Nart Sagas

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Part 3: Selected Nart Sagas


Nart Sagas


The Circassian human was the master artist who conceived the Nart sagas more than 3,000 years ago, inbred from the unfathomable realm of the sub-consciousness.  The Nart sagas effectively and consecutively flourished and developed via a chain of exclusive civilisations, which first saw light approximately 750,000 years ago, in the North-West Caucasus region (Jaimoukha [A], 2001, p.311). They carry glimpse of numerous historic civilisations that dwelled and thrived in the Circassians’ homeland.

Unadulterated by materialistic concepts, the Nart sagas became the genuine artefacts of the Circassian culture and psyche, the borders that shaped their identity, and an expression in conveying their morals, values, and stance towards their life and the world within the vast universe.

The Circassians, managed to weave a nest of thoughts into a reflective anthology of epics, tales, poems, and hymns describing the nucleus of their existence and intellectual development, stimulated by the beauty and intricacy of their homelands’ topography. Few of the Nart accounts are meagre tales, yet many enclose facets that gratify intense queries on creation, intuition, and innovation of the early human in the North Caucasus.

A compilation of 700 stories that divide between narrations, poems, and hymns, compose the Nart sagas. Given that the Narts sags documentation did not transpire until relative recent times (between the late 19th- mid 20th century), their chronological sequence, and creation date is not clearly verified; some sagas contain elements from prehistoric ages, matriarch age, while others represent fairly recent historical epochs. Prior to their documentation, the Nart sagas were verbally narrated and memorised by storytellers and Jegwagk’wexer. The Jegwagk’we’s are a group of singers and poets who acted as wardens safeguarding the history and oral folk of the Circassian nation; each Jegwagk’we would memorize a specific section from the Circassian oral culture. During wars, Jegwak’we’s performed before an army prior to entering a battle; recitation of heroic songs used to infuse energy and fortitude in the heart of the warriors (Qermoqwe [H], 2001, p. 200).


The Nart sagas are multi-faceted enclosing both good and evil, but fundamentally, they are heroic in temperament, focusing on specific qualities such as valour, justice, integrity, and morality. The characters are a group of bold heroes, gods, demigods, beasts, dragons, and pygmies, who possess phenomenal powers. They interact with nature and animals as equals, and are able to communicate with them.

The sinister facet of the sagas and the characters is intense and extreme, interleaved with trickery, sorcery, and blasphemy.


An assortment of gods highly interlaced within the Narts lives and expeditions. Among the various gods, the most distinguished in the Nart sagas were, the God of Soul Psathe, the God of family hearth Sozeresh, the God of harvest Theghelej, the God of forge Lhepsch, the God of sheep Amisch, the God of forests and hunt Mezithe, the God of skies Waschx’we, and the supreme God Theschxwe. Goddesses also had substantial significance, such as the goddess of bees Merise, the goddess of rain Hentsigwasche, and the forest goddess Mezgwasche.

The Narts acknowledged the powers of the various deities, they even sought their gratitude for wellbeing, profusion, and pledged by their names. However, there were limitations to their power and control, and ultimately circumvented the Narts vehemence as displayed in the account of Sosriqwe’s Downfall.

Although there are few sagas that imply a hint of biblical ingredients, however, the Narts did not pursue a specific religious doctrine, nor did the nucleus of their spiritual ideology relate to monotheistic notions, particularly the idea of heaven and hell, such concept was practically non-existent. However, they believed in the afterlife or Hederixe, literally, “with no the body” or the world beyond grave, where the concept of an eternal soul validly existed. Some sagas report of a world underneath the surface of the earth belonging to the deceased, where beings exist and interact within the boundaries of death, and are able to communicate with the living. Sosriqwe sets an example for such contact. Resurrection and immortality also have strong presence in the Narts notion of the death; water and fire played the major role in the rebirth process, while unparallel heroism and the consumption of magical apples awarded immortality.  The Narts also relied on the realm of dreams and clairvoyants for predicting the future, and conducted witchcraft to obtain desired outcome.

The concept of a divine judgement or ‘judgement day’ is unidentified in the Narts world. The deities’ duties were to render services such as collecting cattle, exalt crops for abundance, fashion weapons, and tools, and so forth.

Worship and sacredness among the Narts manifest within elements found in nature and in their character. Heroism, justice, pride, truth, morality, and most significantly, respect, are the guidelines that shaped some sort of religious doctrine, which defines the complete and desired Nart character. Fear was not an optional trait, as it was highly disgraceful to develop a timid or coy reputation. Sosriqwe’s following words exemplify the Narts attitude towards such: “It is grander to live to short life and remembered in a hundred years, than living a hundred years in cowardice.”


The Narts lives depended on raising cattle, harvesting millet seeds, hunting, and fishing. Horses were indispensable to the Narts journeys and quests. Some horses were endowed with speech, and acted as advisors to their keepers. One anecdote narrates how one Nart refused to leave his horse who died in battle, and instead carried the horse on his sholders to honor him, it is been said that who deserts his horse is only a swine.  

Weapons such as daggers (Qame), swords (Jate), spears (Bzhich’), and arrows (Schabze) were the main arms employed by the Narts. Weaponry, particularly swords and daggers were percieved with high esteem by their owners and indispensable to their lives and quests. 

Number seven occupies an important figure in the Nart sagas, the reoccurring number is continuously detected in the plots, for example, seven rivers, seven valleys, seven days and seven nights, Sosriqwe was dipped into water seven times,  seven giants escort heroes into the Narts council, Lhepsch’s anvil pierced into the seventh layer of earth, and so forth. The number may have had a religious implication, or regarded as a fortunate numeral.


Alongside the boldness of men, lady heroes significantly participated in the sagas; characters such as Adiyixw, Daxenaghwe, Bedexw, Melechipx’w, and Nart Sana display the profound part women took alongside with the men. They participated in battlefield, challenged the Narts, and battled against beasts. Their role in the Nart sagas demonstrates the impartiality Circassian culture perceives both genders, and the valid existence of the bygone matriarch dominance amongst the Circassians. The phenomenal and chief character in the Nart sagas, Lady Seteney, further verifies this.


The pillars of the Nart sagas are three vital constituents: Lady Seteney, Nart Sosriqwe, and the Nart Council. Although there are, over 20 chief characters taking part in the general Nart saga anthology, however, the three components are the most notorious and focal point of the Nart saga momentum.


Lady Seteney is a central character, and there are two chief phases she represents in the Nart sagas, pre-Sosriqwe’s birth, and post-Sosriqwe’s birth.

Seteney held the dominant position among the Narts, and controlled the path and outcomes of the majority of the Narts life’s, quests, and victories. She was fundamentally the umbrella where all of the Narts came under, and an emblem of their pride. This conversely was not the ultimate position Seteney would retain in the Nart sagas. The story of Seteney’s Flowers demonstrate the ethnographical shift of rule from matriarchal into patriarchy once the Narts opted they no longer disposed to follow the commands of a woman, thus, leading to Seteney’s demise. Hence, Sosriqwe’s birth and adoption by Seteney effectively revived and recuperated her powers and status among the Narts, consequently shifting the Nart sagas dynamic into a developed stage.

Sosriqwe is the upshot of Seteney’s allegory of finding the rock, which she reared until Sosriqwe emerged. Despite the Narts high speculations towards Sosriqwe’s patriarchal lineage and Seteney’s chastity, she jeopardised her reputation and embraced Sosriqwe rearing him with her ideologies to become her powerful weapon and shield in reclaiming her position, within the new system of male dominance the Narts developed into.  The developed stage is essentially Seteney’s retrieval of power via Sosriqwe.


Sosriqwe is the Narts protagonist; his birth signifies a new epoch on a global level. He was the radical innovation of iron, the birth of metallurgy in the North Caucasus.  Along with Sosriqwe’s birth, we detect significance to the rock, iron, fire, and water, elements that must have been a vital source of subsistence at the time among the Circassians.

Although his stunted physique and dark features greatly differed than that of the Narts, yet, Sosriqwe was their redeemer, saving them from abolition, and the one who reclaimed their fire stolen by the giant, amongst many other deeds. Nonetheless, the Narts envied his unparallel heroism and attempted to demolish him on several occasions. Sosriqwe’s victories and death escaping, was usually performed at the hands of his mother Seteney, who aided him over his enemies by invoking witchcraft and blasphemy. Although majority of the accounts Seteney and Sosriqwe represent a relationship between a mother and a son, yet few accounts report that Seteney wished to take Sosriqwe as a husband, and other accounts portray them as a couple.

Essentially, Sosriqwe and Seteney are mutually the central characters of the sagas; they are the axis of numerous narratives that shed light on complex issues concerning the Circassian culture and psyche formation and development.


The Nart council is the fountainhead of the sagas overall design. It is the meeting point of Circassian principles that are most cherished and celebrated, such as knowledge, valour, candour, and the flow of Circassian mores.

The Nart council is a congregation of the most accomplished Narts, who proved to perform a substantial number of heroic deeds, such as razing mountains, defying oceans and triumph over beasts and dragons. It was an honour to receive an invitation into the Nart council and an ultimate tribute to be recognised as a hero by the council’s members. Moreover, the council abode, known as the House of Alej, on Mount Hereme ‘Waschhe held exquisite banquets, Olympic Games, wine festivities, and bold dancing competitions.

Mount Hereme ‘Waschhe is where the Narts and the gods held their meetings, and a destination where oaths were pledged. It is also, where duel combats between two heroes took place as in the account of Sosriqwe and Toteresh.  Although Mount Hereme ‘Waschhe’s existence is suspected and location is unidentified, it is hypothesised that it is the very Mount ‘Waschhemaxwe (Mount Elbruz), another suggestion implies that it may refer to the pyramids of Egypts, basing such premise on text translation,

Hereme: Haram (pyramid in Arabic language Haram)

‘Waschhe: Summit in Circassian language; the Pyramid’s Summit (Qermoqwe [H], 2001, p. 72).


Despite their strong presence in the sagas narratives, the Nart council members seldom participated in the Narts audacious journeys and quests, to all intents and purposes they existed to resolve socio-political predicaments and allocate advice for the Nart community. A Themade or leader orchestrated the council’s flow by establishing and executing rules and regulations alongside with fellow members. In the Nart sagas, the council leader or Themade varies from account to the other; Zchilax’sten was the Themade in some accounts and in other accounts, it was Nesren Zchach’e, or Bedenoqwe.

In a theoretical sense, the Nart council represented a Nart’s ultimate physical and intellectual perfection. A juncture during which, a Nart can develop into both, human and divine, able to balance existing between transience and immortality.


The Nart sagas are divided between tales, poems, and laments and hymns. A single hero who sets to achieve a particular mission usually leads a story, and throughout, encounters a series of paranormal experiences until finally is able to achieve his/her quest. Poems are short sentenced, sharp in tone and rhythmic in prose. They also transmit a descriptive plot about a hero, a mission, an experience, and accomplishment. Hymns and laments are more intense in nature known as Ghibze. A Ghibze describes an adverse episode in the life of a Nart. It is highly descriptive and at times eclectic in style.

 The Nart saga language is clear, straightforward, and sharp toned. However, in its plainness, it effectively renders profound philosophies derived from the Circassian perception and sub-consciousness in interpreting the human as an entity, and life’s convolution. 


The subsequent translated sagas represent both, western and eastern Circassian dialects. The Eastern dialects represent the Qeberdei (Kabardian) and Beislenei texts. Western dialects represent Bzchedigh, Hatiyqoei, Abdzexe, Schapsighe, Ch’emgwei, Agwei, and Hek’wtsu text.

Minimal syntax changes applied to the following selected Nart sagas, to retain the raw and archaic design the sagas correspond to.

The Latinized-Circassian alphabets are supported from The Circassians, a handbook (Jaimoukha [A], 2001, p. 320).

Submitted: September 30, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Zaina El-Said. All rights reserved.

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