Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales , at sacred-texts.com
THE stories comprising this collection have been culled with my own hands in the many-hued garden of Turkish folklore. They have not been gathered from books, for Turkey is not a literary land, and no books of the kind exist; but, an attentive listener to "the storytellers" who form a peculiar feature of the social life of the Ottomans, I have jotted them down from time to time, and now present them, a choice bouquet, to the English reading public. The stories are such as may be heard daily in the purlieus of Stamboul, in the small rickety houses of that essentially Turkish quarter of Constantinople where around the tandir the native women relate them to their children and friends.
These tales are by no means identical with, nor do they even resemble, those others that have been assimilated by the European consciousness from Indian sources and the "Arabian Nights." All real Turkish fairy tales are quite independent of those; rather are they related to the Western type so far as their contents and structure are concerned. Indeed, they may only be placed in the category of Oriental tales in that they are permeated with the cult of Islam and that their characters are Moslems. The kaftan encircling their bodies, the turban on their heads, and the slippers on their feet, all proclaim their Eastern origin. Their heroic deeds, their struggles and triumphs, are mostly such as may be found in the folklore of any European people. It is but natural that pagan superstition, inseparable from the ignorant, should be always
cropping up in these stories. Like all real folklore they are not for children, though it is the children who are most strongly attracted by them, and after the children the women. They are mostly woven from the webs of fancy in that delectable realm, Fairyland; since it is there that everything wonderful happens, the dramatis person being as a rule supernatural beings.
Nearly all Turkish stories belong to the category of fairy tales. These marvellous scenes are enacted in that imaginary country wherein Padishahs have multifarious relations with the rulers of the fairy world. The Shahzadas, their sons, or the Sultanas, their daughters, are either the only children of their parents, or else they appear as three or seven brothers or sisters, whose careers are associated with miraculous events from birth onward. Their kismet, or fate, is controlled by all-powerful dervishes or peri-magicians. Throughout their lives, peris, to the number of three, seven, or forty, are their beneficent helpers; while dews, or imps, are the obstructors of their happiness. Besides the dews, there are also ejderha, or dragons, with three, seven, or more heads, to be encountered, and peris in the form of doves to come to the rescue in the nick of time. Each of these supernatural races has its separate realm abounding with spells and enchantments. To obtain these latter, and to engage the assistance of the peris, the princes of the fairy tales set out on long and perilous journeys, during which we find them helped by good spirits (ins) and attacked by evil ones (jins). These spirits appear sometimes as animals, at others as flowers, trees, or the elements of nature, such as wind and fire, rewarding the good and punishing the evil.
The fairyland of the Turks is approached by a threefold road; in most cases the realm can be reached only on the back of a Pegasus, or by the aid of the peris. One must either ascend to the seventh sphere above the earth by the help of the anka-bird, or descend to the seventh sphere below the earth by the help of a dew. A multitude of serais and kiosks are at the disposal of the heroes of the tales; thousands of birds of gayest
plumage warble their tuneful lays, and in the flower-gardens the most wonderful odours intoxicate the senses.
Turkish fairy tales are as crystal, reflecting the sun's rays in a thousand dazzling colours; clear as a cloudless sky; and transparent like the dew upon a budding rose. In short, Turkish fairy tales are not the stories of the Thousand and One Nights, but of the Thousand and One Days.