The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter iv.

Of the Exploits of King Caidu’s Valiant Daughter.

Now you must know that King Caidu had a daughter whose name was AIJARUC, which in the Tartar is as much as to say “The Bright Moon.” This damsel was very beautiful, but also so strong and brave that in all her father’s realm there was no man who could outdo her in feats of strength. In all trials she showed greater strength than any man of them.1

Her father often desired to give her in marriage, but she would none of it. She vowed she would never marry till she found a man who could vanquish her in every trial; him she would wed and none else. And when her father saw how resolute she was, he gave a formal consent in their fashion, that she should marry whom she list and when she list. The lady was so tall and muscular, so stout and shapely withal, that she was almost like a giantess. She had distributed her challenges over all the kingdoms, declaring that whosoever should come to try a fall with her, it should be on these conditions, viz., that if she vanquished him she should win from him 100 horses, and if he vanquished her he should win her to wife. Hence many a noble youth had come to try his strength against her, but she beat them all; and in this way she had won more than 10,000 horses.

Now it came to pass in the year of Christ 1280 that there presented himself a noble young gallant, the son of a rich and puissant king, a man of prowess and valiance and great strength of body, who had heard word of the damsel’s challenge, and came to match himself against her in the hope of vanquishing her and winning her to wife. That he greatly desired, for the young lady was passing fair. He, too, was young and handsome, fearless and strong in every way, insomuch that not a man in all his father’s realm could vie with him. So he came full confidently, and brought with him 1000 horses to be forfeited if she should vanquish him. Thus might she gain 1000 horses at a single stroke! But the young gallant had such confidence in his own strength that he counted securely to win her.

Now ye must know that King Caidu and the Queen his wife, the mother of the stout damsel, did privily beseech their daughter to let herself be vanquished. For they greatly desired this prince for their daughter, seeing what a noble youth he was, and the son of a great king. But the damsel answered that never would she let herself be vanquished if she could help it; if, indeed, he should get the better of her then she would gladly be his wife, according to the wager, but not otherwise.

So a day was named for a great gathering at the Palace of King Caidu, and the King and Queen were there. And when all the company were assembled, for great numbers flocked to see the match, the damsel first came forth in a strait jerkin of sammet; and then came forth the young bachelor in a jerkin of sendal; and a winsome sight they were to see. When both had taken post in the middle of the hall they grappled each other by the arms and wrestled this way and that, but for a long time neither could get the better of the other. At last, however, it so befel that the damsel threw him right valiantly on the palace pavement. And when he found himself thus thrown, and her standing over him, great indeed was his shame and discomfiture. He gat him up straightway, and without more ado departed with all his company, and returned to his father, full of shame and vexation, that he who had never yet found a man that could stand before him should have been thus worsted by a girl! And his 1000 horses he left behind him.

As to King Caidu and his wife they were greatly annoyed, as I can tell you; for if they had had their will this youth should have won their daughter.

And ye must know that after this her father never went on a campaign but she went with him. And gladly he took her, for not a knight in all his train played such feats of arms as she did. Sometimes she would quit her father’s side, and make a dash at the host of the enemy, and seize some man thereout, as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird, and carry him to her father; and this she did many a time.

Now I will leave this story and tell you of a great battle that Caidu fought with Argon the son of Abaga, Lord of the Tartars of the Levant.

NOTE 1. — The name of the lady is in Pauthier’s MSS. Agiaint, Agyanie; in the Bern, Agyanic; in the MS. of the G.T., distinctly Aigiaruc, though printed in the edition of 1824 as Aigiarm. It is Oriental Turkish, AI-YÁRÚK, signifying precisely Lucent Lune, as Marco explains it. For this elucidation I am indebted to the kindness of Professor Vámbéry, who adds that the name is in actual use among the Uzbek women.

Kaidu had many sons, but only one daughter, whom Rashiduddin (who seems to be Hammer’s authority here) calls Kutulun. Her father loved her above all his sons; she used to accompany him to the field, and aid in state affairs. Letters were exchanged between her and Ghazan Khan, in which she assured him she would marry no one else; but her father refused her hand to all suitors. After Kaidu’s death, this ambitious lady made some attempt to claim the succession. (Hammer’s Ilkhans, II. 143–144.)

The story has some resemblance to what Ibn Batuta relates of another warlike Princess, Urdúja, whom he professes to have visited in the questionable kingdom of Tawálisi on his way to China: “I heard . . . that various sons of kings had sought Urduja’s hand, but she always answered, ‘I will marry no one but him who shall fight and conquer me’; so they all avoided the trail, for fear of the shame of being beaten by her.” (I.B. IV. 253–254.) I have given reasons (Cathay, p. 520) for suspecting that this lady with a Turkish name in the Indian Archipelago is a bit of fiction. Possibly Ibn Batuta had heard the legend of King Kaidu’s daughter.

The story of Kaidu’s daughter, and still more the parallel one from Ibn Batuta, recall what Herodotus tells of the Sauromatae, who had married the Amazons; that no girl was permitted to marry till she had killed an enemy (IV. 117). They recall still more closely Brunhild, in the Nibelungen:—

    —“a royal maiden who reigned beyond the sea:

From sunrise to the sundown no paragon had she.

All boundless as her beauty was her strength was peerless too,

And evil plight hung o’er the knight who dared her love to woo.

For he must try three bouts with her; the whirling spear to fling;

To pitch the massive stone; and then to follow with a spring;

And should he beat in every feat his wooing well has sped,

But he who fails must lose his love, and likewise lose his head.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/polo/marco/travels/book4.4.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24