The Visio Tundali in the Slavic Manuscript Tradition

Julia Verkholantsev, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper identifies the sources and reconstructs the textual history of medieval Slavic translations of the Visio Tundali (the Vision of Tundalus), a highly popular text in the Later Middle Ages. After leading a sinful life, the Irish knight Tundalus was murdered by a false friend and journeyed to the world beyond the grave. Unlike most mortals, however, he managed to return to this world to report on what he had seen. This story was first translated from Irish into Latin in the second half of the twelfth century. By the end of the fifteenth century the Latin version enjoyed wide circulation and the Visio Tundali had been translated into the German, English, Dutch, Swedish, Icelandic, Provencal, French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese vernaculars.

In the Slavic manuscript tradition, bookmen who followed the Roman rite were the first to adopt the story of Tundalus into their textual repertoire. Several versions of the Visio Tundali, translated from Italian and Latin, are attested in fifteenth and sixteenth-century Croatian Glagolitic manuscripts. One of the Croatian versions appears to have been associated with the emergence of a Czech translation of this vision in the fifteenth century. Although the text of the Czech version is not preserved, its existence is testified to by an early sixteenth-century Ruthenian translation, the linguistic features of which clearly point to a Czech source. Through Ruthenian the Visio Tundali entered the Orthodox Slavic milieu and without a doubt circulated there as is proved by the existence of another sixteenth-century East Slavic version.

The study of Slavic versions of the Visio Tundali offers important evidence on textual migration in the late medieval period. This paper focuses on several extant Slavic manuscripts in order to document the relationships between the Croatian, Czech and Ruthenian versions of this story, identifying sources and describing the historical circumstances of the text's translation and transmission.