Passed down by word of mouth through the magic of live performance art for a millennium and a half till its first scholarly transcriptions in the late 19th century, the Armenian epic “Daredevils of Sasun” presents a rich legacy of accumulated folk wisdom and creative insight on the human condition. Evolving from ancient mythic roots through folkloric antecedents up to its main period of gestation (8th-12th centuries C.E.), it tells the tale of the life, loves, and heroic struggles of four generations of the House of Sasun to establish their patrimony and uphold the weal of their community against the onslaught of imperialist in-vaders. Water born and fiery eyed, they embody their society’s ideals of freedom and guileless nobility, empathy toward the stranger, and a spiritual affinity with all living things. Vividly sketched with not a little humor, these hardy mountaineers evolved imperceptibly with the community that transmitted them, bridging the heroic era and the present day.
Since its publication in 1999, the Armenian original of this monograph has established itself as an excel-lent introduction to the epic and all related issues, maintaining a sound balance between the needs of a scholarly and more popular readership. Contextualizing his subject within the epic production of Western Europe, the Slavic lands, Anatolia and the Caucasus, and Central Asia, the author not only provides a clear summation of research on the epic, but is cogent in defining his own positions, probing new areas, and approaching some old from a new perspective. Of particular interest to the Western reader is the apt employment of theoretical perspectives from Russian scholarship (Bakhtin, Meletinksii, Likhachev, etc.) to illuminate aspects of plot, characterization, and symbolism.