It is in the dark forests of our world where often the stories are born. It was in the great wooded areas of Bavaria where the brothers Grimm discovered and catalogued the ancient tales for their eponymous “fairy tales”. So too in the Caucuses, where the ancient silvan paths produced tales of the interplay between the peasants and the kings and the wicked supernatural Divs. But the stories of the Caucuses are older, long long before the brothers walked the black forests of northern Europe. These are the lands of Jason and his Argonauts, a story which was old even when Homer was penning the Iliad. Are they the first stories? Perhaps.
What struck me about the collection of Caucasian stories in “The Golden Fleece” is how universal they are. The struggles of average man in prehistory against the forces which sought to oppress him and take from him his happiness and prosperity. The wickedness of the kings. Love for a beautiful girl; the bounty of a great harvest; the joy of a celebration when chance or destiny has again delayed destruction. The Divs, magical creatures which might be demons or djinn and exist in all cultures and which were always causing mischief for the poor people of the lands.
Some of the stories had adapted to include Islamic terms and ideas as that religion subsumed what had been before and seized control parts of the Caucuses. Some remained steadfastly animist, without any hint of modern religion. Two of the stories intrigued me, because they appeared to be early versions of Rapunzel and of Snow White – making me wonder if the source for these tales was farther east and they traveled with the movement of peoples. Something for further study.
I recommend reading this book – it is through the ancient legends of people by which we can understand them better and make common cause with their timeless ideas and struggles. That is called wisdom.