This story is not quite as scary as its title, but it is certainly a little darker than some of our tales. It is a powerful fable about a man who boasted too much, and was cured of his pride by a brush with death.
Bertie would like to thank Adem from Turkey for suggesting this story. Adem works in a primary school in a small village, and he and the students in his class are Storynory listeners.
As several people have pointed out in the comments below, this story is a little fanciful, and its authenticity as a genuine piece of Turkish folklore is in doubt. The real Dede Korkut was an author of epic tales from the 15th C. See Wikipedia.
We’ve closed the comments on this story, as Bertie has simply became bored of replying to the same people making the same points over and over again.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Read by Natasha. Adapted by Bertie. Duration 11.10
There was once a great warrior called Dede Korkut. He and his men swept across the earth conquering lands far and wide, and as his power and wealth grew, so did his pride. He began to believe that he was invincible, and perhaps even immortal. After one particularly great victory in battle, he held a feast in his palace for seven days and seven nights on end. On the seventh night he called for the music and dancing to cease, and he made the following speech:
“Men. We have conquered all before us. There is no force on earth that can hold us back. We are the greatest army that has ever lived and fought. I challenge all creation to stand and fight us, and still we shall prevail, so long as I, Dede Korkut, am your leader.”
When the leader had finished speaking, there was cheering and uproar throughout the palace and the celebrations continued among great merriment and rejoicing. However, God was also listening to the proud speech of Dede Korkut. He was displeased at his arrogance and boasting, so God ordered Az’rail, his Angel of Death, to visit Dede Korkut and take his soul.
Az’rail flew into the palace and stood on the table in front of where Dede Korkut was feasting. The leader looked up at the intruder and said, “Dark warrior, who are you to stand before me so insolently?”
Az’rail replied, “I am not one to answer questions from the likes of you, for I am here to punish your arrogance and boasting.”
Dede Korkut was far from used to hearing such defiance and rude words directed at him. He was filled with rage and jumped up on to the table meaning to cut off the head of the dark stranger. But before he could do so, Az’rail changed into the form of a bird and flew out of the window.
Dede Korkut rushed to the stables and ordered his horse to be saddled immediately. Soon he was charging out of the palace in pursuit of the angel. First he saw him in the moonlight standing on the highest tower of the palace, then he too saw him take off with a wingspan far greater than any bird he had seen before. He charged after him, firing arrows and hurling javelins into the sky, but none came near the dark bird. He pursued him out of the city and into the forest. Deeper and deeper into the forest he went, following the terrible screeches and cries of the bird, when suddenly the angel appeared before him.
“At last you’re mine,” said Dede Korkut, meaning to run him through with his lance.
“No, you are mine,” said the figure before him. “For I am Az’rail, the Angel of Death, and I have come for your soul. You boasted that you were immortal and invincible. Now the moment of your death has come, oh arrogant one.”
At these words, Dede Korkut threw himself on the ground before the angel and said, “Now that I look death in the face, I understand the arrogance of my life. But I beseech you, kind angel, spare me. Give back to me the remaining years of my youth and strength, and I swear that through my words and my deeds I will prove that I have learned my lesson.”
To which the Angel replied, “I do not decide such things. I am but a messenger from the Almighty.”
Dede Korkut cried out, “Then get out of my way and stop wasting my time!” And he fell on the ground and began to pray to God.
“Forgive my boasting, oh Lord of All Creation, and give me another chance”.
God heard his words and was pleased, and he ordered the angel to spare Dede Korkut his life, on condition that he could find another who was ready of his own free will to give up his own life for that of Dede Korkut’s.
Dede Korkut rode back to the palace a changed man. He felt sure that all he had to do was to ask his father to take his place in death, for he was an old man, and had never refused his son anything. But when he came before his father and gave him his request, his father replied, “My son. I have struggled all my life so that I can enjoy my old age. I am sorry, but I am not ready to die in your place.”
Dede Korkut was surprised and disappointed, but he thought that surely his mother would not refuse him anything. But when he asked her she said, “Oh my son! I have already given my life to you many times, when I gave birth to you, when I fed you with my own milk, when I took care of you. Now the rest of my life belongs at your father’s side, as company for his old age.”
The young warrior was left disappointed and distraught. He returned to his chamber and prepared to die. When his young and beautiful wife saw him, she asked what troubled him and he said, “Beloved, the Angel of Death is about to take my life unless I can find someone willing to die in my place. Yet it seems that even my parents, who previously have never refused me anything are not willing to do this for me – so I have no escape. I must bid you farewell for I am about to die.”
When she heard these words his wife replied, “Look no further. Why did you not ask me? I love you so much that I will gladly give what even your own father and mother have refused. Take my life so that yours can be spared.”
When the warrior heard those words of true and unblenching love, tears came to his eyes. He fell on his knees and prayed to God again saying, “Great Lord. Forgive me. Take my life and spare that of my wife, for she has faced death more calmly and bravely than I.”
God was again pleased to hear those words, and he decided to spare both Dede Korkut and his wife, and they lived a long and blessed life and there was peace and prosperity throughout his lands.
God wrote on the palms of the Angel of Death, in letters of light, “In the name of God, most merciful and beneficent,” and he ordered the angel that whenever he must take the soul of one of the faithful, he must show to him those letters so that his soul might come out of his body and return to its maker.
This story is kind of sad in the end, but I still like it!
March 11, 2009
Well. its a good story. but, i got a task from my teacher and she said i should listen to this story. but, WTH? i am way more skilled in this lang. so i didnt expect to listen to a story xD.
but its a great story anyway, and i think it does help others thats not so good at this lang.
(im from denmark)
March 11, 2009
i liked the story i wish with all my heart that you turn back into a prince……<3
March 11, 2009
haha,havnt heard it yet,lol,natasha,u rok!
bumble bee —
March 12, 2009
Its really worth listening and reading.Apart from learning the usual things like pronunciation,spelling,new vocabulary one can learn even more – it’s more reasonable to be humble than to be proud. Thanks to this story one can become a better person regardless of the age,religion,nationality.Thank you for the story.I am glad there are such great people like you who wish to make this world a better place(not only a better place for children but for everybody).
Dear Pokemon, you are asking some very good questions; I’m not sure that I know the answers, but I will try. I don’t think you need to take this story too literally about God and the Angel of Death. It’s just a way of explaining things. The story can mean that life and death have surprises in store for all of us. Often when people become very boastful and arrogant, they cannot see that disaster will soon strike them low. The big words for this are hubris (pride) – nemesis (destruction) – and this is the theme of many stories. It seems often to happen in life that the proud and arrogant are struck down… but it doesn’t always happen that way.
This is one of the Dede Korkut stories…
Why dont you put the others as well.
These are old turkish folk tales and every single is a gem of a story.
Bertie,thank you anyway.whoever you are.
Kind regards to all,
May 7, 2009
it’s great, I wish I could read many story like that,
thanks anyway !!!
June 29, 2009
its kind of good
July 6, 2009
i really likem this story
July 6, 2009
Cool i am going to tell my little cousins they will love it because they like scary stories like this one.
July 13, 2009
this story is great! Allah just means God in arabic, coptics use the same name too. I think its a great story about justice and pride. Love to hear more turkish stories!
July 21, 2009
it’s a great story!
July 25, 2009
it’s a GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
August 27, 2009
this story rocks
September 3, 2009
That was sort of soppy. But I enjoyed it, never the less.
September 9, 2009
I enjoyed the story, though it was a bit short and it could be improved
September 13, 2009
this book is a good book an it fun to list i like it because it good to study
October 1, 2009
it was a good story
October 16, 2009
nitasha are you a muslim or krischun caus iam a krischun
January 27, 2010
Dear Linzy, we are Christian but we want everyone to enjoy our stories. This story has an Islamic background.
oh….!!thank you very much natasha for the story!! 🙂 ^_^ @nge!
March 2, 2010
A small correction: Name of the hero of original story is NOT Dede Korkut; Dede Korkut is a wise man telling many moral stories like this one.. The hero of this story is DELI DUMRUL.
I like this site very much, Natasha is amazing, and thanks for all beautiful stories. I think we benefit from this site and we should support it. Making some donations would be great..
March 31, 2010
Dear Coskun, You are right about Dede Korkut being the story teller, not the hero, and I was a bit embarrassed when I realised this after we published the story. But still, I’m really glad you like our adaptation. And we would like to do more stories with an Islamic background.
Maybe some people don’t like to hear a story with Islamic background (or from any other culture). But I think it is good idea to post stories from different cultures of the world. By this way we can see that we are all human and we mainly share the same kind of feelings and moral values…
March 31, 2010
great story, y would god wanna kill some1 just if they r bragging a lot ?
June 5, 2010
This is not an accurate version of the orginal story. Dede Korkut is not the character of this tale, he is the old storyteller, (Dede means ‘Grandfather’ in Turkish)this is one of his stories. The collection of these stories is called the Book of Dede Korkut. The name of the hero is ‘Deli Dumrul’ where Dumrul is a private name and ‘Deli’ as a nickname means ‘Mad, or Crazy.’ And Deli Dumrul is does not try to conquer the world. He guards a bridge and does not let anyone pass without paying him. And he is mad because the river has already dried out and the bridge seems to have lost its function.
Also, in the end of the story, the angel of death takes the life of the old parents who denied to offer their lives.
Please be more sensitive to the original context of the stories you want to share.
August 16, 2010
Dear Anon, we’ve acknowledged previously that Dede Korkut is not the character in the tale, and am now aware if his importance as a Turkish author of epic stories. It’s a little embarrassing, but the story is popular anyway. Thank you for your extra information though, and perhaps we’ll redo the story one day.
It is natural that we sometimes make mistakes but is never late to correct them. It is our duty to correct significant ones.
The mistake about the name is NOT a trivial or a small one. Besides, this is not an accurate narration of the original story.
If you are sincerely interested in presenting stories from other cultures the first thing you ought to do is to be serious about how to do it.
August 16, 2010
Alright Anon. Point taken. I’ll edit the intro to make it clear that this isn’t an “authentic” story. This story was actually sent to us by a Turkish teacher – I just point this out to show that it can seem authentic enough even to somebody from Turkey, so if it’s a fake, it’s a good fake !
I don’t think that my point is well-taken. This is not a matter of nationalism. Would you just put anything you hear from anyone in the world on your web page? How can we trust that the other stories are not just as fake as this one? And why would you bother about giving a cultural background if ‘good fakes’ are good enough. Just write them as ‘here is another fancy we came up with’
If you CAN EDIT the introduction, why would you not edit the WHOLE piece?
Besides, the way you put it: “its authenticity as a genuine piece of Turkish folklore is rather in doubt” What do you mean? Is the authenticity of Dede Korkut’s tales are in doubt? Why would you not say as you say in the comment – “It is embarrassing” and we have distorted the authentic story and came up with a good fake. Good for whom?
August 16, 2010
Dear Anon, Many thanks for pointing this out. We never said that this was a tale by Dede Korkut, We named a character Dede Korkut, which is a different thing. I don’t see that we have distorted his story because we never presented this as one of his stories. it was a story sent to us in good faith by teacher in Turkey, and a lot of people like it.
I can’t just edit the whole peace in an instance, because it is an audio narration, and it takes a lot of time and planning to publish a story on this site, and actually money too. I can research and schedule a genuine story by Dede Korkut, if it can be made suitable for children, but that will take time, as everything does on this free site.
I very much understand and appreciate the value of your work, to say the least, you contribute to the education of thousands of children. But this is precisely what worries me. And I’m sorry if my previous tone of writing prevented you to understand what I wanted to convey and to take the necessary steps accordingly. I did not doubt the good faith of the teachers who prepare this web-page, rather I was disappointed about the control mechanism of such a serious work.
I would kindly ask you to take this story out of your archives either permanently or temporarily until you revise it. Some names are not just names; they are special and refer to unique persons. Let me try to explain why this is such a significant issue with an analogous imaginary example:
Suppose that the character of this story was not named “Dede Korkut” but rather “Socrates” or “Gandi” “Martin Luther King” or “Pope Benedict”. And suppose that when you were a kid your mother told this story to you beginning with: “Socrates/Gandi /Martin Luther King/Pope Benedict, and his men swept across the earth conquering lands far and wide, and as his power and wealth grew, so did his pride….” And this is one of the stories you loved most and she would tell it to you every now and then. Then you grow up and get to know that Socrates/Gandi /Martin Luther King/Pope Benedict is rather considered to be a wise person in Greek/Indian/African-American/Catholic culture, and suppose this culture is alien to you. What would you think? Would you believe your mother or the words of an alien culture?
In this sense, this story as it is, unfortunately plants a seed of prejudice in the minds of innocent children who will be future’s adults.
I’m sure that you did not intend this, but given this foreseeable result, if you still decide to keep it as it is, then this will just mean that you do it intentionally.
This reminds me what a Catholic philosopher, G.E.M. Anscombe, says at the end of her book, Intention: “St Peter could do what he intended not to do, without changing his mind, and yet do it intentionally”.
August 18, 2010
This story is not the original, it is strongly deformed. Please do not claim that
August 26, 2010
There’s already been a lot of messages and replies about this. We don’t claim it’s an original. We will do some more authentic Dede Korkut at some stage.
My previous comment was sent incomplete by mistake. So I continue here….
Pls do not claim that this is a traditional story from Turkey, there is no such story in Turkey. I wish you remove it from the site completely.
Dede Korkut is a folcloric value in Turkey, a story teller whose stories are told in ” Dede Korkut Stories” for ages…He was never a warrior. I do not understand how can you publish such a wrong text, without first checking its authenticity? Would you publish a story in which Cinderella is shown as illwilled stepsisters, or Rapunzel with a short hair waiting for the prince in cottage instead of tower? How about publishing story from Grimm brothers, changing the roles of the characters as you wish… Would you still claim that it is Grimm story, or a Rapunzel, or Cinderella? Would you add worthless comments, as you did above, claiming that “its authenticity as a genuine piece of ….. folklore is rather in doubt” Dede Korkut stories are no more different than Grimm’s tales and other classic tales of world folcloric culture.
What you publish is not a Dede Korkut Story. It is something else… Pls change the name of the story and the name of the characters, also do not say that it is a traditional Turkish story…
August 26, 2010
I’m beginning to feel that this is harassment and I won’t publish any more lengthy diatribes on this subject. which just make the same points again and again. I have said that we will do a more authentic piece when we are able. That’s the end of it. By keeping on at me, you are not increasing my enthusiasm doing justice to Dede Korkut’s stories. A little diplomacy might get you a lot further and a lot faster. Just give us some space. Thank you.
Hi again, this is Anon. I think, you are right Bertie, nobody can or should oblige you to prepare *another* more authentic piece from Dede Korkut. As opposed to what you feel, however, I don’t feel that there is an issue of harassment, even a problem of diplomacy here. It is natural that people say the same things because the problem is the same. And the problem is not that there is no authentic story from Dede Korkut on this blog, and that you are not enthusiastic about preparing one. The problem is what you present to be is not what it is. And all people ask from you is, not to keep this misleading piece on your blog. That simple.
It is a problem of credibility and integrity. And since it is still preserved on this website as it is, after the warnings of people in good faith, now the problem is ethical, and a question of intention. That is why there is no need for any diplomatic negotiations. Why would anyone want to negotiate about a question of integrity? Obviously, if there is no integrity and good will, not even the best diplomacy can make any difference. That is why people, who comment, do comment, because they still believe that there is an integrity and good will that they can appeal to.
It is sad that you rather feel harassment. But feelings may be misleading. For instance, I feel that there cannot be such a person called Adem who is supposed to have sent this story, because a teacher in a small village in Turkey would not usually know English, and even if he did, the students of a primary school in a small village in Turkey would not surely know English, and hence could not be storynory listeners as it is claimed above. Well… I also have another feeling that someone who is educated in classics at Oxford, and worked as a BBC journalist, cannot possibly be that ignorant and careless about preparing stories.
You see, feelings may tell many things, some may have truth in them, some may not. But you need not try to feel the intentions of your commentators, but rather ask, whether or not your commentator says something right.
But if you still feel that even this is harassment, which is not meant to be one, then it is just sad that you take it that way.
Bu there is no need for sadness or worry. The solution with a sign of integrity is very simple: just take this story out of your archives, which does not need space, time or money.
August 27, 2010
If you begin the sentence at the begining like this “There was once a great warrior called Dede Korkut.”, you do a big fault. Because Dede Korkut (or Dedem Korkut in some resources) is not a warrior. He is a sage and wise man. He is an old man. Warrior one is Deli Dumrul in Turkish story. Please correct this big fault. Thank you very much from now on.
August 27, 2010
[…] The Wicked Prince A prince becomes all powerful, but still his priests fear God more than they do him. There is only one being left for the prince to conquer – God himself. And sohe declares war on God. Hans Christian Andersen’s moral and dramatic warns against the hubris of power. It has some things in common with our story about the Angel of Death. […]