Back to the list

The boy and camel from Turkmenistan

Book: The Boy and the Camel by Kayum Tangrykuliev translated by Jim Riordan

Ages: 7+

Relationship to country: A collection of folktales from Turkmenistan

Book in a nutshell: Different stories about living in the desert and the relationship between people and the animals that they work with 


It was really difficult to find a book translated into English from Turkmenistan. When my mom found The Boy and the Camel, she ordered it on EBay. It arrived at our house, and the address came all the way from Russia! 

One interesting thing about this story was that the animals were just as important as the people. The animals were very intelligent. There were camels and dogs in the stories. They knew how to help their masters. In one story, a dog was left behind in a village but then he crossed many miles in the desert all the way find his master. The humans also knew a lot about their animals. In one story, a shepherd recognized the tracks from a camel, and he had not even seen that camel in 10 years!

In the story "The Boy and the Camel," there was a camel who was retired from working because he was too old. But he was not happy about being retired because he liked to be useful. A boy found the camel and made friends with him and let the camel worked again. One time, while they were collecting firewood together, the boy left his water at home and was very thirsty. He wanted to go to the watering hole. But the camel would not let him off his back and then bit his shirt to keep him from going forward. Once when I was patting some goats by my grandparents house, they bit my dress! 

But the boy went anyway, and he immediately started sinking into quicksand. The camel was so smart and knew exactly where the quicksand was! He was trying to protect the boy. The camel saved the boy from the quicksand, but the camel started sinking. The boy put the firewood they had collected underneath the camel's belly to try to protect him, and the boy ran many miles across the desert to get help.

He falls asleep from thirst and exhaustion, but when he wakes up the camel has been saved!