To the perception of time in “The book of dede Korkut”

 
PIIS086919080006516-4-1
DOI10.31857/S086919080006516-4
Publication type Article
Status Published
Authors
Occupation: Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Affiliation: Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Address: Moscow, Russia
Journal nameVostok. Afro-Aziatskie obshchestva: istoriia i sovremennost
EditionIssue 5
Pages142-148
Abstract

Kitab-i dedem Korkut, or The Book of Dede Korkut, is the only medieval epic of the Turkic people that has come down to us in a written form. The stories that comprise The Book of Dede Korkut display a clear connection with both the common Turkic literary and folk tradition and more recent strata.

Most vividly in this epic appears the idea of “the age of the Oghuz” – the time when, on the one hand, the action of the legends of the epic appears as a whole, and on the other – this time is characterized as a kind of “idyllic”. Most likely, the idea of “the age of the Oghuz” dates back to the traditional epic specific to the Turkic and Mongolian oral and written epics, traditionally referring to cosmogony, “prehistoric”, the initial state of the world. The concept of “the age of the Oghuz” in “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” also correlates in spatial relation to the idea of “the land of the Oghuz”, opposed to the hostile world of the infidels.

The traditional way of nomadic life and the change of seasons is practically not reflected in the epic. The action of the stories takes place “on the green meadows”, in the steppes, probably during the summer; winter is mentioned in the epic several times. But at the same time the idea of the juxtaposition of winter and summer in “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” can be the echo of the “Dispute of Summer and Winter” reflected in the Turkic literature tradition of the 11th century. Differentiation by time of a day is the most clearly expressed in the epic. The morning time is the time when the Oghuz heroes go to the war campaigns, or exploits, the time, when important decisions are made.

Thus, “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” reflected the ideas of time that existed among the Oghuz Turks for a long period during their migration to the West through the Transcaucasia, Iran and Asia Minor and the cyclization of the legends of this book epic.

Keywordswritten epic, Turkey, the Oghuz, Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk, Kutadgu Bilig
Received08.09.2019
Publication date16.10.2019
Number of characters17007
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1

  • Written epic of the Oghuz
  • 2 The Turkic medieval written epic “The Book of Dede Korkut” (“Kitab-i dedem Korkut”) is undoubtedly the most important source on social and cultural life of the Oghuz Turks of the early Medieval Ages. Customarily the formation of stories of which “The Book of Dede Korkut” consists of refers to the 11th century, but the stories were fixed in the written form later, approximately in the 15th century.
    3 “The Book of Dede Korkut” (according to the Dresden manuscript1) consists of twelve songs-legends, which speak about the exploits of the Oghuz heroes. The main plot — the core of which is framed by these stories — is the struggle of the Oghuz tribes against the infidels, non-Muslims (kafir) in the lands of Asia Minor, as well as constant internecine strife among the Oghuz themselves. This text reflects both the events of early Turkic semi-legendary history (not only historical facts, but also a set of mythological beliefs) and later events connected with the spread of their power in Asia Minor and with their contacts with Byzantium. The stories that comprise “The Book of Dede Korkut” display a clear connection with both common Turkic literary and folk traditions as well as more recent strata. 1. In 2018 the new manuscript concerning “The Book of Dede Korkut” epic cycle was found in Iran (the so-called “Gonbad manuscript”); its brief research as well as the manuscript itself was just published recently in June 2019 [Shangoli, Yaghoobi, Aghatabai, Behzad, 2019].
    4 “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” as a monument of a written epos is found on the border between oral and literary tradition and between folk narrative and historical chronicle.
    5

    II.1. “The days of the Oghuz”

    6 Most clearly in this epic appears the idea of “the age of the Oghuz”, or “the days of the Oghuz [tribe]” (this was noticed by many researchers of the “Book of Dede Korkut” – see, for example, [Zhirmunski, 1962]) – a time when the action of all the tales of the epic takes place in general. This period is characterized as a kind of “idyllic time”:
    7 Ol zamanda beğlerün alkışı, karkışı karkış idi. Dıaları müstecab olurıdı [Gökyay, 2000, p. 31] // “In those days the nobles’ blessings were blessings and their curses were curses, and their prayers used to be answered” [Lewis, 1974, p. 59]2. 2. English translation of the “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” cited from the translation of Geoffrey Lewis [Lewis, 1974], which is noted specifically.
    8 Oğuz zamanında Uşun Koca derler bir kişi varıdı [Gökyay, 2000, p. 125] // “In the days of the Oghuz there was a man called Ushun Koja…” [Lewis, 1974, p. 161].
    9 Ol zamanda Oğuz beylerine ne kaza gelse uyhudan gelüridi [Gökyay, 2000, p. 92] // “In those days whatever disaster befell the Oghuz warriors befell them because of sleep” [Lewis, 1974, p. 127].
    10 Probably the concept of “the days of the Oghuz” may be related to “the enhanced interest of the Ottomans in their historical past”, as Zhirmunski wrote [Zhirmunski, 1962]. However, most likely, this idea goes back to the traditional epic introduction, which is characteristic of the Turkic and Mongolian oral and written epics, referring to cosmogony, “prehistoric”, the initial state of the world (see, for example in the Buryat and Mongol “Geser” written epic: [Neklyudov, 2019, p. 131 and further])3. 3. “Such an introduction can be open by the formula "In the early time when...", and further to form a homogeneous grammatical syntagma; there is the registry the initial (nascent, emerging) world: the whole universe (that is to say, eon), the earth and the water, the sky, the sun and the moon, the world mountain and the world tree, the first living beings, etc. The appearance of a hero on earth coincides with this epoch. The most archaic form is represented in the Buryat (West-Buryat) tradition” [Neklyudov, 2019, p. 137].
    11 The concept of the “age of the Oghuz Turks” is also correlated in spatial relation to the representation of “the land of the Oghuz” (tur. Oğuz eli), which is antagonistic to the surrounding hostile world of the infidels. The dwelling place of the ruler of Trapezund in “The Book of Dede Korkut”, despite being described in geographically precise terms, is presented as a kind of otherworldly space, one of several “evil places” (tur. yavuz yerler). For example, Kanlı-koja tells his son Kan-Turali, who is going on a journey: “Thereupon Kanli Koja declaimed; let us see, my Khan, what he declaimed
    12 ‘Son, in the place where you would go,
    13 Twisted and tortuous will the roads be;
    14 Swamps there will be, where the horseman will sink and never emerge;
    15 Forests there will be, where the red serpent can find no path;
    16 Fortresses there will be, that rub shoulders with the sky;
    17 A beautiful one there will be who puts out eyes and snatches souls; …To a terrible place have you set your foot; Stay!” [Lewis, 1974, p. 119] (“Kanlı Koca burada soylamış, görelüm Hanum ne soylamış, aydur: Oğul, sen varacak yerün Dolamaç dolamaç yolları olur Atlu batup çıkamaz Anun balçığı olur Ala yılan sökemez Anun ormanı olur Gökile pehlu uran Anun kalası olur Göz kakuban gönül alan Anun görklüsü olur Hay demedin baş getüren Anun celladı olur... Yavuz yerlere yeltendün” [Gökyay, 2000, p. 85]) (for more details see: [Anikeeva, 2019]).
    18

    II.2. Seasons in “The Book of Dede Korkut”

    19 It should be noted that the traditional nomadic way of life of the Oghuz Turkic tribes and the change of seasons connected with that (for example, cattle overtaking to summer / winter pastures) are practically not reflected in the epic. The action of the stories takes place “on the green meadows”, in the steppes, probably, in the summer or spring; winter season is mentioned in the epic several times only. Particularly interesting is the fragment in the beginning of the epics where it is mentioned among other proverbs and didactic maxims:

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