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OSSETIAN NART SAGAS

High up in the Caucasian mountains there is a small country called Ossetia-Alania. The inhabitants of this country, the Ossetians, are said to be descended from the tribe of Alans, who themselves are related to the Sarmatians and Scythians of the ancient steppes. The Ossetian language is part of the Iranian language family and very archaic in its case system (9 cases). The Ossetian peoples introduced a rich Indo-European mythology into the northern Caucasus, known today as the Nart-sagas. In Ossetian mythology a race of halfgods roams the mountains, a race which is called the ‘narts’ (word is IE for ‘man’ and cognate with greek anèr) and who lived heroic lives full of ‘kleos aphthiton’ (undying fame).

WAERXAEG AND HIS SONS

The birth of Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg

Waerxaeg was in that time the oldest of the Narts (demigods). To him two boys were born, twins. One of them was born on the first cock crow, the other on the second, at the sunrise of Venus. The rays of the burning sun looked down on Waerxaeg and he learned this; how sweet the child is. Waerxaeg made a feast because of the glory of the day of the birth of his sons from the meat of wild animals. He invited from the heaven Kwyrdalaegon, from the sea Donbettyr, the sea god – and from the Narts Borae and others. Upon the beloved boys of Waerxaeg the heavenly Kwyrdalaegon placed caring names; upon the older one, Aexshaer, upon the younger one, Aexshaertaeg.

Kwyrdalaegon gave to Waerxaeg as the gift of the godfather a magic flute from the metal of his smithy, prepared from the Bolat steel. The Narts put the magic flute upon their table and to them the flute made a song of miracle with a voice:

"Take it, drink it, to the glory of God.

Take it, drink it, the goblet filled with Rong!"

The invited guests of Waerxaeg celebrated for a week, then after that time they went off; Kwyrdalaegon sat on a string of a fiery storm and took flight in a flash, flying as the mythical bird Pak’wyndzae, while Donbettyr turned into a sparkling fish made out of mother-of-pearl and made a plunge to the bottom of the great sea; Also the Narts went off in a campaign, as cattle-thiefs.

Immediately Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg grew; during daytime they grew the span of a forefinger to the thumb, but at night the span of a whole palm. But they came out very spoiled. They made arrows and bows and a bird flying in the sky they did not leave alone – repeatedly they shot them down from the arm.

The people heard in the world, the saying, that indeed brave sons were grown up to Waerxaeg, twins - Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg. But to what call the people them Aexshaer and Aexshaertaeg? Because Aexshaer, the oldest brother, was heroic, but Aexshaertaeg, the younger brother, was more heroic than Aexshaer.


Some notes:

-the name Donbettyr was a folk-etymological (Don means river) epithet for the Ossetian seagod based on Saint Peter (Saint Peter was venerated by the Eastern Orthodox christians in Caucasian Georgia).
-apparently a feast with the meat of wild animals was something special.
-Rong was an alcoholic beverage.
-mother-of-pearl was a a much sought-after material of decoration in the lands of the Ossetians.
-being called a cattle-thief was something honourable