Book of Dede Korkut/Legend VI
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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.
His mother replied as follows:
The son replied to his mother as follows:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
His elder brother, Eghrek, replied to him as follows. Let us see, my khan, what he said to him.
He then continued as follows:
Seghrek then replied to his elder brother as follows:
He then added:
His elder brother, Eghrek, replied to him as follows. Let us see what he said.
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.