To the perception of time in “The book of dede Korkut”
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To the perception of time in “The book of dede Korkut”
Annotation
PII
S086919080006516-4-1
DOI
10.31857/S086919080006516-4
Publication type
Article
Status
Published
Authors
Tatiana Anikeeva 
Occupation: Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Affiliation: Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Address: Moscow, Russia
Edition
Pages
142-148
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.

Keywords
written epic, Turkey, the Oghuz, Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk, Kutadgu Bilig
Received
08.09.2019
Date of publication
16.10.2019
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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:
    20 Yapa yapa karlar yağsa yağsa kalmaz; yapağılu gökçe çemen güze kalmaz [Gökyay, 2000, p. 1] / “No matter how thick the snow fell, it won’t stay until spring; blooming green meadow won’t remain until autumn”.
    21 It is possible to suggest that the idea of the juxtaposition of winter and summer in this proverb may be the echoe of the “Dispute of Summer and Winter” reflected in the Turkic literature tradition of the 11th century: We can find it in “Compendium of Turkic dialects” (“Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk”) by Mahmud Kashgari4 and also in “Kutadgu Bilig” by Yusuf Balasaguni5.
    4. “Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk” ("Compendium of Turkic words", or, more precisely, “Collection of Turkic dialects”) – the first dictionary in the Turkic lexicography. It appeared in Baghdad between 1072 and 1083; the dictionary is written in the Arabic language. The full name of its author is Mahmoud Ibn Hussein ibn Mohammad al-Kashgari. It is known that his father came from the town of Barsgan near the lake Issyk-Kul but other biographical information about the author did not survive. Some remarks in his work and other historical data suggest that he belonged to the Qarakhanid dynasty. Escaping from political persecution, he eventually found himself in Baghdad, where he wrote his work and presented it to the Arab Abbasid caliph Muktadi (1075–1094), who had the highest spiritual authority in the eyes of Muslims. In addition to the interest that “Divan lugat al-Turk” represents as a linguistic, historical and ethnographic source, it is valuable because it contains a significant number of poetic passages from Turkic-language works, quatrains and couplets, which Mahmud al-Kashgari gave as examples to individual words.

    5. In 1069–1070 the didactic poem “Kutadgu Bilig” (“The Lesson of How to Be Happy”) of Yusuf who was originally from Balasagun appeared in Kashgar. The poem is dedicated to the governor of Qashgar Boghra-khan and is considered to be the oldest Uyghur literary monument of Muslim content. The poem was extremely popular and came to be known as the “Ethics of rule” and even “Turkic Shakh-name.” As a didactic treatise, “Kutadgu Bilig” deals with various aspects of the life of an ideal ruler and his officials, and gives an account of “the qualities of the ambassador,” “the qualities of a military leader,” “the necessary qualities of the court,” and so on. At the same time, its ideas apply to more general issues. Its sermons are accompanied by information from various fields of science such as mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. The poem’s “role models” are given through characters from Iranian mythology — legendary Iranian kings and heroes (e.g., Afrasiab). But at the same time “Kutadgu Bilig” retains both mythological images connected with Islam and especially its mythological, geographical tradition (countries Çin and Maçin, mount Kâf) and images deriving from ancient Turkic cosmology. Some of the last ones we can see in the author’s traditional preface to his treatise where he appeals to the one God, who created “brown earth and blue sky, the Sun, the Moon and night” (see: [Malov, 1951, p. 235]; this is the usual way to represent the mythological past of the Turks, for example, in runical Orkhon inscriptions like the large inscription of Kultegin).
    22 There are many Turkic verses with the explanations of Kashgari in the text of the “Compendium” and among them we can find these ones:
    23 “öl qar qamuɣ qˉišin enǟr
    24 ašliq tariɣ anin önǟr
    25 jawlaq yaɣi mändä tinār
    26 sän kälibän täbräšǖr
    27 Describing the debate of Summer and Winter; Winter says to Summer: ‘Snow and damp descend in winter; because of it the grain grows in summer; in me the hostile foe rests (from his raids); when you come (O Summer, then in you) he moves’” (MK 369 in: [Dankov, Kelly, 1984, p. 64].
    28 There are also the verses6 that describe a spring and the spring awakening of nature in the didactical poem “Kutadgu Bilig” dated back by the same 11th c. and among them one can see that spring season is counterposed to a winter:
    6. As S. Ye. Malov noticed, “Description of spring” in "Kutadgu Bilig" is a rare poetic place among the very boring and tedious content of the entire work of Yusuf Has Hajib” [Malov, 1951, p. 240].
    29 “togardin ese keldi ongdun yili
    30 ajun itgüke açtı ustmah yolı
    31 yagız yir yipar toldı kafur kitip
    32 bezenmek tiler dünya körkin itip
    33 irinçig kısıg sürdi yazkı esin
    34 yaruk yaz yana kurdı devlet yasın… ” (QB 63–65, see at: [Arat, 1947, p. 23–24]7 / “The spring wind blew from the East and opened the Paradise way; The brown earth was filled with musk, and the camphor was gone, the world wants to be adorned by itself; the spring wind drove the tormented winter and took it away; the bright summer again set up a bow of bliss”.
    7. Turkish translation was also made by Resit Arat later: “Şarktan bahar rüzgarı eserek geldi dünyayı süslemek için cennet yolunu açtı / Kafur gitti kara toprak misk ile doldu dünya kendisini süsleyerek, bezenmek istiyor / Bahar rüzgarı eziyetli kışı sürüp, götürdü; parlak yaz tekrar saadet yayını kurdu” [Arat, 1959, p. 16].
    35

    II.3. Time of the day

    36 The differentiation by time of day seems to be the most clearly expressed in “The Book of Dede Korkut”. Morning time is the time when the Oghuz heroes go to feats, to campaigns, and when important decisions are made (and at the same time night (evening) is not only time for sleep but also the time to attack enemies (infidels)); it is emphasized by the special formula phrase8 Alar sabah kalkubanı yerinden uru-durup // “at break of the day rose up from his place”. For example:
    8. The text of the tales of “the Book of Dede Korkut” is mainly prosaic, but it contains many different stylistic clichés, repetitions, proverbs, sayings and rhythmized passages, and the problem of the their formula nature is solved by researchers in different ways [Korogly, 1976, p. 201; Anikeeva, 2018, p. 52–57]. Formula in a prose narrative is understood as steady, repetitive phrase that conveys the basic idea (“formula-thought”) in one or more phrases; according to I. Başgöz, formula is a combination of formal and semantic elements; it is characterized by brevity and memorability, like a proverb or saying, sometimes it has rhythmic organization [Başgöz 1998, p. 131, 141]. The use of formal phrases in such a text (usually epic) is quite common in the literary traditions of the Turkic peoples.
    37 Salkım salkum tan yelleri esdüğünde,
    38 Sakallu bozaç turgay sayradukda[…]
    39 Aklı karalı seçilen çağda,
    40 Gögsü-güzel kaba dağlara gün degende… Alar sabah Dirse Han kalkubanı yerinden uru-durup [...] Bayındır Hanun sohbetine gelüridi [Gökyay, 2000, s. 4, 8 and fwd.] // “When the winds of dawn blow cold,
    41 When the bearded grey lark is singing…
    42 When white begins to be distinguishable from black, When the sun touches the great mountains with their lovely folds… at break of day Dirse Khan rose up from his place” [Lewis, 1974, p. 27, 32–33].
    43 The same idea about morning as the start for any military campaign can be seen at the Turkic folk verses included in Mahmud Kashgari’s “Compendium of the Turkic Dialects” (mentioned above):
    44 “… Verse:
    45 taɳ ata yortalim
    46 buḏrač qanin irtälim
    47 basmil begin örtälim
    48 amdi yigit yewilsǖn
    49 ‘We’ll set out at the break of dawn, and seek the blood (and the blood-price) of Buḏrač (a man from Yabaqu), and burn the emir of Basmil; now let the young men gather in their squadrons’” (MK 600, in: [Dankov, Kelly, 1984, p. 330]. It should be noticed that the early morning in “The Book of Dede Korkut” is also once named by the same word kuşluk (“kuşluk uyhudan uyanur kalkar...” [Gökyay, 2000, p. 3]: “[she] gets up early in morning”]), which is mentioned in Mahmud Kashgari’s treatise (quşluq) as “forenoon (Oɣuz dialect)” (MK 238, in: [Dankov, Kelly, 1982, p. 354]).
    50 Both the importance of military campaign and the time of performance in it are emphasized by the following saying at the epic:
    51 “Kanlı Koca aydur: Oğul, sabah varup öylen gelmek olmaz; öylen varup ahiam gelmek olmaz” [Gökyay, 2000, p. 83] // “Said Kanli Koja, ‘My son, it’s no use leaving in the morning and coming home at noon; it’s no use leaving at noon and coming home in evening…” [Lewis, 1974, p. 117].
    52

    III. Conclusion

    53 There are many archaic elements of traditional Turkic world outlook that can be found in the epic folklore of the Oghuz Turks (such as “Kitab-i dedem Korkut”). Those elements were not introduced into Kitab-i Korkut in Asia Minor proper, where the completion of its stories took place, but had been existing in Turkic literary traditions even before part of the Oghuz tribes came to Asia Minor; they had been undergoing a fairly long evolution during the whole period of migration of part of the Oghuz tribes to the West, ca. in the 8th–13th centuries.
    54 Perception of time in different aspects (time of a day, season of the year, the idea of the “the age of the Oghuz”) in the tales of “The Book of Korkut” is obviously connected both with the oral Turkic epic and early medieval literary Turkic tradition which is represented by the monument of 11th century — “Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk” (and in lesser degree “Kutadgu Bilig”).
    55 “Kitab-i dedem Korkut” reflected the ideas of time that existed among the Oghuz Turks for a long period of their migration to the West through the Transcaucasia, Iran and Asia Minor, and the cyclization of the legends of this written epic. Undoubtedly “The Book of Dede Korkut” as a monument of Turkish folklore and literature requires further research of various area — historical, anthropological, and linguistic.

    References

    1. Anikeeva T. A. Legends of Korkut. The Oghuz Heroic Epic as the Source on the History of Central Asia of 9th–11th cc. Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2018 [Аникеева Т. А. Предания Коркута. Огузский героический эпос как источник по истории Центральной Азии IX–XI вв. М.: Вост. лит., 2018 (in Russian)].

    2. Anikeeva T. A. Geography in the Epic Folklore of the Oghuz Turks. Medieval Nomads VII. Materials of International Conference. Shanghai: Shanghai University, 2019 (in print).

    3. Arat R. R. (transl., ed.). Yusuf Has Hâcib. Kutadgu Bilig. Cilt I. Metin. İstanbul: Milli eğitim basımevi, 1947 [Arat R. R. (transl., ed.). Yusuf Has Hâcib. Kutadgu Bilig. Vol. I. Text. Istanbul: Milli eğitim basımevi, 1947 (in Turkish)].

    4. Arat R. R. (transl., ed.). Yusuf Has Hâcib. Kutadgu Bilig. Cilt II. Tercume. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu basımevi, 1959 [Arat R. R. (transl., ed.). Yusuf Has Hâcib. Kutadgu Bilig. Vol. II. Translation. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu basımevi, 1959 (in Turkish)].

    5. Başgöz I. Formula in Prose Narrative Hikaye. Turkish Folklore and Oral Literature. Selected Essays of Ilhan Başgöz. Bloomington: Indiana University Turkish Studies, 1998.

    6. Dankov R., Kelly J. (eds. and transl.). Maḥmud al- Kāšгarī, Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk). Part I. Harvard University Printing Office, 1982 (Sources of Oriental Languages and Literatures, 7).

    7. Dankov R., Kelly J. (eds. and transl.). Maḥmud al- Kāšгarī, Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Dīwān Luɣāt at-Turk). Part II. Harvard University Printing Office, 1984 (Sources of Oriental Languages and Literatures, 7).

    8. Gökyay O. Ş. (ed.). Dedem Korkudun Kitabı [The Book of Dede Korkut]. İstanbul: Milli eĝitim basımevi, 2000 (in Turkish).

    9. Korogly Kh. G. The Oghuz Heroic Epic. Moscow: GRVL, Nauka Publishing House, 1976 [Короглы Х. Г. Огузский героический эпос. М.: ГРВЛ изд-ва «Наука», 1976 (in Russian)].

    10. Lewis G. (transl.). The Book of Dede Korkut. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974.

    11. Malov S. E. Ancient Turkic Monuments. Texts and Studies. Moscow—Leningrad: AN SSSR Publishing House, 1951 [Малов С. Е. Памятники древнетюркской письменности. Тексты и исследования. М.–Л.: Изд-во АН СССР, 1951 (in Russian)].

    12. Neklyudov S. Yu. Folklore Landscape of Mongolia. Written and Oral Epic. Moscow: Indrik, 2019 [Неклюдов С. Ю. Фольклорный ландшафт Монголии. Эпос Книжный и устный. М.: Индрик, 2019 (in Russian)].

    13. Shangoli N., Yaghoobi V., Aghatabai Sh., Behzad S. Dede Korkut Kitabı’nın Günbet Yazması. Modern Tür Shangoli klük Araştırmaları Dergisi. Cilt 16. Sayı 2. Haziran 2019. S. 147–379 [Shangoli N., Yaghoobi V., Aghatabai Sh., Behzad S. The Gunbad Manuscript of the „Book of Dede Korkut“. Modern Türklük Araştırmaları Dergisi. Vol. 16. No. 2. June 2019. S. 147–379 (in Turkish)].

    14. Zhirmunski V.M. The Oghuz Heroic Epics and “The Book of Dede Korkut”. The Book of Dede Korkut. The Oghuz Heroic Epics. Moscow—Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1962. Pp. 131–258 (in Russian) [Жирмунский В. М. Огузский героический эпос и «Книга Коркута». Книга моего деда Коркута. Огузский героический эпос. М.—Л.: Изд-во АН СССР, 1962. С. 131–258].