Do you like to listen to the stories sitting in front of the camping fire? Funny stories, scary stories, silly stories? I know – you do. And I do. And our ancestors – ancestors of the most all European nations and many Asian nations – a Proto-Indo-European people loved to do so. We don’t exactly know when and where their culture emerged – 3-5 (or maybe 7-9, or even 10-13) thousand years ago somewhere in between Europe, Anatolia, Caucasus, Volga steppes, or Indostan peninsula.
However, we know the exact date and place when and where the idea of the ancient unity of the languages, cultures and mythologies, now known as Indo-European, had entered scientific circulation. That happened on February 2nd, 1786 in Calcutta, where British philologist Sir William “Oriental” Jones gave a lecture to the members of the Asiatick Society of Bengal. Since then many bright scientists worked in the field of reconstruction of that, long gone, culture which affected our world so much.
Typical way of bringing that ancient mythology back is to search for the similar narratives, personages, and specific vocabulary in the myths of contemporary Indo-European cultures. We now know number of such persistent and ubiquitous stories, however, it would be fascinating to find more, maybe not so popular, therefore left not so much traces, ancient Indo-European tales. Instead of looking for the common known structure in many mythological narratives, we may want to look for the commonality of the structure of the unknown fragments of the Proto-Indo-European reconstructions and one or few myths we know.
One of the best places to look for a lot of the unknown, still, in between of the something known, is Slavic mythology. We don’t have any primary sources for it as Greco-Roman and Indo-Iranian cultures have, and we don’t have extensive ancient or early Medieval sources on the mythology as Germanic or Celtic cultures have. However, we have some middle and late Medieval secondary sources, and folklore collected in eighteenth-nineteenth-twentieth centuries.
There were some significant efforts to reconstruct Slavic mythology by the mythological school of folklore in the late nineteenth and by the structuralist and ethnolinguistic schools in the late twentieth centuries. This reconstruction is inspired by those efforts and extends them by adding reconstructions of the voids left by previous researchers, primarily from Indo-Iranian, but, also, other Indo-European mythologies. The contemporary, fantasy style of the story is chosen for a simple and obvious reason – imagine that so many thousand years ago you are among those people who, sitting in front of the camping fires during the dark and cold nights in the prairies or mountains of the Indo-European motherland, loved to listen to those ancient stories. What authors and novels would you read, listen and watch today? Most likely that would be J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling or U. K. Le Guin. And for this audience we offer our reconstruction.
Anyway, please, enjoy the read and wonderful illustrations of the very talented artist Cristiana Rodrigues, whether you are familiar with other Indo-European myths or not. If you are, you may find it fascinating to try to pin-point particular mythological motifs which were used in the reconstruction. Don’t worry if you missed some – in the upcoming annotated addition you’ll find all of these, with all necessary explanations why and how they were used there…