ANTIPKA BESPYATY.

One of the good things about doggedly investigating all references in the books I read is that I get introduced to some obscure byways of Russian culture. In Notes from the Dead House one of the convicts says contemptuously (addressing the aristocratic narrator, in the last line of this section) “Под девятую сваю, где Антипка беспятый живет!” (“[Go] under the ninth pile, where heel-less [bespyaty] Antipka lives!”) The first part, about the ninth pile, occurs only here as far as I can tell, but it’s on the model of a number of Russian expressions indicating a far-off place and is presumably a quaint phrase Dostoevsky heard from someone in his own Siberian prison. It’s the second part that interests me here—who might “heel-less Antipka” be? (I’m assuming беспятый is from пятка ‘heel’; if I’m wrong, please let me know.) Well, it turns out he’s the devil, and an online excerpt (pdf) from the Иллюстрированная мифологическая энциклопедия [Illustrated mythological encyclopedia] explains the odd modifier:

Прибавка же “беспятый” характеризовала одну из существенных деталей в облике черта. Крестьяне повсеместно верили, что черт, хотя и прикидывается иногда человеком, всегда “неполон” и обладает какими-то нечеловеческими признаками, например, лапами животного или птицы.
[The added "heel-less" characterized one of the essential details in the devil's appearance. Peasants everywhere believed that the devil, even though he sometimes pretends to be a person, is always "incomplete" and has some inhuman signs, for example the paws of an animal or bird.]

I’m curious as to whether modern Russians recognize the allusion here, or has Antipka (the name is modeled on Antichrist) been completely forgotten?

Comments

  1. At first I suspected that the mild curse “Типун тебе на язык!” was somehow related, but on further investigation, apparently not.
    I vaguely remember people in my childhood saying things like “Антипка хвать тебя за язык!” Attempts to Google the phrase have so far met with very limited success.

  2. “Heel-less” because the devil has horse- (or whatever-) legs? So the ankle is lifted and the devil walks on his (its?) paws (like a dog) or nails (like a horse)? It seems obvious, but maybe something uncannier is meant.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    The Devil has a goat’s feet and horns. His feet are not paws like those of a dog or even a bear, but end in cloven hooves like those of goats, sheep, deer and cattle.

  4. According to Wikipedia at least one (Teutonic) tradition assigns the devil the hooves of a perissodactyl rather than an artiodactyl.

  5. This is capriphobia.

  6. Maybe a better word would be tragophobia or aiskophobia because Kapros was a wild boar to the Greeks. I don’t know Greek and I don’t know the difference between aisk and tragos.

  7. Maybe a better word would be tragophobia or aiskophobia because Kapros was a wild boar to the Greeks. I don’t know Greek and I don’t know the difference between aisk and tragos.

  8. Bill Walderman says:

    Aix (aig+s; gen. aigos, with mobile accent) not aisk. The English word should be aigophobia or aegophobia or maybe even egophobia. Aix is epicene; tragos is exclusively masculine.

  9. I think it would have to remain aegophobia (which, amazingly, gets only four Google hits, including “Tito, like other aegophobic tyrants, banned goats in 1953,” an odd sentence: how many aegophobic tyrants banned goats in 1953?), because “egophobia” would be taken in a very different sense. And I can’t help hearing “Aix is epicene; tragos is exclusively masculine” in the plummy Oxbridge tones of a classics professor a century ago—preferably A.E. Housman. (I wonder, are there any recordings of Housman’s voice?)

  10. John Emerson says:

    I’m not aegophobic in the least, but I suspect that someone here on this thread is a little closer to his goats than perhaps he should be.

  11. The question arises, of course, who were the other tyrants ?

  12. Artifex Amando says:

    Misaiges the Terrible, for one…

  13. I don’t know about missing body parts in general, but the tradition of the Devil having something wrong with his walking machinery is quite broad indeed — see the whole ur-ur-Faust tradition of der hinkende Teufel / le diable boiteux / el diablo cojuelo (and I forget what else — it seems to me that I’ve seen this as an established figure in at least one other modern European language. My recollection is that these are not merely translations of a literary expression that first gained popularity in a single original tongue, but rather that they have organic roots in traditions where all these languages are spoken. But I might be wrong about that. Either way, it’s a popular figure historically speaking).
    Note that diabl* above is censored because apparently the content filter thinks it’s a restricted word … folks here know what it should be. [Fixed -- LH.]

  14. marie-lucie says:

    Representations of the Christian Devil owe much to the representations of the Greek god Pan and the fauns, who all had goat legs. Could the Teutonic tradition have to do with an older horse cult?
    “Antipka”: if Anti- is as in Antechrist, what is -pka ?

  15. There is no -pka; Antichrist was reminiscent of the Russian name Antip, whose diminutive form is Antipka. (The devil is also, though less commonly, known as the basic form Antip.)
    (I have removed “diablo” from the blacklist, and I hereby issue my ritual apology for my irritable readiness to ban simple words like that merely because they are occasionally used by spammers.)

  16. Thank you Bill Walderman & Language. I’m filing that information.

  17. Thank you Bill Walderman & Language. I’m filing that information.

  18. I’m not aegophobic in the least,
    Okay, but just don’t tell me some of your best friends are goats.

  19. I’m not aegophobic in the least,
    Okay, but just don’t tell me some of your best friends are goats.

  20. While I would be mildly surprised to encounter it today, Haltefanden (The limping devil – though my smallish Danish-English dictionary translates it as The devil on two sticks, presumably from the English title of Le Sage’s Le diable boiteux) still made the occasional appearance in Danish literary usage up to the late 20th. century, used derogatively either of someone with a limp (no surprise there) or a spiteful person.

  21. John Emerson says:

    I’m sure Aegophiles Anonymous has chapters in Norge, Crump. Aegophilia is not a “sin” to be fought by “self-control”, but a disease. All you have to do is surrender, admit that you’re a complete loser, renounce your entire past self, and throw yourself to the floor weeping, and you will be on the path to recovery.

  22. Antichrist was reminiscent of the Russian name Antip
    Anything to do with the Christian labarum, or Greek symbol☧Chi-Rho? In one source I saw the Rho referred to as Cyrillic. I have also seen the P symbol in Egypt carved on a nilometer and was told it was a symbol of Christianity from an era when it was persecuted–the markings were a secret symbol.

  23. Why would Russians see the rho in “☧” as being a “p”?
    I wonder if there’s a connection between lame devils and Chinese hopping ghosts?
    Or maybe it’s just a way of reifying prejudice against those unfortunates born with birth defects — they would be accused of being a devil in disguise, or the child of the devil. Presumably, this would then justify (to the superstitious) cruelties against the mother and/or child him/herself.

  24. Antip–anti(Greek against)+ p (rho)?
    Japanese orthodox also uses the icon–would Russians be unaware of it? Rho is also used in the older staurogram (tau-rho) icon, maybe similar in meaning to Egyptian ankh.

  25. My … I think I read this book as a kid: Haltefanden. Completely forgotten the expression. When I googled it, I expected to find Gustav Wied’s Livsens Ondskab, since I thought the limp/lame main character Tummelumsen was referred to as such. I should look it up, but my book is in the other room.
    Housman speaks.

  26. komfo,amonan says:

    Antip < Antipas < Antipater, according to the linked page.
    Whenever I see the later two names, I think of the Herodians. Herod Antipas is the Herod of the Passion. So maybe that’s the connection with the devil. But that’s a WAG.

  27. Antip–anti(Greek against)+ p (rho)?

    Then it would be transliterated as “Antir” (and it’s missing the “chi”).
    Why would Russians transliterate the character “rho” (ρ/р), which looks the same in Greek and Cyrillic (which derives from the Greek alphabet), as a “p” (π/п)?

  28. marie-lucie says:

    … lame devils … maybe it’s just a way of reifying prejudice against those unfortunates born with birth defects
    In that case, devils might be represented with all sorts of defects, but that is not true. Cultural traditions tend to be internally consistent, and to subsist with altered meanings even though beliefs may have changed. When Christianity spread, pagan gods were condemned as “devils” or “demons”, especially those traditionally represented as part animals, whose attributes were transferred to representations of “The Devil”.

  29. Right, marie-lucie, the devil has goat feet. But walking on the hooves- ‘nails’, as I called them- would lift the ankle and padded heel off the ground, compared to flat human feet, where it looks like the ankle is resting on the heel and then the ground.
    That was my question: is the devil “heel-less” because the joint is raised and there isn’t an ‘ankle’ where an anthropomorphic devil might be expected to have one, and “heel-less” is figurative as a ‘heel’ would be on a goat? or does the devil actually lack the joint between the cannon and pastern bones, and “heel-less” is supposed to be literal (on account of the lack of an ‘ankle’)?

  30. I am a native Russian speaker, but I have never heard this expression. But, then, I was raised in an urban non-religious circle. I can’t remember it being used by my uncle and other folks in the small village in the North of Russia where, when I visited them in 1960-1980s, they lived pretty much the same lifestyle as in Dostoyevsky’s times.
    Antipka the Heel-less is a kind of Defense against the dark arts. In Deathly Hallows Vodemorts name is jinxed so when Harry Potter says it the Dark Lord’s sleuths immediately track him down. If you don’t mention the devil by name, he can’t get you.
    I’ve read that in some regions of Russia there was a ritual of touching the dead person’s heel as a way of protecting yourslef from evil spirits. Heel-less also has a simple folkloristic explanation: Antipka was chased by the wolf who bit off his heel.
    Number nine has another curious meaning, it’s one of those sacred numbers: three as in trinity times three.

  31. Housman speaks.
    Wow, thanks very much!
    And thank you, Sashura, for the informed comment on the modern Russian situation and the cultural context.

  32. Housman speaks.
    And with such expressive eyebrows!

  33. expressive eyebrows!
    didn’t get this?
    I’ve searched for ‘bespyaty’ without the Antipka. It appears that there is another heel-less little devil called Anchutka the Hell-less (Анчутка). You can see the phonetic similarity between Anti- and Anchu-. These creatures are similar more to naughty spirits, poltergeist, elves or gnomes rather than to the big satan/devil. Closer to бесы, черти, than to дьявол, сатана.

  34. The ‘heel chomped by the coursing wolf’ is a vivid image, which would tell for its thrust into ‘folklore’ and persistence as such.
    “Heel-less” could then mean ‘running so fast (being so elusive) as to escape the devil’, like in a cartoon where the legs are visible only as a blur.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    The heel is a particularly human attribute, enabling us to remain upright for extended periods of time, unlike animals who, even if they can stand briefly, cannot sustain the vertical position for long. The heel (or rather the part just above it, where the tendon is visible on the back) has an important role, not shared by other body parts, in Indo-European mythologies, the best known example being in the story of Achilles, who was invulnerable except for one of his heels and died from being wounded there (a fate shared by several other heroes). There are also stories about various characters being wounded in one foot (accidentally or deliberately) in such a way that they cannot put their heel on the ground and can only walk on the toes of that foot, therefore with a pronounced limp. Being deprived of the normal use of one heel or both makes a person less human, similar to a goat or other hoofed animal. The Devil may appear in human form, but his lack of at least one heel (in some traditions, such as the one discussed here) will make him recognizable.

  36. Deadgood, Mary-Lou – your suggestions are wonderful.
    We had a professor who used to say to students: your answer is wrong, but I like your train of thought.
    I haven’t even thought of the link to Achilles.

  37. I’ve searched for ‘bespyaty’ without the Antipka. It appears that there is another heel-less little devil called Anchutka the Hell-less (Анчутка). You can see the phonetic similarity between Anti- and Anchu-. These creatures are similar more to naughty spirits, poltergeist, elves or gnomes

    Maybe satyrs/fauns?

    There are also stories about various characters being wounded in one foot (accidentally or deliberately) in such a way that they cannot put their heel on the ground and can only walk on the toes of that foot, therefore with a pronounced limp.

    Now I am faintly remembering some folklorist or historian who connected stories of lame/limping/clubfoot beings, as perhaps being reminiscent of ancient shamans. A quick Google reminded me that Hephastios was lame, but I can’t quite recall the connection of why shamans were injured in the foot/leg or who wrote this notion up. Maybe Carlo Ginzburg? Or maybe Ginzburg referenced it?

  38. John Emerson says:

    Philoctetes and Eurydice were both bitten on the foot by a snake. Philoctetes was lame, and Eurydice was dead.
    According to Levi-Strauss, IIRC, lameness is characteristic of those who are bound to the earth or born from the earth.

  39. OK, so it was Ginzburg, as I see from books.google of Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, where he focuses on Oedipus and Dionysios and Melampus.
    While I recall finding it intriguing at the time, on rereading it now, I look askance at his tendency to draw connections between wide-ranging and disparate folklore from different societies and invoke “archetype” as an explanation. I suspect he is simply experiencing apophenia.
    (“Archetype”, my foot!)

  40. marie-lucie says:

    There is no “Mary-Lou” here, as far as I know.
    lameness, etc: in many mythologies, a physical defect (present at birth or resulting from an accident) confers supernatural abilities, for instance becoming blind often confers the ability to see distant events or predict the future. Hephaistos is lame, but possesses the ability to work with metals (not a mere matter of technique in ancient times, including in ancient japan).
    Lévi-Strauss: with all due respect to M. Lévi-Strauss, I think that in French anthropology far too many beings encountered in mythology or folklore are called “chthonien” (of the earth) as if this adjective was enough to put an end to a discussion of their significance.

  41. There is no “Mary-Lou” here, as far as I know.
    I’m sure Sashura didn’t realize you dislike nicknames and meant no offense.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    Oh, I am not offended, I know Sashura is new here.

  43. Sorry Marie-Lucie – I don’t know where that other character came from – бес попутал! (Antipka twisted my fingers).
    And another famous lame personage, closer to us: Philip Carey, Of Human B • ondage by Maugham. Villagers liked him despite his limping.

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