mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Reading another off-the-shelf volume that's probably old enough to vote: The Book of Dede Korkut, the national epic of the nomadic Oghuz Turks who once lived in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and those areas of the Silk Roads that I still haven't got straight.

There's an overlay of Islam on these stories in their written form, but as oral epics they originated long before the tribes' conversion. It's another world and in many ways a most congenial one:
"Whose daughter from among the Oghuz shall I get for you?" asked his father.

"Father, find me a girl who will rise before I can get to my feet, who will be on horseback before I can mount my black stallion, and who can bring me my enemy's head before I reach him. This is the kind of girl I want," said Beyrek.

His father, Bay Bure Khan, said: "Son, you do not want a wife. You want a companion. I perceive that Banu Chichek, the daughter of Bay Bichen, is the girl you want."

(Beyrek meets the woman by accident when out hunting. She recognizes him as the man she's betrothed to but hides her own identity:

"Bay Bichen Bey is supposed to have a daughter. I have come to see her," replied the young man.

The girl said, "She is not the sort of person who would show herself to you. But I am her nurse. Let us go hunting together. If your horse can run faster than mine, you can beat her horse, too. After that, let us shoot arrows. If you can shoot an arrow farther than I, you can beat her in this, too. Then, we shall wrestle. If you can defeat me at that, you can defeat her, too."

Beyrek said, "Very well, then. Let us mount."

The two mounted their horses and came out on the field. They spurred their horses, and Beyrek's horse ran faster than the girl's. When they shot their arrows, Beyrek's went farther than the girl's. The girl said: "Oh, young man, no one ever rode faster than I, and no one ever shot an arrow farther than mine. Now let us wrestle."

Beyrek dismounted right away. They grappled with one another like two trained wrestlers. Beyrek tried to knock the girl to the ground, while she sought to make Beyrek lose his balance and fall. Exhausted, Beyrek thought, "If I am beaten by this girl, they will talk my head off and say awful things to my face in the land of the Inner Oghuz." He gathered his strength and finally threw the girl He first tripped her up and caught her by the breast while she
struggled to free herself. Then Beyrek took the girl by her narrow waist and threw her down again, making her fall flat on her back.

The girl said, "Young man, I am Banu Chichek, the daughter of Bay Bichen."

Beyrek kissed the girl three times and bit her once. Then, putting the golden ring from his own finger on the girl's finger, he said: "May your wedding be a happy one, oh, daughter of a khan. Let this be a sign of our engagement
Which rather reminds one of Jingo
"Um, I think Klatchians have a very particular view about women fighting--" Carrot began.
"Yes," said Jabber. "We expect them to be good at it, Blue Eyes. We are D'regs!"
Partial translation is here, not as much fun as the Penguin classic I'm reading.
Tags: reading_08

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