Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Nart Saga

The Nart sagas are a collection of tales from the Caucasus about a group of ancient heros running around doing epic things–epic here meaning both the original definition and also sometimes hilariously awesome. Both Caucasian people (sensu stricto) and Ossetians tell stories of the Narts to one another and scholars think parts of them preserve ancestral Indo-Iranian mythos.

They certainly do have a lot of parallels with other Indo-Iranian ethnicities. For instance, there's an trickster like Loki and a story very similar to the Greek story of how Prometheus brought fire to humans. One big difference is that the leader of the Narts is a matriarch, not a patriarch. The Ossetians call her Satana, but variations of her name in other cultures include Satanaya and Sela-Sata.

The general tone of the sagas is remarkably matter-of-fact. If a Nart has to do something extraordinary, the fact that it's unusual is oftentimes remarked upon. Then again, there are unusual things that are treated like normal, everyday the story of how Satana got her son. And is nothing like what you think. Very weird, though. I'm not going to go into that here because it's the sort of thing that should go behind an adult filter in our culture. I may still post some of the stories later, but with a specific warning that it's not my usual type of content.

I have John Colarusso's translations of the Caucasian versions into English (Circassian, Abkhazian, etc...), but at the time of printing he was only just starting to work on learning Ossetian. Which means I can't personally compare the Caucasian versions to the Ossetian to try to find bits that are uniquely Ossetian (and thus, Sarmatian in origin) and which bits are uniquely Caucasian. But fortunately, there's another Sarmatian in the SCA who knows Hungarian and there is a Hungarian translation of the Ossetian Nart Sagas. She's been reading through them recently and has posted some of her favorite excerpts here. I recommend taking a look. :)

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