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Yasen and the Skomorokhs
This little picture is just to clarify things about Yasen's past ^^ Because it was said that he was kidnapped and enslaved, so maybe many people assumed that he was taken away from his family. Well, it happened with many slaves but wasn't Yasen's case. Anyway it's time to tell a bit more about his early years! ^.^
It's been told that Yasen was from the Southern Slavs and in his childhood he was a Skomorokh. A kind of jesters very popular among the Slavic tribes of his homeland, the Skomorokhs travelled from one village to another, showing their skills at acrobatics, juggling, illusion, animal-taming, etc.
They once found a crybaby left in the forest under an ash tree. They went back to the nearby village and asked who threw the child away. But nobody wanted to take the baby, so the Skomorokhs had to take care of it. They named the child Yasen, which simply means "ash tree".
The child was blond like Northern Slavs, so the Skomorokhs were puzzled because Southern Slavs were never blond. Who'd bring the child from so far away just to leave him like that in the forest, they didn't know...
Yasen grew up among the Skomorokhs and as part of their troupe he was taught the type of acrobatics that is known today as "contortionism". This speciality was common among very young Skomorokhs. Dressed up as a little jester, the boy could do a handstand and put his feet upon his head when he was only four years old!
Little by little the child was trained to bend his spine completely in half backwards. He would do that while still standing with his legs straight, and then he'd ask the crowd to drop coins on the floor, and as somebody dropped a coin, the boy would quickly walk toward it in this bendy pose and pick up the coin! It amused the crowd so much that they kept throwing more and more coins on the floor for him. His fellow Skomorokhs always let him do this act a lot because it gave them lots of money!
Many years passed and they devised a whole new show for the grown-up Yasen who became much more skillful over the years. During the performance the Skomorokhs would bring with them a scarecrow on a stake, then they'd take it off and begin to twist and bend the doll which showed no sign of resistance and looked like a usual rag doll. But the jesters seemed very puzzled and amazed by the doll's bendiness, they would bend the doll and look at the crowd, as if asking how is it even possible to bend like that? The crowd laughed thinking that the adult men are just fooling around with the doll like children because they're so immature and can't figure out that the doll isn't a real person, of course it would bend like that because it's stuffed with straw!
But suddenly the scarecrow came to life, took off its belt, shirt and mask to reveal this skinny youth, Yasen, happily smiling to the pop-eyed crowd!! He proceeded to do cartwheels, chased by his fellow Skomorokhs, they eventually captured him and began to stretch his body into a great variety of most extreme positions but... the boy only laughed at their attempts and stuck his tongue out at them!
On the picture we can see one of those crazy positions that made the villagers' wives scream in terror!! After stretching him this and that way, the men would eventually "give up" and throw him in the air, but he'd do a somersault and land on his feet, then enjoy himself doing a happy dance to show he's not even tired of these bendings!
Yasen's performance once captured the slant eye of a foreign merchant who knew the price of a young male's beauty in certain other lands. Yasen was quite cute, though the majority of Slavic youths had very beautiful faces, but Yasen had more than just a face. The merchant squinted his only eye, judging Yasen's flexible body and calculated that such skills might triple his price as a slave, and he already knew someone who might be interested in getting this kind of a toy.
In his eyes Yasen turned into a huge purse of gold, so the merchant devised a plan to kidnap the young man, and unfortunately for Yasen, the plan succeeded in the smallest details. Yasen agreed to drink with the men whom he didn't even know, just because they promised him a lot of money, he agreed to follow them and listen to even more promises. His drink of course had shrooms in it that made him fall asleep. When he woke up, he was neck-deep in trouble... and the rest we already know from this picture: