National Geographic : 1936 Jan
WITH THE NOMADS OF CENTRAL ASIA cultivate the soil fade when spring comes. "In summer months we rove with our flocks over the upland pas tures. How can we be tied to the drab soil in the hot lowlands when kumiss is to be drunk and friends feasted in the mountains? We leave a few servants and old women on the river flats to cultivate a little plot of wheat for us-it suffices. "Then I judge that you yourself don't do any farming." "Ala Beg with a spade!" The silver tones of his laughter put an end to my ques tioning. THE LEGEND OF THE FORTY MAIDENS My Tatar students had told me a rather unusual legend of the origin of the Kirghiz people; so to corrobo rate it I asked Ala Beg one day what were the beginnings of his tribe. His account was sub stantially the same; it is associated with their name, Kirghiz. In the dim past there were once kirk kiz- HE YEARN forty maidens-who The razor is a came with child by a nomads, hair cuttin man wants his heac red dog (in other ver- of his friends will sions, by the foam of crop their hair occ; Issyk-kul, the Warm summer heat reache Lake) ; from these have descended the various Kirghiz tribes. The mythical tale of descent from an animal is not without analogy in Central Asia. In the evenings, there was always a gath ering of the tribesmen at headquarters. The cabin consisted of two rooms, one a small anteroom, the other a large meeting room with the two sedirs on which Sayjan Beg and I slept at night. Here the Begs frequently would sit in formal court. "No outsider can witness a Kirghiz JS FOR A COOL AND STUBBLED PATE! keen-edged piece of hammered steel. Among the g is not the monopoly of a small guild. When a d shaved, he produces a sharp-edged tool, and any oblige him as barber. Moslems think it healthy to asionally, and shaven heads come into style when es the Tekes. court," Ala Beg forewarned me; so a slight nod from him told me when the court was about to assemble and I was expected to retire to the anteroom. Then the men would gather around the long table with Sayjan Beg seated on a sedir at the head end. Questions of tribal justice would be dis cussed. What should they do about the thief, the divorced woman's property, the unpaid taxes, and the disputes about boundaries between the pasture lands?