A Narration on Father Figure: Yeşil Kertenkele (Green Lizard)

Even though it was not written by Yaşar Kemal directly appealing to child readers, it can be said that Yeşil Kertenkele has the properties to appeal and address to child readers both its protagonist and its clear language.

Yeşil Kertenkele, originally a story from Yaşar Kemal’s story book named Sarı Sıcak published first in 1952, was published separately with illustrations by Sedat Girgin in August 2017 from YKY Doğan Kardeş for child readers belonging age group 10 and more. Even though it was not written by Yaşar Kemal directly appealing to child readers, it can be said that Yeşil Kertenkele has the properties to appeal and address to child readers both its protagonist and its clear language. The text points out important spots in the way that I will cover in this paper, as it reflects a protagonist’s defence mechanism to overcome the longing and imagination emerging from the fact that he basically lacks his father.

İbrahim, the protagonist of the Yeşil Kertenkele story comes on stage to meet the readers at the opening scene of the story, at a period wee hour of the night, very close to morning. The reader sees the text through what the narrator tells just as the way camera does and reads İbrahim depending on another character’s observation, who follows İbrahim in the dark. Narration goes on throughout a journey and in fact this journey is İbrahim’s walking where he tries to take cover as he goes to middle of nowhere from a known starting point; his village. What is emphasised in the text is the existence of a relation between İbrahim, who has been going on his way knowing the fact that he was being observed, and nature, place, night and that he knows them closely: “There is a rock, in fact a mountain made up of rocks out there between sea and where bay starts and it covers a huge, huge place. Daffodils blossom on rocky places... There is always a white seagull over rocks. It keeps swaying. Eggs of seagulls are delicious. İbrahim knows seagull nests on the sharpest points.” (Yaşar Kemal 12-3). Dialogic narrator enables readers to deduce about İbrahim’s personality and his great problem which is not to be revealed yet as he goes on by himself, just due to a habit by emphasising frequency of his walks and their nature. “The elderly was not so important but he would get mad when he sees a child’s face from village. He would make himself miserable due to his his grudge, he would look for a place to hide. If he is on the sea, on his boat, he would lie in his boat until they get away and get out only after they were not seen and immediately he would go to depths as he rows over by all his power.” (13). The actual cause of İbrahim’s escape is children and his intense bad feelings for them made him get away from the place where he was, and these feelings turned out to be feelings that fed and motivated his loneliness. It is even seen that he tries to fill this “unmanned” loneliness with nature, animals and the world he formed by his imagination. In sentences where his communication with seagulls is mentioned, it is clearly meant to appeal readers: “And he also liked patting them without hurting. It was cuddlesome. His fingers would be swamped in an oily, fair warmness, patting, shudder. He would smell the best smells of blue, starfish, seaweed.” (15). Here, another relation İbrahim has with a green lizard and turtles, just as seagulls, is revealed. This relation points out that İbrahim forms a whole new life with animals as an alternative to his isolated life from village. The animal he can be said to identify himself with can said to be the lizard in this context, due to his discourse: “Lizard had beautiful eyes. It used to look in a distressed, sorrowful and weeping way. Just as weirdos, orphans and the disparaged.” (16). After this point it is seen that the narrator, who used to follow the protagonist as a camera but emphasising points regarding past turns out to be a participant in İbrahim’s voyage. The narrator gets out of the place he had been hiding, became a character this time talking about himself and continues narrating the story from İbrahim’s point of view. Starting from this point a character who bumps into İbrahim and listens to him rather than talking with him, joins the course of events. İbrahim escapes from him at first, of course, but after that he starts talking to this middle-aged stranger maybe because of the fact that he knows he is not from the village. Yes, exactly due to this: “It does not matter for me whomever you are! I am a stranger here… So, I taught we could be fellows on the road. Why on earth you escape from me, my friend! I would just ask you the way, I would ask you to guide me.” (22). Even though he does not want to give himself away, he actually does so, by saying: “I thought you were from our village, that is why I escaped first so that I could realise whether you know me.” (a.y.)

From this point on, İbrahim disguises a brand-new identity which is completely different from the boy who was introduced at the beginning as “exhausted”. On one hand, he wants this stranger to take his photos as he took all others in the village; but on the other hand by getting jealous of his taking photos of others but not him, actually İbrahim shows the alterity he forms between himself and the others  Maybe due to this, İbrahim starts telling stories from his imagination, in order to present himself as someone worth taken photo. Protagonist of this narration by İbrahim, which he tells as they walk is his father. Knowing the fact that this stranger does not know his father, İbrahim literally fictionalises his father. This father character is somewhat a semi-superhero. It is his father, “who can catch the fishes that are not caught by anyone else,” dives deep and takes out marine sponges, “cannot be seen by anyone else”, “does not talk to anyone as he does not regard them worth talking.” (25). His father likes only “sea, seagulls, flying fishes and his green lizard”; just as İbrahim does (26). Existence of this “super” father is so real that readers do not hesitate whether the father exist throughout the story and regard him as a father who is loved by his child very much and that is why exaggerated from his point of view. As these monologues by İbrahim continue there comes a moment where he gets angry with the man by saying: “Why are you laughing, do you think I am making these up?” (30). He keeps emphasising his story when the man replies İbrahim that he trusts him but since he could not see the father throughout this 2,5 months period even though he stayed in the village as: “‘My dad saw you a lot of times’ said İbrahim, proudly” and added “You will take my photograph when the sun is up, right?” (a.y.). As he is approved, he gets surer about the fact that the man believes him and so he continues telling and enjoys the happiness of being the child of the narrated father fully. At this moment, a gap is revealed in İbrahim’s speech, “Maybe he divorces my mother” (33) he says and the fact that this father is a role model even though he is lost that lives and narrates in his own moral perceptions and point of view. According to İbrahim this father is “crossed with the village” and “shall not talk to them.” After this explanation İbrahim gets a room to tell what he wants to do through his father, apart from village life. Such that, it is İbrahim who wants to go to İzmir, would talk to people a lot when he reaches there and shall get married to a blue-eyed woman there. And after a moment he enables the reader to understand how does the father love him in his imagination: “One day my father said, my son, İbrahim. He said my baby, my bachelor, lion, my beloved. Then he took me up, kissed… Caressed my hair. His voice was so nice… Dear İbrahim, let’s go near the sea, lie down there and watch up, skies, stars, big clouds over there!” (41). At this part reader gets a chance to feel that this scene is not realistic at all. It is clear that this narration a production of a child’s imagination, so, they cannot stop feeling that previous scenes regarding father’s affection were not real at all. A father’s teaching somethings to his son, sharing somethings with his son, bearing the characteristics such as the strongest, the cleverest and all positive qualities and loving him are all narrated by İbrahim throughout this story. This is a story because when İbrahim hears that the crowd comes closer, he gives up on being taken a photo even though he wants it so bad. And as he escapes, the truth reveals through the crowd’s narration to the narrator about him: “‘His mother took him from hod carriers when they came here, you know this right?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘His father is unknown’ ‘I know,’ I said. ‘Children used to call out, hey you fatherless, hey you, fatherless, where is your father fatherless? Hey you, fatherless!’ ‘I know,’ I said” (46). At this point, narrator’s being equal to the reader in the way that they know the same things, differs here. In this way, the reader listens to İbrahim’s story without being exposed to any intervention from narrator, whether they believe it or not is unknown but what they know is limited. At the end, it is revealed that İbrahim fictionalises a father that he never had, even though he fictionalises he sets it a role model for himself, and due to this he tells some dreams about future, all details regarding how did this father love him, which qualities he wants this father to have are explained through a couple of sentences. Reader’s deductions mostly emerge from here such as the reason why İbrahim excludes himself from the village, the relation he forms with nature and animals, why he makes his father to divorce his mother and İbrahim’s voyage which was supposed to be to the outer world completes here, being not to outer world but inner world of İbrahim.

Yeşil Kertenkele, presents the struggle of a fatherless child character, who for this reason is excluded from society and hates them because of this fact, to resist against these in his inner world in a simple way. This simplicity is granted at the end of the text when the reader who thinks child was narrating the truth faces reality. In which way the child subject forms all hopes, dreams and expectations regarding life on his father are enlightened through the theoretical method followed by the story. The reader understands that no matter how bad a child is affected by outer factors, she/he finds its own way while defining its identity, and how does it resist through the story of İbrahim. His sorrowful green lizard which he takes care of can be said to be a kind of personification in the way that it takes his father’s role and brings him up. İbrahim symbolises everything he would like to receive from his father on his affection to that lizard.



Yaşar Kemal. Yeşil Kertenkele. Res. Sedat Girgin. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2017.