Mäetagused vol. 20


Some theses in memoriam to the term historical legend

Klaus Graf

This treatise is dedicated to the term of historical legend as part of the scientific classification. In the future, this term should only be used in the context of research history in connection with narratives that have been called thus since the beginning of the 19th century. As a replacement, the term historical heritage is offered.

Narrative research needs to conclude the research into historical heritage initiated by historians. It is just as important that historians would recognise the achievements of narrative researchers.

It is either trivial or dangerous to speak of the historical core of heritage: dangerous in case this is intended to prove the validity or source value of oral heritage or to support a speculation based on lacking source material.

The term folk vision of history is unsuitable as the terms nation and history are not sufficiently unambiguous.

The term historical thinking is a fickle group-specific summary of different kinds of (in Ludwig Wittgenstein's terms, kindred) language usage.

Historical heritage needs to be viewed as an inseparable part of its contemporary culture, i.e. first of all together with its group-specific historical development, but also the non-verbal, material media.

Not all heritage that included widespread narrative motifs has been among widespread heritage. Not all heritage in the form of folk legend was generally, i.e. also among the lower and middle class, known.

Legends from the 19th and 20th centuries must be taken seriously, but first of all as literary phenomenon. Their (except in the case of obvious fakes) philological classification is primary to finding in them the narratives that were transmitted orally or archaic heritage.

Heritage becomes relevant for research by the crossing points of discourses characteristic to a era as expressed in versions of a single heritage narration, not as the core essence of heritage maintained in all contexts.

Translation based on the German article Thesen zur Verabschiedung des Begriffs der `historischen Sage' published in Fabula 29 (1988), pp 21-47. Translated by Reet Hiiemäe.

Memorate and legend. Some methodological points of view

Gunnar Granberg

The article analyses the differences between a legend and a memorate. A legend is a short narrative of one episode that can have a background partially based on experience and observation but that has not emerged directly from these but instead from concepts of similar nature. Legends are created by people's ability to fabulate, while of special importance is that they have attained a fixed form that leaves little play for individuality. The other form of folk narrative is the memorate, based on individual experience, though the narrative motif may be one of the legend motifs.

Legends and memorates influence each other. On the one hand, memorates often take their material from legends or legend motifs. On the other hand, memorates are a good ground for sprouting new legends. Often memorates are polished into part of the heritage, turning into legends in the process.

The article views the relations of legend and memorate on the example of Scandinavian forest fairy tradition. Narratives in question range from legends to personal experience narratives. The latter are strongly influenced by folk belief. Thus, a researcher of folk belief needs to first of all study personal experience narratives. There is also a group of memorates that tends to mislead researchers - descriptions of purely personal experiences that thus characterise only the person that experienced the event. Another threat to the researcher is that lacking necessary amounts of material, no reliable conclusions can be reached.

Translation based on the German article Memorat und Sage. Einige methodische Gesichtspunkte published in Saga och sed. Gustav Adolfs Akademiens årsbok 1935. Uppsala: A.-B. Lundequistska Bokhandeln, pp 120-127. Translated by Riina Link.

Believe a quarter, get fooled by half.
The narrative type at 1920b as connected with specific people

Risto Järv

Different cultures have narratives where lying is, in certain conditions, not condemned. The Aarne-Thompson catalogue has under humour the narrative type 1920B (The one says, "I Have not Time to Lie" and yet lies) describing how a well-known liar is asked for another lie, but he replies that for some reason, he has no time to lie. In 1999, during fieldwork in western Estonia, several people narrated stories similar to this as related to specific people who has lived in the area. All versions had a common plot: a well-known lier passes the manor lady (or a miss or woman) who asks him, what he is lying about, to which he replies that he has no time for lying as a fish-seller is waiting for him. When the asker then sends somebody to get fish from him (or goes herself), it appears that no fish-hawkers are about.

Versions of the narrative told by four different narrators, as well as different versions recorded from the same person, are analysed. The narrators are Eino Liiv (about the liar Hiie Jaagup), Alfred Sild with Hugo Ilvese (about the same liar), Leida Riimann (about the liar Madis Palm) and Enn Koidumäe (about Valede-Randes). Also known in the neighbourhood is the liar Kustas Mäekom.

The narratives were told as if true stories, bringing out as proof that the road mentioned exists, the great liar could use it, etc. On occasion, there is even arguments as to which liar the story concerns as the narrative is still in active use in the area.

The relations of song and prose in forest Nenets songs

Kaur Mägi, Eva Toulouze


The article treats the song and narrative genres of the forest Nenets with an emphasis on what are or have been the connections between them, how a song is presented in the middle of a narrative or forms

the core of one. Analysis is based on material collected by the authors. Since the forest Nenets claim that some of their fairy tales once used to be sung in full, historical material is used for comparison. Since there is very little older material collected from the forest Nenets, the tundra Nenets tradition was used for parallel comparison of contemporary forest Nenets material.

It appears that songs that are claimed to be only fragments of longer forgotten texts, correspond in context to the tundra Nenets epic songs and apparently belong to the oldest layer of forest Nenets folklore.

The structure of narrative songs reveals the relations between song and prose in them. From the narrational aspect, song depicts either a nodal point in the storyline, a whole episode, or allows for differentiating direct and indirect speech. Linguistically, there are some differences in the language of the song parts as compared to the prose parts of the narrative, where the language is closer to that of the tundra Nenets.

A unique form of song is the so-called recitative: on the one hand, recited are only fragments in direct speech, on the other hand, these are used mainly to vocalised the characters from outside the ordinary world.

The article includes information about the informants and the transcription of forest Nenets language used in the article.

Narratives of hidden treasure.
Heritage and media

Mare Kalda

In the 1920s-1940s, Estonian press publish numerous descriptions of search for treasures and archaeological findings. Some published classical legends from the Estonian Folklore Archives. Media is one of the common channels for spreading folklore - is there some essential difference between the text published in the newspaper and archived in the archive.

A newspaper story is expected to be on a hot topic, a legend becomes hot in context. In their narrative form, both press and oral narrative tradition satisfy the human need to experience varied emotions. The journalist's job in writing a message is akin to that of a legend narrator. A news story should be of interest for many, while with heritage, its collective character is emphasised, even though every single folk narrative has definite different ranges of distribution in time and space. In the case of treasure legends, there is cause to believe that part of the information belonged to a small group of users only.

The typology of treasure legends published in press is limited to a dozen narrative types, probably those in active circulation at the time. The stories were presented as true; mythological legends were either avoided or were supplemented with comments and evaluations. Narratives of treasures were not invented media legends but used as a story to decorate local heritage or some event. The topic exhausted itself by the end of the 1930s.

Singing tradition and home

Aivar Jürgenson

The songs of Siberian Estonians are either those they brought from the fatherland, created on the spot or adapted from local people, mainly Russians. Songs that originate from the fatherland are mainly patriotic songs that were first used to maintain the Estonian-related identity but were later modified to help determine the connection with their home in Siberia. In the habitats of the descendants of deported Estonians (e.g. the village of Upper Suetuk) relatively more prison songs are sung than in the villages of emigrants.

Some songs are partly in Russian, though such songs have also been recorded in Estonia. Some Russian songs sung were in Estonian (e.g. the "Pradyaaga song") are considered Estonian by Siberian Estonians.

In addition to supplementing the repertoire, Russian songs also influence the style of performing. Thus they sing in a "tinnier" and higher voice, duets are common, girls walk on the village street singing in a loud voice.

There are relatively less choir songs in Siberia, though there has been and is both an active choir and trumpet band and settlement song festivals have been held.

The story of building the house of the Estonian National Museum: 1909-1918

Piret Õunapuu

The establishing of the Estonian National Museum in 1909 initiated systematic collecting of our cultural heritage as well as the endless fight for proper maintaining conditions. The museum archives started to grow rapidly and already in 1911, first exhibitions were made. As the museum collections grew, it sought new rooms. It seemed economical to build a house suited especially for the needs of a museum.

With the argument that exhibiting the collected material would also greatly induce collecting and contributions, a fund for building the house was established instead of spending the money on increasing collections. Further initiative was received after a fire in the house the museum resided in: the funds started to take substantial form.

Contributions were received from all over Estonia as well as from Estonians living abroad; a number of contributors were soldiers with patriotic feelings. Major daily newspapers became fund-raising centres where people sent money, and museum parties for raising money for the new house were held.

Later, political instability directed people's attention to other problems. Though all kinds of plans were thoroughly discussed, they never were realised. In the end, devaluation reduced the value of the collected money.

Is it amka, kosatko or someone else after all?

Ülo Siimets

The main character of the Chukotka travelling diary, Jelo, this time gets to hunt a polar bear after it is seen moving about near the camp of the reindeer-herders. The hunt is unsuccessful and the wounded animal runs away. Unlike in the European tradition, the Chuckts refuse to follow a wounded animal, claming that if their spirits did not let them catch the animal at once, it has the right to stay alive. Several discussions spring up, whether it really was a polar bear (amka), or a kosatko, i.e. a mythical very dangerous beast of prey, called a fox polar bear, or the completely mythical being, the spirit rekken, whose favourite prey is shaman and whose catcher is very lucky.

Impressions from the Augsburg international narrative researchers' congress "Storytelling between the cultures"

Tiiu Jaago

The international narrative researchers' congress, September 1-5 2002, in Augsburg (Germany), concerned narratives of cultural conflicts, narrating of other cultures, depiction of another nation in ethnical jokes, etc.

Impressions from the Baku international congress "Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Safeguarding of Traditional Knowledge at the Age of Globalization"

Liisa Vesik

The international congress "Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Safeguarding of Traditional Knowledge at the Age of Globalization", November 7-9 2002, in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) was after long time the first wvent assembling music and folklore reseachers from the former Soviet Union. It offered to the participants besides the reports an opportunity to get an overview how the changes of alphabet from arabian to Roman and form Roman to Slavic and now back to Roman have destroyed the old and famous culture. Now in Aserbaijan there is equally important to preserve the old scripts and same time to learn to read them again.