Alexandr Moldovan

Academician, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

A Russian "Spiritually Beneficial Tale" Featuring Andrew The Fool

  • Summary/Abstract

    The text of “A Sermon on a very sinful” man which is published in this article came down to us in seven copies dating back to the late 16th – 17th centuries. In several cases, it is included in the Russian translation of the Life of Andrew the Fool, but it has no Greek prototype either in this vita or in Byzantine hagiography in general. At the same time, the text follows the rules of Byzantine hagiography. Some of the Greek “spiritually beneficial tales” exhibit a pattern that can be labeled as “reconciliation between the quick and the dead”. These tales could be known to Old Russian litterati through their Slavonic translations. The Vita of Andrew the Fool was immensely popular in Rus’: its Russian translation survived, until the beginning of the 17th century, in 56 manuscripts, but the appearance of Andrew the Fool as a character of the “spiritually beneficial tale” at the first glance looks strange: not a single episode of his vita resembles reconciliation between “the quick and the dead”. The Greek tradition has not preserved any tales in which a criminal guilty of abominable crimes would address for absolution first to a hermit and later to a holy fool. Yet, such tale could easily have existed, since we have a Latin story in which this happens. Since the setting of the novel is obviously Early Byzantine, it can be surmised that there has existed its Greek version which could also have been known to the author of our text. The first half of the text is a heart-rending story of an evil woman and her malicious parents who entangled her husband killing his own parents. There are no analogies to such tale in Byzantine hagiography. We can suppose that the tale combines some hagiographic and some folklore features. It is an original story which demonstrates how the Byzantine genre developed within the Russian cultural milieu of the post-Byzantine epoch.

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