6Dr of Philology, Professor Kazan (Volga region) Federal University Kazan, Russia.
7Doctor of Philological sciences, professor L.N. Gumilyev Eurasian National University Nur-Sultan, Kazahkstan.
8Candidate of Philological Sciences, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of philological education Tobolsk pedagogical Institute named D. I. Mendeleev (branch) of Tyumen state University, Tobolsk, Tyumen, Russia.


Dastan is a term used by Turkic peoples to denote an epic work featuring a complex plot and describing fantastic and adventurous situations, used to refer to the genre of historical, heroic, or love epics, which is currently extinguishing. The famous Tatar folklore writer  M.Kh. Bakirov said that epics, dastans, emerged on the basis of mythology and heroic stories in the period of the tribal system, when ancient tribal relations began to disintegrate. (Bakirov, 2012). Epic-dastans are the common spiritual heritage of the Turkic nations, which reflects the ideology, customs, traditions, and history of the Turks, who lived since ancient times till the XII-XV centuries AD in a single socio-political and spiritual space. As the Kazakh scientist B. Azibaeva noticed, "... in the repertoire of storytellers, we can also find works that glorify heroes of another nation. For example, epic poems about a native Turkmen have become a favorite work for the Kazakhs, Turkish, Armenians, Georgians, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Tajiks, Kurds, Tatars, Abkhaz, Kumyks, Kara-Kalpaks, etc. from the ethnic, linguistic, and religious points of view." (Azibayeva, 2006). As the Tatar scientists noted, "... from the standpoint of intended morality and the plot and image structure, these works are identical and interchangeable. Only individual, historically established features and details tell us about the identity and mentality of a certain nation" (Mingazova, 2014).

Studying the activity of the Turkology scientist, we came to the conclusion that "the first records of the Turkic peoples' folklore works, including the epic-dastans, are related to the activities of the famous scientist, academician, the founder of the Russian Turkology, V.V. Radlov" (Sayfulina, 2007). For the decade of active expeditions undertaken by him during his life and work in Altai, the scientist accumulated a wealth of material of all living Turkic languages, wrote down numerous folklore works, which he published as the 10-volume academic edition of "Pieces of folklore literature of Turkic tribes ..." where, along with other folklore genres, he provided numerous works related to the Turkic epic. (Sayfulina, 2012). We have also presented voluminous material on the activity of academician R.R. Radlov in the field of folklore of the Turkic peoples of Russia in the article "European Studies of Barabin Tatar Folklore: the Role of Investigations of the German Scientist V.V. Radlov" (Sayfulina, Karabulatova, 2014).

The study is relevant due to the absence of comparative works on dastans and statement of specific conclusions as a result of discussions about the mythological motives in the structure of the epic.

Materials and methods

The material of the study are about a dozen voluminous works, dastans, recorded in different years from representatives of different groups of Turkic nations and published in various anthologies.

The object of the study in this article are the Turkic epic-dastans   "Er Tostik", "Edige", "Alpamysh", "Goroglu", which are unique examples of ancient Turkic epics. From the historical point of view, this kind of epic works serve as affirmation of the kinship of the peoples who have this kind of people's poetic heritage.

In this work, we used the descriptive, contrastive-comparative, cultural and historical, and mythopoetical research methods.


As noted by scientists, epic is a body of major narrative, prose, and mixed forms of works about the historical past of the people, telling about the archaic-heroic, historical-heroic, and romantic events. Actually, epic works are defined as dastan epic." (Tatar Encyclopaedia, 1999).

The dramatic basis, eventivity, the fantastic content of most plots of the works of historical and heroic, heroic and adventurous, domestic and romantic nature, preserved and recorded by folklorists from the Turkic peoples living in different geographic areas at different times: "Idege Pi", "Toktamysh Khan", "Yirtyshlyk", "Ak Kebek", "Kara Kokkel", "Altayn Sain Seme", "Ak kybek", "Yastey Meңke", "Mezhek Alyp", "Yelek Batyr" "Yerteshlek", "Kuzy Kerpech Belen Bayan Sylu", "Kuplandy", "Kamber", "Taһir-Zeһre", "Byz Eget" allow referring them to the dastan genre (Karabulatova & Sayfulina, 2015). The voluminous epic works have preserved mainly due to sustained melody and poetic basis. As noted by the Tatar scientist M. Akhmetzyanov, "Most of the dastans have been preserved in the habitat of the Siberian Tatars and were recorded from Siberian storytellers. The dastans "Idegey" ("Idegey"), "Atakly Kyz Tukbike" ("The nice girl Tukbika"), "Timer Batyr", "Ildan and Guldan" reproduce the life of the Tatar tribes of Siberia (Ahmetzyanov, 1985).

Russian scientists, such as Zhirmunsky V.M., Meletinsky E.M., Propp V.Ya., Putilov B.N., the Kazakh scientists, such as Konyratbaev A., Berdibay R., Ibraev Sh., the Tatar scientists, such as Akhmetova-Urmanche F.V., Akhmetzyanov M.I., Bakirov M.Kh., who studied the genre features, poetics, thematic richness of the ancient Turkic epic, define this genre as "heroic tales", "mythological epic", "pre-state epic", "fairy-mythical epic", or "archaic epic." In our opinion, the name "mythological epic" is the most precise concept that expresses the nature and character of ancient mythological epics.

Meletinsky E.M. noted that the most important source of the heroic epic formation are myths, especially the mythological tales about ancestors, the cultural heroes. In the early epic, evolved in the era of the tribal system decline, the heroic spirit additionally obtain a mythological shell; engaging the language and concepts of primitive myths (Meletinsky, 1980). Defining the ancient epic through the "mythological" concepts, the scientist pointed out the distinctive features of the archaisms in olonkho, the epics of the Sakha nation (Meletinsky, 2004).

The Kazakh folklore scientist Sh. Ibraev who studied the poetry of the Turkic epics noted that the mythical, fabulous, legendary narrative elements prevailed in the ancient epics. In addition, the outline of the epic story includes the customs and traditions, as well as certain rituals of the Turkic peoples (Ibrayev, 2012). In the Kazakh folklore, the systematic review of ancient epic as a separate genre is associated with the name of R. Berdibay. A comparative study of the Buryat epic "Geser", Tyva legends, and the epic "Zoyatulek and Susulu", widespread among the Tatars and Bashkirs, the scientist attaches special significance to the archaic mythological nature of the ancient epic (Berdibay, 1982). Sh. Ibraev also wrote that the epic "... assumes the tradition of a myth, which makes us believe in the reality" (Ibrayev, 2012).

Thus, many scholars regard the ancient epic as a "transition genre" between myths and heroic epics. Therefore, the poetry features that came from myths to ancient epics, and then to the heroic epics, are the attributes that determine the nature of the epic heritage.

Research results

The ancient epics "Er Toshlik", "Kula Mergen", "Zhoya Mergen", "Dotan Batyr", "Kubygul", "Edige", "Alpamysh", "Koblandy", "Koroglu" and others, which differ by the presence of deep mythological "layer," can be referred to as "mythological." However, we should note that the mythical character in the ancient epics is expressed much brighter than in the heroic epics.

"Er Toshlik" (the hero's name) is a Kazakh fairy tale, which has remained with both the Tatars and the Kirghiz in the form of an epic, and by its content, it may be called mythological. In solving the problem of the relation of epic heroes to myths, we can classify them as follows.

  1. Heroes that are similar to mythical characters (a mythical type character);
  2. Mythological heroes who have transferred to epic plots.

The ancient epic hero Er Toshlik was the last hope of his elderly parents, who hit the road with the aim to find his eight elder brothers. He has certain features inherent in mythical heroes. His arrival is perceived as a mythological phenomenon. Er Toshlik has the properties of a mythical hero, including his mythical birth and ultra-fast becoming an adult. No less mythological are the events that take place along the epic plot development: the hero goes on a long journey to find his eight elder brothers, descends to the underworld, where he falls into the possession of the mythical hero, the Snake of Bapy Khan. Er Toshlik successfully passes all tests due to his mythological qualities. Further, he enters the country of Temir Khan, where he gets assistance from mythical spirit heroes, such as Tausogar, Zhelayak, Koltausar, Sakkulak, Koregen (who have certain qualities: for example, Tausogar means "going through the mountain"; Zhelayak means "fast as the wind"; Sakkulak means "hearing ears", etc.). In the epic, each of these heroes has his own role, his own space, and each of them has his own action thresholds. For example, they accompany Er Toshlik to the country ruled by Temir Khan, and on the way back, they also one by one stay in "their territories," where they first met the main character. Thus Tausogar, Zhelayak, Koltausar, Sakkulak, Koregen, Bektory (in some versions Aisalkyn), Zhalmauyz Kempir, Zmey Bapy Khan in the analyzed plot of the ancient epic "Er Toshlik" are the mythological heroes who came to the epic stories from ancient myths.

Er Toshlik is a friend of the giant bird Alyp Karakush (Big Black Bird), which resides on top of a huge poplar, fights the dragon, wins it, then is captured by Shoyynkulaku, escapes from captivity, - all behavior and actions of the hero have a mythological basis. As R. Berdibay noted, "dangerous journeys, fights with all sorts of mythical creatures met on the way, magic details, actions, encounter with enemies, marriage of the batyr", are all "mechanisms" used to describe the character, behavior, and actions of the hero from the mythopoetic point of view (Berdibay, 1982).

The main characters, Er Toshlik and Kenzhekey, are heroes who have absorbed some features of their ancestors and who have archetypal behavior patterns embedded in them. Er Toshlik manages to visit both the above-ground and underground, which justifies the "special being" of the hero.

In general, the mythical heroes appearing in the plot of the ancient epic are divided into two groups: the characters who are against Er Toshlik and the characters that gradually become his friends. The Snake of Bapy Khan who admits the singularity of Er Toshlik establishes friendly relations with him. Peri Bektory is mad against Er Toshlik as he does not pay any attention to her. She ordered Zhalmauyz Kempir and his son to chase the hero.

It may be noted that the image of Zhalmauyz Kempir is also present in epics "Kula Mergen" (Mergen is a marksman), "Zhoya Mergen", "Dotan Batyr", "Koroglu." In these epics, she also symbolizes the evil, and both Khan and the batyr are powerless against her force. Zhalmauyz is characterized as "seven-headed, with a hundred human forces in each head..." (Tales of the Ancestors, 2008).

Shoyynkulak, the son of Zhalmauyz Kempir, is an enemy of Er Toshlik. The immortal hero resembles Koshchei, a character of Slavic tales. In "Er Toshlik," Shoyynkulak reveals the secret of his immortality only to his son: "My soul is always far from me. At the creek, where there are reeds and forty roe deer graze, among them there is a roe deer with folded-end horns, in which nine black chests are hidden; and in the smallest of these chests, nine chickens are hidden, and those nine chickens are my soul" (Kazakh Stories, 2009). The egg and chickens symbolize the soul of a man and are used to prove the belief that the human soul is separate from the earthly body.

Thus, the epic heroes dealing with mythological heroes also gradually acquire mythical character traits.

The national epics of the Turkic peoples often contain dastan-type tales of heroic and archaic nature, where the main hero is the legendary batyr, Alyp Batyr (Alpamsha, Alpamysh, Alypmemshen), who through terrible battles with other Alyps or mythical characters, Yilbagans ("Kadysh Margan", "Altayn Cain Suma", "Mezhek Alyp"), proves his strength and courage, defeats the enemies, liberates his land and those who have been under his care from mythical enemies (Yusupov, Sayfulina at el., 2013).

"Alpamsha/Alpamysh Batyr" is a dastan, in which the mythical, archaic motif prevails. This dastan is the oldest one of heroic epics. It seems that it is why the mythological motif is clearly evident in it. One of the main motives of the epic is the mysterious story of the birth of Alpamysh Batyr. According to the story, Baybori and Analyk, who for a long time remained childless, after a prediction of the seer Baba Shashty Tukti Aziz in a dream became parents of a boy and gave him the name of Alpamysh, who later became famous as the Alpamysh Batyr. The image of Alpamysh, according to the description in the epic, is so strong "that he can be neither burnt by fire, nor drowned in water, nor hit by a sword."The hero is protected by the mythical image of "Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten" having the powerful spiritual force. We perceive the presence of such heroic qualities in Alpamysh as continuation of the traditions in describing heroes of ancient myths. Consequently, the batyr defending his land in a dastan is originally completely idealized.

Hoping to become parents, the childless couple of Baybori and Analyk visited all holy places and cemeteries of the holy men (aulie) hoping to have at least one child. At the end of the way, they saw from afar a tomb, beside which a tree grew and a creek flew. The pair decided to spend the night in that place. Thus, the paths of living people and the holy from the underworld crossed their ways there. The "communication in a dream" of the living and the dead is the point of contact between the epic and mythical spaces. The representative of "the world of archetypes", the "world of the dead", Baba Shashty Tukti Aziz, is very a mythologized person. He is a regular hero of religious and mystical epics (Tales of the Ancestors, 2004).

The conversation between Baba Shashty Tukti Aziz and Baybori and Analyk took place in the in-between state, "between the reality and the dream." The concept of the eternity of the human soul in the mythological consciousness manifests itself in the fact that the soul of a holy hears the prayer of the living, empathizes and helps them.

The only one creator,
he loved his suppliant,
as having generously bestowed him,
in addition gave him a daughter.
Eighty-eight patrons
ninety-nine thousand pious men –
He heard all of them.

This is how the dastan describes the sacrament of the birth of children. In this way, an old couple became the parents of a son and a daughter. According to the promptings of the holy, they named the children Alpamysh and Karlygash.

The mythical heroes of the epic "Alpamysh Batyr," Baba Shashty Tukti Aziz and the protector of people Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten, the mysterious creatures, have continued in Islam. Thus, in people's memory, the ancient mythical worldview is combined with the religious perception of the world. These heroes who are related to the category of mythical characters can also be conditionally considered as "medium heroes."

As an example of a historical epic, we can take the dastan "Edige," embodiments of which ("Idege Pi") were also recorded by V.V. Radlov from Siberian Tatars in the second half of the XIX century. The famous epic "Idegei," a recognized epic monument of the Tatar folklore, is the spiritual heritage of several Turkic peoples. Its versions at different times were recorded from the Kazakhs, Kara-Kalpaks, Uzbeks, Nogai, Turkmens, Bashkirs, mountain Altai peoples, the Turkic peoples of Crimea, and others. The conflicting events that took place in the lives of these peoples in complex geopolitical conditions constitute the real basis for the plot of the "Idegei" dastan. A factor that makes this work relevant is that it reflects the events of global significance that happened in the late XIY – early XY centuries on the territory of Crimea, in the Caspian Sea basin, the Volga region, in Southern Siberia, modern Kazakhstan, the valleys of Central Asia. The work reflects the unique and tragic period in the history of the Golden Horde, which is also a serious indicator of the cultural and historical value of dastans. The events recorded in the work involve particular historical figures: Idegei, Timur the Lame, Khan Tokhtamysh, who played a crucial role in the fate of many Turkic peoples and states. As F. Akhmetova-Urmanche noted, "Dastan "Idegei" is the product of Nogai steppe and the Volga-Ural region and was reserved for descendants thanks to ancient Turkic epic traditions of Siberian Tatars, which they carried through centuries" (Akhmetova, 1999).

In one of the many versions of the dastan, the main character of the epic "Edige/Idegei" is described as the son of his father-aulie (Holy Baba Shashty Tukti Aziz, known from the epic "Alpamysh Batyr") and his mother, born from a peri. That means, Edige, just like other heroes of mythological epics, was born from unusual parents. This is why he has fantastic abilities (Idegei, 1990).

In another embodiment, the future father of the hero marries beautiful Kenzhekey, the youngest daughter of a peri, who came flying by turning into a swan. He failed to meet her conditions, so he was deprived of her, and she kept her promise and left the child at the intersection of nine roads (The Song of Edige, 2006).

Thus, the unusual arrival of a child determines his future destiny. This is a very important reference in order to understand the behavior and actions of the famous hero. The motif of "miraculous arrival," which is inherent in many Turkic epics, including the dastan about Edige, the image of sacredness of human birth, the origin of a hero with extraordinary abilities is another common thread binding epic-dastans with mythology, the folklore poetics. The three-layer structure of the world in the mythological perception of the Turkic peoples, where peris represent the "higher, heavenly" world, enables us to understand and accept the "particularity" of the hero born from a peri and a holy man, his superhuman abilities. Their loneliness, choseness have common roots with holiness, power, divine attributes.

Like many other dastans of the Turkic peoples, the epic of Koroglu (the son of a blind person) also has several versions. The Kazakh versions of the dastan "Koroglu" were published in 48-49 volumes of the multi-volume edition "The Tales of the Ancestors," collected under the leadership of Sait Kaskabasov. The epic "Koroglu" was also noticed by European scientists. In his study, Karl Reichl wrote: "The core of the Turkic epic poetry consists of the epic traditions of the Kazakhs, Kara-Kalpaks, Kirghiz. In the epics of these peoples in particular, since the days when many Turkic peoples appeared in the history till recent days, and sometimes even up to now, the life of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia has been preserved and has been reflected" (Reichl, 1992). The epic "Koroglu" is also very popular among the Azerbaijani people. (Mythological Dictionary, 1990). As noted by Kh.G. Koroglu, "The myth and fantastic attributes in eastern embodiments relate to the period of national formation. The versions of the epic in the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik (Gurugly) languages occurred not earlier than in XҮІІІ century and differ significantly from the Azeri-Turkmen historical versions. The general composition of the epic was improved in the Uzbek, Tajik, and Kazakh versions by adorning the life of the future batyr with a "layer" of fantastic elements (Koroglu, 1983).

In this case, the wonderful birth of the main character also defines his mythical nature. In the Kazakh version of the epic, Koroglu was born from the womb of his dead mother. Here, the mythical, archaic motif is expanded. Koroglu's mother saw a dream about the future glorious destiny of the unborn child. In the dream, she saw Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten. This hero, the patron of Alpamysh Batyr in the dastan analyzed above, also assists in the birth of Koroglu. This mythical hero patronized many dastan heroes, thus defining the regularity in accepting the mythic tradition in the epic genre. According to the content of the epic, Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten supports Koroglu and is always near him. It is important to bear in mind that the "layer" of fantastic elements dates back to the mythological worldview of the nation. The Turkish scientist M. Ekici pointed to this difference of the Kazakh version of the epic from versions of other nations (Ekici, 2002). Thus, we can note that in Turkic dastans, mythical heroes "freely interfere" in the lives of the heroes, being their patrons.

The text also says about continuation of the family line of the mythical hero, who further married three daughters of a peri:

Having married Akzhunis, Gulnar and Myskal,
Koroglu became the husband of the three peris (The Journey of Koroglu to Shaadat, 2006).

In the dastan, the main attention is drawn to the personality of Koroglu and his father Raushanbek. They are described in the dastan traditions of "absolute praising" of heroes, which also actively use mythical elements.

S. Kaskabasov also noted the traditional motifs in epics and functions of formulas, the epic latitude in the description of space and time, which are the poetic typology of epics (childless parents, prophetic dreams, marvelous arrival of the batyr, his growth and formation, etc.) (Kaskabasov, 2015).


An analysis of the epics widespread among the Turkic peoples, such as "Er Toshlik" (ancient epic), "Alpamysh Batyr", "Edige Batyr", "Koroglu" (heroic epics), the systematization of the epic heroes in terms of their relation to myths, the revealing of the connection of ancient epics' heroes to myths have allowed us to make the following conclusions.

The typical and specific features of an epic batyr and the characters inherent in his supporters and enemies are the result of the "intersection" of the mythological and the real, where mythological heroes and historical personalities compose a uniform and orderly system.

Mythological attributes in the characteristic of Turkic epic-dastan heroes play a special role in the description of their personality and explanation of their behavioral characteristics (Fayzullina et al., 2016). For example, Er Toshlik had the ability to subjugate the entire underground and above-ground world, while his fiancée Kunekey could, if necessary, "stop time." Kunekey did it with the help of a female camel, which helped her, and a handkerchief, which she used to tie her waist. She was able to predict the fate of Toshlik, which also points to the "mythological features" in the behavioral characteristics of his wife. It can be concluded that this was made possible thanks to the "mythological heroes", in particular, in this epic, it is expressed in the relationship chain "Er Toshlik-Kenzhekey-Bektory."

In the heroic epic "Alpamysh Batyr," the hero is born with the approval of miracle workers, after a prediction made by Baba Tukti Shashty Aziz. With the support of Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten, Alpamysh became the person who "can't be burnt by fire and drowned in water," neither could he be killed with a bullet or a sword. That is also due to the mythological nature of the hero.

The hero of the epic "Edige Batyr" is also "merged" with the mythical space. Edige was born from the alliance of a peri's daughter and the miracle worker Baba Tukti Shashty Aziz. This is the basis for the mythical hero's behavior. The prerequisites for the arrival of the glorious batyr were provided by his parents, who also featured certain mythological abilities.

For the hero of the dastan "Koruglu", analyzed in this work along with the above dastan heroes, there also are the mythological circumstances of arrival; the protection of the mythical character of Gayyp Eren Kyryk Schilten; marriage to a daughter of a peri.

The unifying attribute of all the heroes: Er Toshlik, Alpamysh, Edige, and Koroglu, is the duty incumbent upon them: to protect (exempt from enemies) their parents, relatives, and native land; as well as a winning ending, when each hero copes with this task eventually as the epic comes to its end.

The "mythical nature" of epic-dastans of Turkic peoples, which is a peculiar feature of the national and cultural consciousness, continues the tradition of folklore poetics. The mythological motif in epic-dastans gives an idea about the common ideological roots and shared traditions of Turkic peoples. The archaic nature of the epic heritage, in which the heroes feature the mythological type of behavior, reflects the worldview of the ancient Turks, the militant and creative spirit of the nation.

Conflict of interests

The author confirms that this article content has no conflict of interests.


The work is performed according to the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.