Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Woman of the Mountain. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mountain. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mountain. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So today’s story is based on a Turkish legend, a legend from Turkey. The reason I decided to do this is because I saw that Turkish people are the number one visitors to our website, EasyStoriesInEnglish.com. Turkey is number one, followed by India and Thailand. It’s really interesting to see what countries listen to the podcast the most. Actually, most of them are pretty even, like Thailand, Italy… A lot of countries have a similar amount, but for some reason Turkey is right at the top.
So, I don’t know that I’m doing, but, um, if you’re Turkish and you listen to the show, it might be interesting for me to hear how you found out about it. So why don’t you send an email to me at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com? And just tell me how you found out about the show. And actually, that goes for everyone, you know, even my non-Turkish listeners. Did a friend tell you? Did you Google for it? Did you read about it on a website? I’d really like to know.
I’m going to try and include more myths and legends from around the world in this podcast. It takes a bit of time because I have to research them and, of course, with myths and legends there’s often several different versions with slightly different details. So I want to make sure I can find the most interesting version and create a story that is faithful to the original but also has my own touches in it.
For example, with this story it was quite hard to find a detailed English version. There were just very short versions. So I added a lot of detail myself, and I tried to take parts from all the different versions and combine them into one version.
I tried my best to pronounce the Turkish names in this story. My apologies if they sound a bit wrong. It’s quite hard to pronounce them fully correctly while in the middle of an English sentence. So I might, at times, change them a bit.
In this story Mount Ida is mentioned. It’s actually very interesting. Mount Ida is actually two mountains. One of the mountains is in Greece and the other is in Turkey. The Mount Ida in Turkey, which of course is the one in this story, is pronounced in turkish Kaz Dağı. Both Mount Idas were very important in mythology, I think, in the Greek and Roman times. I decided to go with Mount Ida rather than the Turkish name because it’s a lot easier for me to pronounce and you might recognise it if you know much about ancient history and philosophy and all of those things.
OK, so I’ll just explain some words in the story.
Labour means work, generally, but it has a more specific meaning of when a woman gives birth. So we say someone is “going into labour” when they are starting to give birth. And someone can be in labour for a few hours, they could be there for a whole day, several days… It really depends.
“Seek” is a fancy way of saying “look for something” or “search for something”. The past tense is “sought”. This word is used a lot in these kinds of old stories and legends. A hero often seeks a magical object. They might be seeking forgiveness, that’s the case in this story, or they might be seeking an answer to a question. There are lots of things they might seek, and things that might be sought.
To say farewell. Farewell is, again, an old-fashioned way of saying goodbye, but farewell has a much stronger meaning than goodbye. If you say farewell to someone, it means you are not going to see them for many years. Maybe you will never see them again. We don’t really say it very much in modern life but it comes up fairly often in stories such as this one.
A pilgrimage is a journey someone takes for their religion. So a popular place of pilgrimage for Christians is Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Another popular place of pilgrimage for Muslims is Mecca. Someone who goes on a pilgrimage is a pilgrim.
I’ve never been on a pilgrimage myself, and I’m not really very religious, but I do really like the idea of going on a long, thoughtful, spiritual journey, especially with lots of walking, so I think maybe, at some point in my life, I might do the Camino de Santiago and go to Santiago de Compostela.
I heard a story about it that’s really interesting. When you finally arrive at the place of pilgrimage, at the temple, there is a big column and every pilgrim who arrives puts their hand on it. And so many thousands of pilgrims have arrived and done this, over thousands of years, that there is a big handprint in the column from all of the hands pressing on it. And I just thought that was really interesting. That kind of thing is fascinating to me.
Virgin. A virgin is someone who has not had sex before. In the traditional sense it’s only used for women, but in the modern sense people talk about men being virgins as well. In older cultures being a virgin had a great importance. Virgins were seen as innocent, they were seen as uncorrupted. They were an ideal form of woman and, of course, if a woman was not a virgin you would not marry her.
Wicked means very, very evil. We talk about wicked witches, uh, wizards, monsters, all kinds of things. They are all wicked. You may have heard of a musical called Wicked. It’s a musical based on The Wizard of Oz and the main character is the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s actually based on a novel, which is again based on The Wizard of Oz, and it’s actually one of my favourite books, if not my favourite book of all time. So if you are interested I really recommend you read Wicked by Gregory Maguire. It is an amazing book.
Sin is something wrong that someone does and it’s specifically in the eyes of God. So this is another religious term. In Christianity, people believe that Jesus died to clean the sins of all the people on Earth. If you commit a great sin you usually go to confession and tell the priest what your sin was, to ask for forgiveness, and so on.
A saint is a very holy person. It’s usually just used for Christianity but I believe there are saints in other religions as well. An example of a saint is St. Patrick. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, which means he protects Ireland, basically. And St. George is the patron saint of England.
Weep means to cry very heavily. It’s much stronger than just crying. The past tense is “wept”. When you weep, you’re usually weeping because someone has died, something really awful has happened. So crying can just be because you’re sad, but weeping is usually because you’ve lost something, whether that be a person, something in your life, a thing, whatever it is.
OK, so remember, if you would like a private online class with me you can go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click “CLASSES” at the top. I do classes on iTalki and together we will make stories as a way to learn English, and believe me, it will be a lot of fun.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Woman of the Mountain
Once upon a time there was an old man called Cılbak Baba. Cılbak lived in the village of Güre, in Turkey, next to Mount Ida. He looked after cows, pigs, and geese, and he was well-known and well-liked throughout the village. But Cılbak was foolish.
Years before, a beautiful woman called Mukaddes had come to Güre, and Cılbak fell in love with her straight away. They got married, and for a while after, she would disappear occasionally and come back without an explanation. When Cılbak raised the issue with her, she announced that she was pregnant.
Cılbak, being a foolish man, thought that she had cheated on him, and that the child was from another man. But he did not dare say this.
One night, when Mukaddes had once again disappeared, he drank so much that he almost passed out. Another man of Güre ran into the bar and shook him, saying, ‘Cılbak, your wife is giving birth! Come now!’
Cılbak was so drunk and full of spite that he did not leave the bar, and kept drinking while the other villagers helped his wife give birth. If the baby belonged to another man, then why should he help her give birth?
She did not survive the labour.
Cılbak was filled with grief, but it was softened when he saw his daughter. She was as beautiful as her mother, if not more, and as she grew up she took on an enchanting smile and magnificent, long blonde hair, like a field of wheat. When she bent over the well to fill a jug of water, it was as if the sun was raining down from the sky. Cılbak decided to name her Sarıkız, which meant “beautiful girl”, because there was no other way to describe her.
It was lucky that Sarıkız was so beautiful and charming, because the other villagers were furious at Cılbak for abandoning his wife. One of the men revealed to him that Mukaddes had not been cheating on him—she was actually visiting a witch who lived on nearby Mount Ida, as she had had a vision that her pregnancy would fail, and she wanted to make sure the child survived. Cılbak wished to go and see the witch, because he thought she might be able to forgive him for what he did to his wife, but the man informed him that she had died the same night as Sarıkız’s birth.
As Sarıkız grew older, Cılbak’s grief became unbearable. He lay awake at night, unable to sleep, thinking of all the things he should have said to her.
One night, he dreamt of Mukaddes. She came down from Heaven, shining like a star, and said to him, ‘If you truly seek forgiveness, then serve God in my name.’
Cılbak woke up knowing what he had to do. That day was Sarıkız’s fifteenth birthday, and she was already capable of looking after the animals and herself.
‘Sarıkız, I am going on a pilgrimage to ask forgiveness from God. I do not know when I will be back. Look after the animals, and most importantly, be good. Do not let any man step inside this house.’
‘But Father, why must you leave?’
She looked just like her mother when she cried, and it broke Cılbak’s heart.
‘I am sorry. I must. I will think of you the whole way.’
Sarıkız eventually agreed and said farewell to her father.
Cılbak pilgrimaged for three years. His journey was full of difficulties, and when he finally arrived, he did not find the forgiveness he sought.
Still, Sarıkız remained good, and she never let a man inside the house. All the men of the village lined up to ask her hand in marriage, but she rejected every single one.
The men of Güre became furious. ‘The old man has surely died!’ they said. ‘His daughter would rather die a virgin than let us in. Or perhaps she no longer is one, and is too ashamed to admit it!’ They spread bitter lies around the village about Sarıkız, but Sarıkız ignored them, and looked after the animals.
When Cılbak finally returned, exhausted from his journey, he headed straight for his home. But on the way, an old woman stopped him.
‘Your daughter has become wicked,’ she said. ‘Oh yes, she was good at first, but after you were gone for a year, she began to invite men up to Mount Ida in the night, and slept with them. She has slept with all the young men in the village at least once. It’s a wonder she hasn’t fallen pregnant.’
Cılbak did not trust the words of an old gossip, so he asked around the village, and he quickly found out that the story was true. He was furious. His daughter had not brought the men into his house, but she had done something far worse.
‘I shall forbid her from ever leaving the house again,’ he said.
‘No,’ said one of the fathers of the village. ‘Her sins are far too great. We cannot have such women in Güre. Either you kill her, Cılbak, or we will do it for you.’
Cılbak was angry, but he could not hurt his own daughter. And from his pilgrimage, he knew that God would not want him to. As he walked home, he thought of a plan.
‘Father, what a joy it is to see you!’ Sarıkız cried. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, but he pushed her off.
‘You disobeyed me! How could you?’
Sarıkız looked hurt. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Don’t lie to me! I have heard all about what you have done. Take one of the geese in the garden. If you like taking men up to Mount Ida so much, then do the same with the goose.’
Sarıkız was shocked, but she obeyed her father as usual. She took the goose and they walked up Mount Ida. The path was rocky and dangerous, and it was getting dark, but still they walked and walked.
Every now and then, Sarıkız asked, ‘How much more, Father?’ and Cılbak replied, ‘Just a little further.’
Finally, when the night was thick around them, Sarıkız stopped and said, ‘Father, I’m scared. Can’t we go home?’
But Cılbak Baba had already gone, and Sarıkız was alone in the mountains.
That night, Cılbak had a dream. Once more, Mukaddes descended from Heaven, bright with heavenly light. She was as beautiful as before, but she was not smiling.
‘Mukaddes, my love! Do you forgive me?’
‘Cılbak, you are a foolish old man! You treated our daughter like one of your pigs. Do you really believe the words of those bitter men over your own daughter?’
Cılbak woke up crying, and he awoke crying every day after that, having dreamt of awful things happening to Sarıkız in the mountains: thieves and landslides and monsters. ‘My beloved daughter, oh, my beloved daughter!’ When he walked through Güre, he did not dare look at Mount Ida, as it seemed to stare down at him, judging him as his wife had.
One day, many years later, Cılbak invited a passing merchant to stay with him. He was lonely in his old age, and he often invited travellers in.
The merchant told Cılbak an interesting story. On the way through Mount Ida, he had gotten lost, and in his moment of complete despair, when he thought he was going to die there, a woman with beautiful blonde hair appeared, followed by a goose. The woman dried his tears, and showed him the way down from the mountain, before disappearing.
Cılbak was shocked. His daughter was alive! That night, for the last time, he dreamt of Mukaddes, and told her that he planned on going to Mount Ida to find Sarıkız.
‘Be careful, Cılbak,’ she warned him. ‘You may find things out that you were better off not knowing.’
But Cılbak couldn’t stop himself. He had to ask his daughter for forgiveness. The next day, he brought his animals to a neighbour, and explained what he was doing.
‘Are you mad?’ said the man. ‘What about the snow, the landslides, the steep cliffs?’
But Cılbak simply shook his head and said, ‘I have to go.’
For many hours Cılbak climbed Mount Ida, until he was well and truly lost. Just as night was falling, and he was beginning to feel a powerful hunger, a beam of light shone on the path before him. A woman appeared, with golden hair like a field of wheat, and a goose beside her.
Sarıkız smiled, and Cılbak felt his heart melt.
‘Father, what a joy it is to see you! I knew you were coming. I have prepared a warm bed and a bowl of soup for you. Come.’
Sarıkız lead Cılbak to a cabin in the mountains. He was so amazed that he could not speak. She fed him the soup, and he fell fast asleep.
In the morning, Cılbak asked for water to wash himself. He was dirty from the journey through the mountain. He would wash, and then beg for Sarıkız’s forgiveness.
‘There is no water here, Father. But I will see what I can do.’
Sarıkız left, and returned a few minutes later with a jug of water.
‘Where did you get this water, my beloved daughter? It is too salty to wash with.’
Sarıkız simply smiled. ‘I reached and lifted it from the ocean itself.’
Cılbak was amazed. ‘It cannot be! To do such a thing…’
Cılbak thought back on Sarıkız’s life. It was true that her mother had come to him in dreams, and it was true that Sarıkız’s beauty had always been magical, that no man could resist it. And she had survived on Mount Ida, with only a goose to help her.
‘You are… a saint. You have always been a saint, haven’t you?’
Sarıkız smiled widely. ‘It is true. My secret has been revealed. And now, thanks to you, I shall join Mother in Heaven.’
Sarıkız exploded with light, and when Cılbak opened his eyes again, she was gone.
‘No, my daughter!’
He fell to the floor and wept. All he had wanted was to ask his daughter for forgiveness, and she had disappeared before he could.
Cılbak left the mountain, taking the jug and the goose as memories of Sarıkız. That night, he wished desperately for Sarıkız and Mukaddes to visit him, but he dreamed no dreams. He woke up crying. ‘Oh, my beloved daughter!’
But then, the goose came up to him, and pushed at him with its beak.
‘What do you want?’ he snapped.
The goose pointed at the jug, and Cılbak went over to look at it.
And there, written in the bottom of the jug, were the following words:
I forgive you.
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.