Nart Sagas by John Colarusso

Ancient Myths and Legends of the Circassians and Abkhazians

Nart Sagas Big
Nart Sagas by John Colarusso
John Colarusso, is 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”.اضافة اعلان

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 92 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.

By judiciously sifting the folklore at hand for, in effect, nonsense and odd details, including names, and by carefully using external controlling factors, for example, archaeological, historical, and linguistic information, one may reconstruct ancient myths and cultic beliefs from very remote periods with as much certainty as the data permit and as much certainty as any historical reconstruction may have, as the present cases show. This can be done at least for the basic lineaments of the myths, enriched by the occasional peculiar detail that may safely be posited on the basis of its survival in the attested traditions. Much more of the unwritten past may now be recoverable by such techniques than many ever dreamed possible.

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.

 “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.