this would be shared between cultures and adapted for their own use. Initially I believed the Armenian version was possibly true, because it sounded plausible and I was biased. But, having heard two different variants of a similar plot, I’m dubious as to whether the events in either legend are true.

Armenian Legend of Akhtamar


Transliteration: Akhtamar

Translation: Oh Tamar

Description by Informant:

There was an Armenian Princess named Tamar who lived at Lake Van which is a historic lake in Armenia. She was in love with a common man (a peasant). According to legend, the guy would swim from the island to mainland to see Princess Tamar. Tamar would hold a light for him so he could see as he swam in the lake to come see her. One day her father finds out and follows her. As she was holding the light, her father approached her and smashed the light. Therefore, leaving the man in the middle of the lake without any light and direction to swim. Legend says that he died in the lake crying “Akhtamar, Akhtamar!” (Oh, Tamar Oh Tamar!). Those words can be heard to this day at night at the lake. The island was later renamed Akhtamar.

Background Information: This is a famous legend in Armenia, especially near the city of Akhtamar. The legend is kept alive through memorates by people who allege that they have heard the words Akhtamar near the lake.

Context: The informant told me about this legend during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian legend that she knows about.

Thoughts: Legends are often told as a way to tell us what to believe. The island of Akhtamar is no longer a part of Armenia as it has been occupied by Turkey. I think this legend is used as a reminder that this land was once Armenia’s and that in a sense it still is to this day because you can “hear” the remnants of the past through the commoner’s voice crying for his love Tamar.