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DOI: 10.46698/e5573-0075-7841-g

NARRATIVE STRATEGIES TRANSFORMING THE TEXTS OF THE NARTS’ SAGAS

Gutieva, Elmira T.
Kavkaz Forum. 2020. Issue 4.
Abstract:
The Ossetian Narts’ legends are famous for their historicity, conservatism,
resistance to change. During the centuries-old period of their oral existence,
they were passed on to subsequent generations in the conditions of polyethnic
confederations among the mobile nomads. Later they found themselves in the
contrary situation of historical isolation. Both periods contributed to inevitable
erosion of the elements that had lost their relevance, thus complicating the
chronological dating and geographical localization of the events described in
them. However, there could be a deliberate change in the narrative and in the
narrative strategies, due to the evolution and humanization of the society, to the
change and development of its axiological scale, followed by the rejection of the
time-worn rituals, such as killing the elderly, ritual human sacrifice. A change in
the narrative strategy can be observed in relation to archaic marriage institutions
(incestuous marriages, polygamy), and to violation of codes of heroic behavior
(killing an unarmed person, slaying a guest).
The preservation of morally outdated and socially prohibited motif may
require deliberate explication, the introduction of additional elements into the
epic text, and the shift of emphasis. For some no longer appropriate marriage
relationships, the epic has strategies of non-mentioning. In the variants of one
saga, the use of directly opposite strategies can be traced – from the strategy of
veiling or disregarding to the strategy of explication and extensive commenting.
In the text of the sagas cases of distorting their compositional harmony, their
certain illogicality, interference of unusual elements can be regarded as indicators
of such transformation. Restoring the original meanings of the Narts’ legends can
help to specify the historical period, cultural background and the ethical context
of their creation.
Keywords: Narts’ epic, narrative strategy, incestuous marriage, polygamy, ritual sacrifice, the killing of old men, decapitation, beheading game
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