Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 3, 2020


 "The Golub-Yavan (On the Question of the Wild Man's Existence in the Pamirs)" by Kirill Stanyukovich, translated by Leonid Kolesnikov (1957)

The author, Kirill Stanyukovich, was a well-known Russian geobiologist who was placed in charge of an expedition to the "Roof of the World" -- the mountains of Pamir in 1958 -- an expedition in search of the yeti.   Stanyukovich  has earlier reported that the locals had told him about a "Wild Man," or golub-yavan, that had been seen in the area.  It is this earlier report that forms the basis of this story, presented as an actual account.  The story was published in Richard Dixon's 1963 anthology of Russian science fiction, Destination:  Amaltheia (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House).  But is the story fiction?  Or is it merely a straight-forward reportage of what had happened to Stanyukovich and his comrades?

The narrator (never named, but presumably Stanyukovich) is a member of a five person party sent to determine the snow-line, the tree-line, and the highest point where where individual plant species grow in the area of the Pamirs; their determinations may allow local farmers to extend their pasturage.  The group included two brothers as guides, Mamat and Sultan Tashtambekov, Tadeush Nicolayevich, Anastasya Petrovna, and the narrator.

The first night they stayed at two collective farm yurtas where the owners treated them as guests of honor.  With a rug for the door and a fire of sheep dung mixed with straw, the party was warm and fairly comfortable.  Also staying at the yurtas were two old men who had been searching for a stray horse.  During the evening, the old men told of the "wild man" -- a large powerful being who roamed the mountains naked with his entire body, save for face and hands, was covered with fur -- noting that it would dangerous to meet him.  The scientists poo-pooed the legends, but the narrator remembers tales of such a "wild man" that were told to him over the years, as far back as 1935.  The stories were somewhat contradictory. but, piecing them together, a pattern emerged:

"The wild man, golub-yavan, has been seen by local people in the most inaccessible and totally uninhabited regions of the Pamirs, in the valleys of the West Pshart, lower Murgab and other rivers flowing into Lake Sarez from the south, and in the vicinity of the Lower Baland Kiik, Kanda and Sauk Dara.  Except for the face and hands the entire body is covered with hair,  He does not appear to know the use of either fire or tools but occasion has been seen to throw stones and sticks,  He avoids people and eats root and small animals, hares or marmots, which he chases and kills with a stone.  In wintertime he can run down in the deep snow a mountain sheep or goat.  He is a great traveller and does not appear to keep to one permanent den.

"People used to meet him much more in the past than now."

The party sets out on their expedition and their findings were of great interest, at least to a geobotonist.  The first bushes were seen at about 14,000 feet and tree-line was at 10,800 feet.  No golub-yavans were seen.  One unusual event occurred in the West Pshart canyon, however.  A troop of camels, seemingly coming from nowhere, stampeded at them, then suddenly stopped a few feet away from them and stared at them.  Why were they stampeding and why did they suddenly stop?  The camels themselves were evidently well-fed and had probably be left to grange unattended for the summer.

On what would become their last night there, each of the three scientist woke up with a terrible thirst, perhaps attributed to the highly salted sausage that had eaten that evening.  Stumbling along in the dark and the cold, the narrator walks to a nearby stream for water, kicking over several cans of foodstuff on his way.  The next morning the two guides were hastily packing, saying they must leave that place immediately because the golub-yavan had been stalking the campsite during the night.  Their proof:  the knocked over cans, a partially eaten oaf of bread, some butter with large flat toothmarks on it, and a number of stones found on the grounds of their camp -- all of which could be explained away without involving a yeti.

And so they left.

A few years later, the narrator returned to the area to here of a new legend.  A few years before, an expedition of five (one a woman) had spent the night in Pshart.  The leader, a man named Zor Adam (Kirghiz for "Big Man") stopped a wild man at the campsite.  The wild man had thrown stones down on them, knocked over cans, ate some bread and butter, and tried to steal the woman.  Zor Adam fought the wild man and defeated him.  This new legend came from a man named Mamat, who claimed to have been there.

An interesting tale that stretches the boundaries between fact, fiction, and folklore.  In addition to the anthology Destination:  Amaltheia, this little curiosity can be read at arvindguptatoys,com/arvindgupta/71.pdf.

No comments:

Post a Comment