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Armenian literature is a major aspect of the culture. Literature may include a wide assortment of genres, such as fables, folk tales, myths, fantasy, poem, prose, and many others. However, early Armenian literature began with the oral legends and epics. In many towns, storytellers (gousans) played music as they narrated these legends, reciting them as entertainment for the village people. Movses Khorenatsi, one of the earliest Armenian historians from the fifth century, is to thank for the preservation of the early Armenian legends. Because of Khorenatsi, the early legends of the Armenian culture are still being orally passed down today, from generation to generation.
A well-known legend from the Armenian culture is the story of “Hayk and Bel.” Hayk was an Armenian epic hero, who continually fought for his people. Bel was a tyrant, who wanted Hayk’s power and land, however Hayk refused Bel. Hayk is today known as the patriarch of the Armenians because he proved that it is better to fight for what you believe in, rather than to live under tyranny. This legend is about freedom and the strength to stand up for oneself. Hayk portrayed these brave characteristics, and is therefore known as an Armenian hero.
Another Armenian legend, recorded by Khorenatsi, is “Ara the Handsome.” Ara was a handsome Armenian hero, who was desperately desired by the queen of Assyria, Queen Semiramis. Queen Semiramis offered riches, love, wealth, and prosperity to Ara, however because Ara was already married, he continually denied her foolish offers. Because of her frustrations, Assyria called for battle, where Ara the Handsome was eventually killed. Once the queen was notified of his death, she yearned to bring him back to life, however her wishes were never fulfilled. This legend shows how loyal and faithful Ara was to his home, family, and himself.