Monday, July 20, 2020

Fairy tales are crystal (Following folktales around the world 165. - Turkey)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Forty-four ​Turkish Fairy Tales
Kúnos Ignác
George G. Harrap, 1913.

One of the first collections of Turkish folktales, by Hungarian collector Kúnos Ignác, published in English. As the title claims, it contains 44 stories. The short introduction tells us about the world of Turkish fairy tales which, according to Kúnos, "are as crystal, reflecting the sun's rays in a thousand dazzling colours." The book itself is pretty, too, with elaborate decorative motifs, and the sometimes beautiful, sometimes caricature-esque illustrations of Will Pogány - although the latter often divide the text into two parallel columns, which makes it hard to read. The book has a short glossary at the end. While some of the illustrations are definitely weird and the tales have some questionable moments in terms of portraying "black Arabs," this book is still a classic, with a lot of very beautiful stories.


One of my old favorites from this book is The silent princess, in which a roguish prince tricks the girl into speaking up by telling her riddle tales, and deliberately giving the wrong answer. She can't help but correct him, breaking her silence. Another old favorite of mine is The dragon prince, in which a queen gives birth to a dragon, and only a clever servant girl is persistent enough to tame him. They get married, but they get separated again; she has another husband and children, and then the dragon prince returns she has to make a choice. The best dragon story in the book, however, is no doubt The black dragon and the red dragon. Here, a padisah sets out to find his forty kidnapped children, and he succeeds with the help of two dragons. It turns out the children were taken by a dev whose own son had been kidnapped by another villain. Everything turns out all right in the end. My favorite moment is the one where the padisah, wandering in the desert, finds a brood of baby dragons, still blind like newborn kittens...
The horse-dew and the witch is a very pretty version of the "magic flight" folktale type. The horse is an enchanted prince, and the witch is his mother, who gives her son's bride all kinds of impossible tasks until the young lovers flee from her together. They could only get away after the bride gave up her little finger to the witch. Another steed, Kamer-taj the Moon-horse, rescued a princess from a demon multiple times. In the end when he died, the princess and her children hid in his stomach for a night - and by the morning, the horse turned into a palace (I have read a similar Italian tale too).

The bird of sorrow was a story about a princess who wanted to know what sorrow was. The bird took her on a wild adventure of a series of misfortunes, but it did reward her in the end for her perseverance (I have read similar Greek and Italian tales, but with Fate). Fate also places an important role in the story of the Fortune-teller, who told three sisters that their fortune would come from unusual places - a well, a cemetery, and shame - and in the end, all three of them found it.
The story of Prince Ahmed was exciting in a lot of ways. The prince's own father tried to have him killed multiple times, but with the aid of his mother and three gemstone fairies (who started a war against the king), Prince Ahmed managed to find happiness in the end.
I really enjoyed the story of The enchanted pomegranate branch, mostly because of the motif of the secret garden - and because of the princess who punched the false bridegroom in the end. The story of Shah Jussuf was a similarly beautiful version of Beauty and the Beast. Here, the wife seeking her lost husband was taken in and adopted by a dew (div) family, who did not only help her raise her child, but also devised a plan to make sure her returning husband would treat her better from that point on.
I was amused by a story that illustrated why the study of Astrology is important. It was about a skeptical man who picked up an astrology book, and was transported into another world. When, after many adventures, he finally got back home, he had to admit that astrology is a powerful topic... (this story started out with the Gemstone Mountain episode, which I love).
There was also a motif that appeared in multiple stories: when the hero struck down a monster (dew, dragon, etc.), it usually goaded him to strike again to show "he is man enough." The clever hero always refused, which was good, because a second strike would have brought the monster back to life. Control and decisiveness over blind rage.


Among the popular tale types I found Animal Sibling (Brother and sister), hero seeking Fear, Three Oranges, Valiant Tailor (Kara Mustafa), Magic flight (The wizard-dervish), Shoes danced to pieces (The magic turban, the magic whip, the magic carpet), Son of the hunter (The crow-peri), Snow White (The magic hairpins), Devil and the woman (Imp in the well), Fake fortune-teller, Magician's apprentice, and False bride (Rose Beauty - which started with thee girls shooting arrows and following them to seek husbands; also, the false bride gave birth to the child of the real wife somehow).
I also encountered the tale type from the Balkans (?) where a girl takes lunch to her brothers working in the woods, and is kidnapped by a monster along with them. Only the youngest, "Simpleton" brother can save everyone. In the second half of the story he descends into the Underworld and encounters the Emerald Griffin (also known in Cyprus). The storm fiend was a beautiful, colorful tale, a mix of Water of Life and Koschei the Deathless (and yes, this one had an Emerald Griffin too).

Where to next?

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