The Dede Korkut Ethic
The Book of Dede Korkut is an early record of oral Turkic folktales in Anatolia, one of the mythic charters of Turkish nationalist ideology. Curiously, European interest in the Book antedates modern Turkish interest by almost a century. The Dede Korkut tale of a one-eyed, man-eating giant named Tepegoz bears a striking resemblance to the story of Polyphemus in book 9 of the Odyssey. In what follows the Dede Korkut ethic will be analyzed as an aspect of Oghuz pastoral tradition. The story of Tepegoz will then be compared to the story of Polyphemus in order to confirm the distinctiveness of this ethic as an argument about the relationship of person and society. This carries the discussion of the Book to a new ground: Why did an author choose to present a cycle of oral tales as a statement of a Turkic outlook on personal identity and social relations? And given the intense interest in the Book, in Turkey today, what is the significance of this statement for Turkish national identity?

The Book of Dede Korkut, Polyfem, Ethics, Turkish national identity.