Badma Narmaev, About the Heroic Epos Geser
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B. (2016). Badma Narmaev, About the Heroic Epos Geser [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42537
Badma studies a Tibetan version of the epos Geser which is stored at the Russian National Library in St Petersburg. One of the oldest versions of this epos, the Tibetan version, is little studied and requires further research, translation and publication. There are two other versions of the epos in St Petersburg that are both kept at the Library of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. Geser was first written down in the 11th century in north-eastern Tibet. Then it was printed in 1716 in Beijing. When it was first translated into Mongolian, there is a possibility that the translators were Oirats. Geser was also known among the Kalmyks, although it did not enjoy as much popularity as it did among the Mongols. Parts of the epos were published in Kalmykia in the Collection of Kalmyk Fairy Tales (1960). This epos tells a story of a warrior called Geser who was sent down to earth by his heavenly father, Khurmusta Tengri, to fight evil. Born into an ordinary nomadic family, Geser grows up into a smart and brave warrior who is loyal to his people. He defeats all kinds of evil beings, from giant tigers to demons to Chinese emperors. The central part in the epos is about how Geser defeated the Khor, a tribe that lived in north-western Tibet. The epos contains rich data that can be used to study various peoples from the points of view of folklore, language, history and culture. One should study this epos by taking into account the period it was composed, and avoid applying moral values of today. For example, in the epos bravery is sometimes depicted as what we may perceive today as ruthlessness. The boundary between wisdom and deceit is also blurred. The epos Geser reflects pre-Buddhist beliefs of the Mongols, Turks and Tibetans. Buddhist motives in the epos should be seen as a later layer. As Sergei Kozin pointed out in his book Jangariada (1940), it is possible that Geser has some links with the epos Jangar which is popular among the Kalmyks, for both eposes share common motives and values, including a strive to bring about a happy society, dedication to one’s duty, bravery and wisdom. The link between the two requires further research.
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42537