Mongolian Short stories-Shuvuun Saaral - A swift-footed steed

It is interesting to watch a mirage quivering and rippling in the distance, but it is hard to make out what those tiny dots are shifting in the haze. Only when you come closer, you can see that they are horsemen racing across the plain. Racing is favourite sport of plainsmen, and a fast horse fills every Mongol with admiration and delight. Pulling hard on the bit, Surenhuu dashed to the winning post. He wiped the lather from his horse and lit a cigarette. The graceful dun horse, its sides heaving so that its ribs stood out , pawed the ground with its graceful legs and shook its beautiful head. From time to time, it tossed its head high, until it appeared to be ready to take off for the clouds. It moved its ears. Surenhuu's heart swelled with pride at having such as horse

Other riders came racing up. The admired the horse and called it Shuvuun Saaral, a swift-footed steed. They begged Surenhuu to sell them the horse, offering him the price of several young horses. Surenhuu refused.

"I don't want to sell him" he said, running his hand over the horse's head.
All the men discussed the merits of the horse. Only towards the end of the day did they ride off into the rays of the setting sun in groups of two and three, heading for home.
When they halted on the way they continued to discuss the horse.
The first rays of the morning sun lit up the sky and the moon, a silver arched like an eyebrow, vanished.
Autumn frost glittered all round. The peaks of the mountains loomed in the distance. Surenhuu stepped out of his ger, saddled his horse, and galloped off towards the west.
By the time the sun rose, Surenhuu had crossed several hills and rivers. Seated carelessly in the saddle, he was trying to cover a distance of two days' travel in one. He wanted to reach a distant aimag by night. Shuvuun Saaral was going at a fast trot, his bridle jangling.
Man and horse sped across the plain. It was a clear, sunny day with a gentle breeze ruffling the grass by the roadside. Far ahead, a herd of antelopes swept like a wave across the road. In the far distance he could glimpse a nomad camp.
That was where Sunjidmaa lived. Surenhuu and his horse swept past the neighboring aimag.
It was all so interesting; he saw hills and rivers he had never seen before. Horses and cattles were grazing everywhere. He passed gers beside which, milch, mares were neighing. It was the time of airag* and feasting, but there was no time to drop in an make merry! Surenhuu was not interested. He was in a hurry, and so he galloped past without halting. Shuvuun Saaral, the Bird Grey was speeding along as swiftly as he had in the morning, his graceful legs raising clouds of dust. The nomad dwellers,young and old, gazed in surprise after the horseman flying ahead on his beautiful horse.
But Surenhuu had already disappeared from view. The closer he came to the camp the more excited he grew. He rejoiced at the thought of seeing Sunjidmaa again. It was growing dark quickly and the moon had not yet come up. In this unfamiliar locality he could only trust in his swift-footed horse. No matter how Surenhuu strained his eyes he could no longer make out the hills in the distance and could only depend for direction on the stars in the sky. He halted to get bearings. At that moment a light flickered close by.
Again Surenhuu's heart leapt with joy as he drove his horse forward. Nothing interfered with his swift progress. Sparks flew from the hooves of his steed. Soon he came to two of three gers huddled at the foot of a hill. Sunjidmaa emerged from the first ger to quieten the dogs. Her sweet face shone in the gloom of the night.

Translated by B.Damdin

Airag*-fermented mare's milk, a favourite drink of Mongolians.

About the writer of the story-Natsagdorj Dashdorj (1906-1937)is Mongolia's prominent writer, the founder of the contemporary Mongolian literature. Natsagdorj was the first to develop the forms of poetry, prose and dramaturgy new for Mongolia. His poem, "My Motherland" is very popular in Mongolia. In this poem he sings the beauty of Mongolia. He was also writer of short stories.
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