Judging a People by their Folklore

If we’re honest, it’s more accurate to judge a people by their folklore, rather than their Facebook posts. Because in the fairy tale and the proverb – that’s the people, with their notions of what is good and what is bad, with their family life and healthy adventurism, selflessness and perfectionism in friendship and love.

Fairy tales and proverbs present a collective portrait of a people, head and all! Of course, His Majesty Success is the main character of world fairy tales, and a fairy tale of any people – from the largest, in soul and body, to the smallest, – is a guide to achieving success. That’s why they read them to little ones: so that they could gain experience and prepare for adult life. The question is – what do different peoples put into the concept of “Success” and what paths they strive for it.

Take Europeans: if you don’t take action – there’s no advancement in life for you, brother! This was well known to the Brave Tailor, Puss in Boots, and the merry Hans. They also had cannibals.

In every fairy tale – at least one, and sometimes a whole litter of such freaks-cannibals. And from the context, it’s clear that they are not strangers, but their own, native ones – but with specific notions of tasty and healthy food. You might say it’s a coincidence? But today’s leaders of European structures grew up on these fairy tales!

In Russian fairy tales, there’s a healthy folk understanding of the conspiracy theory, which is as complicated as all political technologies, and lies in a needle, which is in an egg, which is in a chest, which is on an oak tree. And thanks to the ability to reach a consensus with any forces, the national prince-hero finds the needle, breaks into the old witch’s house, and saves his people from the globalist-Koschei.

At the same time, the hero has a kind of male sexism in relations with the harmful Baba Yaga, expressed in the demand to wash, feed, drink, and put to sleep. And the gender monster in the mortar, which has eaten a dog on eating children and guests, imagine, agrees, having sensed the Russian spirit and a strong male hand! Would you say that’s also a coincidence?

If friendliness is present in European fairy tales, it is at the level of the animal world: the Bremen Town Musicians, for example, who have joined forces as a street gang and attacked the robbers. But in human embodiment, it can’t be found there, no.

But in Armenian ones – there’s plenty. Armenian princes are ready to be friends with an Arab, a Persian, and generally any imperialist of those ancient times. And friendship is always sincere and bears its fruit, because in the happy ending of fairy tales it turns out that these are not Arabs or Persians, but good magicians in corresponding human emanations, who have come to thank for the last slice of bread once given, the last penny spent on them, saving the lives of the offspring, and other acts of self-sacrifice.

Interestingly, in Armenian fairy tales, families have to take turns standing guard at night and protecting the field from a thieving opponent, a garden with rejuvenating apples, a firebird, or other sacred family treasures. Whereas in most fairy tales of the world, the heroes are these very thieves. Would you say that’s a coincidence?

Oh no: in reality, it’s about possessing ancient but advanced technologies for that historical moment, and about industrial espionage with subsequent raiding takeover.

And the harmful spies are Europeans again! Here the phenomenon of “Humpbacked Horse” is interesting, being a brilliant Russian retelling of a fragment from the ancient Armenian epic about the Sasun heroes.

The author of “Humpbacked Horse” is the great Russian writer and playwright Pyotr Pavlovich Ershov, who lived during his high school years in Tobolsk in the family of his maternal uncle – a well-known Armenian merchant family Pelinkovs.

The fairy tale was recorded by him first hand and published already during his student years in St. Petersburg. Although it’s hard to imagine a more Russian and kind fairy tale about the system of moral values.

And what’s interesting: neither in Russian nor in Armenian fairy tales you will not find malice and aggression in the hero: he is full of kindness and selflessness. In the Russian version, his own family considers him a fool for this, but the princess beauties just keep coming!

At the same time, in the Armenian version, kindness is an insufficient condition: the hero must also be a workaholic, building new fortresses and providing not only friends but even sea creatures with food.

In a European fairy tale, the hero’s achievement of the goal is facilitated not by personal qualities, no: a miracle helps him! Once – and fairies appear, finally washing and beautifully shoeing-dressing Cinderella.

Although washing and washing a dress doesn’t seem such a costly article even without fairies. Or once! – and another fairy comes to the aid of a poor man in a donkey’s skin, to get rid of the incestuous claims from his own father who fell under evil spells.

No matter what fairy tales of which peoples we read, in all countries we stumble upon an unclean force that has seized the mill, forest, pond, rice field, rich castle, and even an entire kingdom.

Of course, in fairy tales, a brave soldier, a village eccentric, or another civilian hero will defeat ghouls and demons. But only by cunning. You can’t defeat them in a fair fight. Because this force is cunning, agile, and invisible until midnight.

It’s not the simple-minded dragon that heroes and princes honestly rush at. With unclean power, you have to act by its own methods. Only then does the fairy tale have a happy ending, and in the Armenian one, as many as three apples fall from the sky: to the storyteller, the listener, and the one who takes advice.

The great 19th century, when bright representatives of the Armenian, Russian, and European intelligentsia began to collect and record folk tales – not just the awakening of national spirit and interest in their own folklore – no!

It only seems that the Grimm Brothers, Perrault, Andersen, Dahl, Aksakov, Agayan, and Srvanztyan coincidentally coincided in their period of activity. The danger of total destruction of nations by that time had already been clearly planned and voiced at the appropriate global forums, and the collective spirit, the egregore of nations, worked to preserve national granaries of wisdom.

The titanic effort to collect and record folk tales and legends in the provinces of Western Armenia, thereby fixing both folklore and the dialects in which it lived and taught us wisdom – is an amazing scientific and civic feat of the collaborators of this cause.

Under Soviet power, the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian Republic published 14 thick and unassuming volumes of this treasure, the role of which in our biography and identity is impossible to overestimate.

When I read folk tales, it’s hard to resist Pushkin’s “what a charm these tales are!” Because besides the exciting plot and lovely details, they always contain the spirit of the people, its strength, and the reason for longevity.

There is, for example, the Armenian folk tale “Anait”. The essence of it boils down to the fact that Prince Vachagan falls in love with a simple village beauty Anait, and she turns away from her hut the suitors with all their gifts.

At the same time, the beauty states: “You, Vachagan, today, maybe, are a prince, but if tomorrow some coup or restructuring happens, you will certainly become a common homeless intellectual. Therefore, you should master an adjacent but useful profession. Otherwise, you won’t see me, even though I’m a simple village worker.”

After the unexpected resistance, Vachagan realizes that this is not only female intuition but also the voice of the people, and therefore begins to take private lessons in carpet weaving. He even sends his beloved in the backwoods a sample of his creative achievements, studded with stars and all for which Giordano Bruno was later burned.

The design and quality of the carpet turn out to be at such a high export level that the rural beauty, imagine, agrees to move from a village shack to the royal palace and become the future queen.

Do you think this is the happy ending of the Armenian tale? You don’t know them (I mean us, Armenians) well enough.

The day after the wedding, the omnipresent mother of the prince sends red apples and a bottle of red wine to the village with messengers, as is customary in our parts to this day, symbolizing gratitude for Anait’s preserved, despite her stunning beauty, virginity, and the wedding celebrations continue.

But then an Arab invasion occurs, the king and queen die, and during the military operation, the prince suddenly becomes king and is taken prisoner by the enemy.

Since free labor was always appreciated by everyone, after a successful campaign the Arab caliph lines up the prisoners and fills out a form for each of them from right to left.

Vachagan states as his main specialty not the dynastic one, but factory-based, and he is sent to one of the Baghdad dungeons, where the prince is given a production plan for carpet weaving, and he begins to create in conditions predicted by his beautifying wife.

Meanwhile, the young queen is virtually mastering the management of the state and at the same time strengthening intelligence, hoping to find her beloved. Here, court marketers inform her that carpets of a suspicious astronomical design have appeared on the market at no less astronomical prices.

The wise beyond her years queen immediately recognizes her dear not by his gait, but by his creative handwriting, and getting into the closed object was already a matter of technique.

After some time, Anait, without the sanctions of international organizations, bursts into the dungeon on a warhorse along with a group of armed experts and saves Vachagan from the inevitable Botkin’s disease in the unsanitary conditions of Baghdad dungeons. What do you think the husband rescued from captivity thanked her for?

Absolutely right, not for the fact of liberation, but for the realization of the necessity of choosing a profession demanded by the international labor market!

Of course, not all popular Armenian tales are so instructive, and the characters in them are not all princes and princesses. There are people from the people in them, like, for example, in the tale not folk, but invented by the Armenian poet-commoner Tumanyan, and in Soviet times retold by another Armenian writer, Demirchyan.

The story is about the village liar and boaster Nazar. The naive tribesmen who believed his chatter even elected him king in a democratic way. What came out of it is clear from the tale and became especially clear in the early 1990s, when the beloved folk tale about brave Nazar was banned from being performed in the theaters of Armenia as leading to seditious analogies with the current ruler.

It would be nothing, but the tale turned out to be so funny and similar to the incompetent management of appointees of all times that the wonderful name Nazaret, or Nazar, became a common name and self-eliminated from the popular saints.

Today we have a huge number of Nazaryans and Nazaretyans, leading their family name from the name Nazar – and it has completely disappeared! You won’t find a single Armenian baby with that name anymore!

So the connection between the people and their folklore is not just strong, but bilateral. And therefore, they cannot be taken lightly: the fairy tale is a lie, but there is a hint in it, and in the happy ending of the Armenian one there is always a wish to the audience: “They have achieved their dream, and you achieve yours!” Well, aren’t these fairy tales just lovely?

by Lia Avetisyan

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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