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Dressing a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Toward Understanding the Composition of the Life of Alexander Nevskii

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The Life of Alexander Nevskii is written in two styles: a hagiographic style and a secular style. Scholarly views are divided over whether the Life was written by one person in two different styles or by two persons, either a hagiographic writer and secular editor or a secular writer and hagiographic editor. The present article hypothesizes that the Life was probably written initially in a secular style as a military tale (the “wolf”) in the second half of the thirteenth century. This military tale was the foundational layer for the subsequent writing of the Life. Some time later, probably in the second half of the fourteenth century (before 1377), an ecclesiastical redactor edited the text of the military tale adding phrases in a hagiographic style (the “sheep’s clothing”), thus creating a chronicle tale about the life of Alexander Nevskii. In the second half of the fifteenth century, a further editing took place as anti-Tatar interpolations were added, thus creating the First Redaction of the Life of Alexander Nevskii. Following a text critical analysis, this article reconstructs the First Redaction of the Life, in which the two styles are delineated. Then the article provides a translation into English of the hypothetical version of the non-extant military tale about Alexander Nevskii.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard University Extension School,


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