Demir-Kayá (Kuprin)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A notorious bandit, seeking redemption for his past crimes, built a house at a crossroads to serve travelers, and was eventually forgiven by divine intervention after killing a traitor.

Demir-Kayá, a ruthless bandit leader, was known for his lack of pity, shame, and fear. His band of robbers terrorized areas around Stamboul, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. He had killed ninety-nine people, including women, children, and the elderly. One day, a powerful army surrounded him, and after a fierce battle, he managed to escape, but his band was either killed or captured.

Wounded and hiding in a cave, Demir-Kayá was visited by an angel who told him that his time had not yet come. The angel instructed him to gather his treasures, convert them into gold, and build a house at the crossroads of seven roads. He was to serve travelers as if he were their servant, and when a dead tree he planted bloomed, his sins would be forgiven.

Demir-Kayá — former bandit seeking redemption; fearless, merciless, but later hospitable and repentant.

When you will arise from what is almost your deathbed, go forth and dig out of the earth all your treasures and convert them into gold.

For twenty years, Demir-Kayá's house became famous for its hospitality. He fed the hungry, gave money to the poor, and healed the wounded. Every day, he looked at the dead tree, but it remained lifeless.

For twenty years, for twenty long years, Demir-Kayá turned his gaze every evening to the marvellous stump of wood dug into the ground of his courtyard, but the wood remained black and dead.

One day, a horseman approached, and Demir-Kayá invited him in. The horseman spat in his face and struck him with a whip. In anger, Demir-Kayá threw a stone at the horseman, killing him.

The dying man revealed that he was on his way to betray his friends who were plotting to assassinate a cruel and unjust Pasha. Demir-Kayá realized that he had killed a traitor and returned to his house in despair. To his surprise, the dead tree had come to life and was covered in green buds and yellow flowers. Demir-Kayá fell to his knees and wept, knowing that Allah had forgiven him for the murder of ninety-nine innocent people because he had killed one traitor.