The Epic of Manas (, ) is a traditional epic poem of the Kyrgyz people. The monumental epic Manas is the most treasured expression of the national heritage of the Kyrgyz people. Composed and sung entirely in oral form by various singers throughout the centuries, Manas is regarded as the epitome of oral creativity. It is considered to be one of the greatest examples of epic poetry, whose importance is not inferior to that of the Homeric epic (Illiad and Odyssey. As nomads, the Kyrgyz had no written language. However, they excelled in oral composition, which they artistically employed in their traditional poetry and epic songs. As the internationally renowned Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov notes: “If other peoples/nations displayed their past culture and history in written art, the sculpture, architecture, theatre and literature, Kyrgyz people expressed their worldview, pride and dignity, battles and their hope for the future in epic genre.” Today there are about sixty versions of the epic Manas recorded from various epic singers and oral poets. Its longest version, consisting of half a million poetic lines, was written down from one of the last master-manaschï (singers of Manas) Saiakbai Karalaev (1894-1971). The epic is indeed unique in its size. It is twenty times longer than the Homeric epics Iliad (15693) and Odyssey (12110) taken together and two and a half times the length of the Indian epic Mahabharata. The epic Manas is a trilogy, “a biographical cycle of three generations of heroes, i.e., Manas, his son Semetei and grandson Seitek.” [9] The plot of the Manas trilogy consists of the following main episodes: I. In Manas Birth of Manas and his childhood; His first heroic deeds; His marriage to Kanïkei; His military campaign against Beijing; Death of Manas, destruction of his achievements. II. In Semetei Kanïkei takes Semetei and flees to Bukhara; Semetei’s childhood and his heroic deeds; Semetei’s return to Talas; Semetei’s marriage to Aichürök; Semetei’s battle against Kongurbai; Semetei’s death or mysterious disappearance; III. In Seitek Destruction of Semetei’s family; Capture of Aichürök and Külchoro; Seitek’s growing up in Kïiaz’s palace; Fighting against the internal enemies; Seitek’s marriage; His defeat of the external enemies and death. It is not known when and by whom the epic Manas was composed originally. People remembered deeds and kindness of certain historical personalities for a long time and their jomokchus, i.e., storytellers or epic singers, developed some of those major historical events into epic songs in which they glorified the life and the deeds of the hero. The singer named Ïrchï uul, who acts as one of the forty companions of the hero Manas in some episodes, is remembered among the Kyrgyz. According a legend, it was Ïrchï uul who composed the original version or the first lines of Manas in the form of a lament, glorifying the heroic deeds of Manas after his death. Later, all the laments were brought together by a legendary singer named Toktogul, who is believed to have lived about 500 years ago and created the epic Manas out of those separate songs. [36] Manas is sung without an accompaniment of any musical instrument both by men and women, but traditionally male singers were more popular because they traveled more than women. Unlike other Kyrgyz epic songs, the epic Manas has a unique style of singing. It involves not only singing, but acting as well. The style of the song varies according to the nature of the stories. If the singer sings about a battle, he vividly recreates that scene for his audience. If he describes a tragic scene, e.g., death of a hero, he expresses that by singing laments and crying with actual tears. He does not just recite the epic, but acts it out by speaking the language of each character. The epic singers were traditionally called jomokchu (derived from jomok, fairy-tale). The contemporary term manaschï, singer of the epic Manas, is a new term coined during the Soviet period and it refers only to those who recite Manas. Every singer of Manas had his own pupil, who learned the epic from the established master-singers. First they learned some episodes and then the main stories by heart. Later, if they possessed the gift of improvisation, they added their own innovations. During the various stages of becoming masters of the epic, manaschïs were divided according to their poetic and improvisational skills into three categories: üyrönchük manashcï (new learner manaschï), chala manshï (not a true manaschï), chïnïgï manaschï (“true manaschï), and finally chong manaschï (great manaschï).