The Kyrgyz folklore is a versatile genre. In addition to ritual songs
and lyric genre, it contains the so-called sanat and nasyyat - a moralizing
verbal poetry, proverbs and sayings, riddles and fairy tails, myths and
There is a myth about the origin of the name of the Kyrgyz people.
The word “Kyrgyz” consists of two words: “Kyrk” and “ Kyz” that mean “forty”
and “girl”, forty girls that became pregnant having drunk a foamy water
from a river and gave birth to Kyrgyzians.
The Kyrgyz epic is rooted into the depth of ages and narrates about
the life and heroic deeds of Kyrgyz batyrs and portentous events in history.
Polished and enriched during many ages the Kyrgyz epic reached a high expressiveness,
originality, and national aesthetic integrity. The following epics became
famous: “Er Tyushtyuk”, “Kodjodjash”, “Er Tabyldy”, “Oldjobaiy and Kishimjan”,
“Sarynji - Byekei”, “Janyl Myrza”, “Kurmanbek”, “Janysh-Baiysh”, and “Kedeikan”.
A special place belongs to Manas epic trilogy that is referred to
as the Kyrgyz encyclopedia. It widely depicts the history, geographic
knowledge, notion of environmental nature, religious conception, ethnic
composition of the Kyrgyz people, their way of life, customs, philosophic
and ethical views, opinions of human merits and vices, ethical style,
poetry and language of the Kyrgyz people.
Manas has a thousand year history and surpasses in volume many of the
famous world epics. It is composed fully of verses numbering 500 thousand
The idea inspiration of the epic is related to uncompromising struggle
of the Kyrgyzians for their freedom and perspectives to uniting peoples.
A leader and inspirer of the people is Manas batyr. All the events of this
epic trilogy are developing around this main character. The trilogy consists
of three heroic poems:
Manas, Semetei, and Seitek. Manas epic is a bright pattern of a folk
creative work that involves a word, melody, and elements of performing
A manaschi - story-teller of Manas - performs the epic in a singing
voice without being accompanied by any musical instrument. The melody
of the epic consists of various recitative intonations. The manaschi keeps
changing the tempo and dynamics of narration and intonation, makes accents
depending on the content of that or other fragment of epic. The rhythm
of melody is integrally connected with a syllabic structure of the wording
and frequently depends on it. Patters alternate with heroic intonations
in melodies of Manas. The performance of Manas gathered a large crowd and
might last several days and even weeks and was celebrated by people as an
important artistic event.
The famous manaschi are Nooruz, Jaisan-yrchy, K. Barybosov, Ch. Omurov,
T. Japiev, B. Kumarov, S. Orosbakov, Togolok Moldo, S. Karalaev and others.
Some of the sayings may be universally recognizable, such as «You reap what
you sow», but for some more unusual examples of Kyrgyz wit and wisdom, consider
the following proverbs and sayings:
A bird trusts itself, a dog trusts its master.
A clever man is able to teach you civility.
A friend looks at your eyes, an enemy looks at your feet.
A good man never spares his efforts to help, a bad one never even gives his
hand if you fall down.
A good wife is half of happiness in your life.
A horse is a man's wings.
A man grows old, but his courage doesn't.
A wise man isn't the one who has lived the longest, but the one who has travelled
Cheap mutton has no fat.
Don't let your horse run beside a pacer.
Govern your horse carefully or you will become a pedestrian.
If your right hand is angry, hold it back with your left.
It is better to die like a hero than live like a coward.
Knowledge builds up, ignorance destroys.
The earth is a small place for fugitives.