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The Mountain of Gems

Region: Central Asia, Turkmenistan

Author: Modern adaptation and rendition in English by Gini Graham Scott

Original Language: English, Turkmen

Translator: Translated by the author

Character: Aman

Genre: Folktales

Descriptors: animals; gems; poor families; trickster tales 

Age: 7-10 years old


“The Mountain of Gems'' is an adaptation of a traditional folk tale from Turkmenistan. After his mother becomes too weak to work, a poor man named Aman must look for a job. Aman asks all over town, but no one has any work for him until a mysterious rich man agrees to let Aman come with him on a trip to collect gemstones. When they reach the base of the mountain, the man makes Aman lay on top of the rug and rolls him up tight. Two large birds come and grab the rug bundle, carrying Aman up to the top of a mountain covered in glittering gems. Aman breaks free from the rug and throws down the gems to the man before realizing he has been tricked. The man leaves Aman stranded on the mountain and leaves with his riches. Luckily, Aman finds a way down the mountain by hanging on to the legs of an eagle as it flies towards the ground. Back at the market, Aman approaches the rich man who no longer recognizes him and takes him on his offer for work once more. On their second journey to the mountain, Aman tricks the rich man so that Aman is the one who leaves with a sack full of gems, while the rich man remains trapped on the mountain with the skeletons of all the men he tricked in the past.    

This short story comes from the collection 3 Folktales from Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Stories from the Ukraine, Latvia, and Turkmen, where the author retells some of her favorite folktales that were told by villagers from these regions. Each story is centered around the common theme of poor peasants using their wisdom and generosity “to succeed despite obstacles against an unfair ruler.” This collection uses stock images to illustrate the stories, using a mix of real-life photography and digital illustrations. These magical tales are suitable for ages 7 to 10 years old.  

More About This Book

Reviewed: e-book (self-published?) (2015). ISBN: 0692460985, 9780692460986. 

Notes: From Gini Graham Scott’s 3 Folktales from Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Stories from the Ukraine, Latvia, and Turkmen. The kindle version puts censor bars through the pictures, which makes it difficult to see the entire image. The layout of the text and photos is also messy in the kindle version, often cutting pictures in half to where the top portion of the image will appear at the bottom of a page and the bottom portion of the image will appear at the top of the following page. At times, some of the photos that are similar end up overlapping one another. Content warning: In “The Mountain of Gems” there are several pictures of skeletons and mentions of death. Additional sources used: [The introduction of 3 Folktales from Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Stories from the Ukraine, Latvia, and Turkmen]

Reviewed by Leah Byrnes

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