Book of Dede Korkut/Prologue

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We begin with the name of Allah and implore His help.

Shortly after the time of the Prophet, there appeared in the Bayat tribe a man by the name of Dede Korkut. He was the wise man of the Oghuz people. He used to prophesy and bring reports from the unknown world beyond, having been divinely inspired. He once said: "In the end, the sovereignty shall again be held by the Kayi tribe, and no one shall be able to deprive this tribe of the kingdom until the day of doom". With this statement, Dede Korkut was referring to the ruling Ottoman dynasty. He made many such predictions. Dede Korkut was an adviser of the Oghuz people in all vital matters, and nothing was done before he was consulted. Whatever advice he gave was accepted and acted upon.

Among his wise sayings were those which follow:

  • Nothing goes well without mentioning the name of Allah.
  • No one can prosper without the will of Almighty Allah.
  • Nothing happens if it was not already written down in the beginning.
  • No one dies before his appointed hour.
  • The dead cannot come back to life.
  • The departed soul does not return.
  • A young man may gather mountains of wealth. He can dispose of only as much as his appointed share.
  • The sea cannot be filled, though the roaring rivers all flow into it.
  • Allah does not love the haughty or help him to prosper.
  • An adopted son cannot be like a real one; when he grows up, he goes away and shows no gratitude.
  • No hill can be made of ash.
  • The son-in-law cannot be a substitute for a son.
  • The black donkey does not become a mule by wearing a bridle.
  • A slave woman does not become a lady by putting on expensive clothes.
  • Snow will melt before summer, no matter how thick it is.
  • Lush grass shall wither before fall.
  • Old cotton is of no use for making good cloth.
  • An old enemy cannot be a friend.
  • Distances cannot be covered without spurring the horse.
  • The opponent will not retire in defeat unless the steel sword is drawn.
  • Fame cannot be gained without generosity.
  • A girl cannot become a lady unless she has good breeding from her mother.
  • A son cannot be generous unless he sees generosity in his own father.
  • The son is the work of the father; he is the apple of his eye.
  • A worthy son is the fire of one's hearth.
  • What can the son do if his father dies without leaving him any wealth?
  • What good is the wealth of the father if the son is unlucky?

Oh, my khan, may Allah preserve you from those who bring bad luck.

Dede Korkut spoke on another occasion, and let us hear, my khan, what he said.

  • A treacherous young man cannot mount a well-bred horse when it is running; it is better that he does not try.
  • It is better that the mean and the base do not use the sharp sword.
  • For the brave, a stick is as good as a sword and an arrow.
  • Dark homes unfrequented by visitors might better fall down.
  • Grass that is no good for the horse might better never grow.
  • Bitter waters that are no good for man might better not spring.
  • The seed of an unworthy son that does not perpetuate his father's name had better not drop into his mother's womb; if it is dropped there, he might better not be born.
  • The son should be a worthy one, carrying on the fame of the father.
  • Those who lie should be thrust out of this world, but may men of truth live forever.

May you, oh, my khan, live a hundred years. May Allah protect you from evil, and may your prosperity be lasting.

Once Dede Korkut said:

  • Only the deer know where the grasslands are.
  • Only the wild donkey knows where the green grass is.
  • Only the camel knows the different trails.
  • Only the fox knows the scent of the seven streams.
  • Only the lark knows when the caravan passes in the night.
  • Only the mother knows who the father of her son is.
  • Only the horse knows whether his rider is light or heavy.
  • Only the mule knows how heavy its load is.
  • Only the patient knows where the pain is.
  • Only the brain feels the ache of the foolish head.
  • Only the minstrel with his big lute goes from land to land and from prince to prince.
  • Only He knows who is stingy and who is generous.

May you always have minstrels singing and playing in your presence. May Allah protect you, oh, my khan, from terrible calamity.

Let us see, my khan, what Dede Korkut said on another occasion.

  • These are the things worthy of praise:
    • the magnificent Allah above us;
    • His Excellency Mohammed, the friend of Allah and the chief of religion;
    • Abu Bakr, the loyal, praying on the right-hand side of Mohammed;
    • the chapter of the Qur'an known as "The Tidings";
    • the Ya-Seen, which should be read without missing a syllable;
    • Ali, the chief of the gallant, who used his sword successfully in the cause of religion;
    • Hasan and Huseyin, the sons of Ali and the grandchildren of Mohammed, who were martyred at the hands of the Yazidis on the Plain of Kerbela;
    • the Qur'an, which descended from the Heavens;
    • Othman, the son of Affan, patron of the learned, who caused the Qur'an to be written down and arranged;
    • Mecca, the house of Allah, that was built on a low plain;
    • the faithful pilgrim who returns from Mecca;
    • the Day of the Last Judgement, should it fall on a Friday;
    • the hutbes read on Friday;
    • the congregation that listens to the hutbe;
    • the muezzin, who cries from the minaret;
    • the kneeling lawful wife;
    • the white-haired father;
    • the mother, who gives suck to her child;
    • the male camel, that paces silently;
    • the dear brother;
    • the nuptial chamber set up by the side of the red tent;
    • the son;
    • matchless Allah, the creator of all the universe.

May Almighty Allah, whose praises I have sung, be with you always, oh, my khan!

The minstrel says, in the manner of Dede Korkut:

  • Wives are of four kinds. One is the support of her family; a second is the withering kind; a third is the gathering kind; and the last is the lowest of the low. She who is the support of the house is a woman who feeds and entertains the guests and sends them away happy, in the absence of her husband. Such a woman is of the kind of Ayesha and Fatima. May her children reach maturity.

May you, oh, my khan, have such women in your household.

  • As for the withering kind, she wakens in the morning and, without washing hands or face, devours nine loaves of bread and a large bowl of yogurt, and complains, beating her breast: "Since I married this fellow — may Allah pull down his house —, I have never had enough to eat, nor have I ever been happy. I have gone bareheaded and barefooted. I wish that he were dead, so that I might marry another man; one who would make me happy." May such a woman not have children.

May you, oh, my khan, never have such a woman in your household.

  • As for the gathering kind, she wakes up and, without washing hands or face, goes out and calls at every tent in the tribe, gossiping and chattering until noon. Returning home in the afternoon, she finds out that the hungry dog and the big calf have upset the place and made it like a henhouse or a stable. She then complains to her neighbors in this way: "Oh, girls, Zeliha, Zubeyde, Uruveyde, Jan Kiz, Jan Pasha, Ayna Melek, Kutlu Melek, I had not departed to the other world. I was coming back to sleep in this damned place. Why did you not take care of my house? Is this not a neighbor's duty?" May such a woman have no children either.

May you, oh, my khan, never have such a woman in your household.

  • As for the lowest of the low: when a courteous stranger comes as a guest and the host asks that she prepare some food, she excuses herself, saying: "There is neither a sieve nor any flour in this miserable house, and the camel has not yet returned from the mill." She insists that there is nothing in the house to put before the guest, and she turns her back on her husband. You may make a thousand requests of her, but she complies with not a single one of them. She turns a deaf ear to all her husband's beseeching. She is an offspring of the Prophet Noah's donkey.

May Allah also preserve you from such a woman, oh, my khan.