Folklore scholar David Hunt has assembled an anthology of stories that present a fascinating side of the Caucasus rarely encountered by diplomats or students of international relations. He also renders a great service with this collection, culled from 19th and 20th century Russian ethnographic archives and field interviews.
These legends come primarily from the North Caucasus, with a dip into Azerbaijan, but, unfortunately, with no Armenian examples. There are tales from the Abkhaz and Lak; the Ingush and (now extinct) Ubykh peoples; from the Kabard, Georgian, and Lezgin traditions--and many others besides.
And what a feast it is!
Here we learn about Prometheus—but not the familiar classical Greek figure. In this compendium Hunt offers the reader no fewer than 10 permutations of the story, out of 44 Promethean legends identified in the Caucasus. It recounts, for example, how a certain Balkar named Susuruk obtained fire for the Narts—who are a "legendary heroic race of warriors," according to Hunt's helpful glossary.
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Alex van Oss is the Chair of Caucasus Advanced Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC.