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The Book of Dede Korkut: the Villains within and out of Turks

The Book of Dede Korkut: the Villains within and out of Turks

By Dilek Tufekci Can

Paper given at the 1st Global Conference: Villains and Villainy (2009)

Abstract: The Book of Dede Korkut, regarded as the Iliad of the Turks, is an epic of the Oghuz, one of the major branches of the Turkish Peoples, in other words Turkomans – a special name acquired after their conversion to Islam. The Book of Dede Korkut is not only one of the most significant literary documents but also one of the most important historical documents that lift the veil of secrecy on the Turks dating back to the Middle Ages. The Book of Dede Korkut, comprising a prologue and twelve epic stories, is narrated mostly in prose, but in some cases in verse. Although it seems as if The Book of Dede Korkut is arranged by independent stories, the literary elements and stylistic structure make the stories as dependent and unified in a sense. The epic story beginning in Central Asia between ninth and thirteenth centuries is narrated by a dramatis personae, in most cases Dede Korkut himself. He praises the Oghuz’s nomadic way of life, their customs and values. However, the action-centred stories mainly based upon the themes of pursuit, captivity, escape and revenge, often revolve around two major villains; villains within society and villains out of society namely, infidels. Even though the principal enemies of the Oghuz during the eleventh century were Kipchak Turks who were practising a shamanistic type of religion common among many Turkish, Tatar and Mongol peoples, by the end of the eleventh century the enemies of Oghuz are no longer Kipchaks but the Georgians and other Christians settling along the Black Sea. These infidels fighting against Oghuz Turks had always been the real enemies of the Oghuz Turks. In this paper, the villain characters within society and villain characters as infidels and some supernatural villains will be searched in terms of their degree of villainy.

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