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Translated and Original Novellas. The History of the Seven Wise Men


The translated novella was gradually absorbed by Russian literature throughout the whole of the seventeenth century. The intermediary country through which European novella subjects reached Russia was Poland.

The History of the Seven Wise Men. Already in the first half of the seventeenth century Russian readers had access to The History of the Seven Wise Men in a translation from the Polish, possibly through an intermediate Byelorussian version.25 Based on an ancient Indian source,26 The History of the Seven Wise Men was extremely popular under various titles in the East and in Europe. European redactors changed the Eastern legends into a typical Renaissance novella. The History is a collection of novellas united by a “framework” that was developed in Euripedes’ Hippolytus and Seneca’s Phaedra, and in the case of the Eastern and Southern Slavs in Stephanit and Ikhnilat, for example. The History of the Seven Wise Men tells how a king’s son who had been brought up by seven wise men and compelled to keep silent for seven days (the position of the heavenly bodies predicts death for him if he utters a single word), repulses the advances of his lustful mother-in-law. The latter takes her revenge by lying to the king about him, who orders his son to be executed. The seven wise men have an interesting dispute with the mother-in-law in the king’s presence. They tell the king a story showing how harmful it is to make hasty decisions, and the mother-in-law a story about human cunning and baseness, hinting that the prince is depraved. The execution is postponed again and again. Thus seven days pass and eventually the king’s son is able to plead his innocence.

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