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When the Tibetan people formed their first powerful kingdom, in the Middle Ages, they also began to compose epic poetry for the first time, and this is what they wrote. In the story, Gesar is a great king – his name may come from the Roman Caesar. Maybe the Tibetans learned the word Caesar from their neighbors, the Turks.

Each storyteller told Gesar’s story in his or her own way. This is one way: Before Gesar was born, everything was terrible. There was no king but many greedy evil lords, and demons and goblins everywhere. Then the child Chori was born (he wasn’t called Gesar yet). He had no father. Or, some people say that Chori’s father was a sky god (like Jesus or Apollonius), or that his mother got pregnant when she drank a magic potion. Chori was born from his mother’s head, like Athena.

Chori was an ugly, nasty child, and nobody liked him. Chori’s uncle banished Chori and his mother to the wilderness, where Chori grew up wearing skins and hunting his own food (like Perseus, or like Genghis Khan, perhaps). But when Chori was twelve years old, he returned to the palace and, with his great horse Kyang Go Karkar, won a horse-race (like Pelops), and as his prize he got to marry his first wife, Brugmo, and he got to be the new king. Now he took the name Gesar.

Once he was king, Gesar went to fight a terrible demon that was eating people, in the north. Of course Gesar killed the demon, but while Gesar was gone, a bad king stole his wife Brugmo (the same thing happened to Genghis Khan’s first wife). So Gesar went after Brugmo and rescued her. Gesar went on to defend his people against all kinds of attacks, both by humans and by spirits. He fought the Arabs as well as many other people. When he was old, Gesar did not die like other men, but instead left us to live in a hidden place. Someday, when his people need him again, he will return (like King Arthur) to save them.

Bibliography and further reading about King Gesar:

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