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The Myth of "Abriskil''
By Bagrat Shinkuba
The most significant Abkhaz Fold Literature is jointly represented in "NART"
and "ABRISKIL" Tales.
The legend which emerged a long time ago and is about "Abriskil"
who is known to have rebelled God Anchua and so punished, is known mostly in
the Abjiwaa region of Abkhazia.
Even though Legend of Abriskil was first published in 1881 by I.
Lihachov, the first noteworthy publication was in 1893 by Dirmit Gulya.
Students of Institute of Abkhaz Language and Literature carried out
considerable compilations. Although these compilations were very short and
in bits, they have the perfection to reflect Abriskil's sufferings,
troubles, goals and faiths, in short, his whole personality. In his book
titled "Ahirchuachua", Bagrat Shinkuba, who prepared the final text said, "I
have gathered all the variants. Among them, I combined the ones which were
more orderly and more original and have the same style, and wrote "Abriskil"
text. This text is neither more nor less than it should be. Only the best
ones were gathered, similar ones were sorted, different ones were composed.
Also, in order to produce a single text, I have used previously published
texts beside my own compilations."
And Prof. Shalwa Inal-yipa, who carried out valuable studies about Abriskil,
talks about the cave where Abriskil was chained; "The cave in Otap village,
which is in Ochamchira region is called Abriskil cave. This cave is the
biggest one in Caucasia and is two kilometers long. Above the cave, Mount
Panayu can be seen. The little stream coming out of the cave is called
Achwats, meaning "extracting horse dung". This water flows into the Duab
River, and from there to Muk Water. In the cave, there are very beautiful
stalactites arranged side by side. They are pointed and transparent as ice
stalactites. As well as the wide flat places, there are 30-40 meters high
walls inside. Also, many boneless small creatures have lived here for a long
In 1946, the trace of a bear which hasn't been seen for thousands
of years was discovered. This trace is very important in terms of the
ancient history of Abkhazia. Scientists say that people visit this cave
since time immemorial and this place was once used as a shelter."
This cave, where Abriskil was chained, is called "Chilow". The word chilow
means "place where there are horses", it also means "long cleavage"
referring a cave.
In his book titled "Is Abkhaz
Mythology Mature?", Abkhazolog Omer Buyuka who makes etymological analyses
about Abriskil, Chilow and Promethe has made a fair compilation about the
subject including what he has learned from people who came from Caucasia.
Also, there are rumors telling that
in order to maintain the names of Achba and Low, which were the two famous
dynastic family of Abkhazians, this place was called "Achba-Low" and in time
these words transformed into "Ach-Low" and "Chilow".
In his book about Abkhaz Folk
Literature written for university students, Associate Professor Sergey Zuhba
makes evaluations comparing the Legend of Abriskil to Nart Epic. For him;
What is different with Abriskil
compared to Narts is that, it isn't told with dance and songs. Abriskil is
more recent than Narts. However, it was forgotten sooner. Yet, Abriskil is
more human than Narts.
If Nart Sousruko tells the childhood of the humanity, Abriskil
tells the youth. Abriskil is a political hero. In his time the equality was
spoiled, dominant powers were emerged, they were believed to be the
creations of supernatural events and gods, people who appear in animal
dressings, hostile attacks from outside, raids, robberies, pillages began,
moreover the giants who were the troublemakers of Narts still existed.
Abriskil is the hero of such an environment. Thus, he supports the folk and
justice, he supports humans. However, the dominant powers who were
considered to be above and their earthly messengers bother him. Some people
and animals also support those above powers. However, Abriskil continues to
be the friend of humans despite all these, he is a patriotic folk leader. He
is in love with Abkhazia. He fights against everything that can harm his
people, his nature. That's why he rebels against God Anchua. He almost
competes with the God in order to win his people's confidence and to make
them release their fears.
He doesn't have a personal desire. He doesn't have a big family,
spouse and relatives as Narts. He only has his people and country. He is
honest, kindhearted, benevolent, idealist, brave, diligent, dauntless, and
does what he sets his mind on.
Abriskil symbolizes a period after Narts, the transition from
matriarchal period to the patriarchal period. In Abriskil's time social
classes emerged. God is the utmost power. However, Narts didn't have these
formations. The pattern of the hero's being born in a divine manner, that is
with "nashana" is specific to Narts. According to the scientific findings,
the stories containing this pattern belong to the patriarchal age. Giants
are always powerful but witless and they are defeated by intelligent and
good men. Rash horses which fly and speak are devoted friends of their
owners and share the same fate with their heroes. Abriskil also has a wand
called "Labasha" and it is also a congenial companion just like the horse
Rash. In Narts, old women are wise and guiding, but in Abriskil, they are
That Abriskil is an enemy of Eshba (in some texts Ashuba) and
Kachuba is not personal. He is also an enemy of people who are red headed
and have blue eyes. He considers them inauspicious and drives them away.
Instead of personal desires and
attitudes seen in Narts, we see social consideration and struggle in
Abriskil. Abriskil's text doesn't state that God is the enemy of humans.
Here God seems the enemy of Abriskil, who doesn't respect him, competes with
him and tries to humiliate him. Anchua, the most powerful God of that time
cannot easily capture and kill Abriskil and assigns this task to his agents.
And they capture Abriskil by getting help of an old witch and trapping him
but instead of killing, they chain him in a cave.
The folk who created the legend
reflects Abriskil this way in their fantasies. They love and praise him
because of his good deeds for people. However, they don't like his becoming
arrogant and boastful in time. Especially they don't like his competing with
God. That Abriskil was chained in the cave and tortured probably reflects
those feelings of the people.
Some researches find chaining of Abriskil very pessimistic. On the
contrary, Abriskil continues to struggle even when he was chained in the
cave. His resistance reinforces the folk's struggle for independence. That's
why they say "Abriskil is not dead". The resistance of the hero becomes a
symbol for the people's liberation. People begin to live again without
losing their hopes, with optimism and enthusiasm.
Promethe, which resembles Abriskil most among the stories containing the
pattern of rebelling God, catches one's eye as the "Bravest, the most
suffering but the most sacred" one. Within this context, it is not
inaccurate to call Abriskil as Abkhazian Promethe.
Ancient writers like Apollon of
Rhodes, Strabon, Flyostrat and Flavi Arryan wrote that Caucasians had heroes
like Promethe for a long time. Flavi Arryan indicates a high hill near
Dioskuria (Sokhum) city of Kolkhidians and says that they represent the
Caucasian Mountains that Promethe was linked. In his tragedy called "Chained
Promethe", Eshil writes that Promethe was chained on the Caucasian
There are various views about Promethe's being Caucasian in the
scientific world. Some of them write that the Promethe pattern comes to
Caucasia from ancient Greece, others says that the legend of Promethe was
initially born in Caucasia, then moved to Greece. Some of them say Promethe
already existed in ancient Greece and these should be considered separately.
One way or another, the legend of Abriskil is a very original
Abkhaz legend made a lot of scientists busy. That is the Abriskil portrait
people keep alive in their hearts and minds. The people who told this
portrait from father to son for hundreds of years now evaluates it in a
Abkhazians have had a family name
called "Abriskil" since time immemorial and it still exists.
Source: Bagrat Shinkuba, Abriskil
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