Translated by Laleh Khalili
July 27, 1999
My heart is taut
and all music here is dead to melody.
Let's gather all we have
and commence on the secret road without a return
just to see if the sky is the same color everywhere.
-- M. Omid
Talkhun ( 1 ) wasn't like any of the Merchant's
other daughters. Moon-Farang, Moon-Sultan, Moon-Sun, Moon-Begum, Moon-Moluk,
and Moon-Face, the six other daughters of the Merchant, each had her own
pretensions, her own demands. Sometimes, hearing their noise and play,
all the neighbors' sons would come out into the streets. The sound of the
lusty and joyful laughter of the Merchant's daughters was the talk of the
town. Everyone spoke of how fashionable and full of appetites they were.
Their luscious and plump bodies would make the neighborhood boys drool.
Because of a string of lapis beads, they would giggle for a week, or they
would drape themselves in the sun and stare at their jewelry. Sometimes,
they would fall asleep right there next to the table at which they had
just eaten. The Merchant had found each of the daughters a husband who
could be good and lazy and become nice and fattened. The husbands lived
with their wives and were loving life. They wouldn't work but two hours
a day, and what work! They would check the Merchant's stores and manage
things. Then they would come home and with their good-time girls would
spend the rest of the day laughing and having fun.
Talkhun kept herself busy amidst all this, as if she didn't see anyone
else. Or maybe she saw them and just ignored them. She wasn't plump, but
had a sort of sweet beauty. She was the baby of the family. The Merchant
couldn't find her a husband. She wouldn't wear all sorts of clothes. The
skirt of her dress would wrinkle and she wouldn't pay any attention. Her
sisters would look at her skirt's wrinkles and were in wonder over how
she had the nerves to dress like that. Her father couldn't remember a time
when she had asked him for anything, Whatever her father would buy, she
accepted. Neither protests, nor thanks. As if she didn't consider anything
important. She wouldn't go anywhere and she wouldn't talk to anyone. If
they asked her a question, she would give short answers. She had harvests
of black hair on her shoulders and back. When walking, she looked like
lost fairies of myths. If they cursed her or complimented her, mocked her,
or respected her, she was apathetic. As if she considered herself from
another land altogether, or as if she was anticipating something bigger
than all this.
Life went on as this until it was time for a great celebration. The
girls began thinking days before the feast about what gift they were going
to demand from their father. As if in this big wide world there wasn't
anything more important to do. They had left everything else and focused
all their attention on this one thing: what gift to ask for. But the festivities
had no affect on Talkhun. For her, it was a day like any other. The same
people, the same land, the same house of lazy girls and their lustful and
idle husbands, the same sky and the same earth. Even the stormy wind of
every afternoon that threw dirt in everyone's eyes hadn't quit his daily
habit, and this, only Talkhun knew.
One day before the festivities, the Merchant gathered his daughters
around him and said that he was going to go shopping in the city and each
of the daughters should ask for whatever they wanted. First, the oldest
girl, Moon-Farang began. Whenever she wanted something, she would sit on
her father's knees, put her arms around his neck, kiss his cheeks, and
then put her head on his shoulder, press her chest against him, and talk.
This time, she did the same thing and said, "I want a bath, its water
tub of gold, its walls and base of silver, and I want rosewater to come
out of the taps. I want it to be ready by this afternoon so my husband
and I can bathe in it."
Moon-Sultan, the second daughter who used to press his father's hand
on her chest and cry - for no good reason - said, "I want a pair of
shoes and a dress. I want one of the shoes to be silver and one gold. I
want one thread of the dress to be silver and one thread gold."
Moon-Sun, the third daughter, rubbed her face against her father's and
said, "I want a black slave and a white slave, so that when I am getting
ready for bed, the black slave takes my clothes off, and when I wake up,
the white slave dresses me."
Moon-Begum, the fourth daughter, pouted her lips, kissed her father
and said, "I want a necklace that is as white as cotton-candy at night
and black as onyx during the day. I want it to light up to a farsang ( 2 ) too!"
Moon-Moluk, the fifth daughter, lifted her skirts and said, "I
want a pair of carmelite stockings that come up to here and when I take
them off, they fit into a thumbeline."
Moon-Face, the sixth daughter who always imitated the first daughter,
did the same this time too and said, "I want something that when I
go to the baths, she becomes my manservant, when I go to a wedding, she
becomes my maidservant and when I don't need it, I can wear it like a ring."
The Merchant listened to his daughters and memorized their demands.
But in vain, he waited for Talkhun, the seventh daughter to ask for anything.
She was only watching. Or maybe she wasn't watching and it just looked
that way. Finally, the Merchant couldn't hold back anymore and said, "Daughter,
ask me for something I could buy for you." The girl turned her head.
The Merchant said, "Ask me for anything!" Talkhun's eyes sparkled
like never before, and said quickly, "Anything I want you will buy
me?" The Merchant who couldn't imagine anything beyond his means,
said confidently, "Whatever you want. Like your sisters." Talkhun
waited until everyone was staring at her mouth. It was the first time that
she was asking for anything. Then, whispering as if she was praying to
fairy-tale fairies for someone's happiness and fortune, she said, "Heart
and guts!" She said this quietly and softly, and like smoke at the
end of a cigarette, she got up and left.
Her sisters and father were left there staring at her mouth as if they
hadn't heard anything, as if she hadn't left yet. Finally, the Merchant
saw that his daughter had left and hadn't said anything. None of them had
heard her voice. Only Moon-Face, the sixth daughter who had been sitting
to the right of Talkhun had heard that she had asked for heart and guts.
Heart and guts for what? Weren't there enough edibles in the Merchant's
house that she was craving heart and guts? The Merchant ran after Talkhun.
Her sisters began clowning around.
Moon-Farang, the big sister, barely kept from laughing and said, "Sister,
isn't ridiculous that somebody doesn't ask for anything all her life, and
when she does, she asks for heart and guts? That makes me nauseous. Heart
and guts, heart and guts.. really ridiculous.. ha ha ha..."
From her lips, flames of lust blazed.
Moon-Sultan, the second daughter opened her collar so that the breeze
would catch her skin (the smell of human sweat blowing from between her
breasts was breath-taking), and said, "Heart and guts... Moon-Face,
dear, did you really hear her say that? It's so absurd, ha ha... God knows
what she wants with heart and guts..."
Moon-Sun, the third sister, lay on her back, shook her head so that
her hair tumbled on her face and said lustily, "Hey, sisters, what
patience you have for this nonsense. I bet our poor husbands are bored
to death all alone... Let's go and join them... come on, Let's join our
Moon-Begum, the fourth sister, seconded her by nodding. Moon-Moluk,
the fifth sister and Moon-Face, the sixth one, did the same. They all got
up to leave. They saw the Merchant in the doorway. He said, "She doesn't
want anything else. I said, girl, whatever do you want a heart for? She
only said, I want a heart. Then I said, fine, we reckon you can have a
heart; what do you want guts for? It's all bloody. She whispered again,
I just want it. What does I-just-want-it mean? Don't you think it's ridiculous
to want tissue and blood?"
The sisters said in harmony, "Yes, father, it is ridiculous. It
is completely absurd. Get her a husband."
The Merchant said, "She doesn't want a husband; says marriage is
ridiculous; but male companionship is a joy."
The girls said mischievously, "Well, we'll call it male companionship.
What difference does it make?" Then they all started laughing and
pinching one another.
The Merchant said, "She says they are not true men, not even your
husbands, not even me..." The girls said incredulously, "What?
She says they are not men? We've seen with our own eyes..." Their
father said, "She says that is an outer manifestation. It's not proof
of manhood. I don't get it. Do you get it?"
The girls said, "It's absurd." Then Moon-Sun said, "Sisters,
it's not nice to tire your pretty little heads with these sorts of things.
Let's go to our husbands, then father can go to the market and buy our
presents. Come on, sisters."
The Merchant ordered the bath for Moon-Farang, the dress and shoes for
Moon-Sultan. He bought Moon-Sun two young and pretty slaves with just-budding
bosoms, and for Moon-Begum, he found a necklace whiter than cotton-candy
and blacker than onyx. For Moon-Moluk, he bought carmelite stockings that
fit inside a thumbeline and for Moon-Face, bought an emerald that turned
into a manservant when she went to the baths and into a maidservant when
she went to weddings. Then she wanted to buy Talkhun, the baby, her heart
and guts. He thought to himself, "This won't take a minute."
He had spent a lot of time for everything else: a whole hour.
First he went to a small market where he remembered they used to sell
heart and guts, but he couldn't even find a single butcher-shop selling
hearts and guts. They all now sold mirrors.
Some mirrors showed one to be a thousand, small to be large, ugly to
be beautiful, lies to be truth and bad to be good. And they were so popular.
He said to himself, "Why didn't she want one of these?" If she
had, he would have bought her one and taken it to her. Sad that she hadn't
For two whole hours he wandered lost and bewildered through the market
looking for heart and guts. Some were closed and had signs on the doors
that said things like, What Business is it Of Yours? Get Lost! You Wish!
Keep on Dreaming! Don't You Dare Such Cheek Ever Again! ...
The Merchant didn't understand. He asked somebody, "Why are they
closed?" He heard the response, "What business is it of yours?"
He asked another one, "When will these shops open up?" They said,
"Keep on dreaming!" He asked a third one, "Why do these
gentlemen give such rude answers? I haven't said anything!" In response,
he got a juicy slap on the face and heard, "Don't you dare such cheek
The Merchant realized that this just wasn't how he had imagined it to
be. Meekly, he got going. He asked a colleague, "Brother, have you
heard where I can find heart and guts in this city?"
His colleague looked at him as if he were a total idiot and said, "What
strange things you are looking for!" And left the Merchant wild and
confused right there. When passing a butcher-shop, the Merchant asked the
butcher, "What do you do with the heart and guts?" And he heard,
"What business is it of yours?" Afraid that he may get slapped
again, he didn't pursue it anymore. If he did, would he get slapped again?
What if after getting slapped, he kept pursuing it? What would they do
to him? The Merchant was more cowardly and conservative to wonder about
He wandered around the whole city, but couldn't find anything. In the
afternoon, tired and exhausted, he went to the coffee-house, ate a little
bread and cheese, drank a couple of teas, and got going. He kept thinking
about what to tell his daughters. His six other daughters were getting
what they asked for, but their baby-sister couldn't, and that was bad.
The Merchant just didn't get it. After so long, he began to think that
Talkhun knew that heart and guts were not to be found in the city and he
and his six daughters did not. One knew, seven didn't. How did she know?
The Merchant didn't know. He was so tired that on the way back, sat at
the foot of an orchard wall to rest a while. He had just sat down when
he heard a voice from inside the orchard, "So everything has been
arranged and there are no hearts left. None to buy and none to sell."
-"No, my daughter. It's not like that. If you look for it more
diligently, you will find it."
As soon as the Merchant heard this, he got up and peered inside the
orchard, but all he saw was a white rabbit breast-feeding her pups.
The Merchant thought he was losing his mind. Quickly, he started walking
away, but when he got to the end of the street, his steps slowed down.
He couldn't go home empty-handed. What would he tell his daughter? He had
never felt so impotent. He sighed from the bottom of his heart as if to
say if I had the power to find heart and guts, I would have no problems.
Suddenly, something made of heat and smoke and fire appeared in front of
him. He asked, "Who are you?" He heard, "I am the Sigh!"
The Merchant said, "The Sigh?"
The Sigh said, "Yes, What do you want?"
The Merchant said, "Heart and guts."
The Sigh said, "I have it, but I will give it to you on one condition."
The Merchant looked at the diminutive Sigh. He couldn't quite believe
that such a creature would speak and be in possession of heart and guts.
But finally, he said, "Anything you want!" The Sigh said, "Give
The Merchant said, "Right now?"
The Sigh said, "Not right now. I will come collect her whenever
I want." The Merchant agreed, not thinking about the consequences
of this agreement. He got the heart and guts and went home.
The girls were a little upset that their father was being so thoughtless
and had kept them waiting. But as soon as they saw their gifts, they forgot
everything except for playing with their gifts and with their husbands.
They couldn't find Talkhun until dinnertime. One of the husbands had seen
her at noon climbing a very tall elm tree in the middle of the house and
was quite astonished that he couldn't do the same even though he was a
man. Since then no one had seen her.
When they all had sat down to dinner, Talkhun entered quietly and they
only saw her sitting down. She didn't ask her father if he had found the
heart and guts or not. As if she was certain that he hadn't found it. It
was difficult to tell what her certainties and beliefs were. The Merchant
gave her the heart and guts on a platter. Talkhun took the platter and
left the room. A few minutes later, they heard the sound of the platter
breaking and saw her coming back to the room. Her collar was open and between
her breasts was a gaping wound. Talkhun, more sprightly than ever opened
the window and stared into the street. The Merchant was telling all about
his day in the city. When he got to the part about the mirror-sellers,
he wished that one of the girls had asked for a mirror and sighed. Suddenly,
there was a knock on the door. Talkhun jumped out the window. The Merchant
ran to the windowsill frightened. Against expectations, he saw that his
daughter was speaking to a tall and handsome man at the door. He got himself
to the door quickly. The sisters were peeking out of the window, bending
over one another and laughing.
The young man said, "The Sigh has sent me to take Talkhun."
The Merchant had not mentioned this part of the story to Talkhun for
two reasons; first he was worried that Talkhun may become upset, and secondly
because even if he was to recount the story, Talkhun would not pay any
attention. But it was as if Talkhun knew the story already and was not
affected by it.
Her father said, "I can't do this. I can't give my daughter away."
The young man said calmly, "It is not in your hands anymore. This
must be done." And reminded him of his promise and the Sigh's condition.
The Merchant softened a bit and looking for excuses said, "Don't
you think it's absurd for a man to give away his daughter to someone he
doesn't know and hasn't seen before?"
The young man said, "Knowing Talkhun is enough."
The Merchant looked at Talkhun and started; he had never seen her so
joyous and lively. Talkhun nodded her heard in assent. Finally, the Merchant
was convinced. The young man got on his white horse and Talkhun climbed
behind him and he commanded the horse to go. Talkhun held the young man
by the waist and leaned her head on his back and clung to him closely.
As if she were afraid they would steal him from her hands.
The horse sped up and galloped away.
For months and years, they passed oceans of water and fire; for months
and years, they passed valleys full of blood-thirsty beasts; for months
and years they perspired and climbed mountains of ice and blaze and descended
into valleys of glaciers and fires. For months and years, they crossed
dark woods from whose very corner one could hear cries of "I shall
kill, I shall dismember"; for months and years, they were hungry and
thirsty, for months and years, they faced every trap and every snare and
managed to escape them. For months and years, seven-headed and thousand-footed
dragons chased them and poured their foul and fiery breath upon them and
finally the sparks from the hooves of the horse blinded them and they left
them behind. Thousands of farsangs to the east, and thousands of farsangs
to the west they went, they crossed a thousand and one wastelands from
whose very air fire rained down, but all that didn't seem to Talkhun longer
than a blink of an eye. When she opened her eyes, she saw herself in a
verdant orchard in whose every direction fruit trees had queued up. From
that moment forward, the orchard and the Young Man were hers. And now,
one could say that Talkhun didn't just stare, but she laughed and she talked,
she worked and she did things all other humans did. For months, they were
happy and alive and lively.
One day, Talkhun and the Young Man were walking in the orchard hand-in-hand
and one-at-heart. If a bird flew in the air, they would both see it at
the same moment. They reached an apple tree. All the ripe apples had fallen
below the tree. Talkhun bent down to pick one up. Even though the Young
Man had also bent down, he suddenly said, "No, let's pick a fresh
apple. I will climb the tree." He shed his shirt and gave it to Talkhun
and climbed the tree to pick the freshest of apples on top. Talkhun was
looking up from down below and was enjoying the look of his long limbs.
He saw a small feather attached to his waist. When she reached to pick
it, it all happened in a second. Who knows why this time, the Young Man
didn't sense Talkhun's thoughts. Something such as this had never happened
before. Talkhun held the tip of the feather and pulled, and at that very
moment, the Young Man fell from the tree. Talkhun became confused, she
had no idea what she had done and what she was to do. When she bent down
over him, she saw that he was dead. She hit herself over the head with
both hands. She tried to attach the feather to its original spot, but to
no avail. Talkhun was engulfed by a profound sorrow. A deep sigh came from
her within and suddenly the Sigh appeared in front of her.
The Sigh said, "I can do no more. I have to take you and sell you
in the slave market. Perhaps then you can find a remedy."
And that is what he did.
The Key-Holder for a wealthy man, wearing all black, who saw Talkhun
at the market and liked her, bought her for the price of a teardrop and
a drop of heart's blood for the mother of the wealthy man. The mother of
the wealthy man had for long looked for a lady's companion and among her
own handmaiden had not found one she liked. The Key-Holder would go to
the market everyday, but would not find any slaves, until he finally found
Talkhun and thought that his Mistress would also like her. The Sigh kissed
the girl's eyes and face and said that he hoped Talkhun would again conjure
him. Talkhun only stared, as if she had returned to her old habits. The
only difference was that her stare had a different quality, one that was
difficult to describe.
The Key-Holder took Talkhun through winding streets until they arrived
at a large gate guarded by many doormen. Once they crossed the gate, they
entered a garden. In the center of the garden, there was a magnificent
palace that astounded all who saw it, and the entire garden was covered
in fragrant flowers. Songbirds were flying in and out of trees in numerous
clusters. The Key-Holder said, "Whatever you desire, from a fowl's
milk to a man's life can be found in this garden, and all this prosperity
and fortune belongs to my young master who disappeared a few months ago
and no matter how hard we search for him, we can't find him. My mistress
who is his mother has worn black since he lost her and you should do the
Talkhun looked around at every corner of the garden and said to herself,
"To own such a beautiful garden, but suddenly to disappear and have
no one know where you are... So here, also, Sigh!" But Sigh did not
appear, because he could not do anything about the situation. He had said
They took Talkhun to the baths and washed her, perfumed her with rosewater,
dressed her in black and took her to the mother of the Master of the house.
She looked desperately sad. She listened to Talkhun's talk and found her
a good companion. The other handmaidens were jealous that so soon after
arriving, Talkhun had risen so quickly. But Talkhun only stared at them.
She didn't care if she were the maid-companion of the Mistress or a lowly
One night, Talkhun was passing the handmaidens' rooms on her way to
sleep at the foot of the Mistress's bed. She saw one of the maids who was
the wife of the Head-Chef and the Mistress liked her and trusted her so
much that had asked her son to provide her with a great dowry when she
was married off to the Head-Chef. The Wife of the Head-Chef was holding
a bowl of rice and a black whip and she entered the handmaidens' room,
and as Talkhun peered through the window, she went to the bedside of every
maid and whispered in their ear, "Awake or sleeping?" When no
one had answered, the Wife of the Head-Chef came out and started heading
towards the Mistress' room. Talkhun ran ahead of her, slept at the foot
of the bed and pretended to be sleeping. The Wife of the Head-Chef entered
the room and whispered in the Mistress' ear, "Awake or sleeping?"
And when she heard no response, she reached under the Mistress' pillow
for a set of keys and left the room. Talkhun wondered whether the maid
was going to commit thievery. She followed her. The Wife of the Head-Chef
opened a door with the keys, and there was a room and at the end of this
room, there was another door and another room, and she went on like this
through forty doors and forty rooms behind those doors. Finally, they arrived
at a courtyard with a reflecting pool full of shimmering water. The Wife
of the Head-Chef drained the pool and at the bottom of it there was a great
trap-door. The Wife of the Head-Chef lifted the trapdoor and there were
spiraling stairs descending deeply. She went down, and Talkhun followed
her. They passed many damp cellars, until they arrived at a small area
where a young man was chained from a ceiling. He looked miserable and unconscious.
The Wife of the Head-Chef splashed some water on him and brought him around.
She put the bowl of rice in a corner and held the whip in her right hand.
The Wife of the Head-Chef said to the man, "Boy, will you lie your
head on my pillow?" The young man only said, "No!" The Wife
of the Head-Chef repeated her question three times and then she lashed
him so hard that he lost consciousness again. She brought him around again.
After she had heard NO three times more, she again whipped him so hard
that he lost consciousness again. The young man was whipped three times
and passed out three times, but not even once did he agree to lie his head
on her pillow. The third time that she was brought around, the maid held
the bowl of rice in front of him. When he refused to eat, she force-fed
Talkhun watched all this from behind a column. Only once did she say
to herself, "To own such a beautiful garden. But to suddenly disappear
and for no one to know where you are. Then some maid has you chained inside
the cellars of your own house and lashes you... Oh here also, Sigh!"
But the Sigh did not appear, because there was nothing he could do. He
had said so himself.
The Wife of the Head-Chef said, "Listen well! Tomorrow night I
will come to you again. If you listen to me and learn, I will open your
chains, I will lay you in my own embrace, I will caress you, give you anything
you want. You can do whatever you want. Whatever. But if you are stubborn
again, you will be whipped and I will leave you hanging where you are."
When Talkhun saw that she was ready to head back, she ran ahead of her
to the foot of the Mistress' bed and pretended to be sleeping. The Wife
of the Head-Chef came out of the cellars, closed the trapdoor, filled the
pool, got the lily-pads floating again, passed forty rooms, locked forty
doors, until she arrived at the head of the Mistress' bed. She left the
keys under her pillows, changed back into her black clothes again and lay
her head on her pillow and went to sleep.
The next morning, Talkhun sat talking to the Mistress and said to her,
"Madam, if I find your lost beloved, what will you give me?"
The Mistress said, "Whatever you want!" Talkhun said, "You
have to wait until tonight." That night, Talkhun told the Mistress,
"You have to cut your finger and put salt in the wound so that you
won't fall asleep. Then you have to pretend that you are sleeping. Someone
will come and ask you if you are awake or asleep. You will not answer and
let her do whatever she wants. When I call you, you will get up and we
will go together for me to show you your son."
They did as they had planned. The Mistress had specially put a lot of
salt in her wound to make sure she didn't fall asleep. Like the night before,
the Wife of the Head-Chef came with a bowl of rice and a whip and asked,
"Awake or sleeping?" When she heard no sound, she picked up the
keys from under the pillow and opened the same door. Talkhun called her
Mistress and they followed the Wife of the Head-Chef. Forty doors were
opened. Talkhun had brought a sugar-cube and some water along. When the
Mistress saw her son in those conditions, she wanted to scream. Talkhun
put the sugar-cube in her mouth and gave her some water and said, "Madam,
don't you see where we are? If the witch sees us, we will suffer the same
fate as your son. Let us wait till the morning and then we will come to
his rescue with some help!" The Mistress assented and they left the
cellars before the maid.
The next morning, the Mistress ordered for her servants to tie up the
Wife of the Head-Chef and bring her over. They forced her to confess whatever
she had done to her generous master. This, of course, was not so easy.
They laid her on a bed and cut up small pieces from the tip of her toes
and fed it to her, until she finally confessed. Then they dragged her down
to the cellars. They released the young Master from his chains and took
him to the baths and to the barber. Then they returned him home, looking
all new and masterly, but a bit wilted. As for the Wife of the Head-Chef
they tied her hair to the tail of a stubborn mule and released the mule
out in the pasture so that every bit of her body became some carnivore's
The Mistress ordered for everyone to shed their black clothes and rejoice.
When the Young Master saw Talkhun and heard the tale of his own rescue,
he fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. His mother was only
too glad about his decision, and would say to herself, where else can I
find a girl with such beauty and intelligence. But when they talked to
Talkhun, she only stared and said no and asked the Mistress to take her
to the slave market and sell her again. No matter how much the Mistress
insisted, she resisted. She wouldn't even agree to stay on -not as a wife-
but as a house-guest. She only said, "You have found the remedy to
your ailment. I have to find mine."
This time, an old Miller bought Talkhun and took her to his mill. This
man's mill was at the base of a mountain. A rich stream flowed from the
top of mountain and powered his mill. He had a dragon that he had placed
at the source of the water. Whenever he asked the dragon to move, it did
just a bit, a little water would flow and the mill would start working.
The Miller would tell the villagers that he had no control over the dragon
and for the dragon to move, they had to give a young girl to the dragon
everyday for his meal, so that the mill could work. Otherwise, the wheat
could not be turned into flour and the villagers couldn't irrigate their
The villagers had no recourse but to obey the Miller, because they had
no idea that the Miller had intentionally put the dragon in that spot so
that he could water his own wheat on the side of the mountain. Talkhun's
duty was feeding the dragon and returning back to the mill for work. The
Miller had said to her, "If you lose a girl one of these days, I will
feed you to the dragon." Talkhun had said to herself, "To have
such a beautiful clear stream, and for a con-artist to come and dam it
with his dragon, and look for sacrifices... So, here too, Sigh!" But
the Sigh did not appear. He couldn't do anything about these matters. He
had said so himself. Talkhun had noticed that whenever the dragon's meal
was a little late, it would hop around and let more water pass through.
One day as she was sitting and watching the mill, and the Miller was out
irrigating his own wheat, the Village-Head's Son brought some wheat to
the mill. When they had unloaded the wheat from the donkeys, Talkhun said
to the Village-Head's Son, "Do you want me to rid you of the dragon?"
Since the Miller had bought her, this had been the first time she had spoken.
The villagers and the Miller thought she was a mute. Whatever she had wanted
so far, she could convey with her eyes. The Village-Head's Son who was
astonished, asked, "How can you do this?" Talkhun said, "There
- and she pointed to a spot- dig a large hole there, and then let me know
and I will take care of it." The young man left, knowing that the
Miller could not know anything about this at all.
From that day forward, Talkhun made sure that she brought the dragon's
meal right on time, so that he wouldn't move a lot and a lot of water gathered
behind it. She even fed the dragon with the villagers' wheat. The dragon
had gotten nice and fat and had completely obstructed the flow of the stream.
She had also asked the villagers to bring less wheat to be floured, and
they had accepted. One day the Miller noticed that if any more water was
to accumulate behind the dragon, all his wheat would be flooded. In a panic,
she came to the mill and told Talkhun to go and move the dragon a little
bit however she could so that the water level would go down a bit. Talkhun
had heard that the great big hole was dug and ready. That day she said
to the girl that was supposed to be the dragon's meal, "Don't worry.
Today I won't feed you to the dragon. I will feed the dragon to you."
The dragon was sleeping. When it was time for its meal, it woke to see
that there was nothing there. It took a little nap and when it woke up
again, noticed that there still wasn't any food. It roared madly and went
to sleep again. When it woke a third time, and noticed that there was no
food, it got furious. The Miller was working in the mill and had no idea
what was going on. Talkhun brought the sacrificial girl out from behind
a tree and let the dragon have a peek at her. The dragon, whose appetite
had been stimulated madly at the sight of the girl and was angry with Talkhun,
leapt to devour both the girl and the Talkhun in one bite. Talkhun and
the girl began running and the dragon fell into the hole and roared. The
Miller heard the roar and was about to run out, but did not have a chance,
as a great flood of water overtook the mill and drowned both the mill and
The villagers dismembered the carcass of the dragon and threw it in
the mountains to be eaten by wild wolves. Then they took Talkhun to the
Village-Head's house with great respect. The Village-Head's son who had
fallen in love with Talkhun wanted to marry her. The Village-Head and his
wife couldn't be happier with his choice. They said to themselves where
else could they find a girl with such beauty and intelligence? But when
they talked to Talkhun about it, she only looked and said No.; As if she
had become a mute again. No matter how much the villagers insisted, she
resisted. She only asked them to take her to the slave market and sell
her. Her last words were, "Friends, you found the remedy to your ailments.
I have an ailment and I have to go find its remedy."
The third time, a Merchant bought Talkhun. This Merchant had a wife
who had no children. The Merchant saw Talkhun and liked her and bought
her for the price of a tear-drop and a drop of heart's blood so that he
could make her his daughter. And that is what he did. The Merchant was
a rich man, but he had no children. He loved his wife very much and had
provided for her ever comfort. The Merchant said to his wife, "I have
bought you this slave so that she can take the place of the daughter we
don't have and at night, when I arrive late, she can keep you company and
help you with your housework."
That night, they all sat around with one another, had dinner and went
to bed. The Merchant and his wife were at one end of the room and Talkhun
was at the other end of the room. Around midnight, Talkhun heard a voice
and opened her eyes. She saw that the Merchant's Wife got up, brought a
sword out from a wardrobe and decapitated her husband from ear to ear and
put the head on a shelf. Then from one of her cases, she brought her best
clothes, made herself up to the nines, and looked like a pretty bride.
Then she left the house, and Talkhun followed her until they got to a cemetery.
Seven graves forward, seven graves to the right and seven graves to the
left. The Merchant's wife knocked on the eighth grave with a rock. The
gravestone opened as if a door, and the woman entered and Talkhun behind
her. They went down some stairs. They reached a grand salon where all around
forty bandits with great big mustaches were sitting and smoking opium.
The chief of the bandits said sharply, "Why are you late?" The
woman said, "As if I could get up and come here before that hyena
fell asleep." Then the bandits began playing music and she began dancing
Talkhun who was watching from behind a column said to herself, "To
have a beautiful wife, provide her with every comfort, then she cuts your
head and becomes a bunch of bandits' good-time girl... oh here also, Sigh!"
But the Sigh did not appear, as there was nothing he could do. He had said
so himself. Talkhun thought again, "I should let the man know so that
one day someone will let me know." By now, it was near the morning
and the Merchant's Wife was about to leave. Talkhun came ahead of her and
climbed in bed and pretended to be sleeping. When the Merchant's Wife came
back, she first changed ourt of her party clothes and cleaned her makeup
and then from the wardrobe she brought out a cup with a feather and some
liquid. She dipped the feather in the liquid and drew it to her husband's
neck and stuck his head back in its place. Then she put the cup back in
the wardrobe and climbed in bed with her husband. The merchant sneezed
and woke up. He said to his wife, "Woman, your body is cold. Where
having you been?" The woman said, "I was in the outhouse. Your
head had fallen from your pillow. Does your neck hurt?" The Merchant
said "No", and all three went to sleep.
That day, Talkhun went to tell the Merchant. She said, "If I show
you your wife's lovers, what will you give me?" At first, the Merchant
became angry about how she could make such accusations. How could a maid
libel her mistress so? Then he promised that if Talkhun couldn't prove
her word, he would cut her head off. Talkhun asked for a reprieve until
midnight. At midnight, the Merchant's wife did as she had the night before
and when she left, Talkhun brought the cup out from the wardrobe and dipped
the feather in the liquid and rubbed it against the Merchant's neck and
stuck his head back on. A little while later, the Merchant sneezed and
awoke and said, "Woman, is that you?" Talkhun said, "No,
It's me. Your wife has gone to her lovers. Does your neck hurt?" The
Merchant said "No" and then the two of them went to the same
grave in the cemetery. When they entered, they stood watch in a corner.
When the Merchant saw his wife dressed to the nines and dancing for forty
mustachioed bandits, he became so furious he wanted to jump amidst them
and start a fight. Talkhun prevented him and said it's best if they let
the woman's people know about this so that they could witness this with
their own eyes and then altogether they could kill the woman and the bandits.
And that is what they did.
Then the Merchant wanted to take Talkhun for a wife. But Talkhun only
looked and said "No. It's best if you just give me this cup and feather."
The Merchant gave the cup and feather to Talkhun. Then Talkhun asked him
to take her and sell her at the slave market for the price of a teardrop
and a drop of heart's blood. No matter how much the Merchant insisted on
keeping her, she refused. Finally, he took her hand and took her to the
Talkhun stood on a high pedestal. All buyers would pass her and lose
themselves staring at her. But she would not pay any attention to any of
them, as if she did not see them or if she saw them she did not care. She
was thinking to herself of all those who had found remedies to their ailments
and hoping that she could go to the source of her own sorrow and see him
under the apple tree. How she wished she could do that. If she only could
find him again. She thought, "I wish I could see him, but I can't.
Sigh!" And this time the sigh had arisen from her deepest place. Suddenly
she saw the Sigh who was approaching them. She told the Merchant, "Sell
me to the Sigh!" The Sigh came forward and the deal was done. The
Merchant sold Talkhun to the Sigh for the price he had bought her, a teardrop
and a drop of heart's blood.
Talkhun said, "Sigh, is it really you?" The Sigh said, "Yes,
it is me!" Talkhun said, "Is he still lying down in the garden?"
The Sigh said "Yes." Talkhun said, "Take me to him!"
The Sigh took her to the orchard. The Orchard was as before. Everything
had frozen in that moment. Even the leaves of trees had not moved. The
birds had frozen midair, the butterflies upon flowers, and the Young Man
was lying under the apple tree.
The Sigh said, "For ten years, nothing has moved. For ten years,
no bird has sung. For ten years, no butterfly has flown. For ten years,
no tree has blossomed. For ten years, all joy and freshness has gone. For
ten years, this man has lain here, blood frozen in his veins, his heart
Talkhun said bitterly, "Sigh, how terrible!"
Then she dipped the feather in the liquid and rubbed the feather against
the man's waist. He sneezed and awoke. "Talkhun, why did you not wake
me up? I feel like I have slept for so long."
Talkhun said, "You weren't sleeping. You were dead. Do you hear?
You were dead. For ten years, I have carried your sorrow... "
1- Talkhun is the colloquial pronunciation for tarragon and also means
2- Six kilometers.