Cover image for Nart sagas from the Caucasus : myths and legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs
Nart sagas from the Caucasus : myths and legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs
Colarusso, John, 1945-
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxi, 552 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
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GR276 .M95 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The Nart sagas are to the Caucasus what Greek mythology is to Western civilization. This book presents, for the first time in the West, a wide selection of these fascinating myths preserved among four related peoples whose ancient cultures today survive by a thread. In ninety-two straightforward tales populated by extraordinary characters and exploits, by giants who humble haughty Narts, by horses and sorceresses, Nart Sagas from the Caucasus brings these cultures to life in a powerful epos.

In these colorful tales, women, not least the beautiful temptress Satanaya, the mother of all Narts, are not only fertility figures but also pillars of authority and wisdom. In one variation on a recurring theme, a shepherd, overcome with passion on observing Satanaya bathing alone, shoots a "bolt of lust" that strikes a rock--a rock that gives birth to the Achilles-like Sawseruquo, or Sosruquo. With steely skin but tender knees, Sawseruquo is a man the Narts come to love and hate.

Despite a tragic history, the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs have retained the Nart sagas as a living tradition. The memory of their elaborate warrior culture, so richly expressed by these tales, helped them resist Tsarist imperialism in the nineteenth century, Stalinist suppression in the twentieth, and has bolstered their ongoing cultural journey into the post-Soviet future.

Because these peoples were at the crossroads of Eurasia for millennia, their myths exhibit striking parallels with the lore of ancient India, classical Greece, and pagan Scandinavia. The Nart sagas may also have formed a crucial component of the Arthurian cycle. Notes after each tale reveal these parallels; an appendix offers extensive linguistic commentary. With this book, no longer will the analysis of ancient Eurasian myth be possible without a close look at the Nart sagas. And no longer will the lover of myth be satisfied without the pleasure of having read them.

Excerpts from the Nart sagas

"The Narts were a tribe of heroes. They were huge, tall people, and their horses were also exuberant Alyps or Durduls. They were wealthy, and they also had a state. That is how the Narts lived their lives. . . ."

"The Narts were courageous, energetic, bold, and good-hearted. Thus they lived until God sent down a small swallow. . . ."

"The Narts were very cruel to one another. They were envious of one another. They disputed among themselves over who was the most courageous. But most of all they hated Sosruquo. . . . A rock gave birth to him. He is the son of a rock, illegally born a mere shepherd's son. . . ."

Author Notes

John Colarusso , one of the world's most distinguished scholars in comparative linguistics, is Professor of Linguistics at McMaster University. He is the author of A Grammar of the Kabardian Language and The Northwest Caucasian Languages

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

This is a rich but scholarly anthology of heroic tales collected in the present-day Caucasus, the vast mountainous region bordering Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Akin to classic mythic stories like Grimm's fairy tales and the Icelandic Eddas, the Nart sagas have survived thousands of years among the Circassians and typically feature lively giants, witches, ogres, and gigantic monsters. Materials from the Abkhazians and Ubykhs are also included. An excellent translation of a rare standard of Eurasian mythology, the work blends annotation and commentary to demystify the complex philosophical text. The 92 sagas here (only a sampling) are supported by extensive notes and appendixes. Though the material is compelling, the approach is scholarly and the topic narrow enough to be of interest to advanced students, scholars, faculty, and researchers in the field only.-Richard K. Burns, M.S.L.S., Hatboro, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Symbols and Abbreviationsp. xix
Mapsp. xxiv
Introduction 1 A Selection of the Circassian Nart Corpusp. 9
1 If Our Lives Be Short, Let Our Fame Be Greatp. 11
2 The Tale of How Warzameg and Yimis Came to Bep. 12
3 How Warzameg, Son of Meghazash, Won the Damsel Psatinap. 17
4 Setenaya and Argwanap. 34
5 The Blossom of Lady Setenayap. 48
6 Why the Sun Pauses on the Horizon at Sunsetp. 49
7 Lady Setenaya and the Magic Applep. 50
8 Lady Setenaya and the Shepherd: The Birth of Sawseruquop. 52
9 How Setenaya Was Led Astrayp. 55
10 The Childhood of Shebatinuquop. 56
11 How Far-Seeing Setenaya Rescued Warzamegp. 67
12 The Ballad of Warzamegyuquo Shebatinuquop. 79
13 Setenaya and the Great Nart Warzamegp. 85
14 Nart Wazarmeg and His Friends Decide What to Do about a Black Foxp. 87
15 The Old Age of the Great Nartp. 91
16 How They Made Tlepsh Fashion the First Sicklep. 96
17 Tlepsh and Lady Treep. 99
18 The One Who Committed One Hundred Sinsp. 104
19 The Lament for Nagura Tlepshuquop. 106
20 How Nart Tlepsh Killed Bearded Yamina with the Avenging Swordp. 107
21 Tlepsh's Gold Cellarp. 107
22 The Story of Nart Totaresh and the Chinta Leaderp. 109
23 Two Fragments of the Ballad of Sawseruquop. 112
24 The Ballad of Sawseruquop. 125
25 How the Horse of Setenayuquo Sawseruquo Was Killed 129
26 Lady Nart Sanap. 129
27 Adifp. 131
28 Wardana and Chwindizh Dwell in the White-Haired Forestp. 134
29 Warzamegyuquo Yasheruquo's Search for Couragep. 138
30 How the Nart Khimish Married and How He Was Killedp. 139
31 The Ballad of Khimishuquo Patarazp. 143
32 How the Narts Sought to Reach the Skyp. 153
33 How Khimishuquo Pataraz Won the Three Magical Whetstonesp. 154
34 How Pataraz Freed Bearded Nasran, Who Was Chained to the High Mountainp. 158
35 Bound Nasranp. 168
36 An Old Man Chained to Elbruzp. 169
37 A Cyclops Bound atop Wash'hamakhwap. 170
38 How Bearded Nasran Visited Ashamazp. 171
39 The Ballad of Ashamazp. 172
40 Lashyn's Satirical Couplets about the Nart Menp. 175
41 Hymn to T'haghalejp. 176
42 The Shiblawuj, a Round Dance to the God of Lightning 177
The Abaza Nart Corpusp. 179
43 The Time of the Nartsp. 181
44 The Burial Ground of the Nartsp. 182
45 The Golden Apple Tree of the Nartsp. 183
46 Satanayap. 184
47 How Sosruquo Was Bornp. 185
48 Satanaya and Batarazp. 188
49 Satanaya and Tlepshwp. 190
50 Sosruquo's Swordp. 192
51 How Sosruquo Attended the Council of the Nartsp. 196
52 How Sosruquo Brought Fire to His Troopsp. 200
53 How Sosruquo Brought Back the Seeds of the Milletp. 202
54 Shardanp. 215
55 How Sosruquo Brought Sana to the Nartsp. 216
56 Sosruquo and the Blind Ayniwzhp. 219
57 Sosruquo and the Inquisitive Ayniwzhp. 222
58 Sosruquo and the Giant's Skullp. 227
59 Sosruquo and Six Menp. 228
60 Sosruquo and Sotrashp. 236
61 Sosruquo and Sosranpap. 244
62 Qaydukh of the Nartsp. 249
63 Qaydukh Fortressp. 257
64 The Doom of Sosruquop. 259
65 Sosran of the Nartsp. 267
66 The Nanny Goat of the Nartsp. 269
67 Badan and Badanoquo of the Nartsp. 270
68 Badanoquo of the Nartsp. 275
69 How the Barrel of the Narts Was Set to Boilingp. 277
70 The Dream of Ayniwzh, Nana's Sonp. 279
71 Tataruquo Shawayp. 281
72 Chwadlazhwiya's Talep. 290
73 Nasran and Shamazp. 296
74 Khmish and Bataraz of the Narts 302 A Selection of the Abkhaz Corpusp. 321
75 The Mother of Heroesp. 323
76 The Birth of the Valiant Sasruquop. 329
77 How Sasruquo Plucked Down a Starp. 335
78 The Ayirgs' Sister, the Sister-in-Law of the Nartsp. 344
79 Sasruquo's Sorrowp. 352
80 The Light-Giving Little Fingerp. 356
81 How Sasruquo Tamed the Wild Stallionp. 360
82 How the Narts Cultivated Fruitp. 361
83 Khozhorpasp. 364
84 Narjkhyawp. 366
85 An Account of the Narts 379 The Ubykh Nart Corpusp. 385
86 The Birth of Soseruquop. 387
87 Another Birth of Soseruquop. 397
88 The Death of Sos