The news that the Turkmen heroic epic Gerogly was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2015 spread all over the world media. And it is reasonable as the significance of the legendary literary creation goes far beyond both historical and national boundaries.
Produced by the virtue of oral genius, the epic tales about the hero and his 40 daring followers, were performed by folk bakhshi only. There are no any copy of the Turkmen legend; there are only fragmentary information in the works of poets of the 18th-19th centuries. The epic was passed on by word of mouth, accompanied by dutar and gidjak – from evening to dawn, and sometimes for several days, the musicians-bakhshi performed aydyms of destan (legend folk songs), alternating them with prosaic narration.
No storyteller has in his repertoire all the chapters of Gerogly. This is due to the fact that various bakhshi memorized the lines of the epic from their teachers, who, in turn, gained knowledge from other singer-storytellers. Since childhood, every singer perfected the skill of performing the epic. The child even did not yet know how to read or write, but under the guidance of famous masters of folklore singing, he played the dutar and performed the destan lines from an early age.
Gerogly, translates as “son of the grave”, in the narrative part of the epic appears as a brave warrior and defender of justice. While in a song version, he is a deeply feeling poet and musician. The musician by birth Palvan-bakhshi, who was born in the Dashoguz region, knew the largest number of Gerogly’s songs by heart. Thanks to his phenomenal memory, in 1937 the staff of the Institute of Language and Literature recorded 12 chapters of the epic.
The legend starts with a chapter about the birth of Gerogly, his youth and his heroic development. The hero who was born from his dead mother in her grave faced cruel fateful trials. A complete orphan, he also loses his grandfather and stepmother in bloody internecine violence. Hiding in the mountains, Gerogly prepares for revenge – he raises the winged horse Gyrat, builds the Chandybil fortress and gathers a squad of followers.
And although there are many other no less interesting versions of the origin and life of Gerogly, in many of them the glory of his horse is equal to the glory of the warrior himself – according to legend, about half of the power of Gerogly is in his stallion.
Besides, courageous Gerogly is known in traditional legends of Armenians, Tajiks, Georgians, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Karakalpakses, Turkish and Azerbaijanis. The ancient legend is also performed to the accompaniment of national musical instruments, the narrators are akyns, ashugs and shairs. People in Europe also showed interest in the literary monument of a historical person.
Georges Sand, French writer, worked on the translations of the heroic epic into French. In 1843, the part of the epic was published in the “Independent Journal” in Paris. Sand called Gerogly Napoleon of a nomadic tribe and underlined the genius Gerogly personifies the moral code of the nation.
Various parts of the heroic epic continue to be republished in Turkmenistan, and through its meaning the young generation learns the values and traditions of their ancestors.