One of the oldest surviving pieces of Turkish literature, The Book of Dede Korkut can be traced to tenth-century origins. Now considered the national epic of Turkey, it is the heritage of the ancient Oghuz Turks and was composed as they migrated westward from their homeland in Central Asia to the Middle East, eventually to settle in Anatolia. Who its primary creator was no one knows, the titular bard, Dede Korkut, being more a symbol of Turkish minstrelsy than a verifiable author. The songs and tales of countless minstrels lay behind The Book of Dede Korkut, and in its oral form the epic was undoubtedly subject to frequent improvisation by individual performers. Partly in prose, partly in verse, these legends were sung or chanted in the courts and camps of political and military leaders. Even after they had been recorded in written form, they remained part of an oral tradition.
The present edition is the first complete text in English. The translators provide an excellent introduction to the language and background of the legends as well as a history of Dede Korkut scholarship. These outstanding tales will be of interest to all students of world mythology and folklore.
Faruk Sümer (1924–1995) was Professor of History at the University of Ankara, Turkey. Ahmet E. Uysal (1922–1997) was editor-in-chief of publications at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Warren S. Walker (1921–2002) was director of the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
"...Dede Korkut stands as a masterwork of [tenth-century] Turkish literature—and perhaps as one of the world's most impressive national epics.... with its action-packed narrative in prose and verse, [it] unfurls a fascinating panorama of Turkish tribal and feudal life—warfare, hunts, festivities, plunders, preternatural phenomena, heroics and love. The socio-political characteristics, cultural values, morals and manners as well as ethnographic features it embodies make the epic a rich source for historians, folklorists and anthropologists."
—Middle East Journal
"The Book of Dede Korkut has been called the Iliad of the Turks.... the stories of Dede Korkut represent and embody the epic élan of a nation's literary imagination... an excellent translation in English.... smooth, highly readable, enlightening."