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“Grid′ba in the Ship” and “Quail in the Forest”: A Reading of the Old Russian Folklore Text

Vladimir Ya. Petrukhin


In her discussion of the Novgorod Sophia Chronicle, Tatiana V. Rozhdestvenskaya supposed that the folklore text in this source referring to “grid′ba in the ship” and “quail in the forest” is related to burial rites. The text, however, could also be connected with another “rite of passage”—a wedding ceremony, with the wedding retinue in the ship (as matchmakers) and a pie in the stove (as a wedding dish); the quail in the forest seems to be a charm, sending the soul of the deceased female/bride in the guise of a quail to the forest, the world of the dead. Old Russian and Scandinavian parallels—for example, burial in a boat, Olga’s massacre of the Drevlian matchmakers (in the Russian Primary Chronicle), and the attempt described in an Icelandic saga involving the scalding of the bridegroom in the bath—seem to be essential for an interpretation of the text from the Sophia Chronicle. The charm could be intended to prevent the return of a ghost to the world of the living. The charm was perceived as blasphemous in the church, which is why it was crossed out by a pious “censor” and inscribed with the command to “let those hands wither.”


graffiti; charms; funeral; wedding; retinue in ship; bird-soul


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