The river that ran away

Lake Baikal in South east Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world. Some 330 rivers flow into the lake but only one, River Angara, drains out of it.

Published: 18th October 2013 01:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2013 01:19 PM   |  A+A-


Lake Baikal in South east Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world. Some 330 rivers flow into the lake but only one, River Angara, drains out of it.

Baikal, the master spirit of the great lake, had 337 daughters, one more beautiful than the other. Some of them had eyes that matched the blue of the skies while the others had eyes that sparkled green like the leaves of the birch trees. And the fairest of them was young Angara. All of them were content to live in his protective care.

The lovely Angara had many suitors but none would she even consider. One day a brave young man by the name of Yenisey came to their land from the high mountains where the snow was deep. When he saw Angara it was love at first sight for both of them.

Angara and Yenisey desired to marry each other but decided to keep their plans a secret because they knew that father Baikal would not give his consent so easily. “Wait for me, dearest Angara, I’ll come back for you,” Yenisey told her as he took his leave. Before leaving he gave her a white bird as a gift. 

A few days later, Prince Irkut came to visit Baikal. On seeing Angara, he too desired to marry her and asked her father for her hand. Baikal immediately agreed. Of course neither the father nor the prospective groom thought to ask the girl her opinion. 

After Irkut left, Baikal announced the wedding plans to his family and began making the preparations. Poor Angara! She knew that if she told her father about Yenisey and her own plans for herself, he would be furious. Yenisey and she had got engaged in secret and she had told no one about it.

She hastily wrote a message for Yenisey asking him to hurry back and sent it with the white bird he had gifted her. “Go little bird, and take this message north where Yenisey’s home is… he has to come back for me real soon,” she whispered to the bird as she set it free. The bird soared into the skies and disappeared from sight.   

Many days passed as Angara waited for Yenisey‘s return. She knew his home was a long way up north and it would take days for the bird to get there with the message. But news came that Irkut was coming down with his brother Akha from their home in the Sayan Mountains.

“As soon as they arrive we’ll have the wedding,” announced father Baikal to everyone. Again he failed to notice the bride did not seem particularly happy about it.

The wedding preparations began in earnest and Angara was getting increasingly anxious that there was no word from Yenisey yet.

There’s no point in waiting for Yenisey any longer for it’ll be too late, thought she and made plans to go to him herself. So in the middle of a particularly dark night, she stole a horse and dashed off northwards. When Baikal noticed that she had gone, he was very angry indeed. He chased after her and found her at a distance. Full of fury, he picked up a huge boulder and threw it at her. The rock missed her but caught her dress, but Angara got away.

When Irkut and his brother arrived and found out what had happened, they chased after her. On and on they rode north. After they had travelled quite a distance, Irkut’s horse collapsed. “My horse will take me no more, brother,” he told Ankha, “now you carry on and find her.” Ankha rode on further but before long, his horse too fell down with exhaustion and died.

Meanwhile Angara turned west and met up with Yenisey. They were soon married and Angara never returned home afterward. And now you have only River Angara flowing out of Baikal while all her spinster sisters flow into the lake, never to leave.

Where Irkut’s horse fell, the Irkut river flows into Angara from the Tunken valley while where Akha’s horse collapsed, river Ankha flows into Angara at the eastern Sayan Mountains. Turning west Angara and Yenisey rivers unite at the Tuva border, forming one of the largest rivers of Siberia.

 As for the boulder her father threw at Ankara, it still stands where the river begins and is known as the Shaman’s stone.

This magic stone can grant your wishes, the locals say.

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