Epic of Köroglu

Epic of Köroglu

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The Epic of Köroğlu is a heroic legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

 prominent in the oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

s of the Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

. The legend typically describes a hero who seeks to avenge a wrong. It was often put to music and played at sporting events as an inspiration to the competing athletes.

The legend first began to take shape sometime around the 11th century CE. The epic of Köroğlu exists in many variants in a number of different Turkic languages
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 and is common to several different cultures.

Turkish tradition

A theme common to nearly all versions is that of the hero—Köroğlu, literally "son of the blind man", or better translated as 'Blindson' (analogous with the English surname Richardson, sons of Richard), defending his clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

 or tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 against threats from outside. In many of the versions, Köroğlu earns his name from the wrongful blinding of his father, an act for which the son takes his revenge and which initiates his series of adventures. He is portrayed as a bandit and an ozan
An Ashik is a mystic troubadour or traveling bard, in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran who sings and plays the saz, a form of lute. Ashiks' songs are semi-improvised around common bases....


A number of songs and melodies attributed to Köroğlu survives in the folk tradition
Turkish folk music
Turkish folk music combines the distinct cultural values of all civilisations that have lived in Anatolia and the Ottoman territories in Europe and Asia...

. These songs and melodies differ from most other Turkic folk music in two aspects: they follow a rhythm of 5/8 (ONE-two ONE-two-three) and they depict heroic acts and persons.

The most common version of the tale describes Köroğlu as Rusen Ali, the son of the stableman Koca Yusuf under the service of the Bey
Bey is a title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups. Accoding to some sources, the word "Bey" is of Turkish language In historical accounts, many Turkish, other Turkic and Persian leaders are titled Bey, Beg, Bek, Bay, Baig or Beigh. They are all the same word...

 of Bolu
- Places of interest :The countryside around Bolu offers excellent walking and other outdoor pursuits. There are hotels in the town for visitors. Sights near the town include:* The 14th century mosque, Ulu Camii...

. One day, Yusuf comes across a filly
A filly is a young female horse too young to be called a mare. There are several specific definitions in use.*In most cases filly is a female horse under the age of four years old....

 which, to his trained eye, is an animal that will turn into a fine beast if well-fed. Bey wants to give good fillies to the Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 as a present to repair their worsening relationship. However the Bey does not know enough about horses to appreciate the thin, famished animal that is presented to him. Being a man of foul and easily-provoked temper, he suspects that he is being mocked and orders the poor worker to be blinded. His son, therefore, gains his nickname and harbors an ever-increasing hatred towards the Bey of Bolu in his heart as he grows up. The mare
Female horses are called mares.Mare is the Latin word for "sea".The word may also refer to:-People:* Ahmed Marzooq, also known as Mare, a footballer and Secretary General of Maldives Olympic Committee* Mare Winningham, American actress and singer...

, which he names Kırat (kır at means literally "gray horse"; the word kırat can also mean "carat", "quality"), grows up with him and indeed turns into an animal of legendary stature and strength.

One day, Hızır shows himself to Yusuf in a dream and tells him that soon, the waters of the river Aras will flow briefly as a kind of thick foam and whoever drinks that foam will be cured of whatever physical problems that may be ailing him, including blindness and aging. Yusuf goes to the shore of the river with his son, but his son drinks the foam before he does. As this miracle can give everlasting health and youth to only one man, Yusuf loses his chance to see again; and dies a few days later, ordering his son to avenge him.

In some versions of the story, neither Yusuf nor his son can drink from the foam. Yusuf is warned by Hızır just before the phenomenon occurs, but being an old and blind man, he cannot reach the river in time. Köroğlu is by the river when the foam starts flowing, but, as he is ignorant of the significance of the event, he does not drink from the river. Instead, his horse Kırat does and becomes immortal.

After his father's death, Köroğlu takes up arms against the Bey. As he has only a few followers, he does not engage the army of Bolu directly and uses guerrilla tactics instead. He raids and plunders his former master's property, and eludes his would-be captors by staying on the move and fleeing to distant lands whenever his enemy organises a large-scale campaign to capture him.

Before he succeeds, however, the knowledge of firearms are carried by merchants to Anatolia. Even the simple gonne
A hand cannon is an early form of firearm. It is possibly the oldest type of portable firearm, as well as the simplest type of early firearm, as most examples require direct manual external ignition through a touch hole without any form of firing mechanism. It may also be considered a forerunner...

s of the time are sufficient to change the ways of the warriors forever: The balance of power is upset by the "holed iron", as Köroğlu calls the tool when he first sees one, and the Beys of Northern Anatolia engage in brutal warfare with each other. The fighting goes on and on, with no end in sight. Köroğlu realizes that even if he succeeds in bringing down the Bey of Bolu, he won't be able to bring back the old, chivalric world that he was born into. The warrior-poet disbands his followers and fades into obscurity, leaving only these lines behind:
Düşman geldi tabur tabur dizildi,
Alnımıza kara yazı yazıldı.
Tüfek icad oldu mertlik bozuldu
Gayri eğri kılıç kında paslanmalıdır.

Battalion by battalion, the enemy has come and lined up,
The letters of dark fate are written on our foreheads.
Valor has been lost whence guns were invented
The curved blade in its holster shall rust.

A typical occasion where one might hear Köroğlu melodies is at a traditional wrestling
Yagli güres
Oil wrestling , also called grease wrestling, is the Turkish national sport. It is so called because the wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil. It is related to the Uzbeki kurash, Tuvan khuresh and Tatar köräş...

 competition such as Kirkpinar
Kırkpınar is a Turkish oil-wrestling tournament. It is held annually, usually in late June, near Edirne, Turkey since 1346.- Description :Before each bout, the wrestlers pour olive oil over their entire bodies, and the matches take place in an open, grassy field, with the contestants naked except...

. A team of zurna
The zurna , is a multinational outdoor wind instrument, usually accompanied by a davul in Anatolian folk music. The name is from Turkish zurna, itself derived from Persian سرنای surnāy, composed of sūr “banquet, feast” and nāy “reed, pipe”...

 and davul
The davul or tupan is a large double-headed drum that is played with sticks. It has many names depending on the country and region.-Names:Some names of davuls include:*tupan *davul...

 players play continually as the wrestlers struggle with each other.

In 1967, Yaşar Kemal
Yasar Kemal
Yaşar Kemal, is a Turkish writer. He is one of Turkey's leading writers. He has long been a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, on the strength of Memed, My Hawk....

 successfully collected this legend in his epic novel Üç Anadolu Efsanesi, which stands as the most outstanding Köroğlu reference in contemporary literature.

Uzbek tradition

In Uzbek bakhshi tradition ("bakhshi" is a narrator of dastans or epic, usually, playing his dumbira, two-string musical instrument), the history and interpretation of Köroğlu's name are different from Turkish one. "Go`ro`g`li" in Uzbek means "the son of grave". As it is told, Gorogli's mother dies while being in the last months of pregnancy. However, people bury her with Gorogli inside. After some time a local shepherd notices the number of sheep is decreasing. He spies after his sheep and finds a small boy, at the age of 3-4 eating one of sheep. When he tries catch the boy, he escapes and hides in a grave. As the story narrates later he will fight against giants and kill them. It is said Gorogli had a horse called "G`irot". The capital of Gorogli's state was in legendary Chambil.

See also

  • Book of Dede Korkut
    Book of Dede Korkut
    The Book of Dede Korkut, also spelled as Dada Gorgud, Dede Qorqut or Korkut-ata , is the most famous epic stories of the Oghuz Turks The stories carry morals and values significant to the social lifestyle of the nomadic Turks and their pre-Islamic beliefs...

  • Epic tradition of Turkish literature
  • Turkish folk music
    Turkish folk music
    Turkish folk music combines the distinct cultural values of all civilisations that have lived in Anatolia and the Ottoman territories in Europe and Asia...

  • Turkish folklore
    Turkish folklore
    The tradition of folklore—folktales, jokes, legends, and the like—in the Turkish language is very rich, and is incorporated into everyday life and events.-Nasreddin Hoca:...

  • Azerbaijani literature
    Azerbaijani literature
    Azerbaijani literature refers to the literature written in Azerbaijani, which currently is the official state language of the Republic of Azerbaijan and is widely spoken in northwestern Iran and eastern Turkey...

  • Opera of Koroglu
    The Opera of Koroglu
    Koroğlu is an opera in five acts by Uzeyir Hajibeyov to a libretto in Azerbaijani by Habib Ismayilov, with poetry by Mammed Said Ordubadi. The libretto is based on episodes from the Epic of Köroğlu, a heroic legend prominent in the oral traditions of the Turkic peoples...

External links