Sonja Petrović


The analysis of relation between the poor and the concept of charity in Serbian epic poetry is initiated as part of the research project “Ethnic and social stratification of the Balkans”, which includes study of social margins and subcultures in oral literature. Charitable activities directed toward the poor are discussed as social models, but also as a complex way of social interaction between the elites and the poor, which left its mark on oral tradition and epic poetry. Care for the poor, almsgiving and charitable deeds were a religious obligation, and in the course of time, the repetitiveness and habitual character of poor relief became an important issue in structuring cultural patterns. Ethical, educative and humanistic potential of charity, and its being founded on cases witnessed in real life, directly connect charity to the shaping of poetic narrative models. Epic models reflect and poeticize socio-cultural patterns and characters, which is represented both in medieval documents and in epic tradition, in similarity of their themes and formulas on the level of contents and structure. This resemblance has led to the conclusion that charitable giving, care for the poor and salvation of soul existed as specific patterns and intergeneric symbols, which were handed down in various oral and written forms.