2021, Volume 18, Issue 3

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Vladimir V. Napolskikh
The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
Izhevsk — Moscow, Russia

“My Arrow, Fly Up Double, Come Down Single”: To the Problem of Scandinavian–Alanic Parallels in the Mythological Onomasticon

Voprosy onomastiki, 2021, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp. 85–99 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2021.18.3.034

Received on 11 March 2021

Abstract: The article compares the plots of the Ossetian Nart epic (the tale of Axsar and Axsartag, sons of Warxag, in which one of the brothers gets killed by a doubled or forked arrow due to a misunderstanding) and the Icelandic epic (the story of the accidental murder of Baldr by his blind brother Höd with a dart from a mistletoe shoot, in medieval illustrations to which the murder weapon is also depicted as forked sprout). The peculiarity of the plot (a strange, forked murder weapon), which was already incomprehensible to Ossetian storytellers and Icelandic medieval writers, is a typical example of “common oddity,” which can be a decisive argument when comparing folklore motifs for a common origin. In addition to the similarity of the plots, a commonality is found in the genealogy of the heroes of these legends, through which they fit into the mythological picture of the world of the corresponding traditions and in the mythological onomasticon: the parallelism of pairs Odin — Frigg / Freya (with her father Njord, the god of waters) and Warхag / Wastyrdg’i — Dzerassa (daughter of the god of waters Donbettyr), semantic similarities in the names of the heroes (‘Warrior,’ ‘Hero’) and the exact match in the names of their ancestors (Boræ Buri, Bor). All these observations allow us to hypothesize for the presence of borrowed Gothic plots in the North German epic tradition, which also include the story of Hermanarich, Sunilda and her brothers, known from Jordanes’ Getica. It also leads us to explain why some sagas trace the location of the Ases and Odin ancestral home to the mouth of the Don. These German-Ossetian parallels do not go back to Indo-European antiquity but testify to the close Gothic–Alanic contacts in the northern Black Sea region in the 3rd–4th centuries.

Keywords: Nart epics; Edda; sagas; Scandinavians; Ossetians; Alans; Goths; comparative mythology.


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