The "lesser" Kyrgyz epic Kojojash is one of the best-known monuments of Kyrgyz oral heritage. Using a structural-semiotic approach, the article shows the mechanism by which new elements are incorporated into the epic structure and argues that all of the epic's components consistently deal with the primary moral "thou shall not kill." The article also focuses on the conflict's multiple meanings: initially it is a struggle between a hunter and an animal and thus a conflict between human beings and nature; at the same time Kojojash and his foe the Goat represent such oppositions as youth/age, naïvité/wisdom, male/female, son/mother, profane/sacred, risk/intelligence, accident/fate, and human/god. An analysis of the heroes' names, one of the main semantic codes of the epic, shows that Kojojash is centered not around an opposition of crime and punishment, but rather around a triad of crime, punishment, and forgiveness. Kojojash is based on the idea that humans are entrusted with many things and that they are responsible for his own actions just as much as any superior force is. Kojojash is thus a narrative of the biblical type: the sorts of moral truths placed in the Bible in the Judeo-Christian realm find their home in epic form (with the lesser epics among the primary example) among the Kyrgyz.


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pp. 109-128
Launched on MUSE
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