Forty Maidens

Forty Maidens


(Qïrq qiz), a Kara-Kalpak heroic epic. It was recorded in 1939 and 1940 in 20,000 lines from the recitation of the folk narrator Kurbanbai Tazhibaev. The main plot has much in common with Herodotus’ accounts of Queen Tomirisa of the Massagetae tribe and of her war against the Persian king Cyrus, as well as with Diodorus Siculus’ account of Queen Zarina of the Sacae, who freed her people from foreign bondage.

In Forty Maidens the heroine, Gulaim, goes into battle against the Kalmyk khan Surtaishi and the Iranian ruler Nadir Shah; she is aided by her beloved, Aryslan, and by 40 girl-warrior friends. Having freed Khwarazm, Gulaim and Aryslan form a government from the representatives of the four nationalities inhabiting the country: the Kara-Kalpaks, Turkmens, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs.

Forty Maidens reflected historical events of the 17th and 18th centuries. The epic has been translated into many national languages of the USSR.


Qirq qïz: Qaraqalpaq khalqïnïn qakhramanlïq dastanï. Nukus, 1956.
In Russian translation:
Sorok devushek. Moscow, 1951.


Klimovich. L. I. “Karakalpakskaia narodnaia poema ’Sorok devushek.’ “In Iz istorii literatur Sovetskogo Vostoka. Moscow, 1959.
Sagitov, I. T. Karakalpakskiigeroicheskii epos. Tashkent, 1962.