A Legend of the Chadagan

Once upon a time there lived an elderly khan (ruler). He had two wives, but neither of them had children. "I must have an heir. Find me a new wife from amongst the peasants," he ordered. A young beauty was found for him, the daughter of a shepherd and a milkmaid, but she was given to the khan against her will. After some time the khan's young wife gave birth to a son. But because the young woman did not love the khan, she refused to breast-feed the baby. Hurriedly, the khan sought advice from the lama who consulted his holy sutras and proclaimed that only singers, storytellers, and musicians could be of help.

The great horn was sounded to summon the greater subjects of the khan, and the lesser horn was blown to summon the lesser subjects of the khan to hear the royal order: "We need musicians and storytellers, and fast!" The people presented to the khan an elderly man who bowed his grey head, stroked his grey beard, and muttered, "I used to be young, and had a powerful voice. I was a good singer and keen of wit, but now you see I am useless and feeble-minded. I do not know if I can help you." To which the khan answered, "The people chose you. Do as you wish, but make it so that the mother of my heir will feed her son."

The old man then asked for a nine-year-old larch and the intestines of a nine-year-old sheep, and they were brought to him right away. The old man made a box from the larch-wood. He stretched strings of intestine over the box, placed sheep knuckles underneath them, and left the instrument in the yurt to dry. When the strings began to sound in a light breeze, the old man took the chadagan in his hands, tuned it and began to sing. He sang of the bounty and beauty of their homeland, of the simple and poor yet friendly peasants who needed a fair ruler. He sang of the beautiful young woman who had given them an heir in whom they placed great hope, and how her milk, by nourishing the future ruler, would be nourishing to all humanity. The melody was exquisite and the sound of the chadagan's strings was charming. As the song ended the young woman broke down in tears, ran to her son, picked him up and began to feed him.

At that moment the khan entered. Delighted, he generously rewarded the old man.