Nancy L. Canepa From Court to Forest. Giambattista Basile's Lo cunto de li cunti and the Birth of the Literary Fairy Tale. Detroit 1999: Wayne State University Press.
Ruth Mirov Regivärsilise ekspositsioonlauluga voormängud. Tüpoloogia, struktuur, poeetika (Line Games With Expositional Songs In Kalevala Metre: Typology, Structure, Poetics). Publications of the Institute of Estonian Language. Vol. 2. Tallinn, 1998. 368 pp.
Ülo Valk Allilma isand: kuradi ilmumiskujud eesti rahvausus. (The Lord of the Nether World: Manifestations of the Devil in Estonian Folk Religion.) Eesti Rahva Muuseumi Sari 1. Tartu, 1998. 235 pp.
Nancy L. Canepa From Court to Forest. Giambattista
Basile's Lo cunto de li cunti and the Birth of the Literary
Fairy Tale. Detroit 1999: Wayne State University Press.
The study represents a critical and historical treatment of the origin of literary fairy tales. The book, often considered a corner stone of modern literary fairy tale, Giambattista Basile'i Lo cunto de li cunti overo Lo trattenemiento de peccerille [A Tale of the Tales, or An Entertainment for the Little Ones], also known as Il Pentamerone was published in the Naples dialect during 1634-36. The forty nine tales of the book are narrated over the period of five days; in the first four days, ten tales each day, and nine tales on the fifth day. The fiftieth tale frames all the other stories.
Basile's work is the first collection of literary fairy tales in Western Europe, containing versions of several popular fairy tales (e.g. «The Sleeping Beauty», «Cinderella», etc.) Thus, Lo cunto marks the transformation of miracle fairy tale as an oral popular genre to a thoroughly considered literary authorial narrative, and Basile deserves credit first and foremost for presenting fairy tales in literary form. N. L. Canepa, author of the current study, argues that the brilliancy of the work lies in the merging of canonised and non-canonised traditions into a unique synthesis, as well as in perceiving the literary and ideological expectations of the contemporary reader. In addition to that the book reflects a complex socio-cultural context, which first inspired it.
The author distinguishes between her method and other well-known research methods (such as structuralistic, folkloristic and psychoanalytic ones) in that it evades universality and regards fairy tale as a monolithic genre; Canepa attempts to treat it as a vital variable form directly associated with cultural history. A folklorist reader, however, cannot help but feel that the author's treatment of popular fairy tales is generalising, and based on the studies of other fairy tale researchers rather than her own personal experience.
One of the main purposes of the study is to display Lo cunto as a founder of literary fairy tales in Western Europe. Several readers consider fairy tales published in the Contes by Charles Perrault, or the Kinder- und Hausmärchen by the Grimm brothers as classical miracle tales, overlooking the fact that several of the tales included in these collections were first published in literary form in Lo cunto.
Canepa emphasises that Lo cunto's role in literary tradition is somewhat paradoxical, as it is a collection which bears the closest affinity to popular oral fairy tale tradition, and at the same time, is the most stylised and illustrated on similar collections. Basile, for example, often evades the terse fairy tale style and absorbs into extravagant, often half a page long descriptions of characters. Such rhetorical experiments, in fact, draw the line between Lo cunto and oral fairy tale tradition, and also support the fact that the collection was not intended for children. In order to be able to understand Basile's choice of style and genre, the reader has to review the literary history of Naples (a thorough treatment of it is included in the 3rd chapter of the study). In the 17th century literary fairy tale was still making its way between the oral narratives and élite literature. At the same time it offered unlimited possibilities to conduct both formal and rhetorical experiments and also social criticism, which would have been condemned in other, more canonised genres.
The author of the study expresses dissatisfaction that popular critical analyses of fairy tales (e.g. by Vladimir Propp and Max Lüthi) disregard literary fairy tales and fail to point out the features which would distinguish it from orally transmitted fairy tale tradition. Even the simplest fairy tale structure, characterised by the progress from the beginning of the problem to its elimination, or bringing matters into balance again, can be applied in literary fairy tales to a limited degree. Propp's functions can be applied to a number of literary fairy tales, but not all of them (e.g. Catherine d'Aulnoy, a leading writer of literary fairy tales in France, wrote several tales with a tragic ending). Propp almost totally ignores the issue of style in his study, claiming laconically that style is a phenomenon which deserves separate study. Canepa, on the other hand, argues that in case of Lo cunto it is pointless to view style and structure as separate phenomena.
Lüthi's stylistic and thematic definition of fairy tale might also prove ineffective, as Lo cunto appears to evade all Lüthi's categories. In Lo cunto, for example, long passages are filled with the inner life of the characters, the descriptions of their emotional reactions and social and geographical surroundings, which contradicts Lüthi's statement on the incomplete style of fairy tales. Therefore, literary fairy tales and popular folk tales have to be observed from different aspects, even though they share similar features (particularly in structure). One of Canepa's aims is to point out the differences between Basile's literary fairy tales and oral narratives, but also the work of authors more famous than himself (we must not forget that Basile was the predecessor of both Perrault as well as the Grimm brothers).
Basile's work is an original combination of adopted form (Lüthi's narrative protorype) with its characteristic narrative structure and ethic categories, flooded with seemingly irrelevant stylistic and thematic elements, which in reality are indispensable for understanding the socio-historical and literary context. Lo cunto's novelty, however, is not in the structural elaboration and development of the genre, but in a masterful presentation of figurative and ideological opposites, the numerous references to contemporary social environment and narrative tradition. Thus the 'non-personal' popular material and highly 'personal' indications to a certain cultural context have intermingled into an elaborate ambiguous symbiosis with an open form. Basile does not propose simple answers to a question how it is possible to transform the archaic oral form into a literal one, also Lo cunto evades all categories of both the popular as well as élite literature, and makes a travesty of both.
The cycle of Lo cunto has been arranged so that each day would follow a dominant theme. Seven stories of the first day talk about the improvement of the social status of a poor (or simple-minded) person with the help of magical objects. The stories of the second day contain more fantasia, focusing on a detailed description of the hero's journey rather than the outcome of the story. The stories contain references to miraculous places and animals (e.g. in the Puss in Boots prototype). The topics of the third day concern mostly the violation of rules in social and sexual conduct, concluding with moral instructions. The fourth day is full of magical transformations: from human to animal, from the imaginary to the real, introducing also changes in ethics. The stories of the fifth day are not centred around specific topics and motifs, instead, they describe a number of experiments on topics and rhetorical methods introduced during the first four days. Each story concludes with a summarising proverb or moral precept.
Clearly, Lo cunto is a reflection of its cultural environment. The author finds that each literary and folkloric text, be it as imaginary as it may, reflects its original environment, and referring to Lüthi and Propp claims that in case of fairy tales, in particular, this relation has often been overridden and been subject to excessive generalisations. Canepa emphasises that the uniqueness and individuality of the text, also its dependence on a specific historical situation, has to be considered in its interpretation. One of the objectives of the study is in fact to relate Lo cunto to reality both in the literary and popular traditions, but also in the socio-cultural context.
In the conclusion the author presents three aspects of the reality she thinks Lo cunto represents. First of all we should regard Basile's texts as allegories to the socio-cultural reality of the 17th century, as they abound in autobiographical details and implications to the Kingdom of Naples. On the other hand, the reader might recognise the influence of different literary and cultural traditions, elements from both the Italian elite literary tradition (Petrarca) and the anti-classicistic Renaissance tradition. All in all, we could regard Lo cunto as a laboratory for rhetorical and thematic experiments, which is based on Basile's subjective and unique interpretation of baroque poetry.
In Lo cunto both narrative as well as non-narrative forms have intertwined, also the structure of Basile's stories is more typical to short stories than to fairy tales. Then, why did he chose miracle tale as a genre? One of the reasons, supported by several researchers, is the element of compensation that the wonder worlds and magical objects offer as an alternative to harsh social reality. In fairy tales (and thus also in several Basile's stories) characters live in a society where the poor and those in need might achieve success. If the characters happen to get hold of a huge fortune without having to make any effort to earn it, it is often a reward for their inner qualities, almost always valued in fairy tales and very rarely in real life. Fairy tale is a perfect means for expressing such ideals, as its heroes are out of all temporal, spatial and causative relations.
Despite the fact that fairy tales with their optimistic disregard for conflicts appear to be a relatively comprehensible psychological tool, Basile's textual didactics and ethics are not as explicit. The lessons that Basile's stories aim to teach are far too ambivalent, either having too many unsettled problems or failing in defining the ideological aspect. Fairy tale is perfect for conducting such rhetorical experiments; it is highly stylised, irreal and non-naturalistic as a genre. Basile's version of this genre presents a metamorphosis of regular people and natural environment into the abstract dimension of the uncanny, and substituting ordinary language with metaphors. In order to achieve that Basile had to be familiar with the popular narrative tradition of Naples, and was probably a folklore collector himself. We must not forget that Basile used mostly local fairy tales, each of which was rich in local colour and therefore an invaluable source of information about the surrounding social and cultural environment.
Presumably, Basile's audience consisted of province courts in the vicinity of Naples, where he served. It would be wrong to assume that for Basile, a court member, the compensatory function of the fairy tale would have been comparable to the oral narrative of populace. Basile's metaphors and stylistic devices suggest not just erudition, but also awareness of the literary discussions and contradictions prevalent in the 17th century. The most common feature (and very typical to fairy tales) in all the fifty stories is their tendency to proceed from the state of unbalance to a happy ending.
How could we characterise a successful fairy tale hero? Canepa compares the characters of Lo cunto to those described in the definition by Max Lüthi, and finds them coincide in many ways. Pondering about the reasons why Basile used the genre of fairy tale, several critics have come to the conclusion that the role of fairy tale hero must have fitted to Basile's literary purposes. In comparison to the 15-16th century short stories, we will see that the renaissance heroes depicted in the short stories were able to change their fate while fairy tale heroes passively surrendered to fate. Basile's ideals were represented by ingenious reformers whose endeavours were eventually praised and rewarded: in that they differ from Lüthi's postulation and even more so from the heroes of short stories. Canepa studies closer the three categories of Lo cunto heroes: those who are successful in co-operation with others; those who are successful by cheating or pretence; and those who use the services of self-created magical helpers.
Usually, the events of fairy tales unfold in 'civilised' world both in Lo cunto and other collections. In the course of events the hero leaves the familiar territory and faces the magical helpers or enemies in unknown places. Finally the hero returns home or the place that becomes his new home. In popular fairy tales venues are often indefinitely specified, while in Basile's stories places are specified in an intriguing manner: the homes of lower-class characters are located in the nearest vicinity of Naples, but protagonists of royal blood are settled in fictitious kingdoms. Canepa understands it as an implication to the unrealistic opportunity to improve the social position of the heroes in reality: the fact that the wishes become true only in imaginary kingdoms indicates their unobtainability and illusoriness.
Another metaphorical scene is forest. In popular fairy tales forest opposes civilisation and ordinary world, and plays an important role in the initiation act of the hero. Forest is depicted as a dark, wild and terrifying place. The woods in Lo cunto also oppose to the habitual settlement, but often this scary presentation appears to be a strategic device to mock audience's expectations of conventional fairy tales. Thus, Basile might begin a story with a rather spooky image of the forest, whereas later it turns out that the hero went there only to gather fire-wood, and does not mention anything terrifying or strange happening there. On several occasions forest is depicted rather as a reflection of urban reality than a scene in a fairy tale, or, even worse, a possibility to escape a tedious life in court.
One of the main rhetorical devices for making a genre as archaic as fairy tale satisfy the hunger for novelty and the unusual so typical to the times of Lo cunto, is metaphor. In traditional fairy tales the worlds of human and supernatural creatures have been reconciled, while in Lo cunto this reconciliation occurs at the metaphorical level. When Basile uses figures like Cinderella's foot which slips into the shoe with a strength of a magnet attracting iron, it should not be taken linearly only. Canepa argues that the infinite series of Basile's metaphors create the sense of playfulness, which as if suggests that ethics, material and aesthetic values are nothing but relative concepts or illusions. One of the essential features of a fairy tale is metamorphosis, the characters must cross conventional social and ethical rules so that the fairy tale could reach a happy end. According to the prevailing baroque taste Lo cunto's metamorphoses often bring together extreme opposites: for example, in some story a pile of excrement might transform into a gold coin, or an old hag into a young beauty. Basile even surpasses traditional fairy tales with his metamorphoses, as the characters in his stories are not utterly good or utterly evil, but might change from one to another.
Canepa describes Lo cunto as a hybrid of different genres. The book is original not just in that it has introduced folkloric material in literature, but also in its representation of a unique world-view through new literary paradigms. Lo cunto defies all rules that apply to fairy tales, but at the same time calls for a laugh at its own alternatives.
Reet Hiiemäe, Tartu
Ruth Mirov Regivärsilise ekspositsioonlauluga
voormängud. Tüpoloogia, struktuur, poeetika
(Line Games With Expositional Songs In Kalevala Metre: Typology, Structure,
Poetics). Publications of the Institute of Estonian Language.
Vol. 2. Tallinn, 1998. 368 pp.|
Estonian folklore has been enriched by a new engaging book: the study by Ruth Mirov on line games with expositional songs, a subcategory of old Estonian song games in Kalevala metre. The study focuses on three well-known Estonian song games (Nõelamäng «The Needle Game», Kullimäng «The Hawk Game» and Laevamäng «The Ship Game»), analyzed from the aspect of game typology, the structure and poetics of song and dialogue texts. The book also provides a systematic overview of the repertoire of old Estonian song games as a whole.
The first chapter of introduction outlines the treatments of earlier song games in print, pointing out the occurrence of old song games in published texts. As Estonian song games and the corresponding Finnish material have much in common (identical game types occur in different layers of tradition), Ruth Mirov has also included references to the corresponding arguments of Finnish folklorists. Both, the research and a survey of publications suggest that earlier song games in Kalevala metre and dancing figurative games with songs in transitional form are mostly considered under common tradition; in theory, though, they represent two different subcategories of song games. This combined representation might be caused by the fact that both subcategories have existed side by side for the last two-three centuries, and that is why the line between the two subcategories has started to fade. Naturally, it is impossible to determine the exact time of the emergence of earlier song games. We can only be certain about the year 1680, when the first record of «The Needle Game» was registered in the protocols of a witch trial in Pärnu region. Evidently, similar games must have been popular, at least in western Estonia already before the trial. We might also assume that the very first song games emerged sometime between the 13th and 16th century. Thus, the second chapter of introduction sheds light on the formation of earlier song games and provides arguments for the categorisation of the genre of song games. Here, the author also points out problems connected to the categorisation and finding proper terminology.
All Estonian song games are divided in two main groups according to the metrical form of the songs: the earlier games with songs in Kalevala metre, i.e. runo songs, and the more recent games with rhymed songs in stanza. In reality, the material is not that clearly definable: it includes a number of intermediate forms and blending. Ruth Mirov has divided all song games in three subcategories according to the form of the song and the type of game activity: 1) earlier song games, i.e. games with runo songs and theatrical activity; 2) recent song games with songs mostly in transitional form, and the activity is based on dancing figurative movement; 3) round dances with mostly end-rhymed stanzaic songs, where people imitate the lyrics of the song or dance in pairs inside the circle. Earlier song games are divided according to the song form, the number and type of theatrical elements and the basic form of movement as follows:
The typology of earlier song games found in the archives is relatively small (there are only 18 different types), whereas the majority of game types occur in a large number of recorded versions (e.g. more than 500 versions of «The Sheep Game»), indicating the popularity of these songs in local tradition at that time.
The analysis of line games with expositional songs, the main part of the study, is based on 395 recordings available mostly in the collections of the Estonian Folklore Archives and the Institute of Estonian Language, of which «The Needle Game» occurs in 160, «The Hawk Game» in 155 and «The Ship Game» in 80 versions. The line games have a specific structural organisation in the form of line, where the players line up behind each other, holding on to a player standing in front. The only player who does not line up is antagonist one, who faces the line. Also, during the game the line is not broken until the struggle at the end of the game or each round, when the antagonist draws one player out of the line or breaks the whole line. The line games with expositional songs have a particularly clear and easy structure, which is always made up of three constituent parts. Ruth Mirov has marked the constituents with appropriate theatrical terms:
While the line games with expositional song are almost identical in structure, their constituent parts are rather different. Of the three games mentioned above, «The Needle Game» is most typical to the structural pattern of line games: the antagonist (the seeker or buyer of needle) faces the line from the beginning of the game; the song and dialogue are short and invariable, allowing almost no improvisation. After the last player of the line is caught, the line is reassembled and the game will go on. In Hawk game the opposite parties are the Hawk and a flock of Hens guarded by a Rooster. In the exposition the line of players walk around the squatting Hawk, and the first position of line games (the antagonist facing the line) is formed only for the beginning of the dialogue between the main characters. The conclusion differs from that of other similar games in that the chased Hen or Chicken is not trying to escape by running away from the line, as in Needle game, but hides behind the players in the line. So, the antagonist has to accomplish his task by attacking the whole line (the Rooster and the flock of Hens), who are all trying to defend the last player in the line, all by himself.
The structure of «The Ship Game» is unique, because the players are sitting on the round and swing from side to side to the song's rhythm, imitating a ship afloat on waves. The antagonist, i.e. the Captain who has come to buy the ship or merchandise, faces the line. In the final part of the game, the Captain and his crew begin to test the endurance of the ship, or remove merchandise, and the whole line is torn apart from the first player. The conflict in line games lies in the fact that someone needs or seeks something (needle, hen, ship) and the other party refuses to give it up without fighting. Nevertheless, the conflict between the opposite parties (the seeker and owner of the needle, the Hawk and the Rooster, the Captain and the ship merchant) is relatively weak, and the intrigue expressed in the prose discourse of the main characters relatively primitive.
The lyrics of line games are interesting from several aspects. They exemplify pure Kalevala metre, and originate clearly in the golden era of runo verse tradition. As the texts have been recorded sometime in the 19th-20th century, when the tradition already began to fade, they contain all the features characteristic to folkloric reports. There are almost complete texts, but also those with traces of memory slips, traditional and fragmental texts, texts with local characteristics (the Mulgi version), and texts comprising the earlier and the recent periods in the game tradition, among the reports.
The songs of «The Needle Game» and «The Hawk Game» occur in a number of typologically invariable versions; yet another song is associated with both games, which lyrics do not betray its belonging to the same runo verse typology. The lyrics of «The Ship Game» are composed of motifs, which belong to altogether different types of runo verse. This kind of contamination, that we observed in the composing of the lyrics of «The Ship Game», is actually very natural for the process of creating runo songs: the performer uses the whole body of verse from his/her background knowledge, (s)he has not necessarily memorised complete texts but certain phrasal units (motifs, formulae, verses). But such pure contamination, as we can observe in one of the versions of «The Ship Game» song (Kus kuked kulda söövad «Where roosters eat gold»), where the transitional motif has been complemented with an addressing formula, and become a whole new typological unit, is extremely rare even among the runo songs. As to the typology, the addressing formulae used in song games (nõtku, nõtku, nõelakene; koots, koots, kullikene; sõua, laeva, jõua, laeva) are truly remarkable. As a rule, the addressing formula is considered secondary in determining the type of runo song, as it is stereotypical and tends to migrate. However, in some song versions of «The Needle Game», «The Hawk Game» and «The Ship Game», the typological categorisation is based only on addressing formulae.
The conclusion of the study points out the similarities and differences between line games with expositional songs and earlier song games, but also line games with songs in transitional form, which belong to the category of dancing figurative song games. These games are popular all over Europe, and have reached us mainly via Sweden and Finland presumably in the 16th century («The Game of the Rich and Poor», «The Gate Game», etc.). While in her analysis of earlier song games Ruth Mirov has regarded game as a minor theatrical play with a stable structure, the conclusion includes comments pertaining to drama and staging. The conclusion provides a good overview of the characters of song games, the types of activity and verbal means of expression, touching briefly the subject of costumes and props.
To sum it up, we should bear in mind that the research into games is relatively complicated because of the fact that games are largely reproduced each time they are played. Also, the description of the games is recorded subsequently, often they are reproduced years later by the account of a participant, an eyewitness, or hearsay. The reports of games are also unique in that they describe only the traditional elements recurring in the games again and again, whereas the improvisational elements, which play a significant role in every game, are only suggested. Thus, the researcher has to read between the lines to fill in the blanks and form the material into a complete description. The experienced researcher of song games, Ruth Mirov, has succeeded in it admirably.
Karin Ribenis, Tallinn
Ülo Valk Allilma isand: kuradi ilmumiskujud
eesti rahvausus. (The Lord of the Nether World: Manifestations
of the Devil in Estonian Folk Religion.) Eesti Rahva Muuseumi Sari 1.
Tartu, 1998. 235 pp.
It is true - what else could appear in such different forms (and have such a number of different names) than the Master of the Underworld or the Devil. The book by Ülo Valk considers one angle of the conceptions of Devil in the Estonian folk tradition, namely, its shapes of appearances. To cover the topic «Devil in Estonian Folk Tradition» , we should put together a material series of numerous volumes long, at the least, for even the author writes (on p. 9) that «The Devil is one of the most popular mythological characters in the Estonian folk tradition; it appears in different genres: fairytales, legends, belief accounts, folk songs, proverbs and elsewhere.» The book published at the end of the year 1998 as the first publication in the series of monographs of the Estonian National Museum is in fact a doctorate thesis from 1994, and by now its author is a professor of folklore at the University of Tartu. The introductory part of the book offers a customary historiographical overview of the hither to conceptions of Devil in Estonia and elsewhere, also introducing the source material and methods used by the author. According to the author of the book the aim of the work is to present an extensive overview of the Devil's shapes of appearances in the Estonian folk belief, based on statistical data.
Even though the subtitle of the book gives ground for expecting information about the Devil's shapes of appearances only, the book provides far more than just an outward description of the character. Apart from the information in a few laconic belief accounts, the description of appearance is almost always associated with some kind of action - even in simple memorates the Devil in one shape or another is bound to do something - even if it is only his sudden appearance or disappearance. Far more common are the narratives with a more complex plot, often legends which have spread all over the world. Therefore, the type numbers of the stories provided in references or presentation are taken from various national belief indexes (Aarne - Estonian; Simonsuuri - Finnish), and motifs from the Middle Ages.
Four chapters are concerned with the appearance of the Devil as an anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and fantastical creature, also as an inanimate object or natural phenomenon, respectively. The rest of the chapters deal with the appearance of the Devil as an ordinary vehicle, his metamorphosis and evoked delusions.
In the tables of appendix, the 1874 shapes of appearances found in the analysed texts are classified in a detailed manner. A table from a research based on material of approximately the same size by a Lithuanian folklorist N. Velius provides an interesting comparison. Ülo Valk's concept of the Devil is principally the same, but unlike Velius he has compared Estonian material also with German, Russian, etc. folk traditions. Apart from the general similarities, comparisons reveal also certain differences: different cultures favour different shapes of appearance, some shapes may not occur, etc. The hare, for instance, is much more common in the Estonian lore than in the Lithuanian, Russian or German. Still, the generally European and Christian characteristics of the Estonian Devil tradition emerge even despite such divergences. Ü. Valk himself has shown on the grounds of specific examples how the Bible and Christian dogmas have shaped the popular belief in the Devil. Ülo Valk's laborious study of the European historical background of the belief in the Devil has resulted also in another book in Estonian entitled «Kurat Euroopa usnudiloos» («Devil in the European History of Religion»), published in 1994 that has been translated into Finnish.
However, in the current publication, Ülo Valk has not restricted his research merely to the European background of the tradition but has drawn parallels with the Muslim and Judaistic treatments of Devil as well.
The Devil could be contrasted with several other creatures from the Estonian folk tradition, for example haunting ghosts and various fairies. The author has drawn interesting observations from the comparative analysis of different genres of folk tradition.
The book includes a 3-page resume in English. The book will soon be fully published in English in the series of FFC.
Kristi Salve, Tartu