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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Toronto, 2008.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 69-06, Section: A, page: .
The epic hero of the ancient and medieval world is a problematic character: he simultaneously embodies the bright dream of a protective and courageous aristocrat, and the brutal fact of a violent man with a talent for killing. This dichotomy is often found in the characters of Indo-European heroes, who are at once both responsible for the protection of their society/state and its stability, yet by virtue of their capacity for violence, are bound to exist on the margins of society---they are never fully accepted as trusted members of their community. The hero has several complex functions within epic literature: he serves as a mediator between the mundane and supernatural worlds; he serves to protect his society, but is sometimes the bringer of social chaos; he supports the monarch, yet often this relationship is fraught with tension.Curiously, the biographies of the medieval Irish and Persian heroes Cuchulainn and Rostam demonstrate a number of analogous episodes. This thesis examines these heroes' genesis episodes, boyhood deeds, filicide episodes, heroic duels, Otherworld raids, and death tales; in addition, it finds significant thematic parallels between Old English Beowulf and the Persian Haftkhan-i-Rostam from the epic Shahnameh. These analogous episodes are used as a framework to see how Irish, Persian, and Old English literature deal with such concepts as loyalty, honor, fame, uncontrolled rage, the Otherworld---and the above all---the heroic code. This thesis then considers of the potential modes of narrative transmission (oral and literary) that would explain the occurrence of these analogues, and questions whether the analogues are evidence of a common Indo-European heroic tradition, or rather of early intercultural contact between Celtic and Iranian (including Scythian) tribes. Finally, the conclusion suggests new avenues of study and comparison between Eastern and Western branches of the Indo-European heroic tradition.