Novgorod cycle of epics

Novgorod cycle of epics

Novgorod cycle of epicsIn the Russian epic, the Novgorod cycle of epics stands apart. The basis of the plots of these legends was not military feats and political events of a national scale, but incidents from the life of the inhabitants of a large trading city – Veliky Novgorod. The reasons are clear: the city and the veche republic formed around it have always occupied a separate place in life, and, therefore, in the culture of Rus’.

These epics were composed and told by buffoons, for which the ancient city was especially famous. Naturally, for a generous reward, they tried to please the tastes of the Novgorod bourgeoisie, creating bright, exciting, and sometimes funny stories from their lives.

Contents of epics of the Novgorod cycle

Epics about Sadok

The most famous hero of Novgorod legends is Sadko. Having come from a poor background (either a psaltery player, or a simple merchant, or just a good fellow), he becomes very wealthy. Such a plot could not help but attract those keen on the idea of ​​enriching the residents of the shopping center.

In the plots of the epics about Sadok, three lines can be distinguished: about his enrichment, about the competition with the Novgorodians, and about the King of the Sea. Sometimes all this could be contained in one legend. But in any version, much attention was paid to ordinary everyday scenes of Novgorod reality, and the merchant environment was vividly depicted. In fact, all the legends about Sadok glorify the wealth of the lord of Veliky Novgorod himself.

Epic about Stavr

The apogee of the heyday of the Novgorod desire to obtain capital becomes the epic about Stavr. It tells the story of a noble Novgorod boyar-capitalist, engaged in profiteering and usury. The epic Stavr is imprisoned by Prince Vladimir – here you can see the clash and rivalry of Kyiv and Novgorod, and the prototype is Sotsky, imprisoned by Vladimir Monomakh. But all the narrator’s sympathies are clearly on the side of the Novgorod boyar.

Epics about Vasily Buslaev

The favorite of the Novgorod residents was Vaska Buslaev – a daring fellow, a hero of the Novgorod ushuinism, dashing robberies in the Novgorod colonies, a lover of showing off and feasting. Unlike other epic heroes who walked around Rus’, Novgorod Buslaev is famous not for military heroism, but for his daring in internal fights and conflicts of the restless republic.

Other epics

Other epics also become an expression of the tastes of Novgorod residents – about Khoten Bludovich, who decided to woo the daughter of an arrogant and rich widow, about the rich guest Terentishche, etc. They are of a purely realistic genre nature, vividly illustrating the everyday life and tastes of the Novgorod bourgeoisie.

The role of the Novgorod cycle of epics

Novgorod was a rich trading center, open to the cultural influences of the West and East. At the same time, it always resembled a kind of hive, disturbed by the acute struggle of social groups. By his very character he formed a cult of wealth, luxury and overseas travel.

The Novgorod cycle of epics that appeared in such circumstances allows us to look not at the fabulous exploits of heroes, as in the epics of the Kyiv cycle, but at the ordinary life of the ancient city. Even the style of presentation and the plot of these songs are more reminiscent of bright and exciting “gossip” spread throughout the noisy city by buffoons and storytellers. That is why Novgorod epics are distinguished among their “brothers”, rather classified as European short stories about city life (fabliau).

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