Toward the end of the nineteenth century, an Armenian priest first recorded the Armenian national epic translated today as The Daredevils of Sasun. This popular epic, which was transmitted from generation to generation in dozens, if not hundreds, of different versions over the centuries, tells the story of the seventh-century Islamic incursions into Armenia and the subsequent Armenian struggles against caliphal rule in the North. The variants circulated only orally in Armenian from the seventh century on, though garbled echoes of the story appear in a twelfth-century Arabic text attributed to Wāqidī and in two sixteenth-century legends, one in Persian and the other in Portuguese. Through its oral transmission, “the old epic has been transformed, for example, the Persians were replaced by the Arabs and later by Msra Melik',” a perfectly detestable antihero and either the stepfather or the stepbrother of the story's main hero, Sasunc'i Dawit'. Msra Melik' was also the ruler of Egypt, as is evident from his name, an Armenicized version of the Arabic malik miṣr, “the king of Egypt,” with the final a of Msra denoting the Armenian genitive.
At one point, Msra Melik' sends to southern Armenia his tax collector, Kozbadin, whose name seems to render the interesting Arabic epithet Qaṣṣāb al-Dīn: qaṣṣāb, literally “butcher” or “slaughterer,” appears in Arabic to refer to the surveyor responsible for the land census, combined with al-dīn, “religion” (here: Islam). Accordingly, the name Kozbadin may be translated as both “the Butcher of Islam” and “the Census-Taker of Islam.” Our hero Dawit' confronts Kozbadin, mutilating his face:
Davit' grew angry, he stopped,
Struck Kozbadin with the measuring weight
And fractured his skull.
He cut away Kozbadin's lips,
Extracted his teeth, set them on his forehead, and said:
“Go and show yourself to your Msra Melik'. Let him do what he will.”
H. Simonyan sees in this an echo of the Alexander legends, citing a passage that has Alexander challenge the tax collectors of Darius with comparable words (“Go and take [the] news to Darius, the Persian king”). This reflects the sustained comparison between Persian and caliphal rule in Armenian sources, yet for our purposes here, the subject, viz. the tax collectors as representatives of foreign claims, is perhaps more significant.