Osman's Dream is an Old Anatolian Turkish epic poem, narrative history, commonly attributed to Osman I of the Ottoman Empire, but most probably unknown authorship, dating to the 13th century. The work alludes to a dream experienced by the first sultan, Osman I, consisting of a summary of the rise and growth of the empire four centuries before the events happened. The dream illuminates via myth some of the conditions and ambitions in existence at the dawn of the Ottoman institution.
Ottoman writers attach great importance to this supposed dream of the founder of their empire.
Osman, a young prince, was known and praised widely for his religious piety. Osman began to visit a holy man, the Sheik Edebali (1258–1326), out of respect for his purity and learning. They met at Itbourouni, a village in Eskişehir. After he had one evening accidentally seen his beautiful daughter, Mal Hatun, Osman's visits became more frequent, which led to a confession of love. However, Edebali thought that the disparity of positions made a marriage unwise and refused to give his consent.
In the following months, the disappointed Osman sought consolation in his friendships. With a lover's inspiration, he so eloquently described the beauty of Mal Hatun that the listeners fell in love with her. The young chief of Eskişehir also went to Mal Hatun's father and demanded her hand for himself. Edebali refused. However, Edebali feared the vengeance of the chief of Eskişehir, so he moved his residence from the neighborhood of Eskişehir to a very close place called Ertuğrul.
The chief of Eskişehir began to hate Osman and see him as his rival. One day when Osman and his brother Gokalp were visiting the castle of their neighbor, the lord of Ineani, an armed force approached the gate, led by the chief of Eskişehir and his ally, Michael of the Peaked Beard. (Michael was the Greek lord of Khirenkia, a fortified city at the foot of Phrygian Olympus.) They demanded that Osman be given up to them, but the lord of Inaeni refused to commit such a breach of hospitality. While the enemy lingered irresolutely around the castle wall, Osman and his brother seized a moment for a sudden attack. They chased the chief of Eskişehir off the field in disgrace, and took Michael of the Peaked Beard prisoner. The captive and the captors eventually became friends however; later, when Osman reigned as an independent prince, Michael sided with him against the Greeks, and was thenceforth one of the strongest supporters of the Ottoman power.
By this encounter at Ineani, Osman had triumphed over his rival and acquired a valuable friend, but he could not gain the maiden of his heart. For two more years he waited, sick with love and anxiety.
One night, when Osman was resting at Edebali’s house (for the shelter of hospitality could never be denied even to the suitor whose addresses were rejected), the young prince, after long and melancholy musing on her whom he loved, composed his soul in that patient resignation to sorrow, which, according to the Arabs is the key to all happiness. In this mood he fell asleep, and he dreamed a dream.
Osman saw himself and his host reposing near each other. From the bosom of Edebali rose the full moon (emblem of Mal Hatoon), and inclining towards the bosom of Osman it sank upon it, and was lost to sight. After that a goodly tree sprang forth, which grew in beauty and in strength, ever greater and greater. Still did the embracing verdure of its boughs and branches cast an ampler and an ampler shade, until they canopied the extreme horizon of the three parts of the world. Under the tree stood four mountains, which he knew to be Caucasus, Atlas, Taurus, and Haemus. These mountains were the four columns that seemed to support the dome of the foliage of the sacred tree with which the earth was now centered. From the roots of the tree gushed forth four rivers, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Danube, and the Nile. Tall ships and barks innumerable were on the waters. The fields were heavy with harvest. The mountain sides were clothed with forests. Thence in exulting and fertilizing abundance sprang fountains and rivulets that gurgled through thickets of the cypress and the rose. In the valleys glittered stately cities, with domes and cupolas, with pyramids and obelisks, with minarets and towers. The Crescent shone on their summits: from their galleries sounded the Muezzin’s call to prayer. That sound was mingled with the sweet voices of a thousand nightingales, and with the prattling of countless parrots of every hue. Every kind of singing bird was there. The winged multitude warbled and flitted around beneath the fresh living roof of the interlacing branches of the all-overarching tree; and every leaf of that tree was in shape like unto a scimitar. Suddenly there arose a mighty wind, and turned the points of the sword-leaves towards the various cities of the world, but especially towards Constantinople. That city, placed at the junction of two seas and two continents, seemed like a diamond set between two sapphires and two emeralds, to form the most precious stone in a ring of universal empire. Osman thought that he was in the act of placing that visional ring on his finger, when he awoke.
Osman told this dream to his host; the vision seemed to Edebali so clearly to indicate honour, power, and glory to the posterity of Osman and Mal Hatun, that the old Sheik no longer opposed their union. They were married by the saintly Dervise Touroud, a disciple of Edebali.
Osman promised to give the officiating minister a dwelling-place near a mosque and on the bank of a river. When Osman became an independent (which is when the Ottoman Empire began), he built for the dervis a convent, which he endowed richly with villages and lands, and which remained for centuries in the possession of the family of Touroud.
Interpretation and criticism
Most of the translation in this text is based on History of Ottoman Turks (1878), which was also based on Von Hammer's research. The text is modernized and has some missing sections.
Most scholars agree that the story should not be taken literally but as a historical legend or myth, and a set of themes important to the Ottoman culture. It is known that Sheik Edebali was a much respected teacher at his time and Osman really was being educated in his house. Scholars are not as sure, however, of the historical authenticity of other characters who appear in the story, such as Michael of the Peaked Beard or Dervise Touroud. Whatever the actual historical antecedents of Michael, it is significant that later Ottoman generations, composing this Foundation Myth, included in it a Christian Greek acting as the ally and companion of their original founder.
There are several themes embedded in this love story. It is left to the reader if Osman's passion for Mal Hatun was based on her physical features or based on what she represents. Some interpret the character of Mal Hatun (trans: Treasure of a Woman) as representing a passion for learning, which is presented mythologically as an image of treasured woman. Patience and humility, as well as courage and fortitude, are exalted virtues which eventually allow the hero to achieve his goal. The Story of Foundation is seen as one of the best examples of Turkish oral history.
Osman I was bounded as a vassal to the Chobanid principality, whose center was Kastamonu between 1281 and 1299. He declared independence from it after signing treaty of Chobanids with Byzantine Empire. Osmanoğlu Emirate was nominally bounded to Sultanate of Rum and Il-Khanate between 1299–1326.
- Caroline Finkel Osman's Dream Page xiii
- Edward Shepherd Creasy, Turkey, page 15
- Edward Shepherd Creasy, Turkey, page14
- Köprülü, Mehmet Fuad. The Origins of the Ottoman Empire. State University of New York Press, 1992. ISBN 0-7914-0819-1.