Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter 33: The Legend of Yeghegis

We all know that Yeghegnadzor, the town we chose for our residence on top of the mountain in Armenia, is named after the Yeghegis River, which flows along the Silk Road, down below our house. This same river gave its name to the ancient town of Yeghegis which was destroyed by the viith century earthquake and volcanic eruption and which was reconstructed by Orbelyan princes as their capital and it is there that we inaugurated the re-opening last year of the medieval Jewish cemetery.
I was wondering where the river got its name, for ‘yegheg’ means ‘reed’ in Armenian and I was not able to find many reeds along its banks. Meruzhan Khoyents, the local bearded old bard, told me his version of the legend before he died. I thought it was too simple a story and it was left sitting somewhere in my memory. Until,... Until I read the lyrics of the song by Patricia Carli (Carlikian), born in Taranto, whose family has roots in our region and, I guess, must have known about this legend. Patricia’s song is almost word for word the story I heard from our bard.
You can read Patricia Carli’s lyrics at:,le-roseau-et-la-riviere,61945.htm . You can also listen to this song (or download it) free from a Russian website (if you can't read Russian, the song to download is written thus: "Камыш и речка" on this website: ; you can listen to the song by clicking on "СЛУШАТ ПЕСНЮ".)
The legend Merouzhan told me went like this: There was a little reed who was in love with the river. He was skinny and not so handsome, while she was pretty and proud. Night and day, the little reed declared his eternal and simple love to the river. The river liked to flirt. She made fun of his love. She sometimes went out of her bed and flooded the glade, tickling the little reed’s feet. The little reed thought it was reciprocal love and couldn’t wait till the spring for the flooding to repeat. One sad day foreign invaders came on horseback, slashing and burning everything on their way. The little reed got scared and jumped in the river. The little reed died in the arms of his river while repeating the same simple and sincere words of his love towards his river.
According to the legend, the river was since called Yeghegis (which means: to my reed)
Antoine S. Terjanian
Went there to move mountains, and why not, rivers too

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 Yeghegnadzor changed names several times. It was also named Migoyan (after Anastas Migoyan the former President of the USSR - Անաստաս Հովհաննեսի Միկոյան) and his statue is still standing in the middle of the town’s central park, but historically, it was known as ‘Yeghegik’ (little reed). p.s. January 2014: Hanyvakios has just uploaded a video on Youtube of Patricia Carli singing this song. Thanks to my friend Van who brought it to my attention. Here is the link:  you can see Patricia in person as well as others of her famous songs.

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