Monday, April 16, 2007

Knight Sets Out to Rescue Maiden, Becomes National Epic

The Knight in the Panther's Skin ("Vepkhistkaosani" or ვეფხისტყაოსანი in Georgian) is considered by many the national epic of Georgia and tells the story of the passionate search for a woman, stolen by devils across the sea, by a knight who undertakes the quest on behalf of her distraught suitor. The poem was written in the 12th century by Shota Rustaveli, treasurer to Queen Tamar of Georgia, who reigned during the kingdom's golden age. According to legend, Rustaveli was orphaned as a child and brought up by his uncle, who was a monk. The poet is considered by many one of the finest examples of a medieval writer, touching upon such themes as chivalry, friendship, courtly love, and courage; the three heroes of The Knight in the Panther's Skin are brave, philanthropic, and generous. Their philosophical musings, reflecting ancient Greek, Persian and Chinese philosophy, have become proverbs in Georgia today.

The oldest surviving copy of The Knight in the Panther's Skin dates from the 16th century; it was first printed in 1712. There was a time in Georgian history when it was expected that the text would be memorized by all female members of the country's aristocracy.

The Wardrop translation can be found in its full text online, while the Urushadze or Oriental Translation Fund editions may be purchased on Amazon.

Below you can see King Rostevan and Avtandil hunting, from a 1646 manuscript by Mamuka Tavakarashvili.


rromanch said...

The Wardrop translation (on-line) and the "Oriental Translation Fund" text are one and the same; the on-line text even includes the appendices and indexes (but not footnotes -- if you want those, you have to buy the book).

Aaron said...

Thanks for the correction!