The Legend of Yellow Girl
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
To help ensure they are not forgotten, legends—representing an important part of culture—are often tied to specific physical locations or sites. The Legend of Yellow Girl, believed to date back to the 14th century, is one such legend. The Geese Mountains (Kazdağları, in Turkish) are located in northwestern Anatolia, and their highest peak is named Yellow Girl (Sarıkız, in Turkish). A tomb and several nearby old structures found on that peak, the physical remnants of the legend, have helped to keep it alive.
As often is the case, there are multiple versions of the legend, but the most popular version states that, a long time ago, a little girl lived in a village in northwestern Anatolia. Her mother had recently died, leaving her with only her father. One day, her father said, “You know how much I loved your mother. Everything here reminds me of her, and I am not able to forget her. Why don’t we move somewhere else?”
Soon after, they moved to another village on the outskirts of the Geese Mountains. They lived as shepherds and, over time, became much liked by the residents of their new village. Everyone respected the father; young and old alike sought his advice as they believed he was probably a holy man.
Eventually, the little girl grew into a beautiful young woman, while her father aged and became an old man. The father had always wanted to go on a pilgrimage to the holy lands. Knowing his wish, the girl encouraged him to go, assuring him that she was old enough to take care of herself and that he didn’t need to worry about her. Convinced, the father left his daughter in the care of a neighbor and began his long journey. At that time, taking such journeys on foot took at least six months—perhaps longer.
After the father left, several young men from the village asked the beautiful girl for her hand in marriage, but she did not accept any of them. Their pride hurt, these young men became angry and started rumors about her lost virtue. The young girl tried to tell the villagers that these allegations were false and that she had done nothing wrong, but no one listened to her.
When the father returned from his pilgrimage, none of the villagers talked to him or even looked him in the face. When he asked for an explanation, the neighbor told him that in his absence his daughter had lost her virtue and was no longer honorable. Tradition required the father to kill his daughter, restoring his and the village’s honor, to continue living in the village.
The father agonized about what to do. He loved his daughter and could not kill her. The next day, he took his daughter and a few geese and left the village. The villagers, unhappy about this decision, threw rotten eggs at the young girl as they left. The father climbed the highest peak of the Geese Mountains, as did his daughter, who was still covered with rotten egg yolks (which is how she became known as Yellow Girl). The father left her there with the geese, thinking she would not survive long, and returned to the village.
Several years passed and rumors began to circulate that whenever passengers lost their way on the Geese Mountains, a Yellow Girl came to their aid to show them the way. This Yellow Girl was rumored to have kept some geese. In fact, her geese descended to the lowlands several times and damaged farmers’ crops. When the farmers complained, Yellow Girl supposedly filled her skirt with flat stones common to area and scattered them around, forming a garth that held her geese from then on.
When the old father heard these rumors, he thought this Yellow Girl could be his daughter, so he climbed to the peak where he’d left her. There, he found a garth surrounded by stone walls with several geese in it. Yellow Girl then appeared, and she was indeed his daughter. She was happy to see her father and treated him with love and respect. When it was time for her father to perform his daily prayer ritual, she poured water in his hands to wash them. The father told her the water was salty. The daughter apologized and said she had mistakenly taken the water from the sea. She emptied her jug, then reached into the sky and over the valleys to refill it. She poured the water in her father’s hands, and he noticed that it was cold and fresh. At that moment he realized his daughter had reached sainthood and was no longer of this world. He also realized that his daughter had been slandered by the villagers as she had clearly never lost her virtue.
As a dark cloud passed over them, Yellow Girl disappeared. Her father assumed that realizing she had reached sainthood meant her secret had been revealed, so she could not be seen in this world again. He was saddened, especially because he could not apologize for his mistake. He wandered the mountains, filled with grief, until he died. The shepherds built graves for both the father and the daughter using the flat stones from the area.
Today the peak is known as Sarıkız Tepesi (Yellow Girl Peak), and the location where her father died is Baba Tepe (Father Peak). Both peaks are located in the Geese Mountains, named after the geese that Yellow Girl kept. As both father and daughter are assumed to have reached sainthood, naming mountains and peaks after them shows how important mountain culture is in traditional Turkish beliefs. Today, locals and tourists alike visit these peaks every July to honor the father and daughter. A large book near the daughter’s grave allows visitors to write their wishes, and visitors often tie colorful ribbons to the stones around her tomb.