Animal Epos

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Animal Epos


works comprising various epic genres (the epopee, narrative poem, tale, and fable) whose heroes are animals. The animal epos is derived from an early form of folk art and is found in all parts of the world in either oral or written form. It includes, for example, the ancient comic epic The War Between the Mice and the Frogs (probably dating from the first quarter of the fifth century B.C.); many legends in the Indian collection The Panchatantra, along with their Arabic, Greek, and Persian variants; folk tales about animals and the fables of Aesop, J. de La Fontaine, and I. A. Krylov; medieval Latin, French, German, and Dutch epics about the fox; and Goethe’s long poem Reynard the Fox. The term “animal epos” is most often applied to medieval epic and to folk tales about animals. The compositional basis and the fundamental ideas of the animal epic are quite similar throughout the world. The genre determines the aesthetic qualities of its material. In the fable, for example, the animals are presented allegorically, which as a rule is not done in the tales. The material is conventional; this makes it possible to interpret the epics allegorically and to use them as an instrument of social satire.


Dashkevich, N. Vopros o proiskhozhdenii i razvitii eposa o zhivotnykh. Kiev, 1904.
Andreev, N. P. “Skazki o zhivotnykh.” In Narodnye russkie skazki A. N. Afanas’eva, vol. 1. [Leningrad] 1936.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.