Women who take over the reins of the tribe. Women who are so much more than ceremonial First Ladies. Women who are warriors, doctors, community leaders, members of the government, treasurers, and secret-keepers. Viewers are initially agape at the marvel of the male characters of the Turkish series ‘Dirilis: Ertugrul’ as warriors with hearts of gold and unshakable faith. But scratch the surface, and it is the female characters of the show that are the real stars. These female characters are strong, individualistic, and never overshadowed by their male counterparts.
The show’s characters have been penned and performed in a way that they become real to the viewers. Since this show came to homes across the globe via Netflix, and recently when PTV started airing the Urdu dubbed version of the mega hit series in Ramazan 2020, much has been discussed about Ertugrul Ghazi and his alps. Here, You! celebrates the inimitable female characters of one of the world’s most popular contemporary television series.
Hayme Ana – Of motherhood and leadership:
Her face is tender and expressive. For her children and grandchildren, she is loving and doting beyond belief, her words are always laced with ‘Ana qurban’ (may I, the mother, be sacrificed over you). She is the caring and affectionate wife for Suleyman Shah, who takes over as his successor as head of the tribe, that too in the 13th century. She is a mother figure to many who lost their mothers, including her husband’s nieces Seljan and Gokche, and to Ertugrul’s alps (his chosen military commanders and friends). But the character is much more than just a wife or a mother, and it would not be wrong to say that Hayme Ana is almost the matriarch of the Kayi tribe. She sets the bar, for the women who follow her very high. She has political acumen, is part of important meetings in the tribe, takes the lead in times of war and migration, and continues to support the tribal heads – her husband or son – as the second in command. From the body language to the choice in words to her actions, Hayme Ana is a woman of substance, and continues to be so through all five seasons of the show.
Halime Sultan – The real strength of Ertugrul:
Her entry in the show is as a displaced princess, saved by the incredibly brave and chivalrous Ertugrul. But make no mistake, it is she who saves Ertugrul many a time from the depths of despair by being his inspiration and strongest support system. Halime Sultan, the stunningly beautiful female protagonist of the show, is more than just a pretty face. She has a strong sixth sense and is a good judge of people, often better than her male counterpart. Halime, her mother-in-law Hayme Ana, and all leading ladies of the Kayi tribe, can afford servants, but instead of relying on ladies in waiting, these are hands on women who like to stay physically strong by working hard, whether it is by weaving carpets that is a major source of income for the tribe, or lovingly cooking for their families. This aspect is particularly marked in the case of Halime, as she is originally a Seljuk princess, but her life takes a 360 degrees turn as she becomes Ertugrul’s wife, and in time the first lady of a nomadic Turk warrior tribe. She is simultaneously the coy bashful love interest of her man, but equally at ease riding on her horse’s back or fighting men with swords to protect herself. As the First Lady of the tribe, her role is so strong in terms of leadership, and taking care of tough tasks like ration distribution and nursing the injured, that it makes one wonder what happened to first ladies in the 21st century who are merely complementing the male leaders as subservient eye candy.
Seljan Hatun – The surprise package:
Love her or hate her, but you cannot ignore her. If there is one female character that continues to keep the viewers on tenterhooks of suspense, it is Seljan Hatun. The character is so layered that each one of us can relate to it at some point. From antagonist to someone who has the capability to repent sincerely and turn around, Seljan is an unforgettable character. Her husband, the often naive Gundogdu, is led into many a trial due to her whims and schemes. But the character has a God-gifted strong intuition, and she progressively uses this gift for the larger benefit of her tribe. She has a no-nonsense attitude and is painfully persistent, and while both qualities have their cons, the pros outweigh them. She wants to keep the family intact, and is fiercely sincere to her tribe.
Aykiz and Aslihan – With Turgut as the common thread:
Aykiz is Turgut Alp’s first and only real love. Aslihan Hatun is his last love. To be the female counterpart of a man as strong in every way as Turgut Alp, it is a given that both these women are equally powerful. Aykiz, the keen-eyed archer, is not afraid to shoot an arrow at the enemy. Aslihan, as the head of the difficult Javdar tribe, is fearless with her sword, and unafraid to stand up to the enemy for truth and justice. Aslihan faces unprecedented challenges in the shape of Emir Sadettin Köpek who falls in love with her – a love that is both destructive and evil. The strength of character that she shows in facing him leaves a deep impact on the viewer.
Ilibilge Hatun – A stickler for justice:
She joins the show in its twilight, but has an indelible impression. With his heart already taken by the love of his life, our hero Ertugrul is very clear that the woman he now chooses to stand beside him as his life partner would have to be a woman who shares his life ideology of striving for truth and justice, and is someone who can sustain the pressures of being the wife of Ertugrul. Ilibilge fits each requirement. She is willing to sacrifice her personal dreams, her blood relationships, and even her life, for the causes she believes in.
Women of substance in smaller roles:
The smart, scheming and clever antagonists like Aytolun Hatun, Mahperi Hatun, Goncagül Hatun, and Sirma Hatun, are all layered characters that have shades of gray in them. But the ones to be celebrated are some other women in smaller roles that make one marvel at the prowess of the goodness in women. Etched in every viewer’s memory is Sügay Hatun, a woman who has lost her own child, and little Osman’s survival depends on her. The immense potential to share love with a motherless child shown by this widow who takes a stand against her oppressive in-laws is memorable. But perhaps most significant was a character from the last season – season 5 – an unnamed old woman, a poverty-stricken woman who has lost her family, is just left with small grandchildren, but opens the doors of her home to a stranger in need – a pregnant woman. The generosity, contentment, self-respect and gratitude embodied by that character makes one look inward and think what actually makes someone a woman of substance.