“The Birds of Clay”: An Apocryphal Motif in Folklore Legends
The article describes the adaptation of the apocryphal Gospels motif—the revival of clay birds by Jesus—in the folk traditions of Eastern and Western Slavs. The texts of folk legends demonstrate not only the active inclusion of apocryphal motifs in oral narratives, but they also incorporate the motifs’ biblical contexts and they emphasize themes that are close to everyday life and that reflect local history. The folklore texts analyzed here are from different regions of the Slavic world (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland); they allow us to conclude that the oral tradition has retained, with great stability, these fragments from medieval sources up to the present day. Moreover, it is interesting to note the different interpretations of the same motif in monuments of Christian and Jewish literature (apocryphal Gospels and the pamphlet Toledot Yeshu).The fairly large group of folk legends with apocryphal motifs, occurring in different Slavic traditions from the 19th to the 21st centuries, thus testifies not only to the continued relevance of the biblical plots for oral culture, but also to the importance of the Apocrypha for the broadcasting and preservation of biblical stories in the folk tradition.
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