‘A Tale Within A Tale’ by Ahmet Ümit

A Tale Within a Tale

The author Ahmet Ümit writes:

‘’The tales in this book, I heard from my mother. My mother heard them from a storyteller nearly sixty years ago. It seems my grandfather never thought twice about hiring a storyteller to warm the cockles of his little girl’s heart. She listened to many stories, though she couldn’t always recall them, she passed many along to me, as well, though I couldn’t recall them all either. To tell the truth, I had long since forgotten even the stories in this book. Years later, I returned to my father’s house in Antep and my mother just so, happened to tell them again to me. I was captivated by the beauty of the stories laid before me. To her credit, my mother was a superb storyteller, but it wasn’t just my mother’s eloquence that affected me. The secret to the beauty of these stories lays hidden in their striking literary form and the profound messages in their content. The basic nature of humankind so matter-of-factly unfolded in front of one’s eyes, it was impossible not to admire these narratives.

Hearing the stories again, it dawned on me that it was imperative they be written down. I was pushed to this conclusion by the fear that in this contemporary World, we are domineered by visual narration, these tales which rely on the spoken word will one day be lost. So I set about putting them on paper, fine-tuning and embellishing in places to be sure, but without tampering with the essence of the stories.

I suppose the same adventure has befallen these tales as all other oral retellings. Each storyteller and listener in turn enhances the story, or impairs it for that matter, by adding a little of themselves. With that, I feel compelled to remark on the great enthusiasm with which I set to writing down these stories, enriched by the dream world of my mother. Who is such an extraordinary storyteller.’’

For an educator or parent looking for a captivating upper-elementary/middle school introduction to Turkey and Turkish literature to share with children, this would be a fun one. Read it out loud like a storyteller to honor its original spoken form.

Whether around a campfire, or in a classroom, or after a family dinner, sharing just one tale-within-a-tale each time listeners are gathered celebrates that sense of anticipation of a good serial story well-told.  Pacing out each segment in the book, episode by episode, will have everyone racing home to hear the next tale in the book.

Why not start this title as a read-aloud following a family night of Turkish cooking?

-By Karen Van Drie

Bibliographic Information:

Original book name: ”Masal Masal İçinde”

Publisher: Everest Publications, Istanbul, Turkey

Publication Date: April 2013

148 pages

ISBN: 978-6051416397

Ahmet Ümit was born in Gaziantep, Turkey and moved to Istanbul. In 1983 he both graduated from Marmara University with a degree in Public Administration and wrote his very first story. One of Turkey’s most renowned contemporary authors, Ümit is especially well-known for his mastery of the mystery genre as reflected in many of his bestselling novels and short stories. Follow him on Twitter at @baskomsernevzat ‏.

Karen Van Drie is an American expat librarian working in Istanbul, Turkey. She is on Twitter at @worldlibraries. She also hosts a bilingual celebration of reading culture at @EnSonNeOkudun. In her free time, Karen writes her own blog called ‘Empty Nest Expat.’

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