Azerbaijani Legend: Pomegranates

Azerbaijan always has had the deep love for pomegranates, going as far as making them the country's unofficial symbol. In every gift shop you enter you might and will come across at least dozens of different souvenirs that explore the topic of pomegranates in various way. The admiration that people have for the "king of fruits", as some like to call them, goes deeper the closer you reach to the Goychay region, where pomegranates are mainly grown. For example, the region annually holds the Festival, dedicated to the beauty of pomegranates, different sorts that grow on the territory of the country and share pieces of folklore surrounding it. We actually visited the Pomegranate Festival some time ago and are ready to share these stories and experience with you. This azerbaijani legend about pomegranates explores topics of devotion, freedom and, most importantly, love.

In general, even around the world, this fruit has been some sort of an epitome to one's soul. Hard and stoic from the outside, it has millions of fragile pieces inside of it, all somehow intervened together. Just like a person's heart and soul, it should be treated and opened up with great care and gentleness in order to not "draw blood', which means not crushing the small arils (delicious seeds inside the pomegranates). Therefore, a lot of pieces of folklore actually like to play on that comparison and this legend proves it.

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Let's just say, somewhere in one of the small villages in Goychay district there was a couple of lovers. They were deeply infatuated with each other but it seemed like the whole world was somehow out to get them. One of the biggest on their way was the wealth of her parents. They were one of the big names in the village, one of the only ones who were rich enough to afford growing pomegranates because it was a very time, energy and money consuming task to take good care of these trees.

They've forbidden the lovers from meetings, going as far as searching for a groom for their daughter far away from the homeland, but every night the boy waited just under her windows, hoping she would be able to sneak out and share a few moments with him. Sometimes, the poor girl could get away and, when the season of collecting pomegranates, she would take time to choose the best fruits out of harvest to bring them out to him. Such life was painful for both of them, but they held on for the better or worse.

One day mortifying news came: there was a rich heir to the family's wealth, living in the capital who expressed his interest in the girl. The marriage contract was confirmed without her even having any knowledge or influence over it. The world was crushing down on both of them now, the realization of the situation coming to them suddenly and leaving them stunned.

Hearing the news for the first time, the boy has decided to run away with her but after one of the meetings, where the plan he created was whispered to her under thousands of silent stars, looking over at them, she declined his suggestion with the shake of her head. Turning on her heels, she abruptly hurried into a house, leaving him speechless with hurt and desperation.

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Many nights were spent alone under the garden trees of her house, his head full of arguments and pleas but never once has she stepped her foot outside. One night, right before the arrival of her future husband, he was sitting outside, all the hope lost and all his body aching from the absence of sleep. She came out to him suddenly, unnaturally quiet and pale as a white sheet. Kneeling down beside him, she gently caressed his cheek with her free hand as she spoke to him with gentleness and love in her voice so evident that he stays still, speechless.

“My love, I know you want to change the situation we are forced to go through but the truth, I wasn’t born for belonging. I was not raised to be owned, not by my future husband and, even though I know you’d treat my soul with immense care, that’s I know for sure, not even by you. My heart, my body and my soul are only mine to take responsibility for and to offer protection to. I only ever belonged to me, just as much as you only belonged to you. But, as with anything in our possession, we are allowed to gift parts of ourselves to other people. I have nothing to lose anymore, the integrity and pride I was holding on might not exist in few days. So, as maybe the last act of my free will, I wish to gift you my heart and soul so you could take care of it while I can’t. Hold it close to yours and if you ever want to let them down and forget about me, do it with grace and gentleness you seem to be so full of." - her words, ever so soft spoken, still bring heartbreak to his soul. He knows these might be the last words his lover says to him. He listens carefully, as if he is terrified of scaring her away.

"I ask you for only one thing back. Please, don’t try to hand it back to me and don’t wish to take ahold of more parts of me, than I allow you to. Don’t fight for me and don’t search for me when you already have the dearest parts of my identity cradled inside your arms. I was not born for belonging but I choose to belong to you. I love you.” She continues with teardrops forming in the corners of her eyes. She reaches out her left hand from behind her back, and momentarily his gaze falls on it.

He sees a pomegranate so beautiful, it seemed to be glowing in moonlight. The mesmerizing sight confuses him, but the boy can't seem to avert his stare to her face, as if he sees something that is much more valuable than a simple fruit. The girl leans in, pressing a gentle butterfly kiss on his forehead as if bidding farewell to him, putting the pomegranate into his hands.

She stayed with him the whole night in complete silence, before the first rays of sunshine started breaking out the clouds. She left quietly, just as she came to him. The boy would've mistaken her for a dream but the pomegranate he was holding on to like to a lifeline was proving him otherwise.

Then, the azerbaijani legend comes to its natural ending: heartbreaking, but realistic it ended on him not seeing her ever again. He continued living his life, the rumors spread around the village not so long after the wedding, she was found dead in her bathroom but no one could confirm nor deny it. Most importantly, he held onto his promise: the boy never tried to chase her, find her and return to himself. He simply planted a pomegranate tree from the one the girl gave him, and at the end of this Azerbaijani legend he lived a quiet life, taking care of his garden and his most treasured tree in it. Never married, but he was still overall loved by everyone in the village, because he never held back from sharing the fruits with kids and families in need.

This story has several ways it can be interpreted in. In our opinion, the beauty of any tales, folklore or not is the ability to draw your own lessons from them. At the end of the day, you as a reader get to decide, which things are important to keep close to your heart. It is a story about love, sure, but most importantly it is about respecting other people’s wishes and moving on with your life. It is about finding peace within yourself again, coming to terms with the great pain of losing someone you loved so dearly.

Azerbaijani Folklore

The azerbaijani legend we shared today is so much more than a little story to entertain the masses though. It is a mirror to nation’s beliefs and soul. Things like that help people from outside get deeper understanding of Azerbaijan and its citizens. But it is not the only way to do so, for example, visiting Azerbaijan it is impossible to fully indulge yourself in the culture and traditions without paying a visit to regions like Gabala, Sheki or Guba.

Azerbaijan Travel International is a professional company that specifies in organizing tours, that not only offer tourists a comfortable condition on and off road but also provide you with a guide, who will make you enjoy every second of the trip. Try out our Shamakha-Gabala, Gabala-Sheki and Guba-Khinaliq tours, that not only delve head first into the culture of the “Land of Fire” but in the historic and natural aspects of it as well.

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