The raven in the biblical exegesis, medieval Slavonic literature, and folklore: St. Elijah and the motif of the raven offspring-loather
Margaret Dimitrova (St. Kliment Ohridski Univ. of Sofia)
Adelina Angusheva-Tihanov (The University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
The image of the raven in medieval Slavonic sources are seen in the context of their Byzantine models. The cultural implications of the story of the raven as a bad parent are studied in Greek sermons and in Tsamblak's Homily on Prophet Elijah. The texts are contrasted to Balkan folk legends.
Paper long abstract:
The paper discusses the image of the raven and the words denoting it in medieval Slavonic sources which reflect Byzantine texts and models. Among the variety of representations of the raven there is a relatively rare motif attested in two Byzantine homilies on Prophet Elijah as well as in a sermon by the Bulgarian 15th-century writer Gregory Tsamblak: in them the raven symbolizes the bad parenting of those who do not take care of their children, unlike God, the father of all, who feeds them. The authors discuss this medieval metaphor in a larger framework of the representations of and attitudes towards the raven in Byzantine literature which became known to the Slavs via translations or transformations of Byzantine literary models. Tsamblak uses the images and the theological argumentation of two Greek sermons but he adds much more vivid details which are at that emotionally charged. The sources of the image of the raven hating its children are sought in Byzantine exegetical literature. Further, the literary images of the raven are juxtaposed to Balkan folklore legends about birds and animals who neglect their babies. This case-study is used to draw more general conclusions about the social and cultural implications of the representations of the birds and human world in legends, sermons, and exegesis.