Ker-ogly

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ker-ogly

 

(also Keroglu), a folk epic found throughout the Near East and Middle Asia. Composed about the 17th century, the epic may be divided into a western variant (the Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish, Adzhar, and Turkish versions, derived from the Azerbaijan epic Ker-ogly) and an eastern variant (the Turkmen Gerogly, Uzbek and Kazakh Gorogly, and Tadzhik Gurugli, or Gurguli).

In all the western versions the hero is a popular avenger and poet whose life’s aim is to punish the tyrant who blinded his father (Ker-ogly means “blind man’s son”). Prose stories about the feats of Ker-ogly alternate with poetic sections, epic and lyrical songs, attributed to the hero himself. The epic seems to be partly historical and partly legendary, preserving traces of the exploits of a historical Ker-ogly, as he appears in documents from the 16th to the 17th century (the writings of the Armenian historian Arakel of Tabriz; archival materials in the National Library in Istanbul).

Ker-ogly personifies the popular ideal of the hero, the just and honest ruler. The western versions contain many biographical and everyday details, attesting to the fact that epic legends had not yet become heroic epics. Ker-ogly in many western versions resembles the “noble brigand.” The Turkish version in Anatolia and the Balkans is a short tale whose protagonist is a fugitive struggling against the local feudal lord Bolu-bey and avenging himself for a personal wrong.

The Middle Asian versions have common features that distinguish them from the western forms of the epic. The hero was born from his dead mother in her grave (his name, Gerogly, translates as “son of the grave”). In these versions the protagonist is an epic hero, a just ruler of noble lineage. He and his 40 daring followers defend their homeland from neighboring feudal lords. In all these versions, the hero lives in the fairy-tale land of Chambel, or Shamlybel, where equality and brotherhood reign. The Middle Asian versions absorbed many fairy-tale and fantasy elements. Large parts of the Uzbek and Kazakh versions and the entire Tadzhik version are in verse.

REFERENCES AND TEXTS

Ker-ogly: vostochnyi poet-naezdnik. Tiflis, 1856.
Kerogly. Baku, 1959.
Gorogly. Ashkhabad, 1958.
Zhirmunskii, V. M., and Kh. T. Zarifov. Uzbekskii narodnyi geroicheskii epos. Moscow, 1947.
Karryev, B. A. Epicheskie skazaniia o Ker-ogly u tiurkoiazychnykh narodov. Moscow, 1968.
Korogly, Kh. “Novaia versiia Keroglu.” In Teoreticheskie problemy vostochnykh literatur. Moscow, 1969.

KH. G. KOROGLY

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.