Download PDF:
For citation:

Makarov S.S. Contemporary Pragmatics of the Epic Tale: Yakut Epos Olonkho. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 260–275. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-4-260-275

Author: Semen S. Makarov
Information about the author:

Semen S. Makarov, Graduate Student, Russian State University for the Humanities, Miusskaya sq. 6, 125993 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: December 02, 2017
Published: September 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №4
Department: Folklore Studies
Pages: 260-275

UDK: 398.224
BBK: 82.3(=634)
Keywords: oral tradition, epic genre, pragmatics of folklore, olonkho, narrative.


This paper explores the pragmatics of a traditional Siberian epic tale genre. The author analyzes this issue on the example of Yakut epos called Olonkho from the moment of its first records (mid-19 th century) up to the present. The first part of the paper reconstructs the information concerning the pragmatics of this genre in the non-written epoch on the basis of ethnographic notes, field materials, and “internal” data of the records of Yakut epic plots. The main focus is on the function of magic in the narratives. The ceremonial character of the performance, the recorded cases of its performance either during important festivities or, on the contrary, during community crises, the semantics of its plotlines allow us to consider the epos as a specific mode of magic influence on reality. The second part of the article features some facts that are relevant in terms of rethinking the status/functioning of the epic genre in the “post- traditional” era (e.g. the emergence of new forms of recording and circulation of the plots, attribution of epic tales to literary art, the inclusion of artistically elaborated epic texts in school curricula, overlaps between epic and popular song genres, etc.); it also describes the specificity of the perception of epic by contemporary representatives of Yakut tradition. The author points out at the emergence of such tendencies as institutionalization and codification of the narrative and dissemination of new ideas concerning the origins of the epic text. The described mode of transforming the traditional narrative genre into a marker of ethnic identity, aimed at the “other,” seems to be not specific for Yakut tradition only and thus may be extended to similar cases.


1 Gabysheva L.L. Slovo v kontekste mifopoeticheskoi kartiny mira [A word in the context of mythopoetic worldview: PhD thesis, summary]. Moscow, 2003. 44 p. (In Russ.)

2 Gurvich I.S. Yakuty [The Yakuts]. Semeinaia obriadnost’ narodov Sibiri [The family rites of Siberian peoples]. Moscow, Nauka Publ., 1980, pp. 15–19. (In Russ.)

3 Zelenin D.K. Religiozno-magicheskaia funktsiia fol’klornykh skazok [Spiritual and magic function of folktales]. Zelenin D. K. Izbrannye trudy. Stat’i po dukhovnoi kul’ture 1934–1954. [Selected works. The papers about intellectual culture written in 1934– 1954]. Moscow, Indrik Publ., 2004, pp. 19–44. (In Russ.)

4 Illarionov V.V. Epicheskoye naslediye naroda Sakha [Epic heritage of Sakha people]. Novosibirsk, Nauka Publ., 2016. 341 p. (In Russ.)

5 Kyys Debiliye: Olonkho [Maiden Debiliye: Yakut Epic Tale]. Novosibirsk, Nauka Publ., 1993. 326 p. (In Russ.)

6 Makayev V.V. Likvidaciya negramotnosti [Eradication of illiteracy]. Rossiiskaia pedagogicheskaia entsiklopediia [Russian pedagogical encyclopedia]. Moscow, Bol’shaia Rossiiskaia entsiklopediia Publ., 1993, vol. 1, pp. 505–506. (In Russ.)

7 Makarov S.S. Epicheskii zhanr olonkho v aspekte sootnosheniia ustnoi i pis’mennoi traditsii [Olonkho Epic Genre in the Aspect of Oral and Written Traditions Correlation]. Izvestiia RGPU im. A.I. Gertsena, 2012, no 133, pp. 126–133. (In Russ.)

8 Middendorf A.F. Puteshestvie na Sever i Vostok Sibiri [The journey to the North and East of Siberia]. Part. II. Chapter VI. St. Petersburg, 1878. 242 p. (In Russ.)

9 Nekliudov S.Yu. Spetsifika slova i teksta v ustnoi traditsii [The specificity of word and text in oral tradition]. Evraziiskoe prostranstvo: Zvuk, slovo, obraz [The Eurasian space: sound, word, image]. Moscow, Iazyki slavianskoi kul’tury Publ., 2003, pp. 108–119. (In Russ.)

10 Novik E.S. Magicheskaia funktsiia fol’klornykh narrativov v traditsionnoi kul’ture narodov Sibiri: pragmaticheskaia struktura i perlokutivnyi effekt povestvovatel’nogo teksta [Magic function of folklore narratives in traditional culture of Siberian peoples: structure of pragmatics and perlocutive effect of the narrative text]. Mirovoe drevo. Mezhdunarodnyi zhurnal po teorii i istorii mirovoi kul’tury, issue 6, Moscow, 1998, pp. 11–18. (In Russ.)

11 Obriadovaia poeziia sakha (iakutov) [Ritual poetry of Sakha (Yakuts)]. Novosibirsk, Nauka Publ., 2003. 505 p. (In Russ.)

12 Osipova O.V. Geroicheskii epos kak element etnicheskoi samoidentifikatsii iakutov: sotsiologicheskii aspekt [Epic tale as an element of ethnic self-definition of Yakuts: sociological aspect]. Arktika i Sever, 2011, no 4, pp. 1–10. (In Russ.)

13 Pekarskii E.K., Popov N.P. Sredi iakutov (sluchainye zametki) [Among Yakuts (occasional notes)]. Ocherki po izucheniiu Yakutskogo kraia [The essays about Yakutski Krai], issue II, Irkutsk, 1928, pp. 23–33. (In Russ.)

14 Putilov B.N. Epicheskoe skazitel’stvo: Tipologiia i etnicheskaia spetsifika [Epic narrative: Typology and ethnic specificity]. Moscow, Vostochnaia literatura Publ., 1997. 294 p. (In Russ.)

15 Pukhov I.V. Ispolnenie olonkho [Performing Olonkho]. Doklady na II nauchnoi sessii IYaLI [Proceedings of the 2 nd scientific panel at the Institute]. Iakutsk, 1951, issue 1, History and Philology, pp. 133–164. (In Russ.)

16 Romanova E.N., Nikiforova V.S. Epicheskoe nasledie naroda sakha v XX veke: “sovetskii eksperiment” [The epic heritage of Sakha peoples in 20 th centurie: the “Soviet Experiment”]. Vestnik Novosibirskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, Series History, Philology, 2013, vol. 3, no 12, pp. 114–122. (In Russ.)