The Transformation of Cyavana: A Case Study in Narrative Evolution


The assessment of possible genetic relationships between pairs of proposed narrative parallels currently relies on subjective conventional wisdom-based criteria. This essay presents an attempt at categorizing patterns of narrative evolution through the comparison of variants of orally-composed, fixed-text Sanskrit tales. Systematic examination of the changes that took place over the developmental arc of The Tale of Cyavana offers a number of insights that may be applied to the understanding of the evolution of oral narratives in general. An evidence-based exposition of the principles that govern the process of narrative evolution could provide more accurate diagnostic tools for evaluating narrative parallels.

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