Interview broadcast on 8 November 2002
Housed within the climate-controlled walls of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University is the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative, a repository of Turkish narratives, anecdotes and folktales.
Founded in 1971 by Dr. Warren Walker, his wife and fellow researcher, Barbara Walker, and their co-founder,
Dr. Ahmet Uysal, the collection was donated to Texas Tech in 1980.
Some of the narratives were published as far back as early nineteenth century; some of those are extremely unique -
the only copies in the world.
Dr. H. B. Paksoy, recruited by the university in 2001, is archivist for the narratives. Under Paksoy’s direction,
the archive has grown to six million translated words. Sixty-six percent of the material found in the repository
comes from Paksoy’s own collection. Now the collection has been digitized, available online for scholars,
researchers, students, the military and the curious.
Basically, the website has been fully operation for the past month. We were astonished to discover that in twenty-
eight days there were about nine thousand visitors from twenty-five countries on Asian, European and North American continents. Roughly half of them came from U. S. - the other half from those two other continents.
The archive contains some very rare material collected from villages and rural areas of Turkey. The stories have
moral, romantic, humorous or supernatural themes passed down from generation to generation.
We are happy to be opening it up to the rest of the world. You can just go to our website and see what treasures
we have. The issue is: we are here.
With the loss of languages in the more remote areas of the world, the repository works as a preserver of culture,
We’re talking about polities whose cultures are in danger, first of all. Because of shifts in world political events,
some of these smaller groups were forcibly removed from their homelands - for example, the Crimean Tartars, and
since they do not have a homeland right now, they are essentially living in exile. They chose to continue holding
onto their culture through some of these works.
Paksoy explains the importance of the preservation of these narratives by relating a story told by an American
founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
The title is “Benjamin Franklin and Nasreddin, of Asia Minor.” Nassreddin and his son were traveling towards
a market center with an ass which they had to sell. The road was bad and the old man therefore, walked…
The story is of Turkish origin, but Paksoy points out that the story appeared in Franklin’s newspaper in 1731, and
the story was from thirteenth century Turkey.
Five centuries later, how did Franklin know about this story? As we know, Franklin lived in London, and London
had very close ties to lands on which Turkish Republic now stands. We can surmise that he was receiving his
information from travelers and/or books that were being published in London about those lands. There were very
close trade ties and with trade there is always cultural commerce. We don’t always know the origins of our thoughts,
and this is one way of going after them.
This is Glenda Taylor, KOHM News.