The Kartvelologist

The Kartvelologist” is a bilingual (Georgian and English) peer-reviewed, academic journal, covering all spheres of Kartvelological scholarship. Along with introducing scholarly novelties in Georgian Studies, it aims at popularization of essays of Georgian researchers on the international level and diffusion of foreign Kartvelological scholarship in Georgian scholarly circles.

“The Kartvelologist” issues both in printed and electronic form. In 1993-2009 it came out only in printed form (#1-15). The publisher is the “Centre for Kartvelian Studies” (TSU), financially supported by the “Fund of the Kartvelological School”. In 2011-2013 the journal is financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation.


Although research into reception of the Classical Tradition in Georgian literature and in particular, Rustaveli’s The Man in the Panther Skin (MPS) is already many decades old[1; 5, 46-49, 182-195, 306-337, 376-473, 550-581; 6; 4], new instances of the reflection of the Classical Tradition have recently been identified in MPS [2; 8].

The main goal of the present paper is to identify and analyse, as I see it, one more case of the allusion to the Classical Tradition, which has not yet been a subject of special research in Rustaveli studies. This instance of reception can be seen in the episode of the poem’s three main characters’ meeting before seizing the Kadjeti fortress, more specifically, in Pridon's so called summing-up speech in which he endorsed the plan put forward by Tariel.

Unlike all the other cases of reception identified in the MPS, this particular one is distinctly parodic as Pridon tells Tariel in jest that he regrets giving him as a gift his fastest and miraculous horse which will assist Tariel and not its former owner - Pridon himself - to conquer the fortress (here and subsequently with reference to the text of the poem I use the edition of the Commission for the Establishment of the text of the MPS [see 9]. In the English translation of the paper I quote separate stanzas according to M. Wardrop’s edition [see 9a]. (Square brackets are used to render the words omitted in the translation by M. Wardrop or the words revised by me - Z. Kh.):

„ფრიდონ უთხრა: <<შემიგნია, გაგიგია, ვიცი მე, რა:
“Pridon said: <
მაგა ცხენსა ჩემეულსა მოასწრებენ კართა ვერა;
none could forestall at the gates [of the fortress] that horse [of yours] that once was mine;
ოდეს გიძღვენ, არ ვიცოდი, ქაჯეთს გვინდა ქაჯთა მზერა,
when I gave it [to you as a gift] I knew not that we should want to [face
up to] Kadjis in Kadjeti [fortress];
თვარა ყოლა არ გიძღვნიდი, ჩემი გითხრა სიძუნწე რა>>.
[otherwise] I would by no means have given it to [you as a gift], such is [I should tell you or not -] mine avarice!>>
ფრიდონ ლაღი ამხანაგობს საუბართა ესოდენთა.
Pridon the [cheerful jokes] with such discourse as this;
ამას ზედა გაიცინნეს მათ წყლიანთა, სიტყვაბრძენთა,
thereupon they, the eloquent, wise-worded ones, laugh[ed],
ერთმანერთსა ელაღობნეს ლაღობათა, მათთა მშვენთა,
they joke[d] one with another, with merriment beseeming them.
გარდახდეს და დაეკაზმნეს, უკეთესთა შესხდეს ცხენთა.“
They dismounted and [donned their armor]; they mounted [those] steeds [of theirs which were the fastest]”(9, 1398-1399 / 9a, 1382-1383).
The point is that, according to the war plan elaborated by Tariel, it was quite feasible for the hero with a faster horse to enter the fortress first and thus be honoured by being considered the conqueror of the Kadjeti fortress (9, 1398-1399 / 9a, 1380-1381):
„მაგა თათბირსა ესე სჯობს, ვქმნათ ჩემი მონახსენები:
“Better than that counsel is this – let us do as I say:
გავიყოთ კაცი ას-ასი, რა ღამე ჩნდეს ნათენები,
let us divide the men by hundreds; when night turns to dawn
სამთავე სამგნით მივმართოთ, ფიცხლა დავსხლიტოთ ცხენები;
let the three of us start out from three places, let us urge [our horses into a full gallop];
მოგვეგებვიან, ვემცრობით, ჩვენ ხრმალსა მივსცეთ მძლე ნები.
they will [meet us outside the fortress, because] we shall seem [small in
quantity] to them, [and then let us our swords with mighty hands].
ფიცხლა შევებნეთ, შევსჯარნეთ, ვერ მოგვასწრებენ კარებსა,
Swiftly shall we [attack] them, we shall [surround] them, they will [have no time] to shut the gates [of the fortress] against us;
სამთაგან ერთი შეუვალთ, სხვა გარეთ ვსცემდეთ გარებსა,
one of the three will [be able to] go in, the others from outside will strike those who are outside;
მან ერთმან შიგნით შიგანნი მივსცნეთ სისხლისა ღვარებსა,
that one who is inside will fall on those within, making their blood flow;
ხელი კვლა ვჰხადოთ აბჯარსა, მას ჩვენგან მძლედ ნახმარებსა“.
again let us [use our arms, the same way bravely as many times before]“.

I think that while addressing Tariel by his humorous speech Pridon focuses attention on the first part of his friend’s plan correspondingly paying no attention to its second part. Specifically, according to Tariel, out of three heroes only one would be able to enter the fortress before the gates were closed and thus, he would have to fight on his own, defeat the enemy and finally, conquer the castle. By joking about this, Pridon presents the facts as though it was suffice to have a fast horse, mounted on which the hero would enter the castle. Everything else, including the defeat of the enemy, was quite insignificant in meaning and did not deserve any special attention. In this way, as is known, only one castle – Troy - was captured: with the help of a wooden horse the Greeks managed to get into the fortress, then attacking the sleeping Trojans and defeating the enemy effortlessly. One more detail attracts my attention: according to the Classical Tradition, the wooden horse, with the help of which Greeks conquered Troy, was initially perceived by the Trojans as a gift left for them and the Gods by Greeks (cf. the famous winged phrase of ancient origin – the gift of Danaans, i.e. of Greeks). In Pridon’s speech to Tariel it is emphasised that the hero regrets giving the horse to his friend as a gift. Thus, it is obvious that the motive of seizing a fortress by means of a magical horse given as a gift in someone even superficially familiar with the ancient world and Homer's poems, may evoke the association with only one well-known fact from the Classical literary tradition – the capture of Troy – by the Greeks by means of the wooden horse, given as a gift.

Inasmuch as within the stanzas under discussion Rustaveli emphasizes repeatedly that Pridon's words are meant as a joke, and are perceived as a joke by Tariel and Avtandil, I think the above episode should be considered not as one more ‘ordinary’ instance of the reception of antiquity, but as an allusion to the Classical Tradition in the form of a parody. It should also be mentioned here that Rustaveli's allusion to the Homeric epic does not belong to sharp sarcasm or satire. On the contrary, it implies the second type of parody with a light, harmless humour. Taking into consideration Pridon’s respectful attitude towards Tariel, manifested all over the poem, he could not have addressed his friend otherwise. By the same token, it can be presumed that Rustaveli’s attitude to the Homeric epic must have been the same. Thus, the case under discussion could perhaps be considered as a desire of the extraordinarily gifted, epic poet to refer indirectly to the founder of the ancient epic tradition, alluding to his poems in the form of parody. However, the type of the parodic allusion to the Homeric epic chosen by Rustaveli reveals the benevolent attitude of the Georgian poet to his ancient Greek predecessor.

What could be the reason for selecting the parodic form of allusion in this episode which can be classed as unique as no other analogues to it can be found throughout the whole poem? Or, put in other words, has Rustaveli created the parody of the Homeric epic for parody’s sake or does it have any specific compositional function?

As I have mentioned, in his speech Pridon achieves the above-said parodic effect by focusing on the rapidity of Tariel's horse and not on the military capabilities of the hero. By bringing forth the associations with the Trojan horse the poet emphasises that the fate of the Kadjeti fortress has already been decided! Like Troy, it cannot be saved from being conquered. Therefore, as the “dramatic effect” of the episode is reduced to the smallest possible degree, from the compositional point of view, it can no longer play a decisive role within the whole poem. However, from the point of the world view and general idea, this is the episode in which goodness finally defeats evil to which Rustaveli attracts the reader’s and /or the listener’s attention: „ნახეს, მზისა შესაყრელად გამოეშვა მთვარე გველსა“/“They saw: the moon (i.e. Nestan) was freed from the serpent to meet the sun (i.e. Tariel)” [9, 1414, 2/9a, 1396, 2]. Even so, the opposite can be attested by one more episode of the poem. Specifically, in his farewell speech to Patman („წავალ, დგომად აღარა მცალს, დრო მოსულა შარშანდელი,//ფიცხლა ქაჯეთს მოვიყვანო მათი მომსპობ-ამწყვედელი“/“I go, I have no leisure to tarry longer, last year's time is come.//Swiftly shall I lead into Kadjeti [fortress] him (i.e. Tariel) who will annihilate and destroy them (i.e. the Kadjis)”, - 9, 1307, 3-4/9a, 1288, 3-4). Avtandil directly announces that the Kadjeti fortress will, by all means, be attacked and conquered. Thus, as it turns out, according to the compositional plan of Rustaveli, the evil is finally defeated and goodness wins, not after the release of Nestan from the Kadjeti fortress, but in Arabia, where the evil is finally defeated by the goodness – love.

Simultaneously with the accession to the throne of Tariel and Nestan, newly married Avtandil and Tinatin also ascend the throne (cf.: 5, 85; 10). As mentioned many times in Rustvelological Studies, according to Rustaveli’s artistic conception, the main tension of the plot in the poem is finally eased and consequently the MPS ends with the episode depicting the return of the heroes to Arabia, revealed by King Rostevan’s words: „ბრძენთა უთქვამს სიყვარული, ბოლოდ მისი არწახდომა“/“The sages say that [in the end love] will not fail” [9, სტრფ. 1539, 4/9a, 1520, 4; 5, 83; 3; 7].

Thus, as it turns out, while realizing his compositional plan, as one of the literary devices, Rustaveli uses parodic allusion to the Classical Tradition, alluding, in particular, to the Homeric epic. I have in mind the following circumstance: the main tension of the plot in the MPS as well as in all epic and dramatic compositions is generally eased at the end of an artistic work. In the case of the MPS these are the final episodes of the poem depicting all three heroes' return to Arabia, ‘the reconciliation’ of King Rostevan and Tariel and finally the wedding of Avtandil and Tinatin. However, after the key intriguing episode of the poem like the capture of the Kadjeti fortress and the release of Nestan by Tariel, as has frequently been mentioned by the researchers of the MPS, the poem does not provoke any more such an acute and sustained interest in the reader and/or the listener as before that episode. I believe that knowing very well the principles of compositional organisation of the epic plot and thus, discussing them in his poetic conception, presented in the prologue of the poem [9, 12-17/9a, 19-24; see in details: 3; 7; 8], Rustaveli himself must have noticed that circumstance. Thus, in order to overcome this “unexpected” compositional difficulty, Rustaveli deliberately lowers the degree of tension in the episode of capture of the Kadjeti fortress. In order to achieve this goal, the poet, it seems to me, uses compositional techniques of various types:

1) ‘Long before’ the capture of the Kadjeti fortress, while talking to Patman, Avtandil discloses the result of the upcoming battle: Tariel will, by all means, slaughter the Kadjis (9, 1307, 3-4 / 9a, 1288, 3-4, see above, in details). This, undoubtedly, decreases the reader's and /or the listener's interest towards the upcoming battle.

2) In the MPS the compositionally non-basic stories are told as briefly as possible and, in addition, they are composed without ending. As it seems to me, in the Prologue of his poem Rustaveli discusses this compositional principle in detail [see 3; 7; 8]. Taking the above said into consideration, I think it is not accidental that along with other compositionally non-basic stories, the process of capture of the Kadjeti fortress is presented by the poet briefly - only with nine stanzas [9, 1405-1413/9a, 1388-1396] out of which only four describe the battle itself [9, 1407-1410/9a, 1389/1392]. However, what seems even more significant is the fact that the capture of the Kadjeti fortress is not an independent chapter of the poem, it is only one of the constituent parts of the large chapter entitled The Council of Tariel. Finally, like other compositionally non-basic episodes, Rustaveli does not complete this episode either. For instance, it remains unclear the fate of Pridon’s sixty warriors who were left in the captured Kadjeti fortress by the heroes, departing for home [9, 1421, 1/9a, 1403, 1]. The point is that when the capture began the main forces of the Kadjis were not in the fortress and thus, they did not participate in the battle, but it was expected that they would be back soon.

3) Elevated mood and joy evoked in the heroes of the MPS by the victory over the Kadjis and the release of Nestan, which could have misled the reader and/or the listener to believe that the poem has reached its climax and final denouement, was, as it seems to me, deliberately lowered and weakened by the poet through mentioning Pridon’s grief over the death of his one hundred and forty warriors, out of three hundred [9, 1419, 1-2/9a, 1401, 1-2]. Without taking into consideration the circumstances that the episode under discussion really carries out the above-said specific compositional plan, in my view it would be difficult to explain why Rustaveli develops intentionally the motif of mourning in the episode depicting the triumph and the happiness of his heroes.

4) Finally, after the council held before the capture of the Kadjeti fortress – through his playful speech to his friend – Pridon pays attention to the circumstance that it is exactly his own ‘magical’ horse, long time ago given to Tariel as a gift, which will enable its current owner to attack and easily conquer the fortress, but Pridon himself would also have become the conqueror of the fortress if he had kept the horse for himself (see above for details). As I mentioned earlier, it seems clear that within this episode Rustaveli employs the allusion to the Classical Tradition. Specifically, the poet alludes to the well-known literary fact of the capture of Troy by means of a wooden horse. This leads to a sharp decrease in the dramatic effect of the whole episode and thus, as a whole, this episode does not acquire against the wishes of the poet the excessive compositional function that it could have had: the reader's and / or the listener's interest is dramatically lowered and their expectation is also reduced, because they have been informed in advance that as with Troy, the Kadjeti fortress will also be necessarily defeated. Moreover, the fact that the words of Pridon to his friend are told in jest (Pridon “regrets” that he has given to his friend a ‘magical’ horse) – in other words, the fact that Rustaveli turns to the parody while alluding to the defeat of Troy with a wooden horse - makes it entirely impossible for the reader and/or the listener to identify the episode as the denouement of the whole poem. This, supposedly, must have been one of the main compositional purposes for Rustaveli while creating this particular episode of the MPS.

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