A Tale in Red: Ferhat and Şirin

While I was on the road in Turkey, passing by towns, villages, and exquisite landscapes, I realised how attached to their traditions and legends the country is. At each stop and corner of the road, we could find many exciting codes, rituals, and places where belief comes before science and logic. It is in our nature, human nature, to see beyond the physical and logical world trying to hang in some mythical and impossible-to-explain feelings that, with a bit of divine help, all can be achieved. 

In the vast and culturally diverse Anatolian region, a legendary love story passed down through generations is the tale of Ferhat and Şirin. Though the legend has its roots in Persian and Arabic literature, it has become a cherished story in the folklore of Turkey.

The story begins with the beautiful Şirin, the sister of the Armenian Queen Mihrişah. Şirin was known far and wide for her unsurpassed beauty, wisdom, and kindness. Her fame reached the ears of Ferhat, a skilled and robust stonecutter working in the king’s service. Captivated by her tales, Ferhat fell deeply in love with Şirin without ever looking at her.

One day, Ferhat got an opportunity to glimpse Şirin’s beauty, and from that moment on, he was determined to marry her. However, Queen Mihrişah, jealous of her sister’s popularity and wanting to keep her close, set an impossible condition for Ferhat to fulfil. She asked him to carve a water canal through the mountain using only his hammer and chisel, promising that if he succeeded, he could marry her sister.

Fuelled by his love and determination, Ferhat agreed to the seemingly impossible task. He began carving through the mountains, enduring harsh weather, and physical exhaustion. As the days passed, his love for Şirin grew more robust, and his progress through the hill continued, much to the astonishment of the queen and the people watching.

As Ferhat neared the canal’s completion, Şirin, who had heard about Ferhat’s dedication and love for her, decided to visit him. When they finally met, their passion ignited instantly, and they both knew they were destined for each other. Şirin pledged to wait for Ferhat until he finished the canal, and their love would finally be allowed to flourish.

However, their happiness was short-lived. The Queen Mihrişah, fearing the completion of the task and the union of Ferhat and Şirin, devised a wicked plan. She spread a rumour that Şirin had died. Upon hearing this devastating news, Ferhat lost control of his emotions and struck the mountain with his hammer in grief. A large rock fell from the hill and crushed him, instantly ending his life.

Şirin, hearing of Ferhat’s tragic death, was overwhelmed with sorrow. She couldn’t bear to live without her beloved Ferhat, so she took her own life to join him in the afterlife. The lovers were finally united in death, their souls entwined for eternity.

The legend of Ferhat and Şirin remains a powerful symbol of love, sacrifice, and determination in Anatolian folklore. Though this story has been interpreted and retold in various forms, the core message of unyielding love and devotion amidst adversity remains consistent, captivating the hearts of generations.

The photo was taken in Amasya in 2011. Locals say this channels were the one Ferhat had carved to bring water to the pother side of the city. What do you think?

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