David of Sasun

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David of Sasun

 

(Sasonts’i Davit’), a heroic epic of the Armenian people. It consists of four parts: Sanasar and Baghdasar, Mker the Elder, David of Sasun, and Mker the Younger. The third part, the core of the cycle, was inspired by a peasant uprising in 851 against the tribute collectors of the Arab caliphate in the mountainous regions of Sasun in western Armenia. The entire cycle was created by bards over the course of many centuries in various Armenian dialects, absorbing legends, traditions, and epic narratives from the earliest periods of Armenian history. It also reflects many real historical events, such as the Crusades.

The epic was first written down in 1874 by the Armenian folklorist G. Srvandzyan. Its principal hero, David, bears some resemblance to Ovnan Khutetsi (Ghovnan Khot’etsi), the leader of a rebellion against the tyrant Msra Melik, who had come to conquer Sasun. However, the epic is not a chronicle of specific historical events. Its main theme—the struggle for independence of the homeland—was dear to all the Armenian people. As it developed and grew richer, drawing upon the treasury of folklore, the epic became national in character, an artistic distillation of the life of the people. Its heroes are bearers of the national ideals of nobility, justice, courage, heroism, grandeur, and genuine patriotism.

David of Sasun is couched in rhythmic language, in which iambs alternate with anapests and individual episodes are composed like songs. It is marked by a simplicity and dignity of imagery, folk-style diction, and a conceptual and philosophic profundity. O. Tumanian, A. Isahakian, and other poets have written narrative poems based on motifs from the epic. In September 1939, Soviet society observed the 1,000-year anniversary of the epic. David of Sasun has been translated into many languages.

TEXTS

Sasna tsrher, vols. 1–2 (parts 1–2). Yerevan, 1936–51.
Sasonts’i Davit’. Compiled by M. Abeghyan (Abegian) et al. Under the general editorship of and with a preface by I. A. Orbeloi (Orbeli). Yerevan, 1939; vol. 2, Yerevan, 1961.
In Russian translation:
David Sasunskii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.

REFERENCES

David Sasunskii: Iubileinyi sb., posviashchennyi 1000-letiiu eposa. Yerevan, 1956.
Orbeli, I. Armianskiigeroicheskiiepos. Yerevan, 1956.
Abeghyan (Abegian), M. Lay zhoghovdakan vebe. Tiflis, 1908.
Sasonts‘i Davit‘: 1000. Yerevan, 1939. (Collection of articles.)

A. T. GANALANIAN