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The Book of Dede Korkut

af Anonymous

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1753117,365 (3.45)1
One of the oldest surviving pieces of Turkish literature, The Book of Dede Korkut can be traced to tenth-century origins. Now considered the national epic of Turkey, it is the heritage of the ancient Oghuz Turks and was composed as they migrated westward from their homeland in Central Asia to the Middle East, eventually to settle in Anatolia. Who its primary creator was no one knows, the titular bard, Dede Korkut, being more a symbol of Turkish minstrelsy than a verifiable author. The songs and tales of countless minstrels lay behind The Book of Dede Korkut, and in its oral form the epic was undoubtedly subject to frequent improvisation by individual performers. Partly in prose, partly in verse, these legends were sung or chanted in the courts and camps of political and military leaders. Even after they had been recorded in written form, they remained part of an oral tradition. The present edition is the first complete text in English. The translators provide an excellent introduction to the language and background of the legends as well as a history of Dede Korkut scholarship. These outstanding tales will be of interest to all students of world mythology and folklore.… (mere)
  1. 00
    Kalevala af Elias Lönnrot (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: national epics containing multiple tales more or less tangentially connected through a minstrel-figure
  2. 00
    The Mabinogion af Anonymous (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A culturally important piece of medieval lit. consisting of mythological/historical incidents involving warriors.
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Viser 3 af 3
When I read this book the most prominent tags associated with it were ( and maybe still are) "Central Asia" and "Turkey" or "Turkish". Isn't that odd just at face value? How can it be from Turkey (a country with territory in continental Europe) and from the MIDDLE of Asia?

Well, it can because The Book of Dede Korkut is essentially the transcription of an oral tradition developed by the Orghuz people as they migrated out of Central Asia (roughly modern day Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) ultimately ending up in Anatolia (modern day Turkey). Now, the Orghuz Turks did go on to conquer all of Anatolia and even toppled the Byzantine Empire replacing it with the Ottoman Empire, but that conquest takes place after the scope of these stories. Toward the end of the stories the city of Trebizond (Modern Trabzon on the Black Sea coast of Turkey) is still "infidel" and lies at the edge of Orghuz territory. This just goes to show that at the time these stories originated their authors had barely begun to establish a foothold in the territory we now call Turkey.

Just because these stories predate a Turkish "Turkey" does not mean the stories don't deserve a "Turkey" designation in the most common tags. The Book of Dede Korkut is essentially the origin story for many of the modern nations primarily speaking Turkic languages, Turkey among them.

So I have no issue with this book being associated with Turkey and Central Asia, but rather with its NOT being associated with Azerbaijan or the Caucasus region in general, most likely the epicenter of most of action. This region represents the halfway point between their starting point in Central Asia and their end point in Anatolia. Indeed, of all the countries that do so, Azerbaijan seems to reverence Dede Korkut most of all today and there seems to be reason to believe that the text itself is most closely related to Azeri Turkish, perhaps suggesting that it was in Azerbaijan that it was first set down in writing.

The fault for the misattribution is probably due to the misleading subtitle "A Turkish Epic". "Turkish" is the demonym for a person from Turkey, but it could also mean any group speaking a Turkic language from a huge swathe of Asia running diagonally from northeastern Russia (the Yakuts) through China (the Uyghurs) and ending in Turkey. Again, these stories form a backdrop for the later conquest of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Dynasty and its successor modern Turkey, and Turkey IS the most visible representative of that language family on the global stage. However, to say that Turkey's ubiquity earns it the strongest right to claim these stories would be like calling Shakespeare American.

The stories themselves are interesting. They contain the kind of repetitive language common in epic poetry that began in the oral tradition (think of the Odyssey and how often you have to read the words "wine-dark sea") and it's clear that the stories developed over time in that they lack an overarching development. These aren't inherently flaws any more than "there were lots of robots" would be a flaw in a Science Fiction novel; if robots bother you, maybe Science Fiction isn't your thing. Compared to other ancient or medieval literature I've read, I'd call it about average. I'd compare it to The Mabinogion in a lot of ways but a little more fast-paced and a lot less fantastical in content. The titular Dede Korkut is actually interesting as an extremely peripheral character, a kind of bard, who makes very brief appearances in each of the stories. ( )
2 stem CGlanovsky | Aug 4, 2013 |
Dede Korkut is a 10th Century masterpiece of Turkish literature. This classic epic is an action-packed narrative in prose and verse, unfurling a fascinating panorama of Turkish tribal and feudal life, warfare, hunts, festivities, plunders, supernatural phenomena, heroics and love.
  psumesc | Feb 17, 2011 |
Very interesting as being Turkish herotales largely independent of later Osmanli history ( )
  antiquary | May 15, 2008 |
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One of the oldest surviving pieces of Turkish literature, The Book of Dede Korkut can be traced to tenth-century origins. Now considered the national epic of Turkey, it is the heritage of the ancient Oghuz Turks and was composed as they migrated westward from their homeland in Central Asia to the Middle East, eventually to settle in Anatolia. Who its primary creator was no one knows, the titular bard, Dede Korkut, being more a symbol of Turkish minstrelsy than a verifiable author. The songs and tales of countless minstrels lay behind The Book of Dede Korkut, and in its oral form the epic was undoubtedly subject to frequent improvisation by individual performers. Partly in prose, partly in verse, these legends were sung or chanted in the courts and camps of political and military leaders. Even after they had been recorded in written form, they remained part of an oral tradition. The present edition is the first complete text in English. The translators provide an excellent introduction to the language and background of the legends as well as a history of Dede Korkut scholarship. These outstanding tales will be of interest to all students of world mythology and folklore.

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