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July, 18

Baikal Horror Stories: the Story about the Mare’s Head

The story about the Mare’s Head is one of the most mysterious and terrible legends of Lake Baikal, this story is usually told by the shepherds from the island of Olkhon where this strange story happened.

The Island of Olkhon - the centre of sacred Baikal - is one of the most mysterious places of our planet. It is extremely diverse in its landscape characteristics, natural phenomena, presence of objects of sacred shamanistic culture, history of the indigenous population - the Buryats ...

If you look at Olkhon from above, you can see an unusually curvy coastline with a huge number of protrusions, cliffs, rocks, bays. Human imagination associates the looks of the most part of them with the mysterious figures of people or animals, birds or mythical creatures. And it is understandable that these pieces of Olkhon have unusual names. Their explanation is given in numerous legends and stories, the island is very rich in these.

One of the most attractive points of Olkhon is the peninsula of Khorin-Irgi, which is translated from Buryat as “Mare’s Head”. This western part of the island is a fairly long elongated peninsula with picturesque rocky capes, bays and one lake - Nuku-Nur (“nukhen” means “a pit” translated from Buryat). This outstanding lake with its contours resembling a heart is located in a rock crater.

Movies about the beginning of life on Earth can be filmed on this peninsula. The sparsely populated peninsula covered with stone massifs of the oldest earth’s break-ups, with virtually no vegetation, with lichens briskly growing on the stones causes reverence.

The westernmost edge of the peninsula is completed by the cape with the same name. In fact, it is a lonely rock that has broken away from the main part, it is cut off from Olkhon by a sheer crevice.

Many local residents believe that it was the name of the cape that gave the name to the whole peninsula which is often compared to a monster hiding in the water. 

Some think that the rock resembles a head of a floating horse; others believe that it resembles a skull of a huge predatory animal.

In addition to this explanation, there are other stories about the origin of the name “Mare’s Head”. One of the most striking legends is that Genghis Khan himself with his warriors stayed at the cape where they left a large pot on the huge trivet with a mare’s head boiling in it.

But the most interesting legend, which is also a bit scary, seems to be the legend about the poor shepherd Olodoy who once lived on Olkhon. He worked hard, pastured the cattle of the rich and every day dreamed that the happy moment would come when he would get rid of the evil and greedy masters.

The ruler of the Olkhon Island of that time was the spiteful, cruel and powerful Kutul Khan. The Khan had an uncountable number of horses, but there was one steppe beauty among them - the mare called Khinta received by the Khan as a ransom for the captive son of one of the princes. While passing the mare, the prince said that she was a descendant of the legendary warrior’s mare and should become the mother of an even more extraordinary horse.

Khinta gave birth to an offspring, and the foal was really different from everyone: the head was huge, the trunk and legs were very small, like those of a pig, and the eyes are cold and motionless, like those of a snake. The wardens of the Khan were worried about the horses and rushed to the master. The Khan sent the herdsmen sent back with an order: to separate Khinta and her offspring from the herd and constantly watch them. While performing the instructions of the Khan, the wardens saw that the foal changed a lot: his head grew very much, and his body and legs began to shrink even more. On top of this, the eyes of a small monster were frightening, they resembled a red-hot arrow. He ate a lot of food, took away the last blades of grass was from his mother who died after all. The Khan got angry, he realized that the foal brought only troubles and asked how the herdsmen called the foal. The answer was brief:“Mare’s Head”.


Khan ordered to watch the degenerate even more strictly, and when the herdsmen returned home, a terrible thing happened. Three herdsmen got petrified at the sight of the monster with his eyes burning wildly; they turned into stone statues under the neigh of the foal. Only the fourth herdsman, the most intelligent and clever one, managed to survive by a trick.

When the Khan learned about the fate of his servants from him, he got scared, called all his warriors and promised a hundred of best horses to the one who would destroy “Mare’s Head”. As the shepherd Olodoy heard about this, he realized that this was his chance.

He went to the camp of “Mare’s Head” to look at him closely. And there he saw an interesting picture -an eagle flying over the dwelling of the foal rushed down, and “Mare’s Head” shot two beams into the eyes of the eagle, then the bird fell like an insensitive stone. Thus Olodoy understood - the deadly beams from the eyes of the monster affect the victim’s eyes, turning it into a stone.

The Khan used various methods: many warriors shot at the monster, even the prince, the master of the monster’s mother in a micaceous cap protecting his eyes went to fight with “Mare’s Head”, but everything was in vain: the monster only gained strength. Then the Khan ordered Olodoy to destroy “Mare’s Head” under the fear of death.

The shepherd helplessly went to the coast of Lake Baikal, peered at the surface of the water, saw his reflection, as if in a mirror, and realized what to do. He lured “Mare’s Head” from his camp with a cart with fragrant hay driven by Olodoy, and when they approached Lake Baikal, the shepherd dived into the water together with the cart. Having reached the coast, “Mare’s Head” looked into the water and noticed his reflection. But the monster did not recognize himself and got petrified by his own malicious gaze, turning the Khan on his way to the water into a stone statue as well. When the shepherd came out of the water, a stone hill stood before him. Thus “Mare’s Head” appeared on the coast of Olkhon, but never did any more harm to anybody.



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