The Axiology and Symbolism of the Motif System in Novgorod Bylinas




folklore, axiology, heroic epic, epic motif, Sadko, Vasily Buslaev


This article carries out an axiological analysis of Novgorod bylinas about Sadko and Vasily Buslayev, which leads the author to interpret epic motifs as a semantic unity that help reveal the hero’s motives, his actions, and their consequences. The borders of the motif as part of the plot are determined by the hero’s central values and his resulting (and, as a rule, altered) state. The elements of the epic motif are studied through the prism of the character’s evaluations, as well as those of the epic bard and the listener. As a result, the author develops a principle of value classification for bylina motifs. The motifs of the Russian epic are also divided depending on whether they make part of parallel constructions with other motifs of the same type, and according to the presence of an opposition in the form of an antipode motif. The author reveals the function of the motif in bylina plots which, according to the author, the bard could easily keep in his memory, as it is connected with simple causal logic and is based on the hero’s motives and moral state (pride, lechery, greed, etc.). Targeting a traditional audience, the bard could combine, rearrange, and contaminate motifs, creating a unique version of the song for a particular spiritual and therapeutic purpose of communication. The author concludes that micro-topics, termed “epic motifs” by adherents of the structural and semantic approach, have a “semantics”, but this meaning is not enough for the bard to realise and remember the functional effect of the motif, i. e. the correcting effect produced on the listener.

Author Biography

Arseny Mironov

PhD (Philology), Rector, Moscow State Institute of Culture. 

7, Bibliotechnaya Str., 141406, Khimki, Moscow Region, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-4344-6489


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How to Cite

Mironov, A. (2020). The Axiology and Symbolism of the Motif System in Novgorod Bylinas. Quaestio Rossica, 8(5), 1519–1533.



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