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Key words
Slavic folklore, folklore genres, motif-indexes, etiological legends, ethnic-cultural stereotypes
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (495) 938-17-80
32 a, Leninsky av., Moscow, 119334, Russian Federation
Grand PhD (Philology), leading researcher of the Department of Etnolinguistics and Folklore, Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

This paper is supported by the Grant of the Foundation for Basic Research project No. 16–04–00101 “Human image in language and culture of the Slavs”.


The paper analyzes the Slavic folk legends devoted to transformations of the human body. Etiological themes and motifs related to the anatomy of the human body declare an idea that all the changes are aimed at giving the body functionality: being initially “ideal” the human body should be adapted to the environment and society. One group of narratives presents the changes that happened with the first people (Adam and Eve); the results of these transformations are inherited by the descendants and have become the norm for all subsequent generations of people. Another group, the subjects of which can be called ethnogenetic, concerns body modifications, which are attributed to representatives of different ethnic traditions.

The legends about the transformation of the human body present not only of the universal motifs, known to almost all of the Slavs (for example, “Satan (the devil) spoils / defiles / stains / maims / turns inside out the human body”; “God turns a human being inside out / cleans with own breath”; “a nail” cover (“shell”, “leather”) of the body gets lost as a result of a sin / the nails as a reminder of the “first body””; “hair lost as a result of the fall / hair as a reminder of the “first body””; “the origin of phlegm / “nasty” saliva (Satan spats the body of the first man”; Adam (“Adam’s apple”) appears as a result of eating the forbidden fruit”), but also rare and unique motifs that exist in certain local traditions. The paper analyzes rare motifs (the emergence of genitals, features of the hairline, the loss of some parts of the body, the redistribution of body functions between a man and a woman), and determines their role in the formation of local narrative traditions. 


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