Brone Stundzhiene. Vilnius

Certain alterations take place in Lithuanian folklore that could be defined as internal and external. To the former relate those processes that naturally happen in the interior of the whole folklore as well as in its structure. Three presently distinguished tendencies are worth a more concrete description, i.e. the extinction and levelling of folklore, the rise of new genres and an active consistence or when a thrive of some folklore works. Thus, firstly, some of works do not exist any more. The process is especially evident in the layer of folk songs for the essential change of the very tradition of performing songs. For example, sutartinss (songs of an ancient polyphonic structure) have at present completely disappeared, i.e. they are nowhere in Lithuania (unless specially learnt) naturally sung. The similar case is with laments; lamenting followed up with proper words has always been a peculiar part of Lithuanian funeral ceremony, now only some more vivid or, on the contrary, quite faint traces can be noticed, with the exception of one or another solitary instance when an informant is capable of a traditional lamentation. The extinction of any folklore, folk songs especially, is caused by a complete change of a whole set of traditions as well as economical and other everyday life conditions. Alongside the mentioned changes, the oblivion of the folklore works related to definite customs usually follows: they become simply unnecessary. Quite a few examples can be presented as an illustration, e.g. with the extinction of the custom of rye (crops in general) visiting, in the course of tmie parugines songs (those related to the custom) were forgotten. Sometimes, though, the works are maintained for an amazingly long period in the memory of even several generations, the original purpose of which the performers find to be obscure. Besides the direct extinction of songs, another peculiar feature is even more evident: to make the song text shorter and simpler, to combine it or to maintain only the main subject motifs. Even the volumes of Dainynas1 (A Thesaurus of Lithuanian Folk Song) illustrate this tendency: the most abundant song versions usually include shortened variants recorded in recent decades. The experience of the compilation of the mentioned dainynas shows that with reference to the composition, lyrics and melody of works the most concise and best variants most often or in almost all cases are the song variants having the longest recording. The process of levelling takes an unrestrained course and can not be denied even though we would most positively assess contemporary folklore.

Another noticeable tendency or a change trend is the rise of new works of contemporary folklore genres conditioned by the emergence of new traditions. For example, an original, recently moulded genre of folklore is the words written on mourning wreaths, though their dis-semination takes an unusual to folklore written form. It has become a tradition that on a sorrowful day as the last farewell present a wreath is brought to the dead person, usually with a sash on which an appropriate text- a short dedication or some other wording is written. These texts circulate throughout the country, the majority of recordings having a stable content and form, at the same time possessing separate groups of versions, therefore the words written on the sashes become quite similar and resemble the genres of minor folklore. Alongside the above-discussed genres exist a multitude of anonymous texts for other purposes, or political couplets written on slogans or distributed by word or mouth. They make up an original variety of contemporary folklore (Tautosakois darbai 1992). Therefore while some new works appear, others have not yet received deserved attention, e.g. religious songs performed in church and at funeral ceremonies. Their melodies are especially awaiting greater attention, as they are commonly taken from folk songs (mostly romances). Besides them there are a great number of folk narratives about the centres of pilgrimage where people claim to have had visions of Virgin Mary, magic religious pictures and the like, the collection of which has just started. Actually it is in the past five years when different folklore of exiles, songs first of all, have come to light, having considerably diversified the stable image of traditional folklore (cf. Ledas & Rimkus 1990).

The next rather evident folklore tendency is the sufficient vitality

and even the thrive of separate folklore genres. It refers first of all to those folklore genres that are closely connected with the language. For example the natural existence of the dialects of the Lithuanian language conditions the survival of minor folklore: proverbs and sayings, retorts, various cheese-type phrases, abuses, etc. Another extremely popular sphere of folklore are diverse predictions, on weather and future in general, telling fortunes and other things related to magic. It is quite an interesting phenomenon that a part of the society has taken an active interest in it, believes it and tolerates it. The most active position in the narrative folklore is presently taken by various anecdotes. Owing to this, the number of published issues of anecdotes, larger or smaller, has recently increased (Kerbelyte' & Krikshchiunas 1994). Generally speaking, those genres that could be easily improvised or altered (similar to anecdotes) or have a new application are mostly favoured and therefore flourish. Such are Lithuanian talaline's - short songs, mostly of an improvised nature, meant for singing on different occasions. They are easily improvised and made popular by contemporary amateur groups at different gatherings, e.g., weddings, etc. By their artistic structure as well as the way of performance, these songs resemble, to a great extent, the Russian nacmywka.

Such a diverse picture reveals itself if one makes an attempt to summarise the recent period of Lithuanian folklore. Notwithstanding these interior changes in Lithuanian folklore, it finds a vivid application for its original modem form. The researchers are bound to constantly fix this conservative cultural phenomenon though easily adjusting to new life conditions.

Another problem, namely the societal approach on folklore or in other words, the interaction of folklore and society at its different levels, is closely related to exterior incentives. The problem requires discussion in the following three aspects: firstly, the place and role of folklore in the life of rural population; secondly, the existence of folklore in towns and thirdly, the outlook of young people on folklore.

The Lithuanian rural population has always been and still is the main medium for the natural existence of folklore. At present it seems to be divided into two parts: an active and a passive layer. The latter comprises those folklore works which are vivid in the passive memory of people but are not naturally used. For example, folk tales, especially miracles, are not told in the evenings from memory, songs, those of calendar cycle in particular, are not naturally performed. The active layer implies the folklore actively functioning, e.g. the already-mentioned proverbs, sayings and the folklore of other minor genres. Country people traditionally have and have always had a rather special approach to folklore.

As recent expeditions show, the tolerance of modem-type works (e.g. songs) prevails in a countryside. The older generation (60-year-old or even older) tend to acknowledge the folklore of their youth, the mentioned recent songs (usually of love), dances and rounds close to these songs. Even the biographical records of famous informants reveal the tendency of greater appreciation of recent folklore works (Krishtopaite' 1985, 1988). It can be estimated even without any statistical data that people, if in natural countryside surroundings, do not ascribe any specific importance to folklore.

A rather different situation is in towns, where since the very beginning of national revival, folklore has been applied for the preservation of ethnic self-consciousness and ethnic identity. Some time earlier during the last decades before the revival (approximately since the 1960s), the activity of folklore groups was the main form of folklore dissemina-tion and popularisation. The folklore festival Skamba skamba kankliai taking place in Vilnius at the end of May annually is the outcome of this activity. Similar festivals are held in the majority of European towns. But not only this festival is closely related to folklore. At Christmas, on Shrove Tuesday, the St. John's Day and other holidays the old countryside community customs are attempted to be revived and adjusted to new and strange town conditions, it being a rather original phenomenon or an attempt for an original meaning of folklore and national customs to get a second wind. Such an adoption as well as the application of archaic elements to altered life conditions do not always succeed, for an attempt is made to reach the authenticity which is not possible any more. For example, on Shrove Tuesday members of folklore groups and their children, specially organised and dressed up as characters of Shrove Tuesday Carnival in masks peculiar only to Samogitians, walk along town streets singing the songs characteristic of another Lithuanian region, residents of the southern part of the country... They try to follow a botched-up script of the feast day based on the available data from different regions of Lithuania. Or another example, on the echoes of the ancient cult of he-goat, a great deal of attention was given to this animal at a recent autumn festival in Vilnius. It was carried in a cage along town streets, even a ritual ceremony of a goat sacrifice was imitated. It would have been a merry scene or performance for town people in the central square but for the attempt to present it in a super authentic way, to search for non-existing offering texts and etc. Thus we should consider that even mere playing and reviving archaic cultural elements may exceed the limits between authentic and profane acts. One gets concerned when faced with the fact that the society tends to take an amateur approach on historically greatly respected things.

The outlook and interaction of young people and folklore also happen to be different and polysemantic. The majority of young people, of course, show no concern with the problem, i.e. they are neutral with respect to folklore. Theoretically they acknowledge it as a stable value (as are morals and ethics) but practically it makes no effect on them. Young people have interest in the music of completely different genres, etc. Another extremity can also be noticed: a very small group of young people tend to exaggeratedly understand the place and role of folklore in their life. They try to blindly follow and even adore the archaic cultural elements known to them. They organise clubs stating that you need to live with folklore, rather than just investigate it.

In all this mottled, recently moulded background of folklore concept, the only necessity remains to further accumulate and investigate the processes of old and contemporary folklore, to study the very texts as well as even a more important object, namely the general background or folklore context in which it is doomed to live and maintain the required meaning.


1) Until now 10 volumes of Dainynas, a part of this fundamental songs' code, have been compiled and published by the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, the latest being Lietuviy liaudies dainynas. Jaunimo ir meile's claims (Songs of Youth and Love). Compiled by N. Laurinkiene, melodies arranged by Z. Ramoshkaite. Vilnius 1995.


Tautosakois darbai (Folklore Studies) 1992: Vol. 1 (Vlll). Vilnius.

Ledas, V. & Rimkus, H. 1990: Sushaudytos dainos (Fusilladed Songs). Vilnius.

Kerbelyte', B. & Krikshchiunas, P. 1994: Lietuviu liaudies anekdotai (Lithuanian Folk Anecdotes). Vilnius.x

Krishtopaite', D. 1985, 1988: As ishdaunavau visas daineles. Pasakojimai apie liaudies talentus - dainininkus ir muzikantus (I've Performed all Songs. Stories of folk Talents - Informants and Musicians). Vilnius 1985, Vol. 1.; 1988, Vol. 2.