Kurdish Proverb

Tobay Gorg Marga

(which means, Repentance for a Wolf Is Death)

There are many stories in Kurdistan about wolves. Kurds regard wolves like an enemy hiding in the darkness, looking for an opportunity to do harm. As a child I heard many stories about wolves and I was always scared of them, thinking that they were lurking in the shadows waiting to jump on me. My favorite Kurdish novel, GALA GURG by Hussain Aref, was about wolves. It was made into a movie and became the first Kurdish film to be shown in the world’s cinemas.

I have difficulty understanding why wolves in my culture represent the worst example of dangerousness, while the lion (SHER) is the best example of beauty and strength. Both are wild, both are dangerous, both depend on killing animals for their survival. Yet no Kurd would accept being called a wolf, while everyone would feel happy and proud to be called a lion. The best explanation I can give for this is that wolves come at night in darkness to attack the sheep, in the same way that an enemy might sneak up on someone at night when he was least expecting an attack. In Kurdish culture, sheep are the most peaceful animals, without even horns to defend themselves. The Kurds see this as similar to their own situation--like sheep without horns. The Kurds (sheep) are always being victimized when the wolf is the shepherd, who is supposed to be taking care of the sheep. The youth become scapegoats who are sacrificed to keep the wolf satisfied.

As for the lion, it represents the strength and independence of our youth who refused humiliation and went to the mountains to ask for our rights and freedom. We used to call these freedom fighters PESH MERGA, those who are facing death, because they really were facing death every day. Like lions living in the mountains who were brave and strong, they drove the wolves away.

This proverb tells us that wolves cannot change their basic character and will always remain a danger. A wolf can never be trusted even if it shows some signs of good behavior. It is still a wolf and is dangerous by nature. In Kurdistan, we use this proverb to warn the people about individuals with sick minds or weak hearts who always have bad intentions and look for ways to destroy people’s lives. Such a person cannot be trusted even if he claims he will act differently or change his ways, because he may say this only as another trick. Since a wolf’s very nature is to act with bad intentions toward the sheep, any attempt at repentance would be the death of the wolf. We also use this proverb when someone is happy and proud of what he is doing, but people want him to stop and change himself. He will tell them this proverb as a way of refusing their requests for a change in behavior, and it implies, “Leave me alone and don’t waste your time--I am not going to change.” Over and over, whenever my Dad asked my big brother to start saying his prayers regularly, my brother would reply, TOBAY GORG MARGA.

While I was writing this proverb, one of my friends sent me some books, one of which was IN OTHER WORDS by Christopher Moore. The book is a collection of beautiful stories and wisdom from many different languages in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, China, India, and Turkey. Of course, there is no mention of the Kurdish language and wisdom. This book made me believe all the more in what I am doing, and to see why I need to write about my culture and its wisdom. It is true that we are the biggest nation on this planet that does not have its own independent state, and we are not free in our own land. But we do have a long history and a very rich culture to share with the world. It is my pleasure to do a part of it. I know that my knowledge of language is not sufficient to convey all of the richness of my culture into English, but, as they say, “if you can’t do all of something, at least do some of it.”

I liked Moore’s book very much, and I laughed over and over when I read what the author wrote about Arabic languages, especially the proverb HIMUL QITTQT AKLUL FIRRAN (The dream of cats is all about mice), and its meaning of a one-track mind. If cats only dream about mice, no doubt wolves only dream about killing another sheep and of getting another victim. Since nothing can stop cats from dreaming about mice, no one can tame a wolf to the point that it will not dream of killing new victims. Repentance is its death.


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November 21, 2009

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