Nart Sagas

Nart Sagas : Ancient Myths and Legends of the Circassians and Abkhazians

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The sagas of the ancient Narts 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..." In a new introduction, folklorist Adrienne Mayor reflects on these tales both in terms of the fascinating warrior culture they depict and the influence they had on Greco-Roman mythology.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 456 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 33.02mm | 397g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Annotated
  • 0691169144
  • 9780691169149
  • 390,804

Back cover copy

"There is no comparable book in English. The translation looks quite fine! This is quite original work by one of the most prominent scholars of the Caucasus in this hemisphere, one who is also most knowledgeable in Indo-European mythology and is an accomplished linguist."--Edgar C. Polomé, author of Indo-European Religion after Dumeziland Language, Society, and Paleoculture

"Reminiscent of the Grimm fairytales and the Icelandic Eddas, these lively tales abound with giants and witches and dwarves and mountain-sized monsters born of rock, ice, and fire. This is a major new resource for students in mythology, linguistics, and folklore, for which John Colarusso provides a sober and expert commentary as guide."--Elizabeth Wayland Barber, author of The Mummies of Urumchi

"This book will introduce a wide readership to a unique and ancient relic of human lore still tenaciously preserved in the North Caucasus--a fabulous world of gods and goddesses, demigods and antigods, monsters and ogres, giants and lilliputians, witches and warlocks, Caucasian Medusas and tree-ladies. Further, it is timely in that the Northwest Caucasians are stirring from a long slumber and are grappling to reforge their identity and find their place in the comity of nations. Professor Colarusso has rendered this culture a great service, enriching world culture in the process."--Amjad Jaimoukha, author of The Circassians: A Handbook

"The translations offered by Colarusso include fascinating, strange, and sometimes grotesque mythic tales that show amazing parallels with Classical and other Indo-European stories. The characters are enormously interesting, especially the figure of Satanya, a powerful female heroine/goddess, which will have an instant appeal to those, scholars and general readers alike, now discovering Goddess myths. As pure narratives, these stories, with their tales-within-tales, giants, stolen brides, and wise elders, also command attention."--Richard P. Martin, Stanford University

"Reading this book was an exciting intellectual experience. These tales are extremely rich and thought-provoking. Doubtless many other readers will respond just as enthusiastically as I have, and recognize the importance of the Nart corpus--and Colarusso's commnentary on it--for their own research. This represents the first compendium in any language, to my knowledge, of Nart sagas from all of the Northwest-Caucasian-speaking peoples."--Kevin Tuite, Université de Montréal
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Table of contents

Preface xiii Introduction to the Paperback Edition xix Symbols and Abbreviations xxv Maps xxx Introduction 1 A Selection of the Circassian Nart Corpus 9 1. If Our Lives Be Short, Let Our Fame Be Great 11 2. The Tale of How Warzameg and Yimis Came to Be 12 3. How Warzameg, Son of Meghazash, Won the Damsel Psatina 17 4. Setenaya and Argwana 34 5. The Blossom of Lady Setenaya 48 6. Why the Sun Pauses on the Horizon at Sunset 49 7. Lady Setenaya and the Magic Apple 50 8. Lady Setenaya and the Shepherd: The Birth of Sawseruquo 52 9. How Setenaya Was Led Astray 55 10. The Childhood of Shebatinuquo 56 11. How Far-Seeing Setenaya Rescued Warzameg 67 12. The Ballad of Warzamegyuquo Shebatinuquo 79 13. Setenaya and the Great Nart Warzameg 85 14. Nart Wazarmeg and His Friends Decide What to Do about a Black Fox 87 15. The Old Age of the Great Nart 91 16. How They Made Tlepsh Fashion the First Sickle 96 17. Tlepsh and Lady Tree 99 18. The One Who Committed One Hundred Sins 104 19. The Lament for Nagura Tlepshuquo 106 20. How Nart Tlepsh Killed Bearded Yamina with the Avenging Sword 107 21. Tlepsh's Gold Cellar 107 22. The Story of Nart Totaresh and the Chinta Leader 109 23. Two Fragments of the Ballad of Sawseruquo 112 24. The Ballad of Sawseruquo 125 25. How the Horse of Setenayuquo Sawseruquo Was Killed 129 26. Lady Nart Sana 129 27. Adif 131 28. Wardana and Chwindizh Dwell in the White-Haired Forest 134 29. Warzamegyuquo Yasheruquo's Search for Courage 138 30. How the Nart Khimish Married and How He Was Killed 139 31. The Ballad of Khimishuquo Pataraz 143 32. How the Narts Sought to Reach the Sky 153 33. How Khimishuquo Pataraz Won the Three Magical Whetstones 154 34. How Pataraz Freed Bearded Nasran, Who Was Chained to the High Mountain 158 35. Bound Nasran 168 36. An Old Man Chained to Elbruz 169 37. A Cyclops Bound atop Wash'hamakhwa 170 38. How Bearded Nasran Visited Ashamaz 171 39. The Ballad of Ashamaz 172 40. Lashyn's Satirical Couplets about the Nart Men 175 41. Hymn to T'haghalej 176 42. The Shiblawuj, a Round Dance to the God of Lightning 177 The Abaza Nart Corpus 179 43. The Time of the Narts 181 44. The Burial Ground of the Narts 182 45. The Golden Apple Tree of the Narts 183 46. Satanaya 184 47. How Sosruquo Was Born 185 48. Satanaya and Bataraz 188 49. Satanaya and Tlepshw 190 50. Sosruquo's Sword 192 51. How Sosruquo Attended the Council of the Narts 196 52. How Sosruquo Brought Fire to His Troops 200 53. How Sosruquo Brought Back the Seeds of the Millet 202 54. Shardan 215 55. How Sosruquo Brought Sana to the Narts 216 56. Sosruquo and the Blind Ayniwzh 219 57. Sosruquo and the Inquisitive Ayniwzh 222 58. Sosruquo and the Giant's Skull 227 59. Sosruquo and Six Men 228 60. Sosruquo and Sotrash 236 61. Sosruquo and Sosranpa 244 62. Qaydukh of the Narts 249 63. Qaydukh Fortress 257 64. The Doom of Sosruquo 259 65. Sosran of the Narts 267 66. The Nanny Goat of the Narts 269 67. Badan and Badanoquo of the Narts 270 68. Badanoquo of the Narts 275 69. How the Barrel of the Narts Was Set to Boiling 277 70. The Dream of Ayniwzh, Nana's Son 279 71. Tataruquo Shaway 281 72. Chwadlazhwiya's Tale 290 73. Nasran and Shamaz 296 74. Khmish and Bataraz of the Narts 302 A Selection of the Abkhaz Corpus 321 75. The Mother of Heroes 323 76. The Birth of the Valiant Sasruquo 329 77. How Sasruquo Plucked Down a Star 335 78. The Ayirgs' Sister, the Sister-in-Law of the Narts 344 79. Sasruquo's Sorrow 352 80. The Light-Giving Little Finger 356 81. How Sasruquo Tamed the Wild Stallion 360 82. How the Narts Cultivated Fruit 361 83. Khozhorpas 364 84. Narjkhyaw 366 85. An Account of the Narts 379 The Ubykh Nart Corpus 385 86. The Birth of Soseruquo 387 87. Another Birth of Soseruquo 397 88. The Death of Soseruquo 399 89. Yarichkhaw 401 90. Three Brothers, Their Sister, and a Nart 406 91. The Adventure of Marchan Shaghy 409 92. A Marvelous Sword 411 Appendix: Specimen Texts 415 A. Kabardian East Circassian 417 B. Bzhedukh West Circassian (Adyghey) 455 C. Ubykh 490 D. Abaza (Tapanta Dialect) ("Northern Abkhaz") 500 E. Bzyb Abkhaz 526 Bibliography 543
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Review quote

"An excellent translation of a rare standard of Eurasian mythology, the work blends annotation and commentary to demystify the complex philosophical text."--Library Journal "A new, important resource for those with a general interest in the lore of the North Caucasus, in comparative mythology, and in linguistics... Colarusso's familiarity with the Indo-European traditions is seen in the copious commentaries and notes accompanying the sagas. Meticulous and at times very detailed, they not only serve as a guide to a better understanding of the sagas themselves, but provide an introduction to the vast field of Eurasian myth... Colarusso is to be congratulated for this splendid contribution to the field, for his scholarship, for his devotion to the subject, and for bringing this collection of Nart sagas to us."--Patricia Arant, Slavic and East European Journal
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About John Colarusso

John Colarusso is professor of anthropology and modern languages and linguistics at McMaster University, and one of the world's most distinguished scholars of comparative linguistics. Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University.
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