Pchela (The Bee). The Slavic title for books of quotations and parables from Christian and classical literature. Its prototypes were the Theological Chapters of Saint Maximus the Confessor and the Sacred Parallels of Saint John of Damascus, which made up a large part of the didactic anthology Melissa (The Bee), compiled by the Byzantine monk Anthony Melissa in the 11th century. Melissa was translated from Greek into Old Ukrainian at the beginning of the 13th century. Pchely were an abundant source of ancient aphorisms and anecdotes, many of which were incorporated into Ukrainian folklore. Later, revised copies replaced many ancient sections with original Kyivan Rus’ parables, proverbs, and maxims. In 1599, scholars of the Ostroh Academy circle produced a new translation, the so-called Derman Pchola. The oldest extant manuscript (15th century) was published by V. Semenov in 1893, and several later Ukrainian transcriptions were published by S. Shcheglova in 1910. Ivan Franko used pchela motifs in his literary works.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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