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The Art of the Turkish Tale

Keloglan and Koroglu's Horse Kirat




Once there was and once there wasn't a keloglan. This keloglan was poor, so poor that he said daily, "O Allah, what is to become of me? I have had no chance at all in life!"


Then one day he heard a town crier shouting, "Whoever will steal Koroglu's horse Kirat and bring that horse to Hasan Pasha will be made the pasha's vizier!"


"Ah," said Keloglan, "at last good fortune has come my way. Who else would try that dangerous task? All I can lose is this bald head if I should fail." And he went into Hasan Pasha's presence. "My pasha," he said, "I shall bring you the horse you seek."


Hasan Pasha looked at that ragged runt of a keloglan and laughed. Still, he did want Koroglu's magic horse, and no one else had offered to seek it for him. "Very well, then, Keloglan. Go and may your way be open."


Keloglan set out, walking, walking, walking, until he came to Koroglu's stronghold at Camlibel. He sat down just outside the gate. When Koroglu came home, he found Keloglan there, still sitting. "Son, what are you doing here? Where did you come from, and where are you going?"


"Oh, sir," Keloglan said, "I am poor and I have nowhere else to go. For the love of Allah, take care of me."


"Very well," Koroglu said. "I am known for my charity to the poor. I'll, have you washed and well dressed, and give you food and a place to sleep.'


"Charity is not what I ask," Keloglan said. "I ask only a chance to work for my bread and cheese. Fine clothes are not for me. And I can sleep in the stable. Only give me some useful work to do."


"If that is what you ask, let it be so," said Koroglu. Then, turning to one of his men, he said, "Give this keloglan a horse to take care of. We'll see what he can do."


Keloglan went with the man to Koroglu's stables. At the very end of the third stable was a thin, weak horse barely able to stand on its four feet. "Now, there's a horse for you," said the man. "Let's see what you can do with this one!" And he left Keloglan with that sickly steed.


But Keloglan was determined, and stubborn besides. Week after week after week he fed that horse and watered him and curried him. And at night, after all the other grooms had fallen asleep, Keloglan went from stall to stall gathering the barley given to the rest of the horses and taking it for his own horse to eat. Week by week by week, his horse grew stronger and healthier, until it was the best-looking, strongest horse in the stable.


Now, Koroglu used to wander through his three stables, saying nothing but looking carefully at the condition of all the horses. When Keloglan's horse became so strong and healthy, Koroglu observed it, but still he said nothing. The other grooms noticed the change, too, and they grumbled among themselves. "He was given the worst horse in the stables. but now look at it!" one said. "What can we do to him?"


"And he will surely make our work look bad," said another. "We must do something about that keloglan!"


Koroglu overheard this talk, and he went to Keloglan. "Son," he said, "don't let the other grooms know about it, but take this money and buy some good foods and drinks and prepare a feast for all the grooms. Buy some lambs to roast, and give the grooms plenty to eat and drink."


Keloglan had the food and the drinks prepared, and they all feasted in a field well away from the stables. The rest of the grooms ate and ate and drank and drank, and even Ayvaz, hero that he was, joined in the merrymaking. As for Keloglan, he ate a bit of lamb, but he touched not a drop of the drink. He just kept filling the mugs of the rest until they were all so drunk that they fell sound asleep, horol, horol.


"Ayvaz! Ayvaz!" called Keloglan, but Ayvaz, too, was beyond waking. "Ah," Keloglan said to himself, "here is the opportunity I have been waiting for!" Reaching into Ayvaz's sash, he took from it the keys to the stables. Hurrying to the first stable, he opened it and went directly to Kirat's stall. He tried and tried to unlock the gate of the stall, but the key would not turn.


"Aman!" he said. "I've come just this close to winning what I came for!" Then he saw Durat in the next stall, with the gate unlocked. "How will Hasan Pasha know the difference between Kirat and Durat?" he said. "I'll take Durat, instead." And, saddling and mounting Durat, he rode away from the stable and well along on his way home.


Let's leave him riding along and return to Ayvaz and the rest of the grooms. After their sound sleep, they awoke and looked for Keloglan. But where was he? He was gone! Ayvaz felt here and there in his sash for the keys to the stables, but they, too, were gone. "Eyvah!" he shouted. "The keys are gone. That keloglan has probably stolen Kirat!"


Running to the first stable, Ayvaz found the key to Kirat's stall still stuck useless in the lock. "Allah be praised!" he said. "Kirat is still safe!" Then, looking for Durat, he found that one gone. "Aman, aman, Allah! Where is Durat?" he said. He searched all three stables, but Durat was nowhere to be found.


Troubled, he went to Koroglu. "That keloglan you liked so much has run off with Durat. He tried to take Kirat, but he couldn't open the lock on that stall."


"Oh, my Ayvaz, that's nothing to worry about. Kirat, the darling of my eyes, is still safe, Allah be thanked! Go back now to your regular work."


But Ayvaz was still angry about the loss of Durat, and he said, "You made such a favourite of Keloglan. See now what he has done to us!"


"Go back to your work, my son, and fret no more," said Koroglu. But Ayvaz still stood there, and this made Koroglu himself think more seriously about the loss. After three or five minutes of thought, he ordered, "Bring Kirat to me!"


Mounting Kirat, Koroglu galloped in pursuit of Keloglan and the stolen horse. As was always true when Kirat galloped, a huge cloud of dust rose behind him. Seeing that cloud of dust, Keloglan said, "Aman aman, Allah! Koroglu himself is coming! What can I do? He will surely kill me for abusing his trust!"


As he fled, Keloglan saw a mill nearby. Galloping to the mill, he dismounted and said to the miller, "Koroglu has heard that you have been cheating farmers who bring grain to be ground, and he is coming after you! You have a wife and children. Give me your clothes in exchange for mine and then run to your house and hide. Let him cut off my worthless head if he is going to kill anybody."


Quickly, the miller and Keloglan exchanged clothes and dressed, and then the miller ran to his house. As for Keloglan, he smeared flour over his face and over the miller's cap.


Just then, Koroglu rode up to the mill and called out, "Miller! Miller! There was a keloglan who came here. See! Here is the horse he was riding! But where is Keloglan?" When Keloglan pointed to the house, Koroglu dismounted. "Here, miller. Hold my horse while I go after that keloglan!" Then he ran to the house and roared, "Come out! Come out!"


The miller was terrified. He came running out of the house, saying, "Believe me! I didn't take too much of the wheat! I took only what was right."


"What are you talking about?" said Koroglu. "I care nothing about your wheat. Aren't you a keloglan?"


"No, I'm not. That keloglan traded clothes with me and then ordered me to run to my house. He is probably still at the mill."


Koroglu rushed back to the mill, but when he got there, he saw Keloglan riding back and forth on Kirat. Keloglan called to him, "Koroglu, I have made a promise which I hope you will understand."


"What is it?"


"I cannot tell you at this time, but trust me. I have a certain promise which I have to keep. After that, I premise to return Kirat to you with my own hands."


"Don't take Kirat, Keloglan! You have eaten my bread. Remember your obligation!"


"I have an earlier obligation which I must keep. Koroglu, depend upon me. I shall not forget either your bread or my promise to you." Then, spurring Kirat, Keloglan rode off.


Quickly, Koroglu mounted Durat. He could have stopped Kirat if he had tried hard enough. Kirat was flying through the air, but Keloglan did not know that Durat, though younger, could also fly. Koroglu decided, however, not to catch Kirat. He would instead find another means of recovering his horse. He called out, "Hey, Keloglan! I have the power to catch you, but I shall not, for Kirat has his pride, too. I shall not let anyone say that Durat caught Kirat!"


Keloglan spurred Kirat to fly even faster, and they passed out of that place. So that he would know the place toward which Keloglan was taking Kirat, Koroglu rode along on the ground beneath Klrat, and he kept up with them until they had entered the mountains. But then how could he follow them? Was he a bird? He dismounted and walked back some distance toward Camlibel. Then, seeing that Durat was badly winded. Koroglu took off Durat's saddle and carried it on his own back.


Meanwhile, what had become of Ayvaz? He had been pacing back and forth, watching for Koroglu's return. "Where has Koroglu been all this time?" he asked himself. Suddenly he noticed a peddler coming along the road with his pack on his back. Calling to Koroglu's wife, Ayvaz said, "Nigâr, come out! A peddler is coming. He's the first peddler to come our way in seven years. You can probably buy three or five things from him."


"Yes, I shall. You are right, Ayvaz. No peddler has come this way in seven years."


But when they looked more closely, they saw that the person was not a peddler at all. It was Koroglu, leading a horse by its bridle and carrying its saddle upon his own back.


Koroglu arrived at last, and sat down on the doorstep. "Ayvaz, bring me a cup of coffee. I am greatly upset." Ayvaz just stood there, amazed that Durat, not Kirat, had come with Koroglu. Koroglu spoke again. "My son, don't just stand there! Get me some coffee. I am feeling depressed."


Ayvaz went on inside and laid out the cups and began to boil the coffee. Once more, Koroglu spoke. "My son, bring me my coffee. I feel depressed." Then Ayvaz poured the coffee and took it to him.


As Koroglu drank his coffee, he said to himself, "What can I do to restore both my horse and my honour?" Not only then, but all night long he lay awake, thinking and planning. By dawn, he had decided what to do. "Ayvaz!" he called. "You know where I keep my seven different disguises. Bring me my dervish costume and my white false beard. Prepare everything I need, including my pen and my pen case." All these things were brought to him.


Then, putting on his dervish costume and attaching his white beard, Koroglu started walking down the road toward the place he had last seen Keloglan and Kirat. He walked and walked and walked, across plains and through valleys, over mountains and along plateaus, until he came to the territory of Hasan Pasha.


Just inside the border he saw a farmer plowing. Going to this farmer, he said, "My son, do you have a piece of bread you could give me? I have not eaten in three or five days, and I am hungry."


"Don't bother me now!" said the farmer. "I want to finish my plowing so that I can go to look at Koroglu's horse. A keloglan has stolen that horse and brought it for Hasan Pasha."


"Does that horse belong to Hasan Pasha or to Koroglu?"


"It belongs to Hasan Pasha! After all, who is that Koroglu? He is a nobody!"


"Oh, is that so? My son, I feel sorry for you. You are eager to go, but you have all this plowing to do. Why don't you go and change your clothes and leave me to do the plowing for you?"


The farmer left the plowing to that dervish and hurned to his house. After the farmer had left the field, Koroglu plowed for a few minutes and then unfastened the plowing from the oxen and walked slowly with them along the road.


Very soon he was overtaken by a lame man limping along as fast as he could go. Koroglu said to him, "My son, where are you going in such a hurry?"


"Don't ask me, father! A cursed keloglan has stolen Koroglu's horse and brought it for Hasan Pasha. I am not going to see that coward Hasan Pasha. I am going because I am embarrassed for Koroglu." After saying this. the cripple began to cry.


"Son, is that horse suitable for Hasan Pasha or for Koroglu?"


"It is not at all suitable for a coward like Hasan Pasha. It is the very eyes of the hero Koroglu."


"All right, son," said Koroglu. "These oxen are yours. I give them to you freely. Accept me tonight as the guest of Allah and then spread the word tomorrow that a dervish, a hoca with holy healing powers, has come to the village. Say that this hoca can cure illnesses, can give peace to people with troubled minds, and can restore the insane to sanity. Do this, and do not worry about anything else."


In the morning the lame man went directly to Hasan Pasha and said, "Hasan Pasha, may you live long! The grooms have given your new horse food and water, but it will neither eat nor drink. All it does is to urinate here and there and paw the earth in its stall. The grooms have become afraid of it."


"Well, what can be done?"


"A very wise hoca, a healing hoca, has come to the village. He is able to cure all kinds of illnesses," the lame man said.


"Bring that hoca here," ordered the pasha. When the lame man returned with Koroglu, Hasan Pasha said, "Hoca, can you restore sanity to the insane?"


"Oh, that is the kind of healing I do best!"


"Well, if it is within your power, restore sanity to my mad new horse. I shall pay you whatever you ask for this important work. Come with me to the stable."


When they had arrived at the stable, Koroglu took his pen and his pen holder and a small square piece of paper from his sash and began to write something down on the paper. Then he said, "Bring me a caldron of water." When this caldron had been brought, he recited something to the water, he blew upon it, and then he began to write down something about it. He then said, "All right, now. The cure has begun. Don't try to come close to the mad horse. I'll be able now to move closer to him by reciting and blowing.'


"All right, hoca."


As the hoca slowly moved closer to the stable door, Hasan Pasha called to the keloglan, who by now had become a vizier. "Come and watch the way this hoca heals the horse you brought."


Keloglan recognised Koroglu immediately, despite the dervish disguise. He well remembered the promise that he had made to Koroglu at the mill, and he resolved to keep that promise. "Ah," he said. "How fine that you have found a healing hoca!" And he gave no sign of recognition.


They opened the stable door, and the horse, already excited at catching the scent of Koroglu, became even wilder when he saw him. "Beware, hoca!' they shouted. "He will knock you down!"


"Let him knock me down if he wishes," said Koroglu. "As for you, stay well away for your own safety." Then, approaching the horse, he took off Kirat's saddle and bridle. "Bring five measures of barley," he said as he groomed Kirat as no one else could possibly do. When the barley was brought, Koroglu said, "Now bring a large quantity of water." Thus he fed and watered his horse well. And all the while, he was speaking softly to Kirat.


"May Allah bless you, hoca!" the people called. "Now may we come nearer?"


"No, you must not risk coming any closer. I can recite lines to keep him calm, but you do not know how to do that. And only I can get him through the stable door. I'll mount him and ride him back and forth a little so that he, will become accustomed to it. Then your pasha will also be able to mount him.'


The hoca resaddled and rebridled Kirat, with all the people watching through the stable door. But some of them began talking among themselves about this hoca. One said, "How is it that the mad horse has suddenly become so calm? That hoca must be Koroglu himself!"


But Keloglan, standing nearby, overheard them and said, "Who are you to know Koroglu? I stayed with him for three or five weeks before I was able to steal the horse, and I would know him if I saw him. I see no Koroglu; I see only a healing hoca." And the rest fell silent.


Koroglu now mounted the horse, but he purposely mounted Kirat backward, for he had great confidence now. When Hasan Pasha saw this, he called, "Aha! You are Koroglu himself. We all know that now, so you might as well mount the horse properly." But Koroglu, joyous at being once more on Kirat's back, just tossed his head and continued to ride as he was.


"Bring out soldiers to surround him, for he may try to take the horse away!" Hasan Pasha ordered. As the soldiers came out, Koroglu began singing to the horse:


"Kirat, my life, my eyes, my pride!


He who can mount you is a bey.


Your double wings on either side


Lift you until you fly away.


"You wear your six years well. Aha!


Your legs are strong; your head is fine.


Your brother bears the Persian shah.


Glitter, Kirat! Let's see you shine!"


Hasan Pasha called, "Koroglu, we recognise you now. You are no healing hoca at all! And we know the Persian shah owns Kirat's brother. Now mount the horse properly."


Koroglu dismounted, bowed, and remounted. Then he said, "Haydi! Try to stop us now! We are going, Kirat and I!" He looked this way and that way, and then the horse began to rise, flying straight into the skies.


"Stop him! Stop him!" shouted Hasan Pasha, but his shouting was useless. He could do nothing but gather his soldiers again.


Now, Hasan Pasha was engaged to be married, and the wedding was soon to start. Koroglu had one more trick to play before he left, so as soon as he had left Hasan Pasha behind, he had Kirat descend to the street. `From which house will the bride come?" he asked some boys, and they pointed out the house. Koroglu rode Kirat right to that door, and-Tak! Tak! Tah!-he knocked.


When the girl came to the door Koroglu held out his hand. "For the love of Allah, give me a piece of bread," he said. The girl brought the bread, but as she was handing it to him, he said, "Step a little closer, my daughter. I can't quite reach it." When she came closer, he grabbed her by the arm and carried her off.


Her neighbour ran at once to Hasan Pasha with the news. "Hear, now, my pasha! While you have been thinking about your horse, you've lost your bride! Your engagement has been broken."


Hasan Pasha lined up his soldiers in ranks to trap the horse and its riders. Furthermore, he had his hocas recite prayers and blow curses after Kirat Their power was so great that it succeeded in blinding the eyes of Kirat.


When Koroglu and the girl reached a stream, that stream seemed a sea to Kirat, and he stepped back in confusion. Understanding Kirat's condition, Koroglu talked and sang to the horse:


"Downhill as prompt as a partridge you run;


Uphill as rapid as rabbits you race.


Now like a new-wed bride in the sun


Go, my Kirat, with that light in your face."


Again, Kirat stepped toward the stream, and again those incantations of the hocas drew him back. Despairing, Koroglu cried, "O Allah, they have somehow blinded the eyes of my horse. Open his eyes again, I pray!" Allah heard this prayer and opened Kirat's eyes. He crossed the water and ascended a steep rock on the other side.


By now, however, the soldiers were right behind them and they crossed the stream and surrounded the rock. Once Kirat had come down from the rock, both Koroglu and the girl would become Hasan Pasha's prisoners.


But Koroglu was unafraid. "See!" he said to the girl. "There comes your groom."


"Yes, I see him," said the girl, "but you are worth three or five of that one!" For she had fallen in love with this hero.


"Shall we take his pilav away from him?" asked Koroglu.


"No. Instead, let us save our lives now."


"What lives? What do you have in mind?" Koroglu said.


"Nothing. Oh, nothing."


"I am a brave man."


"Then what can I say? If you are a brave man, do whatever you will." Koroglu now began to sing, threatening Hasan Pasha and his troops:


"Thirty-two heroes have come from the stream,


Thirty-two heroes with swords drawn to fight.


Those who remain will be naught but a dream;


Those who flee now will sleep safely tonight."


Hasan Pasha and his soldiers retreated before the attack of Koroglu's thirty-two warriors, who had just arrived. As for Koroglu, he climbed down from the rock, snatched Hasan Pasha's dish of pilav, and took it to the girl After she had eaten her fill, the whole group started out for Camlibel.


When they arrived at the gate of the stronghold, Ayvaz saw the girl with Koroglu and he thought, "Oh-h-h, how beautiful! " And he watched as they entered the courtyard.


Noticing Ayvaz's attention to the girl, Koroglu began to sing again:


"Oh, Ayvaz, this girl is a beauty, 'tis true.


Unmatched are her eyes and her slender waist.


But she's sweetheart neither for me nor for you.


Her flavours can no one at Camlibel taste."


"Do you bring her here as our sister, then?" asked Ayvaz. "From where has she come?"


"Oh, Ayvaz, my son, I understand your feelings, and that is why I sang as I did. I am a brave man, and I do not lie. Nor does any man steal my horse without losing a member of his family. Hasan Pasha stole my Kirat, and, in return, I stole his fiancée. But Kirat has been recovered unharmed, and this girl will likewise be restored unharmed. She is my sister and yours, both in this world and in the next. Ayvaz, you are to take her to the stream and leave her there."


Then turning to the girl, Koroglu said, "I shall return you in the same condition in which I found you. To steal a family member from one who steals my horse is a matter of principle for me, but I go no farther. For me to behave otherwise would be unfitting to my dignity."


Though the girl herself did not want to leave, she had no choice but to go. Thus Koroglu had fair and honourable revenge for the theft of his faithful Kirat.