Book of Dede Korkut/Legend I

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One day, Bayindir Khan, son of Kam Gan, arose and ordered that his large Damascus tent be erected. His brown parasol rose high up in the sky. Thousands of silk carpets were spread all around. It was customary for Bayindir Khan, khan of khans, to invite all the Oghuz princes to a feast once a year. As usual, he gave a feast this year too, and had many stallions, young male camels and rams slaughtered for the occasion. He had three tents set up at three different places: one was white, one was red and the third was black. He ordered that whoever was without children be accommodated in the black tent, with a black felt rug spread under him, and that he be served the stew of the black sheep. He said: "Let him eat if he wants to eat; if he does not, let him go." He then said: "Put the man with a son in the white tent, and the man with a daughter in the red tent. The man without any children is cursed by Allah, and we curse him, too. Let this be clear to all."

The Oghuz princes began to gather one by one. It happened that a prince among them, by the name of Dirse Khan, had neither a son nor a daughter. He spoke to his men as follows. Let us see, my khan, what he said:

"When the cooling breeze of morning blows
And the bearded gray lark sings his song,
And the long-bearded Persian chants the ezan;
When the Bedouin horses nicker on seeing their master;
At the time of the twilight,
When the beautiful-brested mountains are touched by the Sun —
At such a time, the warriors and gallant princes prepare for action."

At the break of dawn, Dirse Khan, accompanied by forty warriors, set out for the feast of Bayindir Khan. Bayindir Khan's warriors welcomed Dirse Khan and asked him to go into the black tent, the floor of which was covered with a black felt rug. They placed the stew of black sheep before him and said: "My khan, this is the order of Bayindir Khan."

Dirse Khan asked: "What fault has Bayindir Khan found in me? Is it because of my sword or my table? He has men of lower status accommodated in the white and red tents. What is my fault that I am being put in a black tent?"

They said: "My khan, today Bayindir Khan's order is as follows: 'Whoever is without a son or a daughter is cursed by Allah; we curse him, too'."

Standing up, Dirse Khan said to his men: "Rise and let us be off, my young men. The fault is either in me or in my lady."

Dirse Khan returned home, called his lady and said to her:

"Will you come here, my love, the crown of my home?
Walking along so tall, like a cypress tree,
With long black hair that falls to her feet,
With brows like a tightened bow;
With a mouth too small for two almonds;
Her red cheeks like the apples of autumn.
My melon, my lady, my love!
Do you know what happened to me?"

"Bayindir Khan had three tents put up: one white, one red and one black. He had guests with sons put in the white tent; those with daughters in the red tent; and those with neither in the black tent with black felt carpet spread on its floor. He ordered that the stewed meat of the black sheep be served them, saying: 'If they eat, let them eat; if they do not, let them go away. Since Almighty Allah cursed them, we curse them, too'. When I reached there, they met me and led me to the black tent, laid black felt carpet under me, and served me the stewed meat of the black sheep, saying: 'The man without a son or a daughter is cursed by Allah; therefore, he is cursed by us, too. Let this be so known to you'. My wife, which of us is sterile, you or I? Why does Almighty Allah not give us a healthy son?"

Dirse Khan then continued in song:

O child of a khan, shall I now get up
And grasp you by the throat,
And crush you beneath my hard boots?
Shall I draw my sword of black steel
And remove your head from your body,
And show you how sweet life can be?
Shall I spill your red blood on the ground?
O child of a khan, tell the reason to me,
Or I shall inflict something dreadful on you."

The wife of Dirse Khan replied:

"Oh, Dirse Khan, be not cruel to me.
Be not angry and speak so harshly to me.
But come now and have your red tent set up.
Have some stallions, some rams and some male camels slaughtered.
Invite then the princes of Inner and Outer Oghuz.
Feed all the hungry, give clothes to the naked and pay off the debts of the poor.
Heap up meat like a hill;
Make a lakeful of kumis; and give a magnificent feast.
Then speak your wish. Maybe Allah will give us a healthy son,
An answer to prayers of a worthy man."

Following his lady's advice, Dirse Khan gave a large feast and then made his wish. He had stallions, young male camels and rams slaughtered. He invited all the princes of the Inner and the Outer Oghuz to this feast. He fed the hungry, dressed the naked and paid off the debts of the debtor; he had meat heaped up like a hill, and a lakeful of kumis made. The princes raised their hands to the heavens and prayed. Consequently, the wish of Dirse Khan was fulfilled, and his lady became pregnant. In due time, she bore a male child. She had her child brought up in the care of nurses. As the horse is quick of foot, so the minstrel is quick of tongue. As vertebrated and ribbed creatures grow fast, in the same way the son of Dirse Khan was soon fifteen years old.

One day, Dirse Khan and his son went to the camp of Bayindir Khan. Bayindir Khan had a bull and a young male camel. The bull could powder harsh stones like flour with the impact of his horns. The bull and the camel were set to fight one another twice a year, once in summer and once in autumn. Bayindir Khan and the strong Oghuz princes used to enjoy themselves watching these fights.

This bull was let out of the palace one summer day. Three men on each side were holding it with iron chains. The bull was released in the middle of a playing field, where the son of Dirse Khan was playing at knuckle bones with three other boys from the camp. When the bull was released, the boys were told to run away. The other three boys ran away, but the son of Dirse Khan stood where he was. The bull ran toward the boy with the intent to kill him. The boy dealt the bull a terrific blow on the forehead, making it stagger backward. The bull charged a second time, and the boy this time hit the bull again hard on the forehead. Then he pushed the bull to the edge of the playing field, with his fist pressing on its forehead. There they struggled to and fro. The bull stood pressing its forelegs against the ground, while the boy kept his fist on its forehead. It was impossible to say which was the winner. The boy thought to himself: "The pole holds the tent straight. Why am I supporting this bull?". Saying so, he pulled away his fist and ran to one side, while the bull, unable to stand on its feet, crashed on the ground head downward. Then the boy cut the throat of the bull with his knife.

The Oghuz princes gathered around the boy and said: "Well done, boy! Let Dede Korkut come and name him, then take him to his father and request a principality and a throne for him."

When they called for Dede Korkut, he came. He took the young man to his father and said to him:

"O Dirse Khan!
Give this young man a principality now.
Give him a throne for the sake of his virtue.
Give him also a tall Bedouin horse
He can ride-such a capable man.
Give him ten thousand sheep
To make shish kebab for himself; he has virtue.
Give him next a red camel from out of your herd.
Let it carry his goods; he has virtue.
Give a large lavish tent with a golden pole
To provide him with shade.
Give a suit to this man and a coat that has birds on its shoulders.
Let him wear both of these; he has skill."

"This young man fought and killed a bull on the playing field of Bayindir Khan", continued Dede Korkut. "Therefore, let your son's name be Bugach. I give him his name, and may Allah give him his years of life."

Upon this, Dirse Khan gave his son a principality and a throne.

After the son had sat upon his throne for a while, he began to despise the forty young warriors of his father. As a result of this, they bore him a grudge and plotted among themselves: "Let us turn his father against him, so that he may put the son to death, and thus our esteem with the khan may continue and grow."

Twenty of these warriors went to Dirse Khan and said to him: "Do you know what has happened, Dirse Khan? Your son — may he never prosper — has become a very bad-tempered man. Taking his forty warriors, he attacked the mighty Oghuz people. When he saw a pretty girl, he kidnapped her. He insulted old men with white beards and squeezed the breasts of white-haired old women. The news of these evil deeds of your son will reach the ears of Bayindir Khan — through the clear waters of streams and over Ala Mountain lying back there — and people will be saying 'How could the son of Dirse Khan do such terrible things?'".

The warriors then continued: "You would rather die than live. Bayindir Khan will call you to his presence and will give you a serious punishment. Such a son is not worthy of you. It is better not to have such a son. Why do you not put him to death?"

"Bring him over here. I shall kill him", said Dirse Khan.

While he was speaking in this manner, the other twenty treacherous young men came and gave Dirse Khan the following unfounded information: "Your son went hunting in the beautiful mountains, where he killed wild animals and birds without your permission. He brought the game to his mother. He drank strong red wine and had a good time in her company, and there made up his mind to kill his father. Your son has become an evil person. The news of these deeds will reach Bayindir Khan, Khan of Khans, over Ala Mountain and people will begin to say 'How could Dirse Khan's son do such terrible things?' They will call you before Bayindir Khan and punish you there. Such a son is not worthy of you. Why do you not kill him?"

"Bring him over here. I shall kill him. I do not want a son like him", said Dirse Khan.

His warriors said: "How can we bring your son here? He will not listen to us. Get up; take your warriors with you, call on your son and ask him to go hunting with you. Then kill him with an arrow during the hunt. If you cannot kill him in this way, you will never be able to kill him."

At the break of dawn, Dirse Khan arose and set out for the hunt, taking his son and forty warriors with him. They hunted wild animals and birds for a while. Then some of the treacherous warriors approached Dirse Khan's son and said to him: "Your father said: 'I want my son to chase the deer and kill them in front of me; I also want to see how he rides, and how he uses his sword and shoots his arrow. This will make me happy and proud, and will give me confidence.'"

Not knowing his father's real intention, Bugach chased the deer and drove them toward his father and killed them before him. While doing this, Bugach said to himself: "Let my father see me ride and be proud; let him see me shoot my arrow and have confidence; let him see how I use my sword and rejoice."

The forty treacherous warriors then said to Dirse Khan: "Dirse Khan, do you see how he is driving the deer toward you? He means to shoot his arrow at you and kill you. Kill him before he kills you."

After the young man had driven the deer past his father several times, Dirse Khan took out his strong bow strung with the tendon of a wolf. Standing in his stirrups, he pulled his bowstring hard and let his arrow go. He shot his son between the shoulder blades. When the arrow pierced his chest, red blood poured out, filling his shirt. He clasped his horse's neck and slipped to the earth. Dirse Khan wanted to fall upon the body of his son, but his men did not allow him to do so. He then turned the head of his horse in the opposite direction and rode to his camp.

Dirse Khan's lady had decided to celebrate her son's first hunt by giving a feast to the mighty Oghuz princes, and for this purpose she had had stallions, young male camels and rams killed.

She now arose and, taking with her the forty narrow-waisted girls of her household, went to welcome Dirse Khan. Lifting her head, she looked first at Dirse Khan, then gazed around, but nowhere could she see her dear son. She was shocked, and her heart began to beat fast. Her black eyes were filled with blood and tears. Let us hear what she said to her husband.

"Come to me here,
The crown of my head, the throne of my house,
My khan father's son-in-law,
My lady mother's favorite,
You, who were given me by my parents,
You, whom I saw when I opened my eyes,
The one whom I loved at first sight.
O Dirse Khan, you arose from your place;
You mounted the back of your stallion strong
And hunted the mountains with beautiful breasts.
You rode off as two, but return now alone.
Where is my son whom I found in the dark of the night?
My searching eye — may it be confounded — twitches badly, Dirse Khan.
My child-nursing breast — may it go quite dry — is sore.
My white skin is swollen, though bitten by no yellow snake.
My one son is lost! My poor heart is burning!
Water I poured into beds of dry rivers.
Alms I have given to black-suited dervishes.
The hungry I saw I have fed.
I had meat heaped up like a hill;
I had lakefuls of kumis fermented,
And I managed, with great travail, to bear a son.
Tell me, Dirse Khan, what befell my only son!
Say if you let our son fall down Ala Mountain out there.
Say if you let our son be carried down the fast-flowing river.
Say if you let our son be eaten by lions and tigers.
Say if you let black-dressed infidels, they of a savage faith, capture our son.
Let me go to my father, the khan, and take money and soldiers,
To strike at the infidels, they with the savage religion.
Let me never return from the search for my son
Before I am wounded, fall off my strong horse,
Wiping away my red blood with my sleeve,
And sprawl on the road with broken limbs.
Tell me, O Dirse Khan, what befell my only son.
Let my luckless head be a sacrifice for you this day."

So speaking, she wept and gave voice to her sorrow. But Dirse Khan did not answer her.

Meanwhile, those forty treacherous men came along. They said to her: "Your son is safe and well. He has been hunting. He will be back today or tomorrow. Do not worry about him. He cannot speak now, because he is a bit drunk."

Dirse Khan's lady turned back, but she could not rest. With her forty slim girls, she mounted and rode in search of her son. She climbed Kazilik Mountain, from which snow and ice never melt all the year round. She drove her horse up steep hills. When she looked down, she saw that crows were descending on a river and flying in and out of it. She spurred her horse and rode in that direction.

This was the place where the young man had collapsed. When the crows had seen blood, they wanted to come down upon him, but his two dogs kept the crows from his body. When the young man had fallen there, the gray-horsed Hizir had appeared to him and, stroking his wounds three times, had said: "Do not be afraid of these wounds. You will not die of them. Mountain flowers mixed with your mother's milk will be balm to them." Having said this, he disappeared.

Then the young man's mother came upon him. Seeing her son lying there covered with blood, she addressed him with the following song. Let us see, my khan, what she said.

"Your slit black eyes now taken by sleep — let them open.
Your strong healthy bones have been broken,
Your soul all but flown from your frame.
If your body retains any life, let me know.
Let my poor luckless head be a sacrifice to you.
Kazilik Mountain, your waters still flow;
Let them, I pray, cease their flowing.
Kazilik Mountain, your grasses still grow;
Let them, I pray, cease their growing.
Kazilik Mountain, your deer still run fast;
Let them cease running and turn into stone.
How can I know, my son, if it was lion
Or tiger? How can I know, my son?
How did this accident happen to you?
If your life is still in your body, my son, let me know.
Let my poor luckless head be a sacrifice to you.
Speak a few words to me now."

As she said these things, her words entered his mind. He lifted his head, opened his eyes and looked at his mother's face. He spoke to her. Let us see, my khan, what he said.

"Come closer, my mother,
Whose milk I once drank,
White-haired, beloved and honorable mother.
Curse not the running streams;
Kazilik Mountain has done no wrong.
Curse not its growing grass;
Kazilik Mountain has no sins.
Curse not its swift-running deer;
Kazilik Mountain has no fault.
Curse not the lions and tigers;
Kazilik Mountain has no guilt.
The evil and guilt all belong to my father."

The young man then went on: "Do not cry, Mother. Do not worry. This wound will not kill me. The gray-horsed Hizir came to me and stroked my wound three times, saying, You will not die of this wound. Mountain flowers mixed with your mother's milk will be your balm'."

When he said this, the forty slim girls went to gather mountain flowers. The young man's mother squeezed her breasts once, but no milk came out. She squeezed them once more, but still no milk came out. The third time she struck herself and squeezed her breasts even harder, and finally some milk stained with blood appeared. Mixing the milk with the mountain flowers, they applied this balm to the young man's wound. Then they put him on a horse and took him to his camp. There he was delivered into the care of a physician and concealed from the sight of Dirse Khan.

As the horse is quick of foot, so the poet is quick of tongue. My khan, the young man's wounds were healed in forty days and he recovered completely. He was once again able to ride and wear his sword, to hunt and shoot birds. Dirse Khan knew nothing of all this. He thought that his son was dead.

But his forty treacherous men soon heard of this and discussed among themselves what they should do. They said: "If Dirse Khan sees his son, he will kill us all. Let us catch Dirse Khan, tie his white hands at his back, put a rope around his white neck, and take him to the land of the infidels."

They did as they had decided.

They tied his white hands behind him, and they put a rope around his white neck. Then they beat him until blood oozed from his white flesh. Dirse Khan was made to walk while they accompanied him on horseback. They led him to the land of the bloody infidels. While Dirse Khan was thus a captive, the Oghuz beys knew nothing of his plight.

Dirse Khan's lady, however, learned of this. She went to her son and spoke to him. Let us see, my khan, what she said.

"Do you know what has happened, my son? Not only the steep rocks but the very earth should have shaken, for although there were no enemies in our lands, your father was attacked. Those forty treacherous companions of his captured him, tied his white hands behind him, put a rope around his neck and forced him to walk while they rode on horseback. They took him toward infidel territory. Come, now, my son. Take your forty warriors with you and save your father from those forty faithless men. Go now and spare your father, even if he did not spare you."

The young man followed his mother's advice. He arose, strapped on his big steel sword, took his tight bow in one hand, and held his golden spear under his other arm. Then, as his strong horse was held, he mounted and, accompanied by his forty young men, went in pursuit of his father.

The treacherous retainers of Dirse Khan had stopped along the way and were drinking strong red wine. As Bugach Khan rode along, the forty treacherous men saw him approaching. They said: "Let us go and capture that young man and take both him and Dirse Khan to the infidels."

Dirse Khan said: "Oh, my forty companions, there is no doubt about the oneness of Allah. Untie my hands, give me a lute, and I shall persuade that young man to go back. Let me loose or kill me." They untied his hands and gave him his lute.

Dirse Khan did not know that the young man was his own son. He went to him and sang.

"If tall stallions have gone, let me count them my loss.
Tell me if any of yours were among them, young man,
So that I may restore them without any fight. Turn back!
If a full thousand sheep have gone from the fold, let me count them my loss.
Tell me if any of yours were among them,
So that I may restore them without any fight. Turn back!
If red camels have gone from the herd, let me count them my loss.
Tell me if any of yours are among them,
So that I may restore them without any fight. Turn back!
If some golden-topped tents have gone, let me count them my loss.
Tell me if any of yours are among them,
So that I may restore them without any fight. Turn back!
If brides with brown eyes and white faces have gone, let me count them my loss.
And if your betrothed was among them, tell me,
So that I may restore her without any fight. Turn back!
If white-bearded elders have gone, let me count them my loss.
If your white-bearded father was with them, tell me,
So that I may restore him without any fight. Turn back!
If you came after me, I have killed my own son.
Young man, it is not any sin that is yours. Turn back!"

The young man replied to the song of his father. Let us see, my khan, what he said.

"Tall stallions may count as your loss,
But one of the lost ones is mine;
I shall not give him up to the forty base men.
From the herds the red camels may count as your loss,
But some of those camels are mine;
I shall not give them up to the forty base men.
Thousands of sheep may be counted your loss,
But among them are some that are mine;
I shall not give them up to the forty base men.
The brides with brown eyes and white faces may count as your loss,
But among them is my betrothed;
I shall not give her up to the forty base men.
If the golden-topped tents may be counted your loss,
Mine too is among them;
I shall not give it up to the forty base men.
If white-bearded elders are counted your loss,
My foolish old father is also among them;
I shall not give him up to the forty base men."

He waved a handkerchief to his own forty young men, and they came and gathered around him. With their aid, he fought with the enemy. Some of these he killed and some he captured. When he had saved his father in this manner, he returned home.

Dirse Khan thus discovered that his son was alive. Bayindir Khan, khan of khans, gave the young man a principality and a throne. Dede Korkut sang songs on the occasion and composed this legend of the Oghuz. Following this, he sang:

"Even they passed away from this world.
They stayed for a while and then moved along,
Just as the caravan does.
Even they were removed by death
While this mortal world remained behind,
The world where men come and go,
The world which is rounded off by death."

Then he said: "When black Death comes, may Allah keep you safe. May He let you rule in good health. May Almighty Allah whom I praise be your friend and keeper."

This I pray, my khan. May your tall, stately mountains never fall. May your big shade tree never be cut down, and may your clear running waters never run dry. May your wings never be broken. May your gray horse never slip while running. May your big steel sword never be notched and may your spear never be broken in battle. May your white-haired mother's and white-bearded father's place be paradise. May Allah keep your household fire burning. May our merciful Allah never abandon you to the guile of the treacherous.