Innovations and Traditions in Contemporary Society

17.-19. oktoobrini toimus Vilniuses folkloristika osakonna ja Leedu Kirjanduse ja Folkloori Instituudi ühisseminar.
In October 2006 17-19 a joint Estonian-Lithuanian seminar on the international cooperation Innovations and Traditions in Contemporary Society was held in the Vilnius Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore.

Abstracts         Teesid

Constructing Digital Databases of the Periphery of Estonian Riddles.
Database Estonian Droodles ( ) for English-Speaking Users

Piret Voolaid

Traditional Estonian riddles have been entered into a extensive digital database and have been released in print in two academic volumes. The Research Group of Short Forms at the Department of Folkloristics at the Estonian Literary Museum aims to provide a digital access to the newer peripheral riddle material held in the Estonian Folklore Archives (conundrums, (compound) puns, acronyms, initial letter puzzles, abbreviation formulae, attention tests, puzzles about relatives, calculation trick questions, droodles) for everyone interested, and to digitalise all the newer riddle forms listed above into electronic publications. The first in the line was the electronic database of 7,200 Estonian droodles, ( ) compiled by me in May 2002 on the basis of manuscript collections of visual riddles, or droodles. Owing to the growing international interest towards droodles the Estonian version has been translated into English and is available on page . The e-database of nearly 5,000 Estonian (compound) puns ( ), the digital database of 25,000 Estonian conundrums ( ) and the database of 3,000 Estonian acronyms ( of analogous outline, technical structure and form are under construction. The same is planned for all the peripheral subcategories of riddles.

All the databases are based on separate paper files compiled mostly by the researchers of the short forms group, who have copied peripheral riddle material from Estonian folklore collections and printed sources to the files since the 1930s.

The systematisation of the paper files has reached the point where it requires digitalisation into a database to coninue and facilitate the work. The digital online database is a free e-publication, designed as an illustrative educational material for Estonian language classes in secondary schools and courses on folklore for university students majoring in language and literature, aiming to introduce some of the most productive short form genres in modern folklore. The constructed databases will be especially useful for the members of the research group: it should facilitate the work. The digital online database is a free e-publication, designed as an illustrative educational material for Estonian language classes in secondary schools and courses on folklore for university students majoring in language and literature, aiming to introduce some of the most productive short form genres in modern folklore. The constructed databases will be especially useful for the members of the research group: it should facilitate the obtaining of results considerably.

This paper deals with the technical structure of the visual database Estonian Droodles, which (1) enables to reproduce riddle texts with a search engine, taking into consideration the textual data relevant/ from the folkloric perspective (question, answer, archive reference, collector, place and time of collection, subject word) and (2) reflects the potential of the genre's typological taxonomy.

Compared with regular databases, the creation and implementation of the droodle database is complicated by the presence of its visual side - the drawn picture.
During digitalization, the pictures were separated from the texts; each picture of the paper file was numbered. After the pictures were scanned, cut and somewhat modified with graphics program GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) each picture was placed as single gif-files to the main catalogue of the database.
Texts were inserted to Excel-table, where one cell contained the number of the picture fail that accompanied the droodle. With Awk- and core-scripts the web pages were created, where the pictures and texts were united and became visible to the users. The data are kept in the database system PostGreSQL.

The digitalisation of the periphery of Estonian riddles has reached the point where the processing of primary or real data will soon be completed and the structure and technical potential of the database enables to add and complete it with new material. The use of different methods and software enables to modify primary data and achieve results that would be hard to achieve, if not unachieveble, while working with the paper files.

The Database of Estonian Sayings and Phraseological Expressions
Anneli Baran

The main research goal of Research Group of Estonian Short Forms is the development of a comprehensive database of Estonian phrases, and the preparation of the academic publication of Estonian Phrases (Eesti kõnekäänud). The database of Estonian phrases will serve as an effective additional material in the study of Estonian language, since the database entries contain Estonian dialects, and also oral and written Estonian language. Next to Estonian material the database includes phrases, poetic expressions, biblical expressions, translation loans, etc. of international spread and repute.

The online digital database, which is still under construction, contains approximately 170,000 entries. The database includes texts from Estonian folklore archives and dialectal archives and from printed sources. The earliest sources date back to the 17th and 18th century, whereas most of the phrases have been collected in the late 19th and the 20th century.

For a satisfactory result in categorising the object of research, it is important to know it and to be able to determine it. As is often the case with other classifications, the taxonomy of phraseological unit leaves room for ambiguities. Namely, a saying (or a phrase) is very heterogeneous in that it encompasses phraseology in the strictest sense (in borderline cases compound verbs, compound words, etc.) but also longer figurative expressions (dialogues consisting of several sentences, etc.). Some of these are related to the structure and lexica of language, i.e. they are purely linguistic invariable compounds, some exist as speech-bound folkloric texts, i.e. they are figures of speech. Hence the problems with finding a uniform criterion, both linguistically and theoretically-methodologically, not to mention the theories of trope structure, in the study of saying.

We are finding that the idea of the database is not to preserve data, but it is intended to present as much additional information as possible. The database of the Estonian phrases is a composite of different categories within the material which enables to acquire various kinds of information on the phrases. In order to communicate information on the form, structure, figurative semantics, meaning, etc. each phraseological expression must be studied from a certain aspect and marked accordingly.

Already now is the database available at for public use in the Internet language portal Keeleveeb, which provides links to all online Estonian language dictionaries. In this way the database will prove a useful additional material for the study of the Estonian language, and a practical tool for lexicographers, translators, and other interested people.

The International Folklore Bibliography 'Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie' (IVB)
Karin Maria Rooleid

The `Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie' has been issued periodically since 1919. The time frame of the bibliography is 83 years, from the year 1917 to 1999. In total 45 volumes have been published. Up to the present the bibliography has been edited and printed in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France and in the USA. On 15 August 2002 the editing of IVB started in Estonia, where this project has been under the responsibility of the Folkloristic Department of the Estonian Literary Museum

Other main institutions involved continuously in the project are the German Society of Ethnology (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, DGV) and the International Society of Ethnology and Folklore (Société Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore, SIEF).

The extent of the IVB is over 327,890 entries, average per volume 7,452. The aim of our contemporary work is to provide a paper version of bibliography and to develop the version online. Thus far the volume 1999 was provided by the printing office Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH in Bonn. The online databank is being prepared to be available by University of Bremen (Bremen Universität) and Virtual Library of Social Anthropology (Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Ethnologie, EVIFA).

The present IVB contains three indices: author, subject, and geographical index. In the paper volume the indices are published in German language only, in the online version the subject and geographical index will be available as well in English and French.

The White Ship - Narrative and Symbol
Mare Kõiva

Sherry Ortner has divided symbols in two: summarising and elaborating. Summarising symbols, several complete ideas are combined into one symbol or sign that the participant perceives. This single symbol stands for all these ideas simultaneously, and this can include sacred symbols. Conversely, elaborating symbols provide a way of working out complex undifferentiated ideas and feelings so that they make sense to the individual. When a symbol is broken down like this, then a person can communicate the idea to other people more effectively. Elaborating symbols sort experiences and categorize the world. The presentation discusses the narrative of the White Ship, which Estonian author and historian of religion Uku Masing has called the symbol most characteristic of Estonian people. I hereby apply the term ‘constructive alternativism’ by George Kelly (1991), which stands for the quality of persons to see “the world as an ever-changing text that has to be actively interpreted and construed in order to be understood”, and at the same time also the process of construction and reconstruction of personal or social meanings.

  1. The 19th-century prophet Juhan Leinberg (aka Prohpet Maltsvet) announced the arrival of a white ship which would take his congregation to the Promised Land. Even though the prophet and his confidants had travelled to Russia to make inquiries about emigration laws, hundreds of people gathered for weeks at the seashore at Lasnamäe in May 1860 to wait for a white ship that was going to take them away. People who waited for the ship imagined a white cloud, descending upon the earth, that would carry them away, whereas the more realistically-minded believed the prophet to arrive on a white steamer. Having disappointed, many of these people later emigrated to Russia. The person of the prophet and the full course of events were developed on the basis of memoirs, diaries and letters of emigrants and articles published in newspapers into a novel Prohvet Maltsvet (‘Prophet Maltsvet’ 1905-1908) by the famous Estonian novelist and playwright Eduard Vilde. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the white ship had become to symbolise unfulfilled dreams and hopes.
  2. In the twentieth century, literature and folklore have etched the symbol of the white ship in the symbols and narratives of many cultures. As such, the white ship stands for the church, it also symbolizes the promise of a better, happier and wealthier life, resting, state, social stability, and serves as the symbol of these lost dreams. The various aspects of the symbol are reflected in Kindheitsmuster by Christa Wolf, The White Ship by Chinghiz Aitmatov and numerous works by Russian authors.
  3. Towards the end of the Second World War, thousands of people gathered on Estonian seashores to wait for the white ship and escape from homeland to the western world. Some waited for actual ships; others imagined the coming of a white ship sent by the liberators, British or Americans. Probably each nation in the Baltic area had their own perished white ship, which took thousands of lives. For the Estonians, this ship was the hospital ship Moero.
  4. In Estonia, annexed for decades, people waited for the arrival of a white ship from America, which would liberate Estonia and establish independence. A signal for the arrival was believed to be given by Estonian-language radio programs like Voice of America or others. In 1951, four classified radio stations started to interfere the broadcast of foreign transmitters, strengthening the narratives and symbols of the white ship.

De locis occultarum divitiarum
Mare Kalda

Quite like the value of a real estate object is determined by its location, the same way it is important to know and tell about the location of a hidden treasure. Legends are characterised by the association of the told events with their actual or hypothetical geographical locale. This becomes evident in tales about hidden treasures in two principal ways:

  1. A specific place is described in a tale, whereas micro- and macrotoponyms are mentioned. The narrator of the tale is bound to the place by a spatial relation. In some plots, the narrator embeds his or her personal experience story in the tale, incorporating, for example, into a legend about a frequent spotting of fires guarding the hidden treasures his or her own reflection of having seen such fires burning.
  2. The tale describes events, the exact locale of which has not been determined. Instead of specific place names, general locations and general adverbs of place (somewhere, over there, in a place, in a farm, in the woods) are used.

Evidently, a description of the locale of a treasure legend depends on the type of the legend (in each individual case the description depends of the coherence of tradition regarding the said place). For example, there are types of treasure legends, the variants of which always inform of a specific location: e.g. in non-narrative reports the location of the treasure is revealed, in tales a local eccentric is looking for hidden treasures, and legends narrate about strangers who come looking for treasures. There are also types of treasure legends, the variants of which are never associated with a specific location: e.g. the story about faeces turning into gold, the double murder of treasure hunters, or a plot about money in a dead man’s pillow. A whole wide range of tale types remain between these two possibilities: in some variants the exact location is determined and in others it is not; in some types the location remains undetermined in most of the variants, and in yet others the location is clearly determined.

The more general tendency is the relation of the tale’s orientation to reality. Tales oriented to physical reality are linked to specific places more often than not, whereas tales oriented to fictional reality remain delocalised.

Under the Starry Sky
Andres Kuperjanov

In 1888, the massive collection of Estonian old oral treasure (and ethnoastronomical material also), organized by Jakob Hurt, who published his book about Estonian Astronomy 1898, was started. He described some constellations as a selection from amongst the material he collected from all over Estonia. Some astronomical books from the early 20th-century published star maps with constellation names proposed by Jakob Hurt.

Paul-Egon Prüller published several articles using the materials collected by Hurt and others as a source, and in 1968 the 'Estonian national astronomical' star map was created. This map is republished in different publications as the Estonian Constellation Map de facto.

There were also two similar "fantastic" approaches to create the Estonian Constellation map, in 1886 by Ado Grenzstein (constellations referred in the Estonian Sky Atlas in 2000) and by Aleksander Heintalu (2001, The Animated World of Ests (Finnish Tribe, a.k.a Chudes). Both of them may affect the Estonians' vision to the Sky in the future.

Meetings         Tutvumine, nõupidamised

In the Sky and on Earth. Folkloristics in Vilnius, Lithuania.

On October 17-19, 2006, eight members of the Department of Folkloristics at the Estonian Literary Museum visited Lithuanian colleagues at the Lithuanian Institute of Literature and Folklore in Vilnius. During the visit former contacts and acquaintances were renewed and new ones established.

The topics and themes to discuss and hopefully develop in future cooperation were quite abundant. Both Estonia and Lithuania boast rich folklore archives, which provide sources for research; folklorists in both countries continue analytical research, compile databases (e.g. a digital photo gallery, the digitisation project of sound recordings, the database of proverbs and phrases, and the database of spells; the compilation of the database of folk tales has been started), publish materials, reinterpret the canon of folklore tradition. An almost certain agreement was made to mark the cooperation with a conference in autumn 2007. Until then, scholars of the two countries will get acquainted with the many published articles and books that were exchanged during the visit. The Lithuanian institute, for example, issues twice a year the scholarly series Tautosakos Darbai (Folklore Studies), which publishes highly academic articles alongside editions of source materials, book reviews, overviews of congresses and conferences and current news. Also, five volumes of the collected works of Jonas Balys (1998-2004; in Lithuanian and German) are now available in the library of the Estonian Literary Museum. Lithuanians are proud of their beautiful folk song tradition and continue the study of these songs; newer publications of folk songs come with a CD with the folk songs.

On October 18, a seminar was held to introduce the research and activities of the Estonian Literary Museum. Piret Voolaid and Anneli Baran introduced our databases (of riddle periphery and of Estonian phrases), Mare Kalda introduced aspects of studying treasure legends, Karin Maria Rooleid elucidated some issues in compiling the International Folklore Bibliography, and Andres Kuperjanov introduced Estonian ethnoastronomy. The seminar was headed by Mare Kõiva.

We wish to express our sincerest gratitude to our Lithuanian colleagues and can only add that the hospitality we enjoyed only confirmed our stereotype of Lithuanians as emotional and caring and beautiful people.

After official activities were over, the Estonian delegation visited a magically lit enchanting castle on the lake island in Trakai and the lower and much higher places of ancient astronomical importance in the vicinity of Moletai (particular thanks to Mati, our patient bus driver). After enjoying a spectacular view from the tower of the Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology, stretching high in the sky and towering over the local observatory and the Ethnographic Farmstead of the Museum of Moletai, we descended to the ground to visit the farmstead - a place where the traditions and knowledge of the starry sky of prehistoric Lithuanians is preserved and introduced.

Taevas ja maa peal. Folkloristika Vilniuses

17.-19. oktoobrini 2006 külastas Kirjandusmuuseumi folkloristika osakonna 8-liikmeline delegatsioon leedu kolleege Vilniuses Leedu Kirjanduse ja Rahvaluule Instituudis. Külaskäigu kestel uuendasime vanu ja sõlmisime uusi suhteid ning tutvusi.

Teemasid ja kokkupuutepunkte, millest rääkida ja mille edasise ühise uurimise üle aru pidada, oli päris rohkesti. On ju mõlemal maal loodud rikkalikud folklooriarhiivid - allikad uurimiseks, mõlema maa folkloristid jätkavad analüütilisi otsinguid, loovad andmebaase (näiteks digitaalne fotokogu, helisalvestuste digiteerimise projekt, vanasõnade ja ütluste andmebaas ning loitsude andmebaas; algusjärgus on rahvajuttude andmebaas), publitseerivad materjale, mõtestavad ümber oma folkloristliku traditsiooni klassikat. Leppisime peaaegu täie kindlusega kokku, et ühistöö järgmiseks tähiseks saab konverents tuleval sügisel. Seni aga tutvume paralleelselt oma muude töödega, paljude raamatutega, mida vastastikku vahetasime. Näiteks kirjastab sealne instituut uurimuste sarja "Tautosakos Darbai" (Folklore Studies), mis ilmub kaks korda aastas ja sisaldab kõrgetasemelisi uurimusi, kuid ka materjali editsioone, raamatutvustusi, kongresside ja konverentside ülevaateid ning jooksvaid uudiseid. Samuti on nüüd meie raamatukogus kättesaadavad Jonas Balyse kogutud tööd viies köites (1998-2004; leedu ja saksa keeles). Leedulased on uhked oma kauni rahvalaulutraditsiooni üle ning jätkavad selle uurimist, uusimad lauluväljaanded on aga varustatud CDdega, niiet laule on võimalik kuulata. 18. oktoobril toimus ka seminar, kus tutvustasime detailsemalt, kuidas meie töötame ja mida uurime. Piret Voolaid ja Anneli Baran demonstreerisid meie andmebaase (mõistatuste perifeeria ja fraseoloogia), Mare Kalda esitas näite aardemuistendite mone aspekti uurimisest, Karin Maria Rooleid selgitas rahvusvahelise folkloristikabibliograafia koostamise küsimusi, Andres Kuperjanov tutvustas eesti rahvaastronoomiat. Istungit juhatas Mare Kõiva.

Täname südamest leedu kolleege ja ütleme neile siit Eestist: "Teie külalislahkus kinnitas stereotüüpe leedulastest kui emotsionaalsetest ja hoolivatest ning ilusatest inimestest." Tööst vabal ajal sõitsime Trakaisse, kus olime võlutud noiduslikust tuledesäras lossist järvesaarel ning Moletai lähedale, kus külastasime muinasastronoomiaga seotud kõrgeid ja natuke madalamaid kohti (erilised tänud ka Matile, kannatlikule bussijuhile). Tõusime Leedu etnokosmoloogia muuseumi vaatetorni, kust avanes kaunis vaade maastikule järve ja linnamäega, observatooriumile ning muuseumidirektori omapärasele koduaiale. Seejärel laskusime jälle maa peale, et minna astronoomiatallu, kus tutvustatakse külalistele muistsete leedulaste tähistaevapärimust.

More pictures / Rohkem pilte    

Web pages/Võrgulehed (oct 2006)

Tekst Mare Kalda
Fotod Andres Kuperjanov