Maka Elbakidze                                                                                                                                 # 4

On the Definition of Vepkhistkaosani’s (The Knight in the Panther's Skin) Genre

While considering specific character of genre in Veprkhistkaosani, actually all researchers are based on the viewpoint set forth by Rustaveli in stanza 17 of the prologue: “Those are not called poets who cannot compose a long work” (Vepkhistkaosani 1966: 23), which can be considered a kind of final conclusion of the theory of poetry (Shairoba) with account of the views expressed in stanza 13 (“Even so it is with the poet who composes and indites long poems”) and stanza 16 (“Who cannot kill big game; they are able only to slay the small”) (Vepkhistkaosani 1966: 23). Evidently, in the given context “long work” and “long poems”, as well as in stanza 16 “kill big game” are antonyms to the phrases “small verse” and “slay the small”, which first of all implies a statement of preference of extensive by the volume (form) composition (naturally, ideological/thematic depth of the composition and artistic/aesthetic perfection are also to be taken into account). Due to the fact that in the prologue there is reference to the verse (text of poetic form), almost all researchers have confirmed that Rustaveli acknowledges the preference of a long verse i.e. epic genre, over small verse i.e. lyrical genre. Though it remains unclear, which of the big epic forms (epopee, song, romance, poem, or ballad) is implied under long verse by Rustaveli, correspondingly, to which literary genre the poet attributes his own composition. If we take into account the views which have been expressed in Rustvelology till now (it is just the identification of genre specifics that causes diversity of opinions and viewpoints), Veprkhistkaosani is:

1. National epics (G.Deeters, G.Patch);

2. National-romantic epic (N.Urushadze);

3. Romantic poem or romantic story (N.Marr);

4. Romantic-heroic poem (A.Tsagareli, A.Baramidze);

5. Philosophic poem (Sh.Nutsubidze);

6. Specimen of courtly literature (K.Beynen);

7. Romance of chivalry (M.Bowra, Z.Avalishvili, H.Huppert, R. Stevenson);

8. Romance of chivalry in verse (E.Meletinskii);

9. Novel in the contemporary sense of this word (N.Natadze).

It is interesting to note that all foreign scholars who have written about Vepkhistkaoani, as a rule agree that it is a romance in verse or chivalry romance – and the majority gives preference to the latter.

Really structural and compositional organization of Vepkhistkaosani (rather wide area of action, specificity of descriptive factor, polyphony of “narration”, specific chronotope – “adventure time” (M.Bakhtin 2000) and closed/opened space, cyclization of composition, artistic function of wandering/quest motive, etc), ideological and thematic motives (political and ideological background – feudal court, social environment and the circle of characters – chivalry society, vassalage institute; concept of love – it's rank character, principles of servir; conventional motives – madness, pouring of blood tears, love torments, desire of death, going into wild, etc.) and compositional elements display enough resemblance with a genre which is known as romance in European and American literary criticism (Georgian equivalent corresponding to this term is medieval romance of chivalry).

In spite of this, it should be mentioned that Vepkhistkaosani is not a typical specimen of medieval romance of chivalry (moreover courteous literature). A number of specific features are found in the composition which indicates far higher level of genre development:                    

1.      Unlike European romance of chivalry, in Vepkhistkaosani there is no collisional contradiction between love and call of duty, lover and fighter, correspondingly, here such deep interiorization of a conflict does not happen which can be found in romance; although it is this inner conflict that causes “duality” of the action of romance, formation of two-stage syntagmatic structure which in spite of the existence of two main heroes was overcome in Vepkhistkaosani. The structure of Rustaveli’s composition is one and indivisible, rhythm of narration is dynamic and constant, descriptive side of fights, tournaments or travel is reduced to minimum, but on the other hand, information function of such pages is increased;

2.      The relationship between main characters of the romance (vassal, lover or friend) is determined by aesthetic emotional factor (charmed by genuine beauty – be liked (see Khintibidze 1993: 129-166); dominant role of love – obligation (vassal/sovereign; friends) is substituted by love);

3.      Innovation in courtly model of love concept – introduction of psychological motivation in conventions, reduction of them to trope function; bringing to the foreground moral basis in parallel to “courtly basis” of love service; dramatization of love feeling on the expense of psycho-emotional factor;

4.      Change of allegoric plane with real plane (minimization of fantastic elements; concretization of literary abstraction; transformation of ideal schemes (characters) by means of introduction of psychological accuracy and truth (see, Natadze 1965).

5.      Individualization of characters – introduction of innovative elements in traditional material; in parallel to hero’s psychological, emotional or moral side bringing intellectual (mind) to the foreground; dominant role of women characters and deepening of their functional category by means of introduction of new elements in it (Addressor/Addressee /object).

Proceeding from the above mentioned, we can conclude that from the viewpoint of genre Vepkhistkaosani is romance (medieval romance of chivalry) which in the so-called “transitional time” (late Middle Ages,/Renaissance) must be considered new stage of genre gradation, its highly-developed form of renews construction, expressive forms plasticity of narrative and versatility.



Avalishvili 1931: Avalishvili Z.: Questions of "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", Paris, 1931 (in Georgian)

Baramidze 1975: Baramidze A.: Shota Rustaveli, Tbilisi University Press, Tbilisi, 1975 (in Georgian)

Bakhtin 2000: Bakhtin M.: Epic and Novel, Sankt-Peterburg, 2000 (in Russian)

Beynen 2006: Beynen k. Adultery and Murder in Shota Rustaveli's "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", The Kartvelologist, Journal of Georgian Studies, # 13, Tbilisi, 2006, pp. 34-58 (in Georgian)

Marr 1917: Marr N. Georgian Poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" of Shota Rustaveli and New Culturul-historical Problem, Moscow, 1917 (in Russian)

Meletinskii 1983: Meletinskii E.: The Medieval Romance, Moscow, 1983 (in Russian)

Natadze 1974: Natadze N. On Boundary of Time, Tbilisi, 1974 (in Georgian)

Natadze 1965: Natadze N. Rustaveli's Cult of Woman and it's Roots, "Mnatobi" # 2,^1965 pp. 131-154 (in Georgian)

Nutsubidze 1958: Nutsubidze Sh. Creative Work of Rustaveli, Tbilisi, 1958 (in Georgian)

Rustaveli 1966: Shota Rustaveli, The Man in the Panther's Skin, A Close Rendering from the Georgian Attempted by Marjory Scott Wardrop, Tbilisi, 1966

Rustaveli in World Literature 1976: Rustaveli in World Literature, I, Tbilisi University Press, 1976 (in Georgian)

Rustaveli in World Literature 1988: Rustaveli in World Literature, III, Tbilisi University Press, 1988 (in Georgian)

Stevenson 1977: R.H. Stevenson, Introduction, Shota Rustaveli, The Lord of The Panther-Skin, A Georgian Romance of Chivalry, Translated by R.H. Stevenson, State University of New York Press, Abany, 1977

Urushadze 1960: UUrushadze N.: On the Problem of Literary Genre of "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", "Sabchota Khelovneba", # 8, 1960, pp. 43-46 (in Georgian)

Khintibidze 1993: Khintibidze E, Medieval and Renaissance Trends in Rustaveli's Vepkhistkaosani ("The Man in the Panther's Skin"), Tbilisi University Press, 1993 (in Georgian)



Volume 3, issue 1


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature