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Pkharmat bringing fire to mankind, guided by Goddess Sela Sata

The Nart sagas (Ossetic: Нарты кадджытæ; Narty kaddžytæ, Adyghe: Нартхэр Адыгэ Эпос) are a series of tales originating from the North Caucasus. They form the basic mythology of the tribes in the area, including Ossetian, Circassian, Abkhaz, Abazin, Karachay-Balkar and Chechen-Ingush folklore.

The Narts themselves are a race of giants and heroes.



Some of the characters who feature prominently in the sagas are:

Study and significance

The first written account of the material is due to the Kabardian author Shora Begmurzin Nogma (written in Russian 1835-1843, published posthumously in 1861, German translation by Adolf Bergé in 1866). The stories exist in the form of prose tales as well as epic songs.

The word "Nart" is probably of Iranian origin, from a Proto-Indo-European root that is the source of words meaning 'man,' 'hero,' in various Indo-European languages[2], and all the Nart corpora have an ancient Iranian core, inherited from the Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans (the Alans being the ancestors of the Ossetians).[2][3] However, they also contain abundant local North Caucasian accretions of great antiquity, which sometimes reflect an even more archaic past.[2]

Based especially on the Ossetian versions, the sagas have long been valued as a window towards the world of the Iranian-speaking cultures of Antiquity. For example, the philologist Georges Dumézil used the Ossetian division of the Narts into three clans to support his Trifunctional Hypothesis that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were similarly divided into three castes—warriors, priests, and commoners.

The Northwest Caucasian (Circassian, Abkhaz-Abasin and Ubykh) versions are also highly valuable, because they are more archaic[2] and preserve "all the odd details constituting the detritus of earlier traditions and beliefs", as opposed to the Ossetian ones, which have been "reworked to form a smooth narrative".[3]

Some motifs in the Nart sagas are shared by Greek mythology. The story of Prometheus chained to Mount Kazbek or to Mount Elbrus in particular is similar to an element in the Nart sagas. These shared motifs are seen by some as indicative of an earlier proximity of the Caucasian peoples to the ancient Greeks, also shown in the myth of the Golden Fleece, in which Colchis is generally accepted to have been part of modern-day Georgia or Abkhazia.

In the book From Scythia to Camelot, authors C. Scott Littleton and Linda A. Malcor speculate that many aspects of the Arthurian legends are derived from the Nart sagas. The proposed vector of transmission is the Alans, some of whom migrated into northern France at around the time the Arthurian legends were forming. As expected, these parallels are most evident in the Ossetian versions, according to researcher John Colarusso.[3] See Historical basis for King Arthur - Sarmatian connection for more details on this hypothesis.

Differences between Nart Legends

There are various differences between the various versions of the Nart legends. For example, the Ossetian versions depict the Nartic tribe as composed of three distinct clans that sometimes rival with each other (the brave Æxsærtægkatæ, to whom the most prominent Narts belong, the rich Borætæ and the wise Alægatæ), while the Circassian ones don't depict such a division, and the Abkhaz ones are unique in describing the Narts as a single nuclear family composed of Satanaya's one hundred sons.[4] Yet all of these versions describe the Narts as a single coherent group of mostly "good" heroes. In contrast, the Nakh (Chechen-Ingush) legends sometimes depict the Orxustxoi, a group including the most prominent Narts known from the other versions (e.g. Seska-Solsa corresponding to Sosruko/Soslan, Khamtsha-Patarish corresponding to Batraz/Batradz etc.) as warlike bandits, who fight against local good heroes such as Koloi-Kant and Qinda-Shoa[5] (the latter corresponding to Sawway/Shawey).

See also

External links

Circassian Nart sagas:

  1. Myths from the Forests of Circassia, by John Colarusso
  2. Prometheus among the Circassians, by John Colarusso
  3. The Woman of the Myths: the Satanaya Cycle by John Colarusso

Ossetian Nart sagas:

Abkhaz Nart sagas

Karachay-Balkar Nart sagas:

Chechen-Ingush Nart sagas:


  1. ^ Tsaroïeva, Mariel. Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchetchenes. P. 199. ISBN 2-7068-1792-5
  2. ^ a b c d John Colarusso. Nart Sagas from the Caucasus: Myths and Legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs. Princeton University Press. xxiv, 552..
  3. ^ a b c [1]
  4. ^ Mify narodov mira. 1980. V.2. Narty
  5. ^ Tsaroïeva, Mariel. Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchetchenes. P. 215. ISBN 2-7068-1792-5

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