Mäetagused vol. 5


/\o/\ Forty Birds in Estonian Folk Belief. IV
Mall Hiiemäe

It is believed that if you close the nest opening of a black woodpecker Dryocopus martius with a wooden plug then it will bring a wonderous grass that opens all locks. Its call is thought to be a sign of rainy or dry weather. The mythical bluebird with blue wings and waxcoloured legs is a mediator between the worlds of the living and the dead. In a runo song it appears before the death of a maiden and carries a death messsage from her to the living. Crane Grus grus is a bird species connected with the world of the dead more intensively than the black woodpeckeer. Especially freared is the crane appearing above dwelling houses. Thus an overpassing flock of cranes was misdirected with incantations. In lgends, black grouse Tetrao tetrix as well as wood grouse Tetrao urogallas may turn out to be a forest fairy misleading the hunter. The song of tits, hoopoes Upupa epops were interpreted as death omens. Black stork Ciconia nigra appearing near dwelling houses was an omen of death and it also transferred to white stork Ciconia alba when it spread to South Estonia in the 19th century. In the newer layer of beliefs, white stork brings babies. Snipe Capella gallinago has been connected with goats because of its song, wryneck Yynx toaquilla predicts somebody's death and the time for sowing oats. Song and nightly lifestyle have given rise to several beliefs connected with nightingale Luxinia luxinia, owls and nightjar Caprimulgus europaesus.

Relative from across the River of Blood: the Lapp fairy tales about totem reindeer. II

Enn Ernits


In the second part of the research is treated the most important event of the adult life of Meandash - getting married. Marriage between a man and an animal is based on totemistic conceptions. The stories of Meandash finding a wife and marrying her can be divided into two or three Subgenres. Of the first, the author knows only three versions, of the second twelve versions, but of the third - unless it is a forage or a combination of occasions - only one.

The first subgenre is characterized by marrying a wife from beyond the river of blood, the second by a threesome of suitors (a raven, a seal and a reindeer), and the third by the bride observing how the food is prepared, which is forbidden. In the first subgenre, the totemistic and shamanlike way of thought is reflected, in which a reindeer man marries a mortal. The river of blood is in the Lapp conceptions the border separating the human and the mythical reindeer world. It is a border between the world of life and death, companions and ancestors. This border can only be crossed by a shaman, who turns into an otter (compare "Kalevala" XVI: 369-372), or uses incantations to make the river dry. In the latter case he uses alder cambium which is analogous to blood. In these stories is represented the motif of a house built of reindeer bones (Compare "Kalevala«, XXI: 159-162). Thus the house of the mythical reindeer is the reindeer himself. Here is expressed the microcosm of the Lapps and the traditions connected with the skeleton. The threshold of the reindeer's house were neckbones. It seems that the semantics of the neck has not been awarded proper attention in the Finno-Ugric religion history. The purposes of telling stories of getting married were 1) passing on information about the ancestors of the tribe and 2) separating the moral from the immoral for didactic purposes.

Subgenres of the second kind express the way the reindeer people were imagined to be and to emphasize the benefits of originating from the reindeer rather than from the raven or the seal (distinctions are drawn between the own and the foreign). Everything connected with the house in the stories of this subgenre reflects the opposition pair culture - nature. Meandash is in the house as an anthropomorphic being, but in nature he acts as an animal. He enters the house through the backdoor that is usually used to bring in prey; but the reindeer of our story is at the same time the hunter and the prey as he is hunting those like him.

/\/\ The possible meaning of the parallel words blue and red in runo songs.
Tiiu Jaago

What rises from there, blue from the swamp,/ blue from the swamp, red from the earth? The article deals with red and blue in runo songs.

The usage of color words in runo songs depends on: the possibilities of the existing language; the poetics of the runo song, the regional style, the world concept at the time of the runo song's creation.

The frequency of using color words depends on the song's plot (they are mostly connected with marring fantasies and puzzle songs) and inside that, on its turn, on the song type. Colors are connected with not a certain song but rather with historically developed stereotypical phrases. In a runo song they mark certain situations or phenomena. Blue and red in parallel verses hint to border situations in man's life (wedding, birth) or in nature (the border of night and day). The pair of colors has other meanings as well as it is statistically often found and semantically many-sided.

Of 772 songs, color names were mentioned in 175 and all in all 37 different color words were used. Of the contemporary Estonian well-known color names were used red, blue, gray, black, white, rarely were used green and yellow from the list were absent brown, pink, violet, orange. Runo songs were recorded in the 19th century. Black, white, red, blue became the basic color names already before the 17th century. Instead of yellow, golden is often used. Green as a basic color name has been known since the middle of the 17th century and is found in runo songs only occasionally. Brown - a loan word from the 18th century - is not at all found in runo songs. From this we can not actually conclude that the stereotypical runo song expressions connected with color words had been formed before the 17th century. For example we often meet in runo songs the word gray as a basic color name, but it became a basic color only in the 18th century. At the same time, the earlier basic color name bright (`haldjas') noting green, is absent in runo songs (it is used in the contemporary meaning that marks shining, glowing or the color of a limited group of notions - i.e. the greenness of trees). The glossary of runo songs was still developing in the 18th century. Earlier color names (white, black, red, blue) give ample stereotypical expressions, red-blue in different meanings and word pictures.

The main characteristic feature of the earlier layer of Estonian runo songs is alliteration (purjetan punasta merda `I am sailing the red sea') and parallelism (minu hella eidekene,/ siruta sinine lõnga,/ poeta punane lõnga,/ keera kullakarvaline,/ tõmba tütar taeva_aie `my dear old woman,/ stretch a blue thread,/ give a red thread,/ twist a golden-colored,/ pull your daughter up to the heavens').*1

Color words form alliterational word pairs, for example päev - punane (`day - red'); puu - punane (`tree - red') (päev läks puudele punane; /õun on/ päeva poolt punasikene; üks oli puu punane põõsas; Poolamaal puu punane,/ punasem on meie velle `the red day went to the trees; /the apple is/ red from the day's side; one tree was a red bush; in Poland trees are red,/ redder than our brothers'). These word pairs are different morphologically as well as semantically. From the point of view of the song's semantics, more important of the alliterating word pairs are those that belong together into one parallelism group and form general notions (characteristic of archaic thinking) through a certain given list. The blue-red is often accompanied by white or golden - a semantic mark of border. Separately the words do not have this meaning.

Runo songs' poetry has big regional differences. The parallelism of blue-red characterizes first of all the North-Estonian song area. The tradition there is more based on the earlier tradition and earlier stereotypical formulas are preserved. South-Estonian runo song is more characterized by improvisationality and thus the song formula is more changing.

Songs are based on nature and the material world. In a certain culture, the surrounding is interpreted by traditional expressions. For example, with the notion of border the blue-red-parallelism is used as these are visible-perceivable in the real world (i.e. sunset). It is characteristic of the runo song language to form general notions in the form of a concrete list. The important thing being that the singers of this land have worded their songs in that way already before us. Nature, religion, experience, form - all these determine the border in runo songs to be at the same time red and blue.

New Song

The newer folk song "Viisnurgalaul" ("Pentagon's Song") is a student song from the 1980s, created in the Estonian Students' Building Host (EÜE). The song is performed by Peep Puis who also comments on host songs: "I wrote songs in the host for ten years and on contemporary festivals they brought me both first and smaller places. A very popular song with a good melody was taken and own words were written on it, as a rule. In that difficult time, people searched for a way to say what was on their mind, dispite all the prohibitions. Reflections on political events, moaning, stire and humour - all this found its reflection in student songs. Of course, there were also nostalgic ballads, romantic songs of the fascinating Saaremaa, wonderful Sakala or South Estonia, but the main emphasise was on finding a way to say what actually could not be said. It was not always easy. In fact, it was a memorable time and many songs I am happy about were born mostly thanks to the host."
Sound 3.9 Mb .au Sound Sample

The Anecdote as such
Erkki Kõlu

The lexicon of foreign words defines the anecdote as a short, interesting, often invented, but striking story of some funny encounter. Actually, this definition says practically nothing about the anecdote and is wrong and incomplete, too. Anecdote is a collective folk creation, except for maybe absurd anecdotes. Anecdotes come to be in the process of passing on stories of actual events. In telling the story to another person, people, on the one hand tend to eliminate unnecessary details that wear down the story and give no additional information, and on the other hand add to the story their version of it, make additions and modifications till the original event, the so-called birth event of the anecdote is no longer recognizable. The longer an anecdote circles from mouth to mouth, the more it gets modified. Thanks to constant retelling, anecdotes change all the time. Characters, places of action, situations, details and sometimes even the point change. Thus a popular anecdote may have several versions. An anecdote is based on either situational, character or word comics. It often happens that two, or maybe even all three kinds of comics are combined in one anecdote. The characteristic features of an anecdote are: 1. shortness, 2. accuracy, 3. the point, which can be a) gradual, b) delayed, c) double.

The anecdote is a reflection of reality, or on the one hand, an anecdote is the content of what it gives shape. On the other hand, an anecdote grown in a certain society or nation shows the attitude of the member of that society or nation towards some topic or situation.

An anecdote is always behind social events, as being a result of interpersonal communication it can not be too operative. It is as if to compensate for that fact that the anecdote lives much longer than its time.

As the anecdote is a reflection of reality, its topics are as varied as life itself. Probably there are more anecdotes of marriage than anything else as marriage has been for several thousand years one of the most stabile forms of interpersonal relationships. There are also many anecdotes of court, the army, alcohol, etc. In most cases, an anecdote cannot be purely placed under one topic but it rather belongs to many at a time. A different kind are absurd anecdotes which are the only kind of anecdotes that are not based on actual events. National anecdotes characterize the given nation and they can be divided into two: a) anecdotes that have developed in a certain nation and characterize it: b) anecdotes developed within a given nation that characterize some other nation. The teller of an anecdote puts his attitude and emotionality into the anecdote with the means of mimicry, gestures and intonation. The listener of an anecdote not only receives the text, but also the way it is told. Written down, the anecdote loses the characteristics of how it was performed, and the only thing left over is what can be conveyed by text.

Political Anecdotes. IV
Kadi Sarv

The majority of material used in this article originates from the Estonian Folklore Archives. In the fourth part of the article series is given an overview of political anecdotes popular in the period of Soviet occupation. A selection of anecdotes about Breznev and Gorbachev are presented. To get the background and the dates of central importance in L. Brezhnev's life, you are welcome to visit his homepage ;-)

The days of our life
A Travel Article of a Trip to Siberian Estonians in Spring 1996
Astrid Tuisk

The collecting expedition of the Estonian Folklore Archive (participated by Anu Korb, Ell Vahtramäe, Aivar Jürgenson and the author) this time headed for the nearby villages of Tara city, Omsk oblast.

Villages situated near the Siberian taiga were founded in the end of the last century by emigrants. Of the original 11 villages near Tara, only four have survived. Due to their fairness, isolation and compactness, Jurjevka, Lilliküla and Estonka have maintained South-Estonian language. Currently, in Lilliküla are about 170, in Estonka 70 and Jurjevka about 25 inhabitants, the majority of them Estonian. The village of Mihhailovka, situated across the Irtõsh, was founded in 1906 and there are concentrated inhabitants from the surrounding Finnish, Estonian and Russian villages. Estonians are the minority in the village and the village language is mainly Russian.


Estonian villages are the centers of maintaining Estonian language and customs. Although they listen to Russian radio, watch Russian television programs, children of the village speak Estonian. People born in the 1950s and 60s living in the city with their children often have passive knowledge of the language, but their children speak only Russian.

The majority of village inhabitants are made up of Estonians about 70 years old. The small pension money is not enough to live on, so it is their own houshold that they live on. The youth has trouble finding work as in smaller villages work was previously found in collective farms and now there are none left. Comfort is often sought from alcohol. Even moral support from Estonia would be of help but it is the sad truth that because of material and authority trouble there has been little contact with Estonia. Thus they are genuinely glad of anybody coming from Estonia and according to their tradition, hospitality is limitless.

Vepsian Fairy Tale II

The longest Vepsian fairy tale ever recorded is about the adventures of Ivan, son of Tsar, who tries to marry a crafty princess. To do this, he has to steal the princess from her husband, dragon. For a final getaway he needs help from Jagi-Baaba's best daughter who has been turned into a horse. Recorded and translated by Kristi Salve.