2.1.3. Themes in narrative songs

Overall, and especially in the old narrative texts, there are some recurrent themes, such as a quest for a wife (from a faraway country), feud, battles between families or tribes and the giant theme among the most ancient themes.

Russian scholars maintain that the essential differences between the syudbabts and yárabts are more clearly seen when these types are put into their historical contexts. According to this opinion, the most crucial ethnohistorical factor is the gradual shift from the clan-based community type to the family or neighbourhood type. The disintegration of the clan community is seen as a slow process lasting for centuries and being connected with the period of the more extensive Russian settlement of the Arctic North beginning in 17th and 18th centuries.

The system of internal solidarity changed gradually to a regional, neighbourhood-based community type. At the same time, the reindeer economy changed gradually from wild deer hunting to the reindeer-herding proper. This meant also concentration of the reindeer herds as units of wealth and it has been interpreted (most eagerly by Russian scholars in Soviet time) as the original phase of economic inequality among the people. (cf. Tereshchenko 1990, 11-12)

The attitudes toward subsistence changed accordingly: the subsistence possibilities were defined according to the output of work power in a neighbourhood, not by its members' affiliation to a clan. The trade economy was introduced. (cf. Khomich 1966, 142) The themes of warfare and wife-quest, as presented in syudbabts, along with the hyperbolization typical of archaic wondertales are seen in terms of characteristics of the patriarchal clan society. However, the variants of these themes in yárabts, emphasizing an individual and his/her sufferings are seen as appearing in the last phase of the historical disintegration of the clan society. In any case, the multitude of different theme and plot types of the yárabts can also be seen as indicative of its appearance later than syudbabts. (cf. Kupriyanova 1965, 55-56)