Azerbaijan International

Autumn 1998 (6.3)
Pages 22-23

A Bride for Khan Turali
Dada Gorgud

Dada GorgudThe following story provides a sample of what this collection of stories in Dada Gorgud is like. This is a synopsis of Episode 6. Hollywood, move over!

Once there was a warrior named Khanli Khoja who had a grown son, a daredevil of a guy, named Khan Turali. One day, Khanli Khoja told his son that it was time for him to settle down and get married.

Khan Turali complained that he couldn't find a suitable wife. "I want a woman who knows how to ride a horse," he said. I want a woman who knows how to shoot arrows. A woman who will go into battle ahead of me and bring back the enemies' heads."

"My son," said Khanli Khoja, "You don't want a girl; you want a bodyguard to look after you while you eat, drink and be merry."

"Yes, Father, whereas you'd rather have me marry some delicate creature who would split open if I even touched her," said Khan Turali.

And so Khan Turali set out with his 40 young men to look for a suitable bride. He looked around the Inner Oguz [one of the tribes featured in "Dada Gorgud"], but he didn't find anyone who met these criteria. So he returned home.Dada Gorgud

His father was frustrated. "That's not how
one goes looking for girls," he said.

"Indeed? Then how does one do it?" asked Khan Turali.

"Never mind," said his father. "You stay home. I'll go look for you."

Photo: On location, filming "Dada Gorgud" (1975).

And so Khanli Khoja went out with his bearded old men to look for a suitable bride. They looked around the Inner Oguz tribe, but they still didn't find anyone. They looked around the Outer Oguz tribe, but again, no one. They wandered on until they came to the land of Trabzon.

Now the king of Trabzon had a very beautiful daughter named Saljan. His daughter was so athletic that she could draw two bows at once, one to her right and one to her left. The arrows she shot never fell to earth.

For her dowry, Saljan had three beasts: a savage lion, a black bull and a black camel. Each one was a monster. The king promised that whoever could kill the three beasts could marry his daughter. Anyone who failed in the attempt would lose his head. Thirty-three suitors had tried already, and their heads were hanging on the castle walls.

When Khanli Khoja saw the beasts and heads of the suitors who had failed, the lice on his head heaped up around his feet. [He was so scared that the lice fell off his head.]

He said, "I'll see if my son is clever enough to kill the beasts; otherwise he'll just have to be satisfied with a local girl."

Khanli Khoja went back home and told his son about the princess and what it would take to win the princess's hand.

Khan Turali said, "You shouldn't have told me this. Now I have to go, or else I'll feel ashamed that I wasn't brave enough to attempt the test." Despite his parents' protests and warnings, Khan Turali went to try his luck.

He and his 40 men rode for seven days and seven nights until they reached Trabzon. When the king asked them why they were there, Khan Turali strutted forward and said, "I've come to marry your daughter."

The king was furious but kept his composure. He said, "You've got a bold tongue. If you think you're so tough, go ahead and give it a try."

To prepare for the fight, Khan Turali was stripped naked and covered with a gold-embroidered loincloth. Princess Saljan, who was watching from the palace, fainted because she saw that Khan Turali was so handsome.

The princess revived and said to her maidens, "I wish Father would give me to this man. It's such a pity that such a warrior should die at the hands of monsters!"

First, they brought on the bull. It had a chain of iron and horns so sharp that it could shred a piece of marble as if it were cheese.

Khan Turali's warriors heard the onlookers predicting his grisly death. They were nervous for him and started to weep.

Khan Turali said to them, "What are you so worried about? Turn loose the bull!"

When the bull came at him, he punched it so hard on the forehead that it was pushed to the other end of the square. They struggled together for a long time, and the bull began to pant and foam at the mouth. Then Khan Turali hurled himself out of the way and the bull planted itself in the ground, horn-first. After he killed the bull, Khan Turali flayed it and brought the hide to the king, saying, "Now give me your daughter."

"Not yet," said the king. "Now, it's time to fight the lion."

The lion was brought into the square. Its roar was so frightening that it made all of the horses piss blood. Khan Turali's men began to weep, crying, "He escaped the bull, but how will he ever escape the fierce lion?"

"Turn loose the lion!" cried Khan Turali.

As the lion charged him, Khan Turali kept his eye on its forehead, then punched it so hard that its jaw shattered. He grabbed the lion by the neck and split him right down the middle. "Now give me your daughter," he told the king.

"Not yet," said the king. "You still have to fight the camel."

The camel was brought into the square. By this time, Khan Turali was feeling a little dazed and tired from having to fight the other two beasts. To everyone's surprise, he slipped and fell.

Once again, his warriors were afraid. They cried, "Don't give up yet! Get up! Don't you see? The princess is trying to tell you that the camel's weak spot is its nose!"

Khan Turali rose to his feet. He said, "If I grab the camel's nose, everyone will say I did that because the girl told me to. Back at home, the gossip will be that I was at the camel's mercy and the girl saved me."

So instead of going for the camel's nose, Khan Turali gave it a kick and knocked it over. Then he slit the camel's throat.

The king said, "From the moment I saw you, I knew there was something I liked about you." He gave his men orders to prepare for the wedding. The minstrel came and played the wedding music.

Khan Turali flew into a rage. He said, "I can't get married if my parents aren't here! I won the princess fair and square. Now I'm going home and I'm taking her with me."

And so Khan Turali took the princess and his men and headed back home. On the way, they stopped to eat and drink and rest for a while. Khan Turali and his men felt sleepy and dozed off. (In those days, whatever bad things happened to warriors tended to happen while they were asleep.)

The princess suspected that they would be followed, so she stayed awake. She quietly took Khan Turali's horse and saddled it, dressed herself for battle and went further up the hill to stand watch.

Sure enough, the king had changed his mind, and was very upset. He cried: "Just because he killed the three beasts doesn't mean he can take my only beloved daughter!"

He and his 600 warriors were chasing after Khan Turali. Luckily, the girl was ready and saw them coming. She woke Khan Turali and told him to prepare for battle. He and his men mounted their horses and went down to face the enemy.

Princess Saljan followed them and fought the enemy until the blade of her sword was covered in blood. When she returned to camp, she found out that Khan Turali was missing. Saljan went to look for him. She found out that his horse had been shot and that Khan Turali had an arrow wound over one eye. He constantly had to wipe the blood away. Enemies had gathered all around him, and he was desperately trying to drive them off.

Saljan raced down to help him drive the enemy away. They scattered. The enemy had been defeated.

Khan Turali got very angry at her. "How dare you attack my enemies without asking my permission? Later on when we're talking about this battle, you'll boast about how Khan Turali was helpless and you saved my life. I can't bear that humiliation - I'll have to kill you."

Princess Saljan protested, and said that it was not like a woman to boast. Khan Turali insisted that she had defiled his honor and that he would have to kill her.

"All right, then," she challenged him, "Let's decide this argument with weapons. Arrows or swords?"

They chose their arrows. Saljan could not bring herself to shoot at him with a pointed arrow, so she removed its head.

"Warrior," she said, "shoot your arrow."

"Ladies first," he said.

Saljan shot the arrow at Khan Turali. She barely missed. The lice in his hair scuttled down to his feet.

Khan Turali went up to her and took her in his arms; they kissed and made up. "Beautiful one," he said, "I could never bring myself to kill you. I was just testing you."

"I'm actually a good hunter, but this time I used an arrow without a point," she said, "I was just testing you. I couldn't kill you either."

They held each other close and kissed. Then they mounted their horses and galloped back to camp.

Once Khanli Khoja and the princess arrived back home, they pitched tents on the grass, slaughtered the best sheep, horses and camels, and had a proper wedding banquet.

"The Book of Dede Korkut" is available in English from Penguin Book Classics (1974). The introduction, translation and notes are by Geoffrey Lewis, 213 pages, ISBN 014-044-2987.

From Azerbaijan International (6.3) Autumn 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.

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