Olga Mazo (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) “Mongolian Wrestlers in Folklore Narratives”


Mongolian wrestling (böh barildah), together with riding and archery, is one of the most popular and important sports in Mongolia. During our expeditions to Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (China) in 2006-2015, we collected a lot of narratives about legendary and real wrestlers. According to the data in many regions wrestles are supposed to have a special type of chest lacking interribs intervals, and after their death wolves can foster their cubs there. In many Mongolian regions people believe that if someone steals the wrestler’s bones and brings them to his homeland, good wrestlers would born there and not in the place where the wrestler lived. So bones can be considered to be the container of the wrestler’s inner power (hijmor). The wrestler’s cloth is also a container of hijmor. The wrestlers don’t put their clothes on the ground before the competition as the cloth can be stolen in order to obtain the wrestler’s power, or a famous wrestler can give his cloth to a younger wrestler to help him win. The wrestler’s power can also be present in the wrestler’s tree and in the big stones set in place by them. The tree called ‘böh mod’ grows on the border of Arkhangai and Bayankhongor aimags and is the object of worship of wrestlers from both aimags. The other popular motive is the wrestler’s offence. The structure of the narrative is the following: A famous wrestler is offended by his neighbours, he curses them and no good wrestlers are born in that place. So the wrestler’s power can not only be obtained or lost by means of his bones or clothes, but the wrestler himself can share it.