Mäetagused vol. 17&18


The English versions of most articles are published in journal Folklore vol 18&19 (http://haldjas.folklore.ee/folklore/vol18)

Marked stones and hidden treasures

Mare Kalda

A stone as such is but a mark in landscape. When a story is told about a stone, it becomes also a mark in the cultural space. A stone is often present also in the scenery of legends. Since marked stones are not very frequent, there are fewer stories related to marked stones than to just stones. Stones have been marked for purposes of organising everyday life, for example in order to mark the boundaries between lands. The marking itself did not necessarily bring about a legend, as long as the meaning of the marks was known. However, when the meaning was lost, the marked stone became a subject of guesses and became related to some local event or integrated to the plot of an international legend. Some marked stones became related to treasure legends: they are regarded as landmarks.

Marks on one stone can have multiple interpretations and so the same marked stone could become the subject matter in several different folkloric narratives. Estonian stone drawings do not include images of any kind of living beings, but we can find descriptions of crosses, holes and cavities, marks interpreted as foot or hand printings of an animal or a human being, also images of cutlery, circles with a dot, stars and numbers, and combinations of these.

Treasure legends do not direct one to look for a treasure from under a big stone. In fact, the indication of a treasure can be presented on the side of the stone that is unnoticeable and less prominent. The stone indicating the hiding place had to be recognizable, but it should not catch too much attention. This criterion applies to both real life and fiction, i.e. the reality of the story.

The fact that a stone is landmarking a treasure does not usually cause it to be specially named, although there are a few such cases. Certain specialisation appears here -- the explanation for the deeds of a giant and the story about a treasure do not relate to the same stone. Also, sacrificial stones and the so-called healer stones are seldom connected to hidden treasures. Ancient (or more recent) tombs are presumed hiding places for treasures in folklore, but no single stone is pointed out in such cases.

In order to make a relatively unnoticeable signal stone recognizable, symbols were sometimes carved there. Also, the opposite was true _ marks on a stone could give grounds for keeping a treasure legend in circulation.

Nevertheless, marks, lines and images on stones have been considered maps for the location of a treasure more frequently than there has been reason for this.