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Book No. 5

To first story in the book press: 142

To last story in the book press: 185

Forty Four Turkish Fairy Tales

Kúnos Ignácz

Forty Four Turkish Fairy Tales, Collected and translated by Dr. Ignácz Kúnos, George G. Harrap & Co. London, 1913

This book draws on the rich folklore of Turkey. Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales is long out of print, for reasons which will become clear below. For one thing, this edition had lavish production standards: it is in an oversize quarto format, with gold deckling, about ten inches in height. It has two-color printing on every page, and 16 tipped (i.e., hand-glued) four-color plates. On the used market, mint copies of this book normally run in the high three figures. We obtained a well-loved (and nicely rebound) copytext for this online edition through interlibrary loan from Northwestern University Library.

Most of these stories are framed by the usual fairy tale apparatus. There are quests to win the hand of a princess, evil step-relations, talking animals, magical objects and transformations, simple (but brave) peasants, wizards and witches, dragons and dungeons, thousand-league journeys, and loveable fools. The majority of these stories contain encounters with Turkish supernatural beings. These are called 'Dews,' known elsewhere in Islamic folklore as 'Devis,' or 'Jin,' Europeanized as 'Genie.' (Sometimes in this book, the Turkish Dew are also called 'Arabs!') These most resemble the giants of European folk tales, with elements of the fairies. The Dews are, more often than not, malevolent towards humans, although they occasionally help the protagonist in their quest. There are many other specifically Turkish elements and terminology in the stories, for which note the helpful glossary at the end of the book. So this isn't simply an orientalized set of European Märchen, but apparently drawn from an authentic Turkish oral storytelling tradition. However, there is no attribution of source for any of these stories; this is not a scholarly study by any means.

There are graphics on nearly every page, with titles and initials in quasi-Arabic script and decorations inspired by Islamic art. The chapter headings even include the title in Arabic script (presumably in Turkish, this being before the 1928 reform which mandated Roman script). Willy Pogany drew the relentlessly comic illustrations: he later illustrated many other books of folklore in a somewhat more sober style. Although he is illustrating Turkish scenes, Pogany uses off-the-shelf European drawing techniques. He does not attempt to emulate local styles, which is a bit of the disconnect from the ornate geometric decorations.

The page layout is wrapped around these graphics, sometimes to the detriment of readability. Often illustrations split the text into two columns which have to be read across each line. No attempt was made to reproduce this layout in an online version. Although we have included all of the illustrations, we had to leave out most of the decorations. Even so, this etext has nearly nine megabytes of graphics, which is an order of magnitude over the normal budget for a project of this size. The illustrations have been repositioned on each page, and we had to do a bit of editing on them to filter out overlapping decorative elements. We retained full color for the plates and the first chapter, but all other graphics were reduced to grayscale. All graphics with associated text have ALT tags for accessibility.

There are a couple of caveats. As is usual with the fairy tale genre, not all of the story elements are 'suitable for children': e.g. beheadings, sacrifices, anthropophagy, and inter-species romance. Another thing to note is that some of the illustrations would be considered unsuitable by contemporary standards because they are caricatures with obvious ethnic stereotypes. However, in most cases, the illustrator is portraying imaginary creatures, which are supposed to be grotesque. We have not censored any of these illustrations, but this should be kept in mind.

--J.B. Hare, August 8, 2006


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

p. x

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

p. xi

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.

I. K.

Meaning of Turkish words used in the text


Religious ablution


Officer, chief


Mythical bird






"In the name of God"




Pipe with long stem




Mendicant monk


Evil spirit



"Essalaam alejkum"

"Peace be upon you"




The characteristic Turkish red cap (formerly made in Fez, Morocco)




Large knife, or dagger, with curved blade


Turkish delight


Teacher, letter-writer


Large-eyed girl figuring in Paradise

p. 362




Head of a religious community


Good spirit


"If it please God"


Evil spirit


Long outer coat of thin material




Palace or villa in a garden






This may be freely rendered "Higgledy-piggledy"


Court chamberlain


Roasted peas


Gold piece, value about 18s. 6d.


Turkish sweetmeat








Pipe with long tube and bowl containing scented water through which the smoke passes before entering the smoker's mouth






Silver piece, value about 21d.


Mutton with rice


An old man


A word used in exorcism

p. 363




Trousers (for men or women)


That part of dwelling where men live




Crown Prince


Chief of Dervishes, master


Student of religious law

"Selámin alejkum"

"Peace be upon you" (salutation); "Ve alejkum selám," And upon you be peace" (response)


An Oriental warming apparatus, in appearance like a round table. A quilt is suspended from the top, and Turkish women sitting round the tandir on their low divans pull this over their feet


A game; backgammon board


Auction agent








Governor of province


Prime minister


"By God!"

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