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Alexander Grin: How two leaders ended war


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Alexander Grin: A hellish nightmare, or rather a horrible reality

Alexander Grin: How a little girl stopped a world war


Alexander Grin
The Chiefs’ Single Combat
Translated by Nicholas Luker

In the dense jungles of Northern India, near Lake Izamet, was a village of hunters. And near Lake Kinobay was another village of hunters. The people of the two villages had long quarrelled with each other, and hardly a month passed without some hunter being killed on one side or the other. But it was impossible to catch the murderers.

One day all the fish and water in Lake Izamet were found to be poisoned, and the people of Izamet informed the hunters of Kinobay that they were coming to fight them to the death so as to end their exhausting feud once and for all. Immediately this became known, the people of the two villages formed up into groups and went off into the forest, both hoping to catch the enemy unawares and have done with him.

A week passed, and then the scouts of Izamet tracked down the warriors of Kinobay who were encamped in a small valley. The Izametans decided to attack the Kinobayans immediately and began to make ready.

The chief of the Izametans was young Singh, a noble and fearless man. He had his own plan of war. Leaving his own men unnoticed, he made his way to the Kinobayans and reached the tent of Iret, the leader of Izamet’s enemies.

At the sight of Singh, Iret seized his knife. Singh said with a smile:

“I do not wish to kill you. Listen: in less than two hours you and I with equal forces and equal bravery will fling ourselves on each other. It is clear what will happen: no one will be left alive and our wives and children will die of starvation. Propose to your warriors what I will propose to mine: instead of a general battle let you and I fight – man to man. Whichever chief wins – that side wins. Do you agree?”

“You are right,” said Iret after a moment’s thought. “Here is my hand.”

They parted. The warriors of both sides agreed gladly to their leaders’ proposal, and, after concluding a truce they surrounded in a tightly-packed ring the luxuriant meadow where the combat was to take place.

At a sign Iret and Singh hurled themselves at each other, brandishing their knives. Steel rang against steel, their leaps and thrusts became increasingly violent and menacing, and seizing his moment, Singh pierced the left side of Iret’s chest and inflicted a mortal wound. Iret was still on his feet and fighting, but would soon fall to the ground. Singh whispered to him:

“Iret, strike me in the heart while you can. The death of one chief will arouse hatred for the vanquished side and the slaughter will be renewed….We must both die; our death will destroy the people’s hostility.”

And with his knife Iret struck Singh in his exposed heart; smiling at each other for the last time, both fell dead….

By Lake Kinobay and Lake Izamet there are no longer two villages; there is just one and it is called the village of the Two Victors. So Singh and Iret reconciled their warring peoples.

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