Baš Čelik (Cyrillic: Баш Челик, pronounced [bâʃ tʃɛ̌lik]), meaning "head of steel", from Turkish baş for "head" and çelik for "steel", is a famous Serbian folk tale. It is similar to the Brothers Grimm's "The Crystal Orb" (Aarne-Thompson type 552A).
A king had three sons and three daughters. On his deathbed he made his sons swear that they would marry off their sisters to the first person who asked. When one night a booming voice demanded that one sister be given to him, the two older brothers were reluctant, except for the youngest (the Least of Three) who heeded his father's dying request and handed her over. The same thing happened for the next two nights, until all the sisters were given away to mysterious strangers. The three brothers decided to go and search for their sisters to find out where they were.
Throughout their travel each brother fought many-headed serpents, the youngest tosses the serpent into the lake taking out their camp fire; in addition, the youngest brother has to go out alone to find fire and used his wits to defeat nine giants that were terrorizing the region and eating human flesh as he stumbled upon them; finally he saved the king’s daughter from the previous giants village and a snake bite as she was laying in bed. Because of all this, he is allowed to marry the princess and becomes one of the king’s favorites. He lives in her castle and is allowed to visit any of the rooms, except one which was bound with chains (the One Forbidden Thing). When his wife was absent one day, he went inside and saw a man held prisoner and bound by chains. The man called himself Bash Chelik, and he begged for three glasses of water. Every time he complies he gets an extra life. When the third glass is handed it to him, the man suddenly gained his massive strength, broke the chains, opened his wings, and flew away with the youngest son's wife.
Now the prince sets out on a new quest to rescue his wife. On the way, he discovers that his sisters were married to the Lords of Dragons, Hawks and Eagles. He visits all the castles of the Dragons, Hawks and Eagles and is welcomed. He tells each Lord of his plans to defeat Bas Celik. They all try to stop him, telling him its impossible but the young price refuses to listen. Each Lord finally gives in and offers a magical feather that when burned will summon the armies. He tries to get his wife back three times, each time losing a life that Bash Chelik gave him for the glasses of water. On the fourth time he fails again and dies, but not before he burns the feathers and his body is saved by his brothers in law, and they resurrect him using the magical water from River Jordan. At this point the prince's wife learns that Bash Chelik cannot be killed, because his life is in a bird that is in a heart of fox in forest of a high mountain. Helped by the Lords, the prince finally slays Bash Chelik and rescues his wife.
References in media
- Baš Čelik is the main villain in 1950 Serbian fantasy film Čudotvorni mač based on Serbian folk tales. In this film, Baš Čelik could only be slain by a particular sword. In the original legend, no weapon could harm him. Only denying him water would reduce his strength.
- Baš Čelik is part of the Monster in My Pocket series, appearing in the centerspread of issue #3 with the spelling "Bash Tchelik". There does not appear to have been a toy version, however.
- In 2008 fantasy artist and illustrator Petar Meseldžija published the book The Legend of Steel Bashaw with the story based on the tale.
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- The Death of Koschei the Deathless
- The Fair Fiorita
- The Three Enchanted Princes
- The Crystal Ball (fairy tale)
- Woislav Petrovitch. Hero Tales and Legends of the Serbians. Harrap, 1917.
- Alan Garner. The Hamish Hamilton Book of Goblins. Hamilton, 1969.
- Garner's version, by his own admission, is a free adaptation of Petrovitch's.
- Monster in My Pocket: The Scholar's Resource: Bash Tchelik