A king and his vizier are given an apple by a priest (hodja) and ordered to share half of the apple with each one’s own wife. As a result, the queen gives birth to a girl, the wife of the vizier has a boy. God himself assigns the name ‘Arzi’ to the girl and ‘Kamber’ to the boy. At the age of fifteen they fall in love with each other but are betrayed by the courtier Karaçor. A wall is built between them, which is overcome by Kamber. Thereupon Kamber is captured, squeezed into a box and thrown into the sea, but he is saved by a young woman. Kamber proves faithful to Arzi and secretly returns to her. He climbs up to her chamber using her long hair as a rope but is found out, despite being disguised as a woman. Though banned from the country, he returns and is later discovered and killed. Arzi immediately falls ill. A soup is cooked for her from a part of Kamber’s corpse. She recognizes the contents and asks to be led to Kamber’s grave. There she kills herself with a knife she has managed to take with her, hidden under her hair. Karaçor commits suicide, too, but squeezes himself between the two corpses. From each of the lovers a flower springs, but from the traitor a bramble grows between them.
Rights held by: Ilfan Buzeski (work/reading) — Mozes F. Heinschink (recording) | Licensed by: Ilfan Buzeski (work/reading) — Phonogrammarchiv – Austrian Academy of Sciences | Licensed under: Rights of Use | Provided by: Phonogrammarchiv – Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna/Austria) | Archived under: B 37245
The fairy tale ‘Arzi taj Kamber’ [Arzi and Kamber] goes back to one of the best known love stories among the Turkish-Azerbaijani folk tales, which was originally called ‘Arzu ile Kamber’. Contrary to heroic legends, this type of tale deals first and foremost with a man who is in love and wins his beloved, but loses her in the end. Characteristic is the unusual birth of the leading characters, as exemplarily presented in Ilfan Buzeski’s version. The two fathers, the king and the vizier, conception by eating half of an apple and the naming of the two children by God make for an almost standardised introduction for this kind of fairy tales. Like the famous ‘Western’ love tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the story of ‘Arzu/Arzi and Kamber’ ends in disaster, the boy being killed and the girl committing suicide on his deathbed.
Fairy tales of this type with a central theme of longing and love are presented in a mixed version of prose with short songs (or sayings) in-between, which were originally sung or recited and accompanied by a lute. In the versions told by Roma, the form of the lyric is mostly unchanged and usually sung in Turkish. The Arlije from Macedonia and Kosovo name these popular lines of verses bejtja (sg. bejti, from Turkish beyit – ‘double verse’). But there also exists an example of inserted sung verses from a Hungarian Rom (‘Sofolica’).
The versions of this story in prose can differ widely and are often made into long stories. It is hard to reconstruct the original version of ‘Arzu and Kamber’ because of the many variants. The one presented here, ‘Arzi taj Kamber’ as told by Ilfan Buzeski is a linear, compact version of the story with individually fashioned details, such as the boy’s disguise, the hiding of the knife under the girl’s long hair for the suicide and the cruelty of serving Arzi the flesh of her dead lover in a soup. In these details, the storyteller shows his own creative power.