THE LEGEND OF ŞAHMERAN
Today I would like to recount a Turkish Folk Tale told to me by my students.
We were discussing snakes and if Turkey had poisonous ones, and I was told that indeed she does.
There is one variety in particular which resides in the area of Adana and also other areas along the Mediterranean coast. They did not know the correct name, they described it as black and that it can reach 2 to 3 metres in length. Three of my students have physically encountered this variety in the countryside and all of them warned of how dangerous it can be.
I have since learnt that this snake is probably the Black Cobra, which does indeed live in Southern Turkey.
So from learning that there is a nasty variety of a LARGE snake here, they proceeded to tell me the Folk Tale regarding this snake.
THE LEGEND OF ŞAHMERAN
The legend of Şahmeran comes from Mesopotamia. It has been told and retold in Mardin for hundreds and hundreds of years. The name "Şahmeran" actually comes from the Persian name "Şah-ι Meran," which means "the shah of the snakes". Şahmeran was half a snake and half a very beautiful woman. She was a snake from the waist down, but from the waist upwards, a beautiful woman. Her portraits are traditionally hung on walls inside houses especially on girls’ bedroom walls. It is believed that hanging her pictures brings good fortune for them.
Once upon a time, there was a tall and handsome boy called Tahmasp who lived in Mardin. One day, by mistake, he walked into a cave where thousands of snakes were sleeping. There he met Şahmeran.
Tahmasp couldn’t hide the fact that he was attracted to her although she was a snake from the waist down. Tahmasp remained in the cave for days on end, listening to Şahmeran tell incredible stories about the world and humanity. He was in awe, but when Azahmeran had told him everything and there was nothing left to tell, Tahmasp decided that he was missing the outside world and left. Even though Şahmeran didn't like this idea, in the end, she accepted it.
So Tahmasp returned to the land where he used to live. But one day, the king of that land got very ill. One of the king's assistants who was quite evil told the king that the only treatment that would cure him was to eat a piece of meat from the body of Şahmeran. The search began. Anyone who might know anything about Şahmeran was asked to come forward. One day, as Tahmasp was at the hamam, he was identified by soldiers who spotted snake scales all over his body. The soldiers brought him to the king's evil assistant. It turned out - not surprisingly - that the wicked royal aide's real aim was not to make the king better, but to hear about the secrets of the world straight from the mouth of Şahmeran.
Tahmasp was tortured until he revealed the location of Şahmeran's cave. So the assistant and the soldiers went to the cave and found Şahmeran who revealed her great secret, saying: "Whoever tears off a bit of flesh from my tail and eats it will be endowed with all the secrets of the world. But whoever takes a bit of flesh from my head and eats it will die instantly." No sooner were these words out of Şahmeran's mouth than the villainous assistant cut the half-snake, half-woman into two pieces, and ripped a bit of flesh from her tail. Tahmasp, horrified by what he had just witnessed, bit into a piece of flesh from Şahmeran's head so as to die immediately. But what happened instead is that the king's evil aide - having eaten a bite of Şahmeran's tail - died on the spot while Tahmasp appeared completely unaffected. It turned out that Şahmeran had anticipated the king's assistant’s plot and had seen to it that her lover, Tahmasp, inherited all her knowledge, while her enemy went to his death. However, in the wake of Şahmeran's death, Tahmasp was so bereaved that he isolated himself away from the rest of humanity.
Afterwards he is said to have become a legendary doctor, Lokman Hekim.