Dede Korkut is a heroic destan (legend), also known as Oghuz/Uyghur-nameh among the Uyghur/Oghuz Turk people, which starts out in Central Asia, continues in Anatolia and Iran, and centers most of its action in the Azerbaijani Caucasus. For the Turkic peoples, especially people who identify themselves as Uyghur/Oghuz, it is the principal repository of ethnic identity, history, customs and the value systems of the Turkic peoples throughout history. It commemorates struggles for freedom at a time when the Uyghur/Oghuz Turks were a herding people.
The tales tell of warriors and battles and are likely grounded in the conflicts between the Uyghur/Oghuz and the Pechenegs and Kipchaks. Many story elements are familiar to those versed in the Western literary tradition. For example, the story of a monster named “Goggle-eye” Tepegoz bears enough resemblance to the encounter with the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey that it is believed to have been influenced by the Greek epic or to have one common ancient root.
The book also describes in great detail the various sports activities of the ancient Turkic peoples: “Dede Korkut (1000- 1300) clearly referred to certain physical activities and games. In Dede Korkut’s description, the athletic skills of Turks, men and women, were described to be “first-rate,” especially in horse-riding, archery, cirit [javelin throw], wrestling and polo which are considered Turkish national sports.”
Portrait of Dədə Qorqud: