Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Pamela Laskin

Second Advisor

Robert Higney


Animals, folklore, pagan, totem, slavic


It is believed that pagan cosmology once ran strong through the Slavic countries and traces are visible through the passed down folklore that spread through the land. While we talk of animals and their representation in folklore, we usually only refer to the Christian written western folklore, but these pagan born animals stand in strong contrast to them. The Slavic people believed that the world was made of diverse natural forces that shared what the Earth had to offer and worked in unison to protect one another, whereas the Christian belief saw the world as a distinct separation of man and God.

Animals are seen as divinities in pagan time and the best proof of this lies between the pages of folktales and fairy tales. Throughout the Slavic folklore animals are depicted in a positive light: as helpers, as friends, as magical beings able to provide you with gold, as magical and superior. In Slavic folklore it is more common to see animals as a sign that nature and mankind work together in harmony to create a balance and find solutions to the everyday problems people face.

This thesis will focus on two different bird totems that are encountered often throughout Slavic folklore. It will be focusing on the symbolism behind the animal as well as focusing on the animal-human relations that form, and lastly focusing on animal-human transformations that take place within the stories. This thesis will prove that Slavic folklore and folk tales stem from a holistic view of the world as a fully functioning ecosystem where animals and humans depend on one another as we are all on the same plane in existence and not separated from our divine beings.

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