Book of Dede Korkut/Legend VI

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Book of Dede Korkut
Anonymous
Legend VI: The Story of Seghrek, Son of Ushun Khoja

During the time of the Oghuz, there was a man by the name of Ushun Khoja, who had two sons. The elder son, who was called Eghrek, was a brave, reckless and fine young man. He used to attend Bayindir Khan's meetings whenever he wished. The doors of the council of Kazan Bey, the bey of beys, were always open to him. He used to step over the beys and sit right in front of Kazan. He did not care about the rules of precedence.

One day, when, as usual, he stepped over the beys and sat in front, a man of the Oghuz who was called Ters Uzamish said to him: "O son of Ushun Khoja, each one of these beys sitting here has earned his place with his sword and bread. What have you ever done? Have you cut off heads, shed blood, fed the hungry or dressed the naked?"

To this, Eghrek replied: "Ho, you, Ters Uzamish, do you think cutting off heads and shedding blood are acts of great skill?"

"Indeed they are", replied Ters Uzamish.

To these words of Ters Uzamish, Eghrek could not say anything. A few minutes later, he stood up and asked Kazan Bey's permission to make a raid. The permission was granted. He announced this fact and began to raise men for the raid. Three hundred men with straight spears gathered round him.

There was eating and drinking in the tavern for five full days. After this, Eghrek raided the territory between the tip of Shiroguven and the Gokche Sea. Much booty was taken. On the way back he stopped by Alinja Castle. Kara Tekur had set aside a grove there that was stocked with all kinds of game, such as geese, hens, deer and hares. This place was a trap set up for the Oghuz. One day the son of Ushun Koia stopped at the grove and entered it by tearing down its gate. He and his friends hunted fat deer, geese, and hens there. They ate and drank, unsaddled their horses and took their harnesses off.

Kara Tekur had spies there who saw them and who reported to Tekur, saying: "A company of Oghuz horsemen came, broke the gate of the grove, and have now taken the saddles and harnesses off their horses. Hasten!" Six hundred black-clad infidels attacked them there, killing the Oghuz warriors and capturing Eghrek, whom they put in the dungeon of Alinja Castle.

The news crossed the dark mountains and bloody rivers until it reached the country of the strong Oghuz. Grief broke loose in front of Ushun Koia's house. His gooselike daughter took off her white clothing and put on black. Ushun Khoja and his white-faced wife cried: "Son, son!"

Whoever has sides and ribs grows. Ushun Khoja's younger son Seghrek grew to be a brave, gallant and reckless young man. One day he happened to go to a meeting, where he ate and drank and became drunk. When he stepped outside to relieve himself, he saw there an orphan beating another boy. Saying "What is going on here?", he slapped both of them.

The worm in an old mulberry and the tongue of an orphan both have a bitter taste. The orphan boy said: "Why do you hit me? Is it not bad enough that I am an orphan? If you think you are so mighty, go and rescue your brother from Alinja Castle, where he is imprisoned."

"What is the name of my brother?", asked Seghrek.

"His name is Eghrek", replied the boy.

Seghrek said: "Eghrek goes well with Seghrek. Oh, that my brother should be alive and I should not care for him! Is it ever possible? I shall remain no longer in Oghuz territory without a brother." He then wept, saying, "My brother, the light of my dark eyes." He returned to the meeting inside, took leave of the beys and said: "May you remain in peace."

They brought his horse, which he mounted at once and rode to his mother's house. There he dismounted and went to learn the truth of the matter from his mother's mouth. Let us see what he said to her.

"My mother, I stood up from where I sat,
And, mounted on my black-maned Kazilik horse,
I reached the foot of yonder Ala Mountain.
There was a meeting in the bloody Oghuz land;
To this I went. There, as we ate and drank,
A messenger rode up astride a gray-white horse.
He spoke about a young man they call Eghrek,
Who has been captive now for many years.
With permission of Almighty Allah,
He left that prison to go home again.
The old, the young, and everyone gave welcome to that man.
Should I go, too, my mother? Speak to me!"

His mother replied as follows:

"Let me die for the mouth that brought such words, my son.
Let me die for the tongue that uttered them, my son.
If the mountain that lies out yonder, so dark,
Once fell, now it rises again.
If the beautiful swift-running stream
Once dried up, now it rushes again.
If the branches of the large spreading tree
Withered once, it grows green once again.
If the strong Oghuz beys should set out, you go, too, my son.
And when you reach that man,
Come down from your gray-white horse;
First greet that man and shake his hands;
Then kiss his hands, embracing him,
And say: 'My brother, summit of my mountain dark,
Why stand you here? Go home at once.'"

The son replied to his mother as follows:

"May your mouth be dried up, mother.
May your tongue rot in your head.
While I have a living brother,
I cannot remain aloof.
I cannot while brotherless remain on Oghuz land.
Did Allah not demand respect for motherhood,
I should at once cut off your lovely head.
I should at once spill out your red blood on the earth.
O, mother, cruel mother."

His father interrupted at this time. "You have been misinformed. That young man who escaped from the enemy prison is not your brother; he is someone else. Do not cause your white-bearded father and your old mother to cry."

The young man said:

"When three hundred sixty-six heroes ride forth on a hunt,
If a fight should break out for the sake of a bloody deer,
Those men who have brothers have no need of fear.
But he without brothers cries out and keeps looking around,
When struck on the back of his head,
And pours bitter tears from brown eyes.
Until you again see your brown-eyed son,
Bey Father and Lady Mother, remain in peace."

His father and mother said: "Son, do not go. The news is not true; do not go, son!"

But the young man said: "Do not keep me from my mission. I shall not return to the country of the strong Oghuz before I reach the castle in which my brother is imprisoned and find out whether he is dead or alive. If he is dead, I shall take revenge for him."

The father and mother kept crying. They sent a messenger to Kazan, saying: "Our son found out about his brother and wants to leave in search of him. What do you advise us to do?"

Kazan said: "Shackle his feet with horse fetters."

Seghrek had a fiancée, and the parents had her married to him hastily. They slaughtered stallions, male camels and rams. They put the young man in the nuptial tent, where he and his bride lay in the same bed. He took out his sword and put it between himself and his bride.

The girl said: "Take away your sword, young man. Let us have our wishes fulfilled. Let us embrace."

Seghrek said: "You, daughter of a wretch, if I ever fulfill my nuptial night before seeing my elder brother's face or revenging him if he is dead, may I be torn to pieces by my own sword and may I never have a son, and, if I have one, may he die before he is ten years old." He got out of bed, went out and took a strong horse from the stable, and saddled it. He put on his battle dress and armor to cover his knees and arms. He said: "Listen, girl! Wait a year for me; if I do not return in a year, wait two years for me; if I do not return in two years, wait three years for me; if I still do not return, then know that I am dead. Then slaughter my male horse and give my funeral feast. After that, marry whoever pleases your eyes and whomever your heart loves."

The girl replied as follows. Let us see, my khan, what she said.

"Young hero, I shall wait for you a year;
If you do not return in one, I shall wait for you for two.
If you do not return in two, I shall wait for three or four.
If you do not return in four, I shall wait for you five or six.
I shall raise a tent at the junction of six roads
And ask for news of you from those who come and go.
I shall give a horse and clothes to him who brings good news.
I shall have him dressed in robes.
I shall cut the head from him who brings bad news.
No male, not even the male fly, shall touch me.
Let us embrace in love, and then you may depart."

To this Seghrek replied: "O daughter of a scoundrel! I have taken an oath in behalf of the head of my brother. There is no turning back on my oath."

"Let them call me the shameless bride, but I shall not have anyone call me the unlucky bride. I shall go and tell my father-in-law and mother-in-law." She then continued as follows:

"Father-in-law, who is dearer to me than my father;
Mother-in-law, who is dearer to me than my mother;
From the herd the male camel, frightened, departs;
All in vain are the drivers trying to make him return.
Your big stallion is frightened and leaves;
Your grooms cannot stop it and make it turn back.
The ram of your fold is frightened and leaves;
The shepherd cannot stop it and make it turn back.
Your son with brown eyes remembers his brother and leaves;
Your daughter-in-law with white face cannot make him turn back.
Let this fact be known now to you!"

Seghrek's father and mother both sighed deeply. They stood up and begged their son not to go, but their pleading was in vain.

He said "I must reach that castle where my brother is being held a prisoner."

His parents then gave him their consent, saying: "Go then, son, and good luck to you. If it is your fate to return, may you then return unharmed and well."

He kissed his parents' hands, sprang upon his black stallion and left by night. After galloping for three days and nights, he passed through Dere Sham and reached the edge of the forest where his brother was held captive in a castle. Noticing that some infidels were grazing horses there, he drew his sword and killed six of them. He drove away the horses by beating his small drum and led them into the forest. Having ridden for three days and nights, he felt very tired and, tying the bridle of his horse to his wrist, he fell asleep.

An enemy scout had been watching him and now went and reported what he had seen to the infidel bey: "A crazy young man arrived from the Oghuz; he killed several grooms, drove off the horses and ran them into the woods."

The infidel bey gave this order: "Pick sixty armed men, and let them go and catch him and bring him here." They picked sixty armed men, and these sixty infidels in armor fell upon the young man suddenly.

A suit of armor is judged by its clanking and a horse by the sound of its hoofs. You know, my khan, that horses hear well. The stallion that the young man had ridden warned him by pulling on its bridle. When the young man saw that a group of horsemen was coming, he sprang up. Repeating his belief in Mohammed — may his name be praised —, he mounted his horse and struck at the black-dressed infidels with his sword until he drove them into the castle. Drowsiness overtook him again, and he fell asleep after tying the bridle of his horse to his wrist, just as he had done before.

Those infidels who had survived the battle returned and reported to the infidel bey what had happened. He said to them: "Shame upon you a hundred times. Sixty of you could not catch a single young man." This time, one hundred infidels rode against the young man. When the stallion warned the young man again, he saw that a large force was approaching. He arose and mounted his horse. Repeating his belief in Mohammed — may his name be praised —, he started striking the infidels with his sword and again drove them back into the castle. He turned his horse and went back to his former place. Once more he could not help being drowsy, and once more he fell asleep, tying the bridle of his horse to his wrist. This time, the horse freed itself from its master's wrist and ran away.

The infidels went to their bey again. He said to them: "Let three hundred horsemen go against him this time!"

The infidels said: "No, we cannot. He will kill us all."

The infidel bey then asked: "What are we supposed to do, then? Go and bring that prisoner here. The belly of a kicking animal is torn by a butting animal. Give him a horse and armor, too."

They went and said to Eghrek: "Young man, our bey has been merciful to you. There is a crazy fellow over there who has been stealing the subsistence of travellers, shepherds and children. Go kill him, and we shall set you free."

"All right", he said.

They let Eghrek out of the dungeon, after shaving his beard and cutting his hair. They gave him a sword and a horse, and they assigned three hundred infidels to escort him. When they approached the young man, the three hundred infidels stopped at a distance.

Eghrek asked: "Where is that crazy fellow?" They pointed at him in the distance. Eghrek said: "Come, let us go and catch him."

The infidels said: "Our bey ordered you to catch him. You go."

Eghrek said: "There he is. He is asleep. Let us go."

The infidels said: "He is not asleep, but he is watching us under his arm. He will soon arise and cut us to pieces."

Eghrek said: "Then let me go and tie him hand and foot, and you come later." He sprang up from among the infidels and rode to where the young man lay. He dismounted and fastened the bridle of his horse to the branch of a tree. He saw that the stranger was a young man as handsome as the fourteenth day of the moon. He was asleep, and there were drops of tears on his face. He was totally unaware of anyone's coming or going. He walked around him and stood by his head. He noticed that the young man had his kopuz fastened to his waist. He detached it and started playing and singing. Let us see, my khan, what he sang.

"Behold the young man who arose
And mounted his black-maned Kazilik horse
And crossed Ala Mountain with the curved back
And shot through the fast-flowing river.
Should a stranger ever sleep alone?
Should he let his white hands be bound
And himself be cast in a sty for pigs?
Would he cause his white-bearded father and white-haired mother
To lament and suffer for him?
Why are you sleeping, young man?
Be not a fool; raise your handsome head, O young man!
Open your light-brown eyes, young man!
Sleep has captured your soul, Allah given;
Permit not your hands to be tied round your arms;
Cause not your white-bearded father and aged mother to cry.
Who are you, young man, from the land of strong Oghuz?
For the sake of great Allah, stand up.
Know that you are surrounded
By foes on four sides."

The young man awoke with a start and stood up. He grabbed the handle of his sword to strike the stranger, but he saw that he had a kopuz in his hand. He said: "O infidel, I spared your life for the sake of Dede Korkut's kopuz. If you had not had it in your hand, I should have sliced you in two for the sake of the head of my elder brother."

He took the kopuz from his hand, and then the young man addressed his elder brother as follows:

"At earliest morn I arose for my brother
And rode on a light-gray horse for my brother.
Infidel, say: is a prisoner held in your castle?
Let my luckless head be a sacrifice for you, O infidel."

His elder brother, Eghrek, replied to him as follows. Let us see, my khan, what he said to him.

"Let me die for your mouth, my brother.
Let me die for your tongue, my brother.
May I ask what your station is?
May I ask what your watchword is
When you lose yourself in darkness?
Who is the khan who possesses your standard?
Who is your hero who rides in the front on the day of battle?
Who is your father, young man?
It is shameful to ask for the name of a hero;
But nevertheless, what is your name, young man?"

He then continued as follows:

"Are you the herdsman who grazes my camels?
Are you the groom who takes my black stallions to graze?
Are you the shepherd who grazes my flocks?
Are you the vice-regent who whispers advice to my ear?
Are you the small brother I left in the cradle?
Tell me this, O young man.
Let my luckless head be a sacrifice for you."

Seghrek then replied to his elder brother as follows:

"When I lose my way in darkness, my trust is in Allah.
Our ruler is Bayindir Khan.
If you want to know the name of my father,
His name is Ushun Khoja.
If you wish to be told my name,
It is Seghrek.
Supposedly I have a brother
By the name of Eghrek."

He then added:

"I am the herdsman who grazes your camels.
I am the groom who grazes your horses.
I am the brother you left in the cradle."

His elder brother, Eghrek, replied to him as follows. Let us see what he said.

"I could die for your mouth, my brother.
I could die for your tongue, my brother.
Have you grown into manhood already, my brother?
Did you ride so far just to search for your brother, my brother?"

The two brothers embraced and cuffed one another. Eghrek kissed his younger brother on the neck. Seghrek kissed his elder brother's hand.

The infidels were watching them from the other side. They said: "It looks as if they are wrestling. Perhaps our man will win." But they saw that they were embracing and talking and mounting their stallions.

Then the two began riding toward the black-dressed infidels, striking at them with their swords. They attacked the infidels, killing many and driving the rest into the castle. Then they entered the forest, released the mares and made them run wild by playing small drums. They rode through Dere Sham River and, traveling by night, they reached the border of the Oghuz territory.

Seghrek thus saved his elder brother from the hands of the cruel infidel. He sent a messenger to his father with the good news and asked him to come out to meet them.

The messenger reached Ushun Khoja and said: "Good news! Good cheer! Both of your sons have returned safely."

Ushun Khoja rejoiced at hearing this. Drums rumbled. Golden and bronze trumpets were blown. Large colorful tents were erected. Stallions, male camels and rams were slaughtered. Khoja Bey went out to meet his sons. He got down from his horse, embraced his sons and asked them: "Are you safe and well, sons?"

They went into his tent with the golden canopy, where there was rejoicing, eating and drinking. He arranged for a beautiful bride for his elder son, too. The two brothers were each other's wedding attendants. They entered their nuptial chambers and there had their wishes fulfilled. Dede Korkut came and sang songs and told legends.

No matter how long it may be, death waits at the end of life. May you not lose your clean faith at the time of death. May your sins be forgiven for the sake of Mohammed Mustafa, and may those saying "Amen" see the face of Allah, O my khan.