Hovhannes Tumanyan was, without a doubt, one of the greatest, if not, the greatest Armenian poet. Every Armenian loves him and his poems. Especially little children listen and learn poems, tales and stories by him from a very young age.
Speaking about Armenia and its culture we could never miss the Armenian literature and one of the greatest Armenian writers, the “All-Armenian poet” Hovhannes Toumanyan.
Writers are destined to play a role in the history of their nation’s literature. And only a few of them play a special role, also, in their nation’s spiritual life. Hovhannes Tumanyan played such a role in Armenian literature. One can easily explore Armenia and its traditions through the poetry of Hovhannes Toumanyan.
Who is Hovhannes Tumanyan? What You Should Know about Hovhannes Tumanyan?
Hovhannes Tumanyan was born on February 19, 1869, in Dsegh, one of the villages of province Lori. His father was the local parish priest. Later Tumanyan would write: “The most precious and the best thing that I had in life was my father. He was honest and the noblest man. Extremely altruistic and generous, witty, cheerful, sociable, at the same time he always maintained an air of deep seriousness.”
The future writer inherited a priceless legacy from his father. His mother was an avid storyteller with a Particular interest in fables. As a result,Tumanyan incorporated many of the themes from his mother’s stories and his father’s preaching into his writings.
He started writing when he was 10-11 years old, but only became known as a poet in 1890, when his first poetry collection was published. Even in this early book one can clearly see all the freshness that Tumanyan brought to Armenian literature with his poetry.
Tuumanyan grew up with the fairy tales, parables and legends of his people. The folklore and beauty of Lori became an integral part of his work and an inseparable part of his spiritual life which he was to later reflect in his writing.
This fruitful bond between the poet and his people persisted until the end of his life.
Unfortunately, Tumanyan lived far from Lori in the city of Tiflis for almost all of his life (since 1883). Tiflis was a political and cultural center in Transcaucasia back then. In 1888, at the age of 19, Hovhannes Tumanyan married Olga Matchkalyan, and they had 10 children.
Political and Public Activities of Hovhannes Tumanyan
Apart from being the greatest Armenian poet, Tumanyan was also a political and public activist. He was arrested twice as he took the role of a peacemaker during the Armenian–Tatar massacres of 1905–1907.
In October 1914 Tumanyan joined the “Committee for Support of War Victims”, which later helped Armenian Genocide refugees settled in Etchmiadzin. It was exactly at that time when he earned the title of “all Armenian poet”. The stories goes, that during that time the Catholicos of Armenia prohibited Armenian refugees of the west from entering certain areas of his church and house. He justified it by saying that he is “The Catholicos of all Armenians”. Tumanyan’s response was simple. He decried that decision saying the refugees could seek relief in the Catholicos’ quarters under the order of “The Poet of all Armenians”.
Tumanyan’s statue placed right in front of the Opera House in Yerevan, shows his work and his poems are very much cherished by the Armenian people, and that they really love him.
Literary activity of Hovhannes Tumanyan
Tumanyan wrote his poems and writings in a language which was accessible and understandable to everyone. This was one of the most important facts of his success. His most famous works are: “The End of Evil”, “Davit of Sassoun”, ” A Drop of Honey”, “Akhtamar” , “Gikor”, “Anoush”, “Nazar the Brave” etc. Tumanyan’s inspiration came from everyday ordinary activities of ordinary people. Usually, the heroes of his works are peasants. Yet, he manages to reveal qualities such as the power of thought, richness of feelings, beauty and wisdom.
Most Popular and Famous Poems of Hovhannes Tumanyan: Description in English
Did you already get interested in Tumanyan’s poetry? You can read them anytime you want, no matter if you don’t know Armenian. There are translations of his poems in English, which can be found online. Here are some poems and their descriptions that will help you to understand which one to start from!
H. Tumanyan poem #1: Anoush
This poem tells about the tragic love of a young shepherd boy and a girl. Tumanyan manages to give a spiritual picture while giving a broader picture of the cultural life of the people in the village. He describes daily activities and customs, their vision of the world, etc. So, basically, he uncovers the national character of the ordinary Armenian people. No wonder that V. Bryusov remarked that to a non-Armenian reader Tumanyan’s poetry gives more knowledge about Armenia and the life of ordinary people, than tomes of special reference texts.
H. Tumanyan poem #2: Gikor
Gikor is the tale of a 12-year-old village boy who goes to the city to work in order to support his family. Here he faces the cruelty of those that surround him in the city. The little boy has to work to help his family out, but at the same time, people he works for don’t treat him well. The ending, as well as the whole story itself is very dramatic. Almost every Armenian cried after hearing the story for the first time.
H. Tuamanyan poem #3: Parvana
Tumanyan’s ballad, “Parvana,” is also one of his masterpieces! This ballad is about a princess whose father wanted to find the best husband for his daughter. So, he invites best knights from around the world to compete for his daughter’s heart. But the girl, Parvana, asks them to find and bring the fire of love to her if they want to marry her. None of the knights comes back. So, Parvana starts crying and her tears turn into a lake, which is called Parvana. The lake is actually located in Georgia (the country) now.
H. Tumanyan poem #4: Nazar the Brave
Many of Tumanyan’s ballads and tales are based on folk sources and if you ask any Armenian which is Tumanyan’s best tale, the answer will definitely be “Nazar the Brave”. This is a tale, which the poet wrote using about 20 versions of the same plot. The tale is famous for its sharp satire and at the same time for its wisdom. Tumanyan himself loved this writing more than the other ones.
H. Tumanyan poem #5: “The Dog and the Cat”
This is probably one of the most beloved tales of Tumanyan. One can hear this even in daily life of Armenians. This a funny story about a dog, who went to a tailor cat to order a hat for winter. But the cat fooled the dog and didn’t sew a hat for him. Tumanyan says that ever since began the hatred between the dogs and the cats. This Armenian explanation is funny, isn’t it?
H. Tumanyan poem #6: “The Liar”
In this tale, Tumanyan tells the story of a king who announced that he would give half of his kingdom to the man who can tell a lie that he will admit it to be a lie. He thought that no one can surprise him. But one day a man came in with a bag on his shoulder and told the king that he owed him a bag of gold. Hearing that the king exclaimed: “That’s a lie. I do not owe you anything.” All right said the man, it is a lie. Then give me half your kingdom. And due to his cleverness, he took a bag of gold and returned home.
H. Tumanyan poem #7: “A drop of honey”
“A drop of Honey” is so popular within the Armenians that it has become a famous saying.proverb. This story describes a situation how a very big problem or a quarrel can start from basically nothing (a little drop of honey). And when there is such kind of situation the Armenians love to say “you are making a drop of honey out of it”. Remember these sayings; maybe you can surprise the Armenians one day by using them.
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