3. Art & Culture‎ > ‎

3.7. Literature




Turkish is the mother tongue of 90 percent of the population of the country. Some 70 other languages and dialects are also spoken, including various dialects of Caucasian and Kurdish as well as Arabic, Greek, Ladino and Armenian. The Turkish language of Turkey represents the southwestern arm of the community of Turkic languages within the Ural-Altay linguistic family that slowly evolved over time. Groups speaking these languages spread to the east and northeast out of Central Asia, and particularly to the west. Ever since the very earliest times, Turkish has influenced various dialects of Middle Persian, and turned the Caucasus and Anatolia away from the Indo-European group of languages. With the acceptance of Islam, Arabic on the one hand and Persian on the other had a clear influence on the Turkish language. Since the end of the 19th century such modern Turkic written languages as the Turkish of Turkey itself, Azerbaijan and Kazakh Turkish, based on Turkish dialects, have emerged. Of the 4,000 or so languages currently spoken in the world, Turkish ranks seventh in terms of numbers of speakers and area, being used by around 200 million people.

Ever since the 8th century, the Turks have employed a number of alphabets, although mainly the Göktürk, Uyghur, Arabic and Latin ones. After the foundation of the Republic and the establishment of national unity, and particularly between 1923 and 1928, people began to focus on the alphabet problem in Turkey. The founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, believed that it was essential to make use of Western culture in order for the country to reach the level of contemporary civilisation, to which end, in 1928, he brought about the acceptance of Latin letters, modified to reflect the sounds of the Turkish language, to replace the Arabic alphabet.

The Language Revolution continued in 1932 with Ataturk's establishment of the Turkish Language Research Society in order to simplify the language. After its foundation, that body took the name of the Turkish Language Board. Its work produced positive results, and important steps were taken in order to simplify Turkish and rid it of its Arabic and Persian words. The Turkish Language Board is still active today, with amended statutes, within the main body of the Language and History Higher Board. Among the board's responsibilities are the simplification, enrichment and beautification of the Turkish language. The most important result of the work carried out to date is that while before 1932 Turkish words represented only 35-40 percent of the lexicon, that figure has today reached 75-80 percent. This fact is the greatest proof of the value to the Turkish people of Ataturk's Language Revolution.

  • Popular Etymology
  • Dialect - Accents - Communication By Gesture And Facial Expression
  • Vocabulary
  • Non-physical Communication

Popular Etymology

1. About Stems
2. The Stem of a Word

The stem is that part of a word which from the point of view of meaning and structure cannot be further sub-divided.

For instance, ‘begin’ is the stem of the word ‘beginning,’ with the ‘ing’ forming a suffix. Words with the same stem are generally linked in meaning.

Stems can be divided into two categories as far as meaning is concerned:

1. Noun stems
2. Verb stems

Dialect - Accents - Communication By Gesture And Facial Expression


A dialect is a branch of a language that has moved away from the original in terms of pronunciation, structure or word order for historical, regional or political reasons. Kyrghyz dialect, Kazakh dialect etc.


Can be described as minor branches with fewer speech variations than a language or dialect, and that can change from region to region or town to town.

Communication By Gesture And Facial Expression

Gesture: Gesture means instinctive or deliberate hand, arm or head movements to express any concept, whereas facial expression refers to the face only.



Are words employed to describe objects, or with the intention of distinguishing between one and another.

Words can be divided into two classes:

1. Nouns
2. Verbs

Noun-origin words: Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, particles, conjunctions, exclamations.

Noun-content words refer to things, sensations, feelings and facts. They can be concrete or abstract. Book, water, happiness, beautiful etc.


A work in which all the words in a language, or which have been used at a particular time, are set out alphabetically, defined and their equivalents in other labguages given.


The metaphorical use of a word by restricted social groups. For instance, ‘rubbing out’ can be used in the sense of ‘killing.’


Words created from sounds in nature.

A. Words produced from sounds made by objects: Bang, splash ...
B. Animal sounds: Miao, woof ...
C. Human sounds: Sshhh, ouch ...

Names of days, weeks and months

Although everyone knows the days of the week by their ‘official’ names, days also have particular names in different regions and towns. For instance, in the Çal district of Denizli Persembe (Thursday) is known as Cuma aksami (Friday evening), Pazar (Sunday) as Giregi, and Çarsamba (Wednesday) as Isikli. The different names for the days in that district come from the places where markets, important commercial centres, were set up.

Another example of days of the week from Diskaya Village in Usak;

Pazar (Sunday): Girey
Pazartesi (Monday): Gula Bazari (Gula Market)
Sali (Tuesday): Gula Bazar Ertesi (The Day after Gula Market)
Çarsamba (Wednesday): Esme Bazari
Persembe (Thursday): Cumasami
Cuma (Friday): Cuma
Cumartesi (Saturday): Cumartesi

In societies that survive by farming and agriculture, the calendar is organised according to the seasons and divisions within each season when the same climatic conditions are met each year. In fact, popular calendars in such societies are little different from solar ones, and are based on the same principle. However, variations are seen in the names of the months and their subdivisions, stemming from a number of factors. In the Çal district of Denizli, for instance, each season consists of two months, or eight a year.

Mart (22 March – 5 May)
Hidirellez (6 May – 21 June)

Gündönümü (22 June – 12 August)
Agustos (14 August – 21 September)

Güz (22 September – 5 November)
Kasim (6 November – 21 December)

Zemheri (22 December – 31 January)
Karakis (1 February – 21 March)

In Giresun the months have different names: Zemheri (January, Ocak in Turkish), Gücük (Subat), Mart (Mart), Abrul (Nisan), Mayis (Mayis), Kiraz (Haziran), Orak (Temmuz), Agustos (Agustos), Hac Ayi (Eylül), Avara (Ekim), Koç Ayi (Kasim), and Karakis (Aralik). In most popular calendars, the word Karakis, generally employed for a winter month or part thereof, has the negative meaning of ‘black face.’ This recalls the period when a farmer cannot work and experiences his most difficult times. The period known as Avara refers to the time when the harvest is in and the farmer has no more work.

In many local calendars, February is known as Gücük (irritating) as it has fewer days than the other months. Since October is a time for livestock and fruit productions, local names have come to reflect this: Koç Ayi (Ram Month), Kiraz Ayi (Cherry Month) etc.

In Anatolian calandars, there are other references to breeding apart from rams for particular times of the year, such as Kuzu ayi (Lamb Month) for March in Kars. It should not be thought that these coincide with the same months or periods in the official calendar.

The most widespread rule in the division of the year into seasons is: The division of the year into Kasim and Hidirellez. Kasim begins at the start of the official month of the same name, but lasts until 6 May. Hidirellez starts on 6 May and lasts until November.

In eastern regions of Anatolia, and especially among Alawite communities, the new year is considered to begin on Nevruz, or March 22. That date has been considered as the beginning of Spring, or the new year, in many cultures. In eastern Anatolian tradition, one meets the belief that Nevruz is the day when Noah left the Ark on Mount Nemrut and descended to the Sürmeli Gap. According to the Tahtaci people of Narlidere, Nevruz is the day when Ali was born. The days of summer begin with Nevruz. God, it is said, made the summer days long so that long jobs could be completed, and winter days short so that there should be enough food to go round. The people of Tahtaci also believe that Ali was born on a Friday.

In many parts of Anatolia, as winter gives way to summer, certain periods, one month apart, are termed nines, sevens, fives, threes and ones.

These days begin with the nines in Gaziantep: the sevens are in the three weeks at the end of January and early February, the fives are in the end of February and three weeks of March, the threes are at the end of March and the first week of April, and the ones at the end of April and the first weeks May. These numbers show how many days remain until the new moon. This tradition of popular Turkish calendars appears in an Arabic-Turkish dictionary of 1551, where Kanun-I evvel (December) ‘s referred to as the nines.

The division of the year is also linked to the stars. The Pleiades appear in early November, and disappear in May.


Words intended to abuse someone else. Words used to reject fundamental religious beliefs, such as the existence of God.

Non-physical Communication

Communication carried out within certain norms excluding hand, eye and lip movements. For example, smoke signals used by Native Americans.

Unusual speech variations: Secret languages employed to allow free communication between two or more people. For example, back slang.

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 Turkish Literature

This comprises the tradition of written and oral literature established by the Turks throughout history, and also the products of that tradition. The historical development of Turkish literature is studied under three main categories: pre-Islamic Turkish literature, the Turkish literature that developed under the influence of Islamic civilization, and that which developed under the influence of the West. This classification was made in the light of the characteristic influence of the religious and cultural orbits which the Turks entered.

Pre-Islamic Turkish Literature

According to historians, the Turks emerged from Central Asia. Not all of the cultural products of the Turks of Central Asia have survived down to the present day. Bearing in mind that the first written documents in Turkish date from the 6th century it is very likely that we do not possess the basic documents of the literature of that time.

The Oral Tradition: The oral products of the period were written down in the Divanü Lugati't-Türk (Dictionary of Turkish languages) written by Mahmud of Kashgar in the 11th century. Poetry enjoyed pride of place in the oral literary tradition. The first poets, known as shamans or minstrels, read their poems out to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument called a 'kopuz,' similar to a lute. Aprinçur Tigin, çuçu, Kül Tarkan, Çisuya Tutung, Asig Tutung, Sungku Seli and Kalim Keysi are among the first poets examples of whose works have survived.

The Written Tradition; The first texts written in Turkish were the Yenisey inscriptions from the 6th century and the Orhun inscriptions from the 8th. The Orhun inscriptions, of the commemorative-annunciatory kind, are full of information about the Turks' social life, culture and art.

The Turkish Literature That Developed Under the Influence of Islamic Civilisation

Following the adoption of Islam by the Karahan ruler Satug Bugra Khan in the mid-10th century, the Turkish world began to enter the orbit of a new civilisation. The Turkish tribes that migrated westward carried the influence of that civilisation into the world of literature. Mahmud of Kashgar's Divanü Lugati't-Türk was written to teach Arabs Turkish. Yusuf Has Hacib dealt with the philosophy of state based on Islamic principles in the 11th century Kutadgu Bilig. Ali Sir Nevai developed Chagetai Turkish as a rich language of art and culture. The Turkish tribes that migrated to Anatolia played an important role in the emergence of a new literary tradition. The literature, the first examples of which emerged in the 13th century in Anatolia, developed along two separate lines: Court Literature and Popular Literature.

Court Literature: The literature developed by Ottoman intellectuals who were principally raised in medreses (mosque complexes) and who took Arab and especially Persian literature as their role models is known as 'Court Literature.' It is also referred to a 'class' or 'Islamic Age' Turkish literature. Persian translations predominated during the early years of the literature (13th-15th centuries). The first poets, such as Ahmed-i Dai, Kadi Burhaneddin and Seyhi generally wrote religious verse. In the transitional period (15th-16th centuries) the palace and circles linked to it gave this literary form particular support, and examples of prose began to emerge alongside verse (Ahmed Pasa, necati, Mercimek Ahmed, Alikpasazade, Sinan Pasa etc.). During the mature period of court literature (16th-18th centuries) one sees that after the stages of derivation and external influence, original creation was now taking place. An effort was made to adapt local content to classical forms. New tendencies were experimented with, especially the new poetic style known as 'Sebk-i Hindi' (Fuzuli, Bâkî, Bagdatli Ruhi, Nabî, Nef'i, Nedim, Seyh Galib, Evliya Çelebi, Kâtip Çelebi, Naima, Veysi and Nergisi).

Popular Literature: This area consists of folk tales, folk songs, proverbs, riddles and village performance shows, the creators of which are either unclear or unknown. Dervish literature can be regarded as popular literature with a religious content. Mysticism's broad tolerance and manner of expression resulted in the emergence of an independent strand in this literary tradition. Dervish poetry would be read to the accompaniment of tunes known as 'ilahi' or 'nefes.' Although containing elements of Arabic and Persian, the language employed in dervish literature was intended to be clearly understood. The quatrain and syllabic metre were used throughout. The most important representatives of this form of literature are Yunus Emre, Nesimi, Kaygusuz Abdal, Haci Bayram Veli, Hatayi and Pir Sultan Abdal. Another strand in popular literature is minstrel music, which takes in the period from the 16th century to the present day. These minstrels would travel around Anatolia with a stringed instrument called a 'saz,' establishing a tradition and refusing to be cast down by life. Some examples of these are Karacaoglan, Asik Ömer, Dertli, Dadaloglu, Erzurumlu Emrah, Bayburtlu Zihni, Rusati, Sümmani, Asik Veysel and Ali Izzet Özkan.

Turkish Literature under Western Influence

After the 18th century, efforts were made in Turkish (Ottoman) society to move into the orbit of Western civilisation. Following developments in the military and political fields, these began to be felt in literary life as well. Writers who had seen the West and were closely acquainted with it were the first heralds of this new literature. The appearance of the newspaper 'Tercüman-i Ahaval' in 1860 is generally accepted as the start of the literature that developed under the influence of the West. Being neither official nor semi-official, the paper was the first to be brought out under a private initiative. The period it is regarded to have ushered in is further divided into sub-periods: The Administrative Reform, the Servet-i Fünun, Fecr-i Ati, National Literature and Republic and after periods.

1. Important names in the Administrative Reforms Period: Namik Kemal, Sinasi, Ahmet Mithat, Ziya Pasa, Mahmut Ekrem, Abdülhak Hamit, Samipasazade Sezai etc.

2. Important names in the Servet-i Fünun Period: Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem, Tevfik Fikret, Cenab Sahabeddin, Halit Ziya Usakligil, Mehmet Rauf etc.

3. Important names in the Fecr-i Ali Period: Ahmed Hasim, Emin Bülent Serdaroglu, Hamdullah Suphi Tanriöver, Fuad Köprülü, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu etc.

4. Important names in the National Literature Period: Ömer Seyfettin, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Halide Edip Adivar, Resat Nuri Güntekin etc.

Important names in the Republican Period and after: Ziya Osman Saba, Yasar Nabi Nayir, Nazim Hikmet, Orhan Veli Kanik, Oktay Rifat, Cahit Külebi, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpinar, Peyami Safa, Kemal Tahir, Aziz Nesin, Necati Cumali, Selim Ileri, Fakir Baykurt, Orhan Pamuk etc.

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 Minstrel and Dervish Literature

 Minstrel Literature

A type of poetry in Turkish Popular Literature that emerged at the beginning of the 16th century. The minstrel’s poetic powers come from dreaming of drinking from the ‘wine of love’ offered by an elder and seeing the image of his true love. The minstrel generally sees his lover or a saz, a stringed instrument. Other elements may be a white-bearded dervish and one or maybe three full goblets. The goblets frequently occur in the dream in the form of a bowl. The liquid offered to the bards in these goblets is said to be ‘full of love.’ It is sometimes known as ‘bade’ literature under the influence of Persian literature.

Such poets are generally trained by a master. That way they learn both the master’s words and ways and means of performing their art. After having fully grasped these masters’ ways of expressing their art in the coffee houses, these poets then take on apprentices of their own, and the tradition thus continues.

The minstrel reveals his knowledge, feelings and abilities in battles of poetic repartee. The aim in these is to compete and win. At least two bards are involved in such matches. It begins with the recital of a verse by a master poet or other respected individual. The bard who is unable to add a further verse in the same style and meter is eliminated.

One of the main elements of this style of poetry is storytelling. Most poets who accompany themselves on the saz draw from a traditional range of stories, although some also had stories of their own invention to the main body of the tale. Some bards who have contributed in this way are Çildirli Asik Senlik, Ercisli Emrah and Sabit Müdami.

The shamans of the Tonguz people, the bo or bugues of the Mongols or the Baryat peoples and the ozans of the Oguz peoples expressed, as representatives of that same tradition, the attitudes to life and feelings of their societies by means of their poems.

The best known representatives of the tradition are Yunus Emre, Pir Sultan Abdal, Köroglu, Dadaloglu, Karacaoglan, Erzurumlu Emrah, Dertli and Asik Veysel.

The tradition is still alive and flourishing in Anatolia today.


This style is also known as mystical or religious popular poetry, and is the product of a form of literature that emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries, created as bards expressed their love of God and feelings about the hereafter. The most important exponents of the style are Ahmet Yesevi, Yunus Emre and Haci Bayram-i Veli.

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 Minstrel Traditions

The minstrel tradition in which cultural heritage, customs, knowledge, mores and behaviour are expressed and respected because of their age is, like other cultural values, a cultural value created by a general culture to meet a particular need rather than perform a particular function.

In popular verse, minstrels’ poems are in the form of quatrains. Metre is also a feature of the quatrain form, and seven, eight, and eleven syllables are the general traditional forms.

Minstrel traditions can be set out along these lines:

1. Using a pen name
2. Becoming a minstrel after a dream (drinking wine)
3. Master – apprentice
4. Repartee – opposition
5. Sound restriction
6. Riddle
7. Dialogue form
8. Teaching history
9. Inspiration by another poem
10. Playing the saz

1. Using a pen name :

This is a name poets use when writing instead of their own names.

In popular literature, the use of a pen name is a practice based on tradition. Most minstrels’ real names have been forgotten, and their pen names are employed instead. Dadalopluis real name was Veli, Sümmani’s Hüseyin, and Gevheri’s Mehmet etc.

Traditionally, the minstrel takes the pen name he will use by one of these methods;

a) Choosing His Own Pen Name

- Taking his name or surname as a pen name
- Taking another name he feels suited to his life and art

b) Taking one from a master minstrel, elder or religious leader

- The master tests the apprentice
- The master chooses an appropriate name for the apprentice
- A name is taken under the influence of an elder or religious leader

c) Taking a name in a dream while drinking wine

2) Becoming a minstrel after a dream (drinking wine) :

The dream motif is one frequently encountered in popular literature. This motif generally appears in popular tales, as well as in accounts of minstrels’ lives.

Minstrels generally ascribe the way they started out on that path, or learned the trade and became masters of their profession, in one of two main ways, either being raised by a master, or else drinking wine in a dream.

This can be wine, sherbet, water, or even foods such as apples, pomegranates, bread or grapes.

In minstrel literature, drinking wine is generally an obligation of the dream motif tradition. The belief is that in order to become a minstrel one must either be trained by one or else drink wine from the hand of an elder.

3) Master – Apprentice :

One of the most important of the centuries-old traditions in minstrel literature is that of the master and apprentice. Minstrels generally mature by studying at the feet of a master in the profession.

It is a requirement of the tradition that a would-be apprentice should take lessons in playing and verse composition from a master. The apprentice needs to display the greatest patience during the learning process. At the end of this, the master will recite a prayer of blessing on the young man, and give him his permission to appear before the people in public.

4) Minstrel Repartee :

Mutual banter between minstrels and the audience, designed to be barbed and yet humorous at one and the same time.

This is one of the ways in which a minstrel attempts to prove his superiority over others, by means of questions and answers and checkmating the opposition.

Minstrels also engage in mutual improvisation within the context of generally accepted rules. This consists of at least two opponents, within the context of musical and poetical rules.

5) Sound Restriction :

A demonstration of skill by which minstrels demonstrate their mastery of their art. It consists of creating verse in which certain sounds (B, P, M, V, F) are excluded. This is a kind of context in which minstrels place a needle between their lips to demonstrate their technical virtuosity.

6) Riddle :

This, in popular verse, is a form in which the name of a person or object is concealed. The riddle has a special importance in minstrel literature. Creating and solving riddles requires special minstrel virtuosity and knowledge.

‘Murat Uraz’ describes the performance of the riddle in these terms:

On nights when riddle are to be performed in the coffee houses, cigarette and nargile smoking are banned, nobody may speak in a loud voice, and everyone sits in an orderly manner. The riddle that has been prepared by the minstrel is written down in large letters that can be read from a distance on piece of paper and pinned onto a bit of wood. One millimeter of wax is then smeared over the wood. The minstrels greet those coming to the café according to their occupation and standing. The person thus greeted sticks money onto the wax on the wood in accordance with the greeting he has received. Whoever guesses the riddle takes the money, and the minstrel composes a musical improvisation. If the riddle remains suspended on the wall of the café for several nights and nobody manages to guess it, then the minstrel announces the answer and himself takes the money.’

7) Dialogue Form :

A particularly widespread form in popular verse in which the minstrel and his lover take it in turns to make statement, in either free form or quatrains.

8) Teaching History :

When the minstrel wishes to deal with famine, fire, flooding, epidemics, important battles and other such matters of close concern to the social life of the community and to include his own birth date in the poem. The date is generally mentioned in either the first or last quatrain, and occasionally in the main body.

9) Inspiration by Another Poem :

Known as nazire, this is when one minstrel produces a poem closely model on one by another, with the same metre and measure.

10) Playing the Saz :

The saz is an instrument that inspires the minstrel, and one of the most important element of the minstrel tradition.

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 Variety within Minstrel Literature


1. Kosma: The commonest form of popular verse. Syllabic measures of 6 + 5 = 11 or 4 + 4 + 3 = 11 may be employed. In terms of subject matter, this may be ‘güzelleme’ in praise of individual or natural beauty, ‘koçaklama’ in praise of heroism, or ‘taslama’ in criticism of an individual or a community. Poems dealing with mourning are called ‘agit.’

2. Semai: With an eight syllable meter along the general lines of the kosma, semai are poems generally accompanied by a melody. They generally consists of at least three and at most five quatrains. The subject matter tens to concern nature, beauty and separation.

3. Varsagi: The varsagi, or varsak in southern Anatolia, is a verse form accompanied by a melody. The number of quatrains ranges from three to five. Similar to the semai in form, it has an eight-syllable measure. There differences are mainly in recitation and melody.

4. Destan: Similar in form to the kosma, destans differ in the numnber of quatrains, subject matter, melody and recitation. They are generally folk poems in which the bards tell of their loves, incidents of heroism, or daily life.


1. Divan: Classical Ottoman court poetry, known as divani in popular verse, distinguished by a particular combination of long and short syllables.

2. Selis: Possesses a different combination of long and short syllables.

It was particularly popular among bards in the 19th century, and is most commonly found in gazel form, a lyric poem of 4-15 couplets, with the first couplet rhyming, and the second lines all rhyming with those of the first couplet.

3. Semai: As well as being found in syallabic form in minstrel literature, semai are also found in prosodic form in divan literature. They possess their own particular prosodic form and are recited with specially composed melodies.

4. Kalenderi

5. Satranç: Again possessing a particular prosodic form.

6. Vezni Aher: Again with its own prosodic form.

Dervish Poetry

This is known as religious or mystical popular verse, and is a form of literature that emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries in which minstrels expressed their love of God and feelings about the hereafter. The most important exponents were Ahmet Yesevi, Yunus Emre, Haci Bayram-i Veli etc.


1. Ilahi: Poems which set out mystical views and ideas, divine wisdom and secrets, yet which bear no distinguishing signs of belonging to any particular religious sect, contenting themselves with praising God, His greatness and power. Generally written in quatrains or couplets. Quatrains tend to consist of 7, 8 and sometimes 11 syllables. Those in couplet form consist of 11, 14 or 16 syllables. These may also appear in prosodic form.

2. Nefes: Ilahi verse written by Alawaite-Bektasi poets. Subject matter generally consists of the oneness of God, Alawite-Bektasi principles or sect rules. Similar to kosma in form, they employ a very simple style of Turkish. They are written as quatrains of 7, 8 or 11 syllables, and some prosodic examples exist, although relatively few.

3. Ayin: Peculiar to mystics, and intended for the depiction of various states and movements. The term ayin was first employed by the Persians and then passed into Turkish mystical literature. The ayin was particularly used during assemblies at which dervishes performed their whirling dances.

4. Tapug: Poems recited during religious assemblies of the Gülseni sect.

5. Durak: Employed by most religious sects apart from the dervishes, these are free form poems particularly popular with the Halveti sect, and are recited by one or two readers after the reading of the first part of the holy names of Allah and before moving on to the second part.

6. Cumhur: Divine poems for group recitation in all but Dervish and Bektasi communities.

7. Hikmet: Religious verse expressing the poet’s opinions and feelings.

8. Devriye: Poems from the religious popular verse tradition dealing with the cyclical theory. This is a reference to the way that man and the universe came from God and will return to Him.

9. Sathiye: poems from the religious tradition containing humurous elements. They express sect beliefs, are written and performed by mystical poets, and require an element of analysis to be understood.

10. Tevhid: Poems dealing with such elements as the essence of creation and the universe. May be seen in gazel, kaside and mesnevi form.

11. Nutuk: Didactic verse read by senior members of Dervish lodges.

12. Deme: Verse from the Alawite sect regarding the sect and its activities and dealing with its problems. Generally in eight-syllable form and accompanied by the saz.

13. Duvaz: Works in praise of the 12 caliphs.

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Products of verbal accounts dating back to the days before the formation of a national Turkish written culture dealing with important aspects of earlier national beliefs concerning the creation of the universe and life and the wars that societies leaders waged on behalf of their people.


When the Turkish king Peseng had word of the death of the Persian king ‘Minuçehr’ he gathered the Turkish nations together to wage war against Persia: ‘You know what the Persianms did to us. It is time for the Turk to be revenged,’ he said. His son Alp Er Tonga was seething with feelings of revenge. He told his father: ‘I am a man who can fight with lions. I must have my revenge on Persia.’ He was tall of stature, with the breast and arms of a lion. He was as strong as an elephant. His tongue was like a sharp sword.

As the preparations for war began, the king’s other son, Alp Ariz, came to the palace and told his father: ‘Father! You are the greatest of the Turks. Minuçer is dead, but the Persian army has great heroes in it. Let us not rise up. If we do, our nation will be destroyed.’ Peseng replied to his son: ‘Alp Er Tonga is a lion on the hunt, a battle elephant in war. He is a hero, a crocodile. He must be revenged for his forefathers. You must be with him. When the grass turns green on the plains, march our armies to Amul. Let your horses graze on Persia. Paint their waters with blood.

In spring, the Turkish army led by Alp Er Tonga marched on Persia. It came to Dehistan. The two armies met. Barman, one of the Turkish heroes, approached the Persians and issued a challenge to single combat. The Persian general looked at his men. Nobody stirred. Only the general’s brother, Kubad, stepped forward. But he was old. His brother said to him: ‘Barman is a young man with the heart of a lion. He is tall of stature. You are old. Our men will be frightened if your white hair is dyed with blood.’ But Kubad did not listen. ‘Man is a hunter, and death hunts him,’ he replied, and went off to fight. Barman said to him: ‘You are giving me your head. You should have waited a little. I intend to take your life.’ Kubad replied, ‘I have already had my fair share of this world,’ as he spurred his horse to the attack. They fought from morning till evening. Finally, Barman toppled Kubad with his lance, and returned victorious to Alp Er Tonga. Seeing this, the Persian army moved forward. The two armies met. Never had there been such a battle. Alp Er Tonga prevailed. The Persians fled. The Iranian king sent his two sons home, and his womenfolk to Mount Zave.

The Turkish and Persian armies rested for two days, and on the third day Alp Er Tonga attacked again. The battlefield was full of slain and wounded Persian lords. At night the Persians crept away. Seeing this, the king and his general sought refuge in the castle of Dehistan. Alp Er Tonga laid siege to it. When the Persian king fled, Alp Er Tonga followed and took him prisoner.

The heroic king Zal of the country of Kabil, an ally of Persia, came to the Persians assistance. After great battles he defeated the Turks. Alp Er Tonga was enraged at this, and killed the captive king with his sword. The other prisoners were also to have been killed, but his brother Alp Ariz made him abandon that idea. He had the captives sent to Sari and imprisoned there. He came to Rey in Dehistan and assumed the Persian crown. He became the king of Persia. But he killed his brother Alp Ariz because he allowed the captives in Sari to escape.

When Zev ascended the Persian throne the two armies again met, and fought for five months. There was a famine. They then established peace so that mankind would not die out. The countries in the north of Persia became part of Turan.

When Zev died, however, Alp Er Tonga attacked Persia again. His father was angry with him because he had killed Alp Ariz. But when the new Persian king died and the throne became empty again Peseng sent word to his son Alp Er Tonga, and told him to take the Persian throne. The Persians feared the arrival of the Turkish army and sent word to Zal. Zal said that he had now grown old, but sent his son Rustem. In the battle between the vanguards of the two armies, Rustem defeated the Turks and took the Persian crown. In the battle between the armies themselves, Rustem came face to face with Alp Er Tonga. Just as he was about to overcome Alp Er Tonga, his heroes rescued him. Rustem killed 1160 Turkish heroes with a single blow and defeated the Turks. They moved on to Ceyhun. Alp Er Tonga returned to his father’s side. They convinced his father to make peace, and peace was established.

After Keykavus assumed the throne of Persia the Arabs rose up. Yet Keykavus was made drunk at a feats to celebrate his victory and captured by them. This news alarmed Persia. Alp Er Tonga attacked the Arabs with a great army and defeated them. The Turkish army entered Persia and began to take everyone captive. The Persians again sought help from Zal. Zal rescued Keykavus from the Arabs and made their armies part of his own and turned on the Turks. Half were killed in a bloody battle, and Alp Er Tonga was defeated and fled.

One day, seven famous heroes from Persia came to Rustem and suggested they go hunting in Alp Er Tonga’s hunting ground. They spent seven days in the hunting ground, near Sirahs. When he heard of this, Alp Er Tonga came there with his army. The Turkish heroes were defeated by the Persian heroes in individual contests, and then Rustem entered the fray with his heroes, routing the Turkish army. Alp Er Tonga was very nearly taken prisoner.

While Keykavus was busy with love affairs and entertainments in Persia, Alp Er Tonga approached with his cavalry. Keykavus had news of this. He sent his son Siyavus and Rustem against the Turks. They defeated the Turkish vanguard and captured the castle of Belh. At this point, Alp Er Tonga had a bad dream, and made peace with the Persians as his lords suggested. He gave them hostages. He abandoned the cities of Buhara, Samarkand and Chach, and withdrew to the city of Gang. Yet Keykavus did not want that peace, and was angry with Rustem and Siyavus. Rustem withdrew to his own country because of the way he was treated. Siyavus sought refuge with Alp Er Tonga. He was treated with great respect right up to the city of Gang. He made everyone love him. In fact he even married the daughter of the Turkish hero Piran, and a little while later the beautiful Ferengis, Alp Er Tonga’s eldest daughter. He had a son by Piran’s daughter, whom they named Keyhusrev.

A while later, those who did not like Siyavus spoke against him to Alp Er Tonga and caused a rift between them. Siyavus was killed. Rustem then appeared again. In the first battle, they killed Alp Er Tonga’s son, Sarka. Alp Er Tonga marched out personally to revenge his son. Yet when the Persians won the war, they chased him as far as the China Sea. Rustem killed them wherever he could find them, and returned to his country six years later.

When Alp Er Tonga saw that Turan, his country, had been burned and the Turks killed he wept. He swore to be revenged. He gathered an army and invaded Persia. He burnt the harvest. He occupied Persia. He engineered a famine, and the Persians starved for seven years. Keykhusrev was left the throne. He swore to be revenged on Alp Er Tonga, and raised an army. Yet that army fell apart before it even faced Alp Er Tonga. Keykhusrev sent new armies. One of the Turks named Bazur cast a spell and caused snow to fall on the mountains. The Persians’ hands froze so they were unable to hold their weapons. In that way they cut up the Persian army. The Persians again sent to Rustem. After terrible battles, Rustem again defeated the Turks, and took captive the Chinese ruler, who was with the Turkish army.

Alp Er Tonga was very unhappy when he heard this. He called together his great men and sought their advice. They said: ‘So what? The Chinese and Saklap armies were routed, but nothing happened to our army. Our mothers bore us so that we might die.’ Alp Er Tonga began his preparations. His son, Side, raised his spirits. A Chinese lord called Puladvend, who lived in the mountains of China, joined forces with the Turan army. In the end Rustem was defeated. The Turan and Persian armies clashed. The Persians won. Alp Er Tonga fled. After that, Keykhusrev ruled two-thirds of the world. Drinking wine in his palace one day, Persians from near the border with Turan came and said that the people of Turan were bothering them. Keykhusrev sent the Persian hero Bijen to resolve the matter. On the border, Bijen saw the lovely maiden Menijy playing with her maidens in a wood. Menije was the daughter of Alp Er Tonga. They fell in love. Menije took him to the palace in Turan. Alp Er Tonga was furious when he heard. He imprisoned Bijen in a well. He chased his daughter away. When the Persian king saw his young hero had not returned he sent Rustem again. Rustem dressed as a merchant and went to the Turkish capital. He rescued Bijen, attacked Alp Er Tonga in his castle and made him run away, and sent Menije to Persia. Alp Er Tonga raised another army.

The mountain ‘Bisutun’ was behind the Persian army. The Persians again won the battle thanks to Rustem. Alp Er Tonga fled as far as Karluk. He told his lords: ‘I used to rule the world. Not even in the time of Minuchehr was Persia as great as Turan. But now the Persians even threaten my life in my castle. I am planning a great revenge. Let us march with an army of a thousand thousand Turks and Chinese.’ They began to gather their forces. Yet the Persians won the first battles, from which Alp Er Tonga was absent. He again gathered his armies and moved forwards. He gathered two-thirds of his army of a thousand thousand. He stayed in the city of Beykend. There were tents of leopardskin in his headquarters. He sat on a thrown of gold and jewels. The banners of many heroes flew in front of his tent. He was staggered when the armies he sent on ahead were defeated. He swore not to return without being avenged. He gave half his army to his son, Kara Khan, and sent him to Bukhara. His sons Side (whose real name was Pesheng), Cehen, Afrasiyab, Girdegir and Guheyla, the son of his son Ila, were with the army. He mustered the troops of the Chigil, Taraz, Oguz, Karluks and the Turkmen.

When the two armies met, Keykhusrev, the king of Persia, and Alp Er Tonga’s son Side met in single combat. The latter died. When Alp Er Tonga heard he was distraught. The next day, the armies fought until evening and then separated. The next day they fought again. Alp Er Tonga attacked like a man possessed. He killed many of the greatest Persian heroes. Keykhusrev and Alp Er Tonga came face to face. But the heroes of Turan did not wish him to fight with the Persian king, and took hold of his horse’s reins to lead him away. That night, Alp er Tonga took his army over the Ceyhun.

Kara Khan met up with his army and came to Bukhara. They rested a little. Then they moved to the capital Gang. That city was like a paradise. The soil was fragrant and the bricks made of gold. He called armies from all parts. Spies then announced that Keykhusrev had crossed the Ceyhun. He first came to Sugd. He stayed a month and made it obey him. He moved on. The Turks would not give the Persians water, and killed Persians if they found them on their own behind the army. Keykhusrev destroyed palaces and castles, and killed both men and women. The two armies met at the Gulzariyun river. Keykhusrev was afraid of the army of Alp Er Tonga. He retreated to the rear of the army and prayed to God. A storm arose at once, and the sands moved towards the army of Turan. The Turks fell back. But Alp Er Tonga halted his army by killing those who wanted to retreat. They returned and fought well. The two armies separated at nightfall. Alp Er Tonga was going to fight the next day, too. But a messenger told him that of all Kara Khan’s army, only Kara Khan was still alive. He then moved into the desert with his army, without even gathering up their stores. He wanted to attack Rustem. Keykhusrev warned Rustem and followed on behind. Alp Er Tonga came to Gand and wanted to attack Rustem, but the letter moved away. He entered the city. The tower in that crowded city was so high that not even an eagle could fly over it. It was full of food. It had springs and pools. The pools were an arrow flight across. It was a paradise with lovely gardens. Alp Er Tonga and his army moved into Gang. He wrote a letter to the Chinese ruler, asking for assistance. Keykhusrev arrived with his army and joined forces with Rustem.

Obstacles were dug in front of the tower. The piled up wood and set light to it. Walls were pulled down. They attacked the city. They killed everyone. Alp Er Tonga and 200 of his lords escaped by fleeing down a secret passage under the palace. He went to the king of China. The Chinese king had prepared a large army. When they heard that, Turks from all over flocked to Alp Er Tonga’s banner. Keykhusrev left a commander in Gang and went after Alp Er Tonga. They met. Alp Er Tonga sent him a letter suggesting they meet in a quiet sport and engage in single combat. Keykhusrev did not accept. That day the two armies fought until nightfall. At night, Keykhusrev had his men build build pits. He sent part of his trrops behind the Turkish army. The Turks staged a night attack and fell into them. Only part of the Turkish forces returned, and they were ambushed by the troops behind them. They defeated the Turkish army. Alp Er Tonga retreated to the desert with what remained of his forces. Keykhusrev returned to Gang. The king of China came to fear Keykhusrev and sent ambassadors to him.

Keykhusrev made peace with the king on condition he never again supported Alp Er Tonga. When Alp Er Tonga heard this he was very distressed, and fell back into the desert. He then came to the sea. A very wide sea. There was a boatman there. ‘Oh King! This sea is very deep and you cannot cross it. I am 78, and I have never seen a ship cross it,’ he said. Alp Er Tonga answered, ‘It is better to die than be a captive.’ He took a ship and they set sail, reaching the city of Gangidiz. Alp Er Tonga said: ‘Let us not think of the past. Our luck will turn here,’ and went to sleep. Keykhusrev learned that he had crossed the water. He made preparations, conquered a number of nations, and reached the shore of that sea. They crossed it in seven months. He captured Gangidiz. They killed all those they found, but Alp Er Tonga secretly escaped. Keykhisrev came to Gang, and asked after Alp Er Tonga. Nobody knew. In fact, he was then wandering hungry and thirsty. He made his home in a cave on a steep mountain. There was one called Hum living in a cave, far from other people. One day he heard a noise in the cave. Alp Er Tonga was lamenting his fate. Hearing that his words were not Turkish, Hum took him prisoner. Yet he again escaped and jumped into the water. Keykhusrev heard about it. They tricked Alp Er Tonga into coming out of the water and killed him.

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Legends are one product of popular literature, and allow a cultural heritage to be handed on from the past to the present day, as well as making a contribution to the understanding of people and the cultural structure they comprise. They are one of the specific types of lliterature to concern themselves with real and imaginary beings and the mythical features of places and events. Together with a belief in the veracity of what is recounted, they point to individual and social life. They may be classified as follows, according to subject matter:

Legends regarding historical places, people and events
Legends about mythical beings
Legends about animals
Legends to do with religious matters
Legends about plants and trees
Legends about the natural environment


The Dragon of Mount Albat

A dragon emerged from the Ortanca Fountain on the slopes of Mount Albat. It refused to allow anyone near the fountain, and people went thirsty.

Seeing the people’s despair, the lord of the city took two sharp-bladed swords and went to slay the dragon. The lord held the swords out in his two hands. The dragon breathed flames from its nose, and breathing in deeply, it swallowed the lord. The lord then slew the dragon with the two swords he held, cutting it in two from its mouth to its tail.

When the lord returned home, he had the pool in his garden filled with milk, undressed and jumped in. The milk immediately curdled because of the dragon’s poison. The lord kept having milk baths until it no longer curdled, and thus freed himself of the poison.

Suzan (Suzi) and the Mountain of the Forty Saints

To the southwest of Diyarbakir, on the banks of the River Tigris (Dicle), stands the Mountain of the Forty Saints. Behind the mountain is the Place of Pilgrimage of the Forty Saints. Those who are without child come here to make a wish.

One wealthy Syriac family had no children. The woman came to make a wish and vowed to make an offering. She had a daughter. They called her Suzan (Suzi). Every year on her birthday, her mother would dress her up and take her to that spot, where she would sacrifice an animal. Suzan grew up to be very beautiful. She fell in love with one Adil, the son of her Muslim neighbour, and he with her. On another birthday, her mother sent Suzan with her servants to the place of pilgrimage to sacrifice an animal. Adil followed secretly behind. Taking advantage of the servants’ excitement at the sacrifice, Suzi and Adil wandered behind the mountain and there made love. The Place of Pilgrimage of the Forty saints did not forgive Suzi. She fell into the Tigris at the Bridge of the ten Eyes, and there drowned. After her death, Adil went mad.

The Folk Song of Suzi

The face of the Mountain of the Forty Saints
Covered the plain with darkness
I died.
Suzi, Suzi, the place struck us down.
It is pitch black under the bridge
Mother, come and find me.
My hair is full of sand.
Bring a comb and comb it.
The water rushed
Through the central arch of the bridge.
I died.
Suzi, Suzi, the Tigris separated us.

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 Folk Tales

A form of lengthy accounts based on real life, accompanied by a saz, in which words and gestures are employed. They can be classified in two forms, according to dimension:

1. Shorter stories with a simple structure based on legend, fable or real life. They last for at most two hours, together with their accompanying folk songs.
2. Longer stories dealing with more individuals, unexpected situations arising one after the other and the conflicts arising from them. These can last from 1-7 nights.


The lion, the wolf and the fox

Once upon a time, a lion, a wolf and a fox became friends. They went hunting because they were hungry. By the end, they had caught an ox, a sheep and a rabbit. Bringing all the catch together, the lion turned to the wolf, saying, ‘Divide them up, so we can each have our share.’

The wolf replied: ‘The ox is yours, the sheep mine, and the fox can have the rabbit.’

The lion then grew very angry, hit the wolf with his paw and knocked him over a cliff. He then turned to the fox, and asked him to divide up the spoils. The cunning fox answered: ‘The ox is your evening meal. The sheep is your lunch and the rabbit your breakfast.’ The lion laughed, and asked where the fox had got the idea from.

‘From our friend who just went over the cliff,’ he responded.

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These are works of the imagination, not intended to convince the listener of their veracity, and which take place at an unspecified time. Repetitions are made at the beginning and end of, and sometimes even during the story, in order to ensure the concentration of the audience.


The Idle Girl

Once upon a time, when fleas were barbers and camels worked in public baths and I rocked my mother’s cradle, there were a man and wife.

They had a daughter. The girl was very spoiled, and grew up knowing no work. So they called her Idle Girl.

She was so lazy that she refused even to get up. Her parents gave her a poker, and she worked with that from where she was sitting.

It came time for her to marry. Her parents married her to a huntsman.

The man went off hunting and killed a duck. He came home, plucked its feathers and put it on the fire. He then got ready to go out hunting again, and told his wife he had put the duck on the fire and not to let it burn. The Idle Girl said she would not, but still did not even get up. A long time passes. A beggar came to the house, and asked the lady for a piece of bread for sake of God. The Idle Girl told her to go into the kitchen and get it.

The beggar entered the kitchen, and saw the duck cooking on the stove. He took it, put it in his bag, and put his dirty socks in the pot. He then returned to the Idle Girl. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I have taken the bread. May God bless you. Let me now sing you a song and be on my way.’ He began:

‘Your duck is in my bag,
My socks are in your soup,
You just lie on your comfy bed
While I eat my duck in the forest.’

The beggar sang his song and left. After a while, the hunter returned. He asked his wife if the duck was cooked yet. His wife told him what had happened, and that the beggar had sung her a song. The huntsman then understood what had happened and grew very angry with his wife. After that, the Idle Girl stopped being lazy. They were happy, so let us now go to bed.

The Valuable Salt

Once upon a time, when fleas were barbers and camels worked in public baths and I rocked my mother’s cradle, this is how the story goes.

Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters. One day he called his daughters to him and asked how much they loved him. The eldest daughter said as much as the world, the middle one as much as an embrace, and the youngest as much as salt.

The king was angry at his youngest daughter’s answer, and handed her over to the executioner. The executioner took her off to the mountain to behead her. The girl begged him not to kill her, reminding him that he too was a father.

The executioner was unable to resist, and killed an animal in her place, smeared its blood over the girl’s blouse and took it to the king.

The young girl wandered away, far away, and eventually came to a village. She was taken in by one of the wealthy inhabitants of the village, grew up, and became a beautiful maiden. The fame of her beauty spread far and wide, and destiny decreed that she married a king’s son.

A while passed. She told her husband her true story, and suggested they invite her father for dinner. Her husband agreed. The preparations were made and her father, the king, invited to the feast.

The girl’s father came to the feast on the appointed day with his retinue. When he and his companions had sat down, the different courses began to appear. However, the girl had instructed the cook not to out any salt in any of them. Whichever course the king tried he left untouched.

A t that moment, the girl leapt to the king’s feet, and told him that she had heard that he had had his youngest daughter killed for only loving him as much as salt. The king agreed. She then announced her true identity, and explained that she had had the food cooked without salt in order for him to understand what a valuable thing salt was.

The king was ashamed of his deeds, and embraced his daughter. A new periiod then opened. They were all happy, so let us now go to bed.

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Short satirical, witty or barbed tales describing events from daily life in a lively manner and intended to draw a conclusion from what has been related.



That’s different

A man came to Nasreddin Hoca when he was serving as governor.
‘I want to ask you something,’ he said.
‘Go ahead,’ Nasreddin Hoca replied.
‘The other day, a cow that your neighbours said belonged to you kiled one of my cows. What should I do?’
Nasreddin Hoca pulled at his beard and thought for a bit. ‘You’re not going to bring charges against the animal, are you? And it’s not his owner’s fault. There is no way he could have known what was going to happen.
The man smiled, and replied. ‘Excuse me, I made a mistake. It was not my cow that died, but yours.’
Nasreddin Hoca jumped up. ‘That’s different,’ he said. ‘In that case, hand me down that legal book and let’s have a look!’

The Chief of Police’s Donkey

The chief of police’s donkey was lost, and he was furious.
‘You had better find my animal quickly!’ he shouted. Everyone was in a terrible panic. The people of Aksehir went in all directions to find the missing donkey. Some of them met Nasreddin Hoca on the way.
‘Please help us,’ they begged. ‘If you see a stray donkey anywhere, grab it.’
‘Whose is the donkey?’
‘The chief of police’s’ they replied.
Nasreddin Hoca said he would keep an eye out, and went on his way singing.
A villager asked him why he was singing, and he replied that he was looking for the chief of police’s donkey.
‘How does singing help you to find a donkey?’ the villager enquired.
‘Of course you need to keep your spirits up if you are sent to look for a donkey,’ he answered. ‘especially if it belongs to the chief of police!’

Why He Sat On The Donkey Backwards

One day, Nasreddin Hoca was riding home from the mosque on his donkey, and there was a large crowd behind him. Suddenly, he got off, and got on again backwards, facing the animal’s tail. The people naturally asked him what he was doing.
He replied: ‘I thought about it, and decided to ride my donkey like this, because I have no time for disrespect. If you move ahead of me, then you will be turning your back on me. That would be terrible disrespect. If I go on ahead, I will be turning my back on you, and that is also quite unacceptable. This way, I can go on ahead of you and you can follow behind, and we can still keep looking at each other!’

I Found The Pitch

Nasreddin Hoca was given a saz, a kind of stringed instrument, to keep him busy at a family gathering.
‘Play us a pretty tune!’ they told him.
Nasreddin Hoca began to run his fingers over the strings at random, making an odd noise.
‘Hoca!’ they said, ‘is that any way to play the saz? You need to find the pitch and play properly.’
Nasreddin Hoca kept making a terrible noise, and replied: ‘My hands can’t find the pitch, but they are looking for it. Now I have found one, so there is no need to go on looking.’

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 Stereotypical Expressions


Expressions that have come down from our ancestors, containing a particular element of judgement, employed in prose form, and the authorship of which are uncertain.

Examples of Turkish proverbs:

- A gold sword opens an iron door.
- A horse leaves the ring behind when it dies, but the hero leaves glory.
- A whole is better than a half.
- Anyone can make a spoon, but not everyone can make the handle.
- Chickens do not drink on rainy days.
- Children are the fruits of a home.
- Children pick up habits from one another.
- Do as the imam says, not as he does.
- Do not smell the rose out of gratitude or the thorns will prick you.
- Do not speak out of turn.
- Feed a crow and it will pluck out your eyes.
- Flowers make spring lovely.
- He who earns little earns a lot, he who earns a lot earns nothing.
- He who eats honey eventually gets sick of it.
- He who falls from a horse does not die, but he who falls from a donkey does.
- He who is no use to his father is no use to anyone.
- He who spends little in days of plenty, will spend much in days of want.
- If a fool has a lot of grease he will wipe it on his beard.
- If the patient survives, he will oppose the doctor.
- If you do it, so will your livestock, and that is how we progress.
- If you have a thousand horses ride and rest, if one have only one, get off and rest.
- If your enemy is an ant, you be an elephant.
- Intelligence is the capital of the young man.
- It is easy to take, but hard to pay.
- Make hay while the sun shines.
- May 6 is the beginning of summer, its storms last for seven days.
- May your blood boil in August, but your cooking pot in winter. Mistaking a white dog for a sheep.
- More haste, less speed.
- No good comes of a woman who rises after her husband. Problems stay with those who hide them.
- Some people spoil the vineyard, others the vegetable garden. Some problems are bigger than giants.
- The cowardly chicken pretends to be a rooster.
- The bride mounted on a camel, see where her destiny lies.
- The female bird builds the nest.
- The heart does not mind if the eye does not see.
- The property of one who weeps is of no use to one who laughs.
- The rose that blooms early soon fades.
- The sea turned into yoghurt, but there was no spoon to eat it with.
- The sword you cut bread with will not cut anything else.
- There can be little peace in poverty.
- There can be no mountain without mist, and no man free of error. There is darkness at the bottom of the candle.
- There is no smoke without fire.
- This world is a building with two doors.
- Worry fills you up, but pain makes you hungry.
- You can find no pomegranates on a willow tree, nor shame in the wicked.
- You can tell a hungry man by his cheek, and a thirsty one by his lips.
- You don’t get black lips if you don’t kiss an Arab’s hand.


Stereotyped expressions that produce new concepts by moving away from their original meanings. These may consist of two or more words, and are used to attract our attention or emotions.

Examples of local sayings:

Giving snow from Mount Ararat. (from Igdir – Kars)
Hitting your head against a big stone. (Tunceli)
May your liver enter your mouth. (Elazig)
Putting water in a sieve. (Hakkari)
A vizier once the work is done. (Samsun)

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The Art of Poetry

Poetry may be defined as an art form that makes use of sounds and rhythmic forms to express an emotion, idea or event in a dense and unusual manner. Since it is one of the oldest means of expression, and one that is unique to man, many different definitions of poetry have been suggested, although none seems to have truly grasped its whole essence. The most widespread of these is to define poetry in contrast to prose. In other words, poetry is the expression of emotions and ideas in rhyme, in a way that is pleasing to the ear and impossible in prose. Yet that definition also includes doggerel. The main difference between that and poetry, is the depth of the former and the superficiality of the latter. For centuries, metre and rhyme have been seen as the defining characteristic of poetry. However, in the same way that these on their own are not enough to produce poetry, the 20th century has seen a large quantity of very successful free verse, containing neither. The question of where prose begins and ends has therefore become an important one. In prose, language is simply a means by which information is passed on, and words have no meaning outside that function. In poetry, the stress is on the words themselves as much as their inherent meaning. In other words, the way a thing is said is more important that what is actually being conveyed.

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 Destan (Manzum)

The destan, or epic poem, in minstrel literature deals with the minstrel’s lover, or heroic deeds or daily life, and sometimes unfortunate events. In form, it resembles the kosma in popular literature, although it departs from the kosma when it comes to the quatrain form, subject matter and accompanying melody. The general rhyme scheme is abab cccb eeeb.


From The Epic of Köroglu

(What Köroglu told his troops in the Russian battle)


Let the brave man roar loudly
A thousand years to the mother of the brave man
Let red blood flow noisily in the white guts
May the mother of the brave man live a thousand years.

The drummers beat loudly
Archers fire to right and left,
Curved swords plunge into white chests.
May the mothers of such heroes live a thousand years.

Come gentlemen, let there be war and battle,
Let the brave soldiers stand forth,
Let there be fury by day and night.
May the mother of the brave man live a thousand years.

The real heroes lie in ambush,
Swords at their waists and spears in their hands,
They have eyes of hawks and the faces of lions.
May those who drink blood all live a thousand years.

Köroglu says let us stand here today
And descend with fury in the morning
Let us make wine out of the flowing blood.
Come, mad Hoylu, may you live a thousand years.


Those who rise and mount their horses
Like hungry wolves in the valley, will win fame.
The brave man fights and fights,
The coward falls from his horse and is slain.

A hero has taken his arrow in his hand,
Striding out on the road to heroism,
His shield in tatters, his armour in holes.
A bloody shirt is mail for a hero.

A hero is firing his arrow,
Plunging his white hands into red blood.
A bad friend is fleeing.
Do not flee, wicked one, turn around.

The enemy is calling out, wailing in lamentation,
The people of the book counsel each other.
Heroes covered from head to foot in armour.
A hero proves his valour.

Köroglu says there is no point in delaying,
The sparrow thinks it is a hawk.
But when it sees the hawk it hides in the forest
And plays the hero on its own.


I have taken shelter with you and God,
You are my back, my fortress, oh mountains.
My arms are as nothing without you,
You are my back, my fortress, oh mountains.

I speak to you, oh great mountain pasture,
How can I leave this place?
My bow and arrow are of you,
You are my back, my fortress, oh mountains.

I always tested the brow of the Ottoman,
Never found one to capture my heart
As my dear mother.
You are my back, my fortress, oh mountains.


The brave man stays, the coward flees
The battlefield thunders,
The king of kings holds court,
The battlefield thunders.

When the hero sings his praises,
When arrows strike the target,
The weapon strikes the shield,
The battlefield thunders.

The arrow is thrown from his bow,
Justice hides behind his wrath,
The cry of Köroglu,
The battlefield thunders.

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In the Turkish spoken tradition, ‘türkü’ is the word most frequently employed to describe all forms of popular verse accompanied by a melody. It may be sub-divided into lullabies, laments, and other airs and verses.

Examples of the Türkü :

Musically Annotated Türkü


Name: The green valley of mercy
Where collected: Hamzabey Village in Inegöl
Annotated by: Hasan Yörenç
Inegöl High School Music Teacher

I brought the wolf down from the mountain,
My horse sweated and stopped.
Let he who leaves his lover
Have no place or home.

Mercy, my lover has gone for a soldier,
Let him you, you damned sergeant.

My radio has a battery,
A bell to one side,
Girls’ handkerchieves
Are in boys’ pockets.


Where is my ice-cream?
I do not recall my old love,
I shall never cause my new love
To shed a tear.


Stones at the head of the fountain,
Mo lover mixes the washing,
Lift your hat, my lover
To show your arched eyebrows.


I passed by the coffee house
And drank a cup of coffee
I laughed about you
With the owner’s son.


I have no money, my lover
To buy a pencil for your eyebrow, my lover
I had word this evening,
Greetings, my lover.


Let us go, my lover
To the Wednesday market
Let them place us both
In a lovers’ grave.


Next feast of the sacrifice,
Send white goats’ yoghurt
And my lover, oh sergeant,
Let me celebrate here.


A non-musically annotated türkü

The Türkü of Mehmet

I did not know, a cruel one was following me,
My blood is flowing, look in my face,
No water can now be poured on my fresh rose,
I fell in love at age seventeen, oh mothers.

I became a target, oh mother, and became a soldier,
I waited to be discharged.
My fiancee had given me a gift,
My older brother my killer, I suffered, oh mothers.

My name was Mehmet, my surname Cosar,
My cruel brother rushes to kill,
My blood runs in torrents,
Let my fiancée wear black, oh mothers.

My brother lay waiting at Pozanti,
Cruel brother, please do not mourn me,
Nightingales sing in the garden
I died before I was fully grown up, oh mothers.

I got on the bus, and got off at Digor,
And headed for Dikenli village,
I fell into your hands,
I have faded like a flower, oh mothers.

They shot me in Maras,
My unlucky mother waited for me at home,
All my neighbours said I was unlucky,
Look at my black writing, oh mothers.

I joined my detachment and was glad,
I wrote my letter and posted it.
Mother, why did I not laugh when I was young?
Let mothers weep for your unlucky son.

My unlucky mother waited for me,
My fiancée put on mourning clothes when she heard,
My cruel brother murdered me,
The unhappy soldier suffers, mothers.

I sent a telegram when I received permission,
Set out and was glad,
Mourn for the suffering soldier,
I died in the Toros Mountains, oh mothers.

I came at one o’clock, and nobody saw,
Nobody told my parents,
Nobody died in such pain as me,
That was when I was shot, oh mothers.

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Quatrains usually consisting of seven-syllable lines, the speaker of which is generally unknown. The word bayati is used instead of the word mani in Eastern Anatolia. The rhyme scheme is in the form aaba.

Examples of the Mani :

People who saw them admired
The twin moles on my face.
How can anyone who loves you
Ever give you up?

Enamelling a bowl,
The girls dance an air,
Tell me for God’s sake,
Can love ever be easy?

Bride in her veil
With her silver hands.
It is clear from your dewy eyes
That you are in love.

Lightning struck us,
Snapped us like a twig,
An enemy came between us,
And the mountains separated us.

It is day in Iraq,
My eyes are weeping,
Everyone’s lover has come
But mine is far away.

I reaped on the plains
And was a thorn to the eyes.
That is how I left,
You are left with the frost.

You have moles on your brow,
In the soil, in the stone,
You are in the spring of your life
And I in the winter.

Reap the sky above,
I let the one I had go,
Everyone asks the same thing,
But nothing about the one in my heart.

I drank water like blood,
Whither do the waters flow,
I never saw,
And do not know whither I shall go.

Have you never been a black chicken
Landing on the branches?
My hideous-faced mother-in-law,
Were you never a bride?

Mani for a new bride’s henna party :

They brought her down the stairs
Robed in great pomp.
My girl, they sent you grief to your hand
Weeping wipes it off, weeping.

The six wells of the stairs
I swam and took in the water.
Girl, your mother’s old temperament
She wipes away by weeping.

She jumped up and crossed the threshold,
Left her spoon on the table.
Girl, your mother’s love
She wipes away be weeping.

A bride has come to our house
And made our village rejoice.
Welcome, reddened bride,
You bring delight and money.

If you are a good girl,
We will praise you,
But if you are bad
We will beat you.

If you are a good girl
You will get your reward,
If you are bad,
The axe and the hatchet.

Girl, may your henna be lucky
And your tongue sweet,
Call your mother to come
And see her daughter made a wife.

Has your father gone to market
And bought his goods?
Did he wish his daughter
The best of luck there?

May your henna be lucky
And your tongue sweet.
Call your mother to come
To see her daughter made a wife.

May your mother burn candles
In front of you.
Call your mother to come
To see her daughter made a wife.

Allah gave her her wish today,
Left her mother without a daughter,
Left their house empty
And their jug without water.

Call her mother to come
To see her daughter made a wife.
Allah gave her her wish today.

They brought her down the stairs
Robed in great pomp.
My girl, they sent you grief to your hand,
May your henna be lucky.

May your tongue be sweet here.
Call the girl’s mother to come
To see her daughter made a wife.
Allah gave her her wish today.

I jumped up and crossed the threshold,
The spoon stayed on the table.
Does any girl ask her mother’s advice?
May your henna be lucky.

May your tongue be sweet here and there.
I sowed lentils, are they finished.
Watch the girl’s mother,
Has she taken the Ankara road?

Has she forgotten her daughter?
May your henna be lucky,
May your henna be lucky,
May your days be lucky here and there.

Drummers’ Manis :

Sung by drummers as they collect alms after the fifteenth day of Ramadan :

My drum has no cord
And my back no shirt.
Give me my alms
So I can buy a shirt.

Why are you sleeping, Why are you sleeping?
What good comes from sleeping?
Perform your ablutions and pray.
Find heaven and your fellows.

Dreamers, dreamers
Sleep by the stove.
When they hear the sound of my drum
They pick the stones out of the rice.

The new mosque needs a pillar,
It takes courage to say this,
My stomach is full
But my friend wants a cake.

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These are sung to send a child to sleep or to stop it crying, employ a very simple style of language, and have a tune that follows the syllabic arrangement of the lines. The singer is not identified in these verses, which consist of quatrains and a chorus.

Examples of lullabies:

Huu huu
The dervishes
Set out on the road to God.

On the road to God is a spring
That never stops or runs dry.

The dervishes who drunk from it
Had their wish.

Let him grow in his sleep, lullaby
A lullaby for my tiny child.

They took a bride
And wrapped her in furs.
While kissing and cuddling
Under a fallen tree.

Lullaby, my baby, lullaby
For my tiny child.

Hu hu hu, a bird,
An owl on the hill of the valley.

Its nest out in the wilds,
Its father brings its food.

May you grow, my child.
Grow and walk.

A lullaby for my little child,
For my little tiny child.

Hu hu hu, the bird,
I did not climb the hill

Where there is a nightingale’s nest
And his wife prepares the food.

May you grow, my child.
Grow and walk.

A lullaby for my little child,
For my little tiny child.

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Express feelings such as fear, excitement, sorrow and revolt in the face of events over which we have no control, such as natural disasters, death, sickness etc.

Examples of the lament:

The Lament of Haci Bey

I walked down from the quince orchard
Hold out, my knees, hold out.
A bride has come,
Awake, Haci Bey, awake.

Willows before the door,
Are losing their leaves.
Awake, Haci Bey, awake
There is henna on my hand, a bridal veil on my head.

I will cross hill and dale,
Valleys, hills and plains.
Awake, Haci bey, awake,
I came a bride and will go a maid.

A light in his room,
A silver spoon on his table.
I could not jump over,
I was ashamed and could not flee.

There are birds
Upon his grave.
Take Haci Bey’s grey horse
To the sultan’s market.

Express feelings such as fear, excitement, sorrow and revolt in the face of events over which we have no control, such as natural disasters, death, sickness etc.

Examples of the lament:

The Lament of Haci Bey

I walked down from the quince orchard
Hold out, my knees, hold out.
A bride has come,
Awake, Haci Bey, awake.

Willows before the door,
Are losing their leaves.
Awake, Haci Bey, awake
There is henna on my hand, a bridal veil on my head.

I will cross hill and dale,
Valleys, hills and plains.
Awake, Haci bey, awake,
I came a bride and will go a maid.

A light in his room,
A silver spoon on his table.
I could not jump over,
I was ashamed and could not flee.

There are birds
Upon his grave.
Take Haci Bey’s grey horse
To the sultan’s market.

Erzincan in ruins

We said you were our darling,
So much fresh blood under the ruins,
The wound weeps and flows, blood in the veins,
That lovely, darling Erzincan lies in ruins.

Tears fill my eyes,
Children have poured out onto the streets,
The cries are suffering, the weather cold,
Do not tremble, stand proud, Erzincan.

I would look happily, proudly at the crossroads,
Where are you Selimoglu, Vakiflar, Urartu?
This is the home of flowers, fruit and beautiful girls,
The roses in your garden have faded, Erzincan.

The Euphrates is saddened, the nightingales silent,
Your luck turned bad on March thirteen, ninety-two.
You are no different to a staggering drunk,
Pull yourself together, Erzincan, mt rose.

Some issue muffled cries,
Lovely hands twitch in emptiness,
Heads are crushed and bodies broken,
You cannot be so ruthless, Erzincan.

We called you our darling, you cannot slay,
You cannot remain at odds with us for ever,
We hope you will never be rocked again,
Your spring has turned to winter, ruined Erzincan.

You thought there could be no fire on the snow.
These days, I have understood this,
A prayed and begged God,
For God’s sake protect us, Erzincan.

We thought this country wide, not narrow,
Never sheltered in great apartments,
We would not mind if the enemy did it,
You have condemned us to tents, Erzincan.

We left our friends and are suffering,
Our hearts are saddened, weeping blood.
Stop this migration, lords,
Do not expel us, Erzincan.

We gave forty thousand and it wanted more,
In eighty-three it wanted more.
This spring it did not pity us at all,
It took hundreds of hostages, Erzincan.

These lands are sick, and moaning,
Ears are listening to your heartbeat,
Nobody knows when it will happen,
Unlucky, untrusted Erzincan.

Troubled Kemal says, the gentlemen say,
I will burn for lovely souls.
Of course my vines will fruit again,
But your spring was not happy, Erzincan.

Erzincan of the black festivals ...

We said you were our darling,
So much fresh blood under the ruins,
The wound weeps and flows, blood in the veins,
That lovely, darling Erzincan lies in ruins.

Tears fill my eyes,
Children have poured out onto the streets,
The cries are suffering, the weather cold,
Do not tremble, stand proud, Erzincan.

I would look happily, proudly at the crossroads,
Where are you Selimoglu, Vakiflar, Urartu?
This is the home of flowers, fruit and beautiful girls,
The roses in your garden have faded, Erzincan.

The Euphrates is saddened, the nightingales silent,
Your luck turned bad on March thirteen, ninety-two.
You are no different to a staggering drunk,
Pull yourself together, Erzincan, mt rose.

Some issue muffled cries,
Lovely hands twitch in emptiness,
Heads are crushed and bodies broken,
You cannot be so ruthless, Erzincan.

We called you our darling, you cannot slay,
You cannot remain at odds with us for ever,
We hope you will never be rocked again,
Your spring has turned to winter, ruined Erzincan.

You thought there could be no fire on the snow.
These days, I have understood this,
A prayed and begged God,
For God’s sake protect us, Erzincan.

We thought this country wide, not narrow,
Never sheltered in great apartments,
We would not mind if the enemy did it,
You have condemned us to tents, Erzincan.

We left our friends and are suffering,
Our hearts are saddened, weeping blood.
Stop this migration, lords,
Do not expel us, Erzincan.

We gave forty thousand and it wanted more,
In eighty-three it wanted more.
This spring it did not pity us at all,
It took hundreds of hostages, Erzincan.

These lands are sick, and moaning,
Ears are listening to your heartbeat,
Nobody knows when it will happen,
Unlucky, untrusted Erzincan.

Troubled Kemal says, the gentlemen say,
I will burn for lovely souls.
Of course my vines will fruit again,
But your spring was not happy, Erzincan.

Erzincan of the black festivals ...

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 Who is Who?

Evliya Çelebi

Famous traveller, he is the first and the greatest representative of travel literature. He has visited almost all cities and towns of the Ottoman Empire and took long trips to foreign lands. His travels covered Anatolia, Rumelia, Syria, Egypt, Cerete and Hejaz, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Crimea and Caucasia. He tried to cover history, buildings, customs and traditions and the famous people in his writings. His travel journal are published in several volumes.

Halide Edip Adývar

The renown novelist who was one of the heroes of the national independence movement, has written stories which could penetrate to the depths of human soul and which could excite the reader.

She has proven herself as an analytical novelist which could effectively bring to life exceptional female characters who are sometimes hurt when faced with the eternal power of love and passion situations which also push the stories forward, but who never bend. This is seen particularly in "Seviye Talib" published in 1909, "Raik'in Annesi" ( 1910) and "Handan" (1912). She has also proven with her novel "Son Eseri", published in 1912 that she was a master of creating characters who are equipped with an unfailing love of art, and who posses an infinite source of excitement. She started publishing the paper Yeni Turan in the same year.

Her most famous works are "Sinekli Bakkal", "Vurun Kahpeye", "Kalp Agrisi", "The Turkish Ordeal" and "Zeyno'nun Oglu".

Mehmed Akif Ersoy

A great Turkish - Islamic poet, he has also written the lyrics of our national anthem. Akif practically screams with his poetry where he displays a striking strong voice which kindles nationalistic feelings. The poem he wrote for those who died at Gallipoli, is the greatest of the legends of heroism. Akif who gave us the most effective examples of the art of poetry, has moved to Anatolia during the National Independence War, and was one of its participants.

Despite the fact religious subjects are abundant in his poems, he cannot be considered as merely an Islamic poet. His lines, taking their theme from numerous problems faced by the society, has proven that his vision reached far beyond religion. His poems are collected in seven volumes under the title "Safahat"

(Nâzim Hikmet)


The first great Turkish journalist, and the distinguished name of Tanzimat literature.

He started to work as the editor of the newspaper "Tercüman-i Ahval" in 1860. Sinasi who presented his progressive ideas in a western style at the first privately owned paper of Turkey, is also the first editorial writer of this country.

His play, "Sair Evlenmesi", which is considered the first significant step of the Turkish theater, was also published in this paper.

He started to publish another paper, called "Tasviri-Efkar" on June 28, 1862. With it he has given the most progressive and the best example of journalism for those times, where he touched upon every social problem. He collected his poems in a volume titled "Müntehabat-i Es'ar". Another volume called "Durub-i Emsal" is the first book of proverbs published in this country, which was true to appropriate form.

Tevfik Fikret

Great Turkish Poet. His real personality in poetry emerged when he became the literary editor of the "Servet-i Fünun" journal. Fikret, while at first writing romantic lyrical poems made a sharp turn towards social issues after 1908 and the acceptance of the Constitution. His poems called "Sis" (Fog) and "Bir lahza-, Teehhür" tell us about the repressive regime of the Abdülhamit days. "Tarih-i Kadim" on the other hand is constructed with lines which tell about religious pressures and a wish to destroy reactionary attitudes.

After the establishment of the constitutional system, he published the paper Tanin with another famous journalist Hüseyin Cahit. His poem "Sis" was published in its first issue.

He published "Haluk'un Cevabi" in 1911, which was followed by "Sermin". He also published a magazine for children called "Ümit ve Azim". Fikret who was an outspoken person instantly revolting against injustice, died on August 19, 1915. His grave is at Asiyan. His home is now a museum and a Tevfik Fikret Association is also established. His poetry is collected in a volume titled "Rübab-i Sikeste".

Halit Ziya Usakligil

He heads the list of most cultured and most productive members of the new writer's school.

He started to be recognized with his articles in the journal called "Nevruz", which he started to publish in 1884. In 1886 he published the newspaper "Hizmet" (Service). He published his works such as "Sefile", "Nedime" and "Bir Muhtiranin Son Yapraklari" in this paper. One of his greatest works "Mavi ve Siyah" (Blue and Black) was first published in the journal Servet-i Fünun in 1894. "Ask-i Memnu" (forbidden love) which he published next raised Halid Ziya to the highest ranks of the Turkish Literature. Following the serialization of his biography as Forty Years ("Kirk Yil") in the newspaper Vakit, he wrote a novel where he tells the suicide of his son Vedat.

The author, who calls himself "an eternal lover of Turkish", was one of the most productive of the group of new writers, and he was the first to apply the Western technique to the Turkish novel.

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