The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.
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BULLETIN OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ETHNOLOGY Vol. 27 No. 3 2003

Yamanaka, Yuriko
“Alexander the Sacred” in Arabic and Persian Literature
395
Fujii, Mako
Twelve Heroes, or Hero Twelve in the Epic:
Reinterpretation of a Numeral in a Mongolian Epic
483


“Alexander the Sacred” in Arabic and Persian Literature
Yuriko Yamanaka

Literary accounts concerning Alexander the Great in West Asia are inseparable from the Islamic faith. In Arabic and Persian literature, Alexander is depicted as a devout Muslim, a propagator of the true faith with special authority bestowed by God, a champion of the holy war, and even as a prophet.
This article first explores the background of how the figure of Alexander came to carry such a religious aura in the mediaeval Islamic world by point-ing out the link between the Alexander legend and the passage on Dhu ’lqarnayn (the two horned) in Sura 18 (“the Cave”) of the Qur)an, and by tracing Jewish and Christian religious narratives which had already incorporated Alexander as a sacred figure before the coming of Islam.
Secondly, we will analyze specific texts in Arabic and Persian from different genres, such as Quranic exegesis, the tales of the prophets, historical narrative, and the Alexander epic. We shall see the subtle amalgamation of the religious symbolism of Dhu ’l-qarnayn and the historicity of the Macedonian conqueror in these various representations of Alexander.
Lastly, we will point out the existence of the Dhu ’l-qarnayn legend which was transmitted into Chinese and Japanese sources.
Key Words: Alexander the Great, Dhu ’l-qarnayn, Islamization, comparative literature, West Asia


Twelve Heroes, or Hero Twelve in the Epic:
Reinterpretation of a Numeral in a Mongolian Epic
Mako Fujii


Epic is a special genre of folklore among the numerous Mongolianspeaking peoples, one that plays an important role in investigating their culture, history, and mentality. The epic, or epic song cycle, about , the leader of an imaginary state or region called “Aru-Bumba-yin-Orun”, is widespread mainly among the western Mongols called Oyirat. It is regarded as a literary work on a par with the Secret History of the Mongols or the Geser epic.
is accompanied by “arban qoyar”, fi ghting foreign or alien enemies by his side. “Arban qoyar” is generally taken to mean “twelve heroes”, and the number twelve has been widely accepted as the actual number of heroes. But there are few statements about their names in the introduction of the seating order of the heroes in the many versions of the epic known to us. In fact, often, the names of fewer than twelve heroes are referred to. Usually, not only the number, but also the actual names, as well as the seating order of the heroes differ from one version to another.
In this respect, the 17-chapter- text transcribed by Taya from the words of Arinpil, a famous epic performer in today’s Xinjiang, attracts our attention, for it contains precisely the twelve names of the twelve heroes in the fi rst chapter. The 17-chapter- text is the most reliable of the Xinjiang texts at the moment, so this fact is signifi cant. However, careful observation shows that one name is repeated. In actual fact, only eleven heroes are presented.
In this paper, I would like to examine what exactly “arban qoyar” indicates. For this purpose, all the passages in the 17-chapter- text that contain “arban qoyar” are scrutinized. This is followed by a detailed examination of the ways in which “arban qoyar” is used in various contexts. It is concluded that the number “twelve” in “arban qoyar” can be taken both as a numeral and as a proper noun. Scholars usually recognize “twelve” as a numeral, but they have not yet examined it as a noun.
The usage of “twelve” as a proper noun has three meanings as follows:
1. a group called “the twelve heroes” consisting of twelve warriors or less. The actual number is fundamentally irrelevant,
2. a group called “the twelve heroes” who may or may not be under the command of Altan ,
3. a hero called “Hero Twelve”, referring to Altan (one of ’s heroes).
If we extend this examination to the Kalmyk or the 25-chapter text, the most reliable of the Kalmyk texts, it is observed that the expression “six thousand and twelve heroes” is used more frequently than “arban qoyar”. This fact makes us aware that not only “arban qoyar” but also “eight thousand and twelve heroes” appears in the 17-chapter- text. It is true that xpressions of “eight thousand heroes” are used in the 17-chapter text separately from “arban qoyar” for the most part, but this phenomenon shows the fact that the “arban qoyar” is treated as a numeral by the performer of the 17-chapter- text.
From the Kalmyk or the 25-chapter- text, however, we cannot derive the second and the third meanings of “arban qoyar” mentioned above. Nonetheless, it is possible to read a hint of Altan in the expression of “arban qoyar” if we follow the analysis of the 17-chapter- text advanced in this paper.
We can understand why Altan is used metaphorically, especially if compared with the number “thirteen”. An examination of the usage of “thirteen” in the 17-chapter- text suggests that this number “thirteen” is used as a metaphor for or Güzeen-gümbe, the main warriors in the epic. On the one hand, Altan seats himself in the fi rst or the most estimable seat on the right-hand side of at all times, and on the other hand, warriors labeled “thirteen” are seated either in the fi rst seat on the left-hand side of or in the second seat on the right-hand side.
In Mongolian culture, the right-hand side is usually more respected than the left. Therefore, according to this tradition, it seems that Altan is superior to . But the arrangement of two numbers in order of decreasing size allotted to the two worriors indicates that Altan is inferior to . Such metaphorical uses are designed to conceal from listeners the reversed order of daily routine or accepted order in the explicit narrative of the epic.
Key Words: “”, “twelve heroes”, “Hero Twelve”, “arban qoyar”, Kalmyk , Xinjiang , numeral, proper noun, altan ,