The most famous collectors of folk stories remain, at least in the West, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, but many others followed in their influential wake. Among them was Ignác Kúnos (1860-1945), who compiled this volume of Turkish fairytales in the same tradition. A Hungarian-born linguist, Kúnos also had an interest in the Turkish dialect and folk tradition, and collected several volumes of oral fairytales, not through reading and study, but by travelling around the Turkish country and listening to storytellers.
We will introduce You with one out of 44 collected stories; The Magic Mirror
THERE was once a Padishah who had three sons. He also possessed a mirror, in which he looked every morning on rising, seeing therein everything that was to happen during the day. He got up one morning and went about his affairs without remembering to look in the mirror. When he had finished his duties he recollected the omission, and hastened to repair it; but to his sorrow the mirror was not to be found. Search was made everywhere, but all in vain.
Worrying over his loss brought on an illness, and, seeing their father’s condition, his sons inquired the cause. ” I am grieving for the loss of my fine mirror,” he answered them. Then said his sons: “Do not give yourself so much pain, father, but grant us permission to seek the mirror.” His sons’ request caused the Padishah much happiness, for if the mirror was not soon found he felt he would die of grief. He gladly gave the desired permission, and the three brothers set out on their journey.
After long travelling they came to a place where three roads branched off. In the midst of the place was a stone, on which was inscribed the direction of the several roads. The first was the strollers’ way, the second the way to the inn, and the third the way by which none ever returned. The eldest brother chose the first, the middle brother the second, and the youngest brother the third road. Before parting they agreed to leave their rings under the stone, and to take them up again when and if they returned. We will now let the two eldest go their respective ways, and follow the ad ventures of the youngest brother. On arriving at the top of a mountain he caught sight of a Dew-mother, who was about to make helwa. Hastening up to her he embraced her, calling her “Mother.”
“Oh, little son,” said the Dew-woman kindly, “if you had not called me ‘Mother’ I should have torn you asunder.” “And if you had not called me ‘little son,'” retorted the youth, “I should have cut you down with my sword.” Then the Dew mother asked him whence he came, whither he went, and wherefore he was there. He told her he was a Padishah’s son, seeking a mirror which his father had lost. “Oh, my son,” said the woman, “this mirror has been carried off by the Dews. They have taken it to their garden, where it is jealously guarded.
When you arrive there you will find all the Dews. If their eyes are open you may be quite certain they are asleep. Fear not; go forward in confidence and fetch the mirror. Every tree in the garden is covered with diamonds and precious stones; take care not to touch them, or you are lost.”
The youth was grateful for the woman’s instructions, and went his way. After long wandering he came to the garden of the Dews, and as he approached he saw them all asleep with their eyes wide open. Remembering the words of the Dew-mother, he went boldly into the garden, took the mirror, and started back. “Now,” thought he to himself, “as they are all asleep, they would be none the wiser if I broke off a branch of these bejewelled trees.” No sooner did he stretch forth his hand to pluck a branch than the Dews all rose up as one man and demanded: “By what right have you dared to come here?” The youth, now terrified, implored them to be merciful to him. They agreed to set him free and let him keep the mirror on condition that he brought them as a ransom the sword of Arab-Uzengi.
Pledging his word, the youth was allowed to return to the Dew-mother, to whom he related his difficulty. “Did I not warn you not to touch their property?” scolded the old woman. “What is to be done now?” Expressing deep sorrow for his fault, he implored the Dew-mother to advise him further. Pitying the youth, she instructed him as follows: “By following a certain path you will arrive at a serai with two doors; the one open, the other shut. Shut the open door, open the closed door, and enter. On your right hand you will find a lion with a piece of meat beside him; on your left a dog with grass near him. Give the grass to the lion and the meat to the dog, then ascend the stairs. In his chamber you will find Arab-Uzengi asleep, his sword hanging on the wall. Take it quickly, and lose no time in returning here. But beware of withdrawing the sword from its sheath.”
The youth now set out again, and in due course reached the serai.Opening one door and closing the other, he entered. Giving the grass to the lion and the meat to the dog, he mounted to the giant’s chamber. When he entered the apartment of Arab-Uzengi he saw the sword hanging from the wall; to take it down and flee from the palace was the work of a moment.
When he was drawing nigh to the dwelling of the Dew-mother he thought he was quite out of danger, so he drew the sword from its sheath, and suddenly found himself in the hands of Arab-Uzengi. “Now I will make you feel my power!” roared the giant, as he dragged the youth back to his palace.
The Dew-woman had prepared the youth for what he might expect if he should have the misfortune to be taken prisoner by Arab-Uzengi. Every day for forty days the giant would give him a lesson on transformation, and at the close of the lesson, when he was asked, “Dost know it?” he must unfailingly reply, “I know it not.”
Thus it came to pass that for forty days the youth underwent instruction from the giant, who at the end of every lesson beat him and asked, “Dost know it?” The youth remembered always to answer, “I know it not.” When the forty days had expired Arab-Uzengi set him free on condition that he would bring him the daughter of the Peri-Padishah.
The youth went back to the Dew-mother and told her what had happened to him. “Did I not warn you not to draw the sword!” she screamed, and scolded him more severely than before. Nevertheless she yielded to his earnest prayers to help him still once more. She informed him that the Peri-Princess lived in a certain town where there were no men and where it was impossible for any man to approach her; besides which the maiden had a talisman. If any man should succeed in entering the town, however, her talisman would cease to be effective, and thus he could do whatever he desired with her. “Not only Arab-Uzengi but also the Dews are in love with the Peri-Princess,” said the Dew-woman; “and these latter would have carried her off years ago but were unable to overcome her talisman.”
“Then how is it possible for me to come near her?” sighed the youth despairingly.
“Hast learnt nothing at all, then, from Arab-Uzengi?” demanded the Dew-woman.
“I have certainly learnt how to transform myself into a bird,” he answered.
“Then it is well, my son,” said the woman. “Change yourself into a bird and fly into the maiden’s palace. In the garden is a stone cage; by getting into that you will destroy the Princess’s talisman and she will be at your mercy. Then take her and deliver her to Arab-Uzengi.”
So the youth changing himself into a bird, flew straight to the town, and from thence to the garden of the serai. Finding the stone cage he entered it, and from that moment the Princess’s talisman was of no effect. By that token she knew that the bird was really a man.
“Now, son of earth,” said the Peri-Princess to the youth, “I have become a mortal creature like yourself; you have nothing to fear; henceforth I belong to you entirely.” Upon this the bird shook himself and resumed his human form. Now the Princess proclaimed that there was no longer any restriction surrounding her, men and women might enter the town freely. She also notified her father of what had happened, and that she had become the bride of a mortal. The youth told her that he was the son of a Padishah and that their wedding should take place with suitable pomp at his father’s palace. He then prepared to return, taking the maiden with him.
So they came nigh to the palace of Arab-Uzengi, the Princess divined the youth’s intention and began to weep bitterly. He calmed her, however, explaining that he was obliged to take her there to save his own life, but promised not to leave her with the giant–rather he would perish first.
When they reached the palace gates Arab-Uzengi, seeing them, cried with a loud voice: “Away, away! come not here! As you were able to take the Princess you are capable of anything–all things are possible unto you. Keep the maiden and the sword; only come not near me!
Thence went the youth with the maiden and the sword to the garden of the Dews; and as soon as the Dews saw that he had the sword, they shouted: “Away, away! Come not here! We fear you, for if you could take the sword of Arab-Uzengi and also the Peri-Princess, all things are possible unto you. As you have the maiden, the sword, and the mirror, keep also the branch you broke from the tree in our garden.”
Having now done all that was expected of him, the youth escorted the maiden to the Dew-mother’s house, where, after resting awhile, they bade farewell and proceeded on their homeward journey.
After long wanderings they came to the spot where the three brothers had parted many months before. Examining the stone the youngest saw that all the rings were still there. ” What can have happened to my brothers?” he asked himself; and while he was musing he saw them in the distance, but in such a disreputable and forlorn condition that they hardly resembled human beings at all. He was nevertheless glad to see them safe, and they related how it had fared with them. Seeing that their youngest brother had the beautiful maiden and the magic mirror, jealousy and rage entered the hearts of the two elder. They pursued their way, and, thirst overcoming them, they sought a means of quenching it. Ere long they came to a well with an iron cover, and the two eldest suggested that the youngest should be let down by means of a rope to fill the jug with water. When he had done this, however, he found that his brothers had abandoned him to his fate at the bottom of the well. They left behind his horse, but took the maiden with them, saying to her that their brother would follow a little later.
When the youth realised that his brothers had forsaken him he wept and lamented bitterly. The elders in due course arrived at their royal father’s palace and gave him back the magic mirror which they said they had recovered. As for their youngest brother, they denied having seen him again since they parted to go their several ways. The Padishah, in his exceeding joy at the restoration of his mirror, soon forgot the loss of his youngest son, and ordered preparations to be made for the marriage of the Peri-Princess with the eldest Prince.
Let us now return to the youth in the well. His horse, suffering terribly from hunger and thirst, stamped continually with its hoofs on the lid of the well, which at length broke. Hearing the neighing of his horse the youth made one supreme effort, and with indescribable difficulty succeeded in climbing to the top.
He now made the best of his way to the palace of his father, whose joy at seeing his long-lost son knew no bounds. Wrathful at the perfidious cruelty of the two eldest towards their youngest brother, the Padishah had them both put to death, after which he betrothed the Peri-Princess to her real lover, who had won her and rescued her from so much peril. The marriage feast lasted forty days and forty nights, and they lived happily ever after.