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Nart saga

The Nart sagas (Adyghe: Нартхымэ акъыбарыхэ; Nartxıme aqıbarıxe; Abkhaz: Нарҭаа ражәабжьқәа; Nartaa raƶuabƶkua; Karachay-Balkar: Нарт таурухла; Nart tawruxla; Ossetian: Нарты кадджытæ; Nartı kadjıtæ; Narty kaddžytæ; Chechen: Нарт Аьрштхой; Nart ärştxoý; Nart ärştxoj) are a series of tales originating from the North Caucasus. They form the basic mythology of the tribes in the area, including Abazin, Abkhaz, Circassian, Ossetian, Karachay-Balkar, and Chechen-Ingush folklore.



The term nart comes from the Ossetian Nartæ, which is plurale tantum of nar.[1] The origin of the root nar is of Iranian origin, from Proto-Iranian nar for 'hero, man', descended from Proto-Indo-European *h₂nḗr.[2] In Chechen, the word nart means 'giant'.


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

Study and significanceEdit

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

It is generally known that all the Nart corpora have an ancient Iranian core, inherited from the Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans (the Alans being the ancestors of the Ossetians).[4] 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 contain more archaic accretions 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".[2][4]

Connections to other mythologyEdit

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.

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.[4] See Historical basis for King Arthur – Sarmatian hypothesis ( in subsection Lucius Artorius Castus ) for more details.

Differences between Nart legendsEdit

There are some differences between the various versions of the Nart legends. For example, the Ossetian versions depict the Nartic tribe as composed of three distinct clans who sometimes rival one another: the brave Æxsærtægkatæ (to whom the most prominent Narts belong), the rich Borætæ, and the wise Alægatæ; The Circassian versions do not depict such a division. The Abkhaz versions are unique in describing the Narts as a single nuclear family composed of Satanaya's one hundred sons.[5] Yet all of these versions describe the Narts as a single coherent group of (mostly) ‘good’ heroes.

Some Nakh (Chechen-Ingush) legends include a group called the Nart-Orxustxoi, which includes the most prominent Narts known from the other versions (e.g. Seska-Solsa corresponding to Sosruko/Soslan, Khamtsha-Patarish corresponding to Batraz/Batradz etc.). In contrast to the Ossetian and Abkhaz versions, the Nakh legends depict the Narts as warlike bandits, who fight against local good heroes such as Koloi-Kant and Qinda-Shoa.[6] (with Qinda-Shoa corresponding to Sawway/Shawey).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Abaev, V.I., ed. (1973), ИСТОРИКО-ЭТИМОЛОГИЧЕСКИЙ СЛОВАРЬ ОСЕТИНСКОГО ЯЗЫКА [Historical-Etymological Dictionary of Ossetian language] (in Russian), II (L-R), p.158-9 "Nartae, Nart"
  2. ^ a b c Colarusso 2002, pp. xxiv, 552.
  3. ^ Tsaroieva 2005, p. 199.
  4. ^ a b c Colarusso 2002.
  5. ^ Tokarev, S.A., ed. (1980), Mify narodov mira [Myths of the World] (encyclopedia) (in Russian), 2 (K-Ya), Narty
  6. ^ Tsaroieva 2005, p. 215.


Further readingEdit

Circassian Nart sagas
Ossetian Nart sagas
Abkhaz Nart sagas
Karachay-Balkar Nart sagas
Chechen-Ingush Nart sagas
  • "[Category: Causcasus]", Wanana sculun Frankon - Linguistics, History, Mythology and More , Causcasian folklore articles

External linksEdit

  Media related to Nart Sagas at Wikimedia Commons