Key words
epic tradition, epic hero, game context, epic growth, genre characteristics, epic plot, ballad
About the Author
Tel.: +7 (812) 328-19-01
4, emb. Makarova, Saint Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation
Full Professor (Philology), head of department of Russian Folklore, Institute of Russian Literature
(Pushkin House), Russian Academy of Sciences

The article deals with characterizing in genre aspect, focused on late epic plots in the Northern-Russian tradition. These are “Butman’ and “Vas’ka Zakharov”. Scholars had left these plots without attention but confined themselves to some general remarks. The main character of the plots is a drunkard, endowed with his own proper name along with famous epic heroes. Before invention of the proper name, drunkards had appeared in “bylina” epics as a marginal group linked with taverns, which represented a later element of the epic universe by its very historical period. Interaction of diachronic layers in the fictious world of “bylina” epics is exemplified vividly by the plot “Il’ya the Muromets and Tavern Riffraff”. Il’ya the Muromets’ name elevates bibulosity theme to the epic height, because a visit to tavern and feasting together with riffraff turns into an independent epic motif. It is interesting that independence of the motif is strengthened by the final scene, linking themes of a feast and a riot. Correlation of the cellar image and a certain rank of the mythic images fastens this plot as one of the heroic feats of the hero and demands a special type of a hero —  namely a drunkard. Ilya the Muromets didn’t fit to such a function, although he was possible for such a heroic feat. This plot demanded for another hero type, a fatalist. We suggest, that new character’s formation proceeded through reception of the spiritual verse about Vasiliy the Great by means of epic parody. Condemnation is replaced with glorification for bibulous skills. Several “bylina” plots with tavern themes are related with such a name of the “bylina” hero as Vas’ka: Vas’ka the Drunkard, Vas’ka Ignat’ev, Vas’ka Zakharov. Plots are interpreted through the aura of game behavior, which causes an effect opposite to the tendency to historical truth, typical of epic poetry.


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