The Armenian epic The Daredevils of Sassoun is an ancient folktale that has passed down generations through oral traditions. To this day performance of this epic either through songs, poetry reading or theater is a part of Armenian cultural expression. It’s often associated with the very spirit of the Armenian people and its historical destiny. Its cultural value has been recognized by UNESCO in 2012 when it was inscribed on their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. UNESCO describes this cultural practice as follows:
The Armenian epic Daredevils of Sassoun recounts the story of David of Sassoun, a defiant and self-reliant youth, who by the grace of God defends his homeland in an unequal duel against the evil. The epic falls within the tradition of heroic folktales that dramatize and voice the deepest sentiments and aspirations of a nation. The epic is told in a lyrical voice with rhythmic enunciation, while separate cantos are sung in a rhyming poetic style. It is performed annually on the first Saturday of October (Epic Day holiday in some villages), during weddings, birthdays, christenings and major national cultural events. Usually the epos teller sits, wearing national costume and is accompanied on the duduk, a woodwind instrument. The epic-telling art has no gender, age or professional limitations. It is transmitted through families as a vocation, most strongly in rural communities with close links to folklore culture. There are 160 variants. Performances nowadays last up to two hours with the epic narrated in parts. It is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Armenian folklore, functioning as an encyclopaedia and repository of the entire range of knowledge about the heritage of Armenian people, their religion, mythology, philosophy, cosmology, customs and ethics.