The Nart Sagas (Colarusso)

I have just received a translation of the Nart Sagas by John Colarusso. These are tales from the northern Caucasus region. The title says Circassians and Abkhazians, but the stories within are shared by other groups like the Ossetians and Nakhs. The term “Nart” actually comes from the Iranic term for “Hero.”

It’s thought that much of the lore within can be traced back to the Ossetians, who are the last remaining Iranic language speakers north of the Caucasus region. They founded a kingdom known as “Alania” that once covered much of the region where the sagas are found today. The Ossetians are a remnant of a vast Iranic language speaking continuum that once stretched throughout modern day Russia, one that we know influenced the Proto-Slavic culture. It will be interesting to see if there are any major parallels hinting at this.

Most academic interest in them currently seems to be based on comparison with Greek mythology and, bizarrely, the Arthurian romances. That last idea seems a bit shaky to me. Allegedly, the Alanic auxiliaries brought in by the Roman Empire could have spread their legends. But considering that our record of the native traditions from Western Europe are patchy, it seems unlikely that the legends of a small group of foreigners would be well-preserved there. The Greek connection makes a lot more sense to me. Anyway, I haven’t started it yet, so we’ll see what I find.

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