Monday, June 11, 2018

Luring down the stars and scheduling the rain (69. - Montenegro)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

A kilenc pávalány és az aranyalmafa
Népmesék Vuk Stefanović Karadžić gyűjtéséből 
Európa Könyvkiadó, 1987.

This book is yet another volume of our Tales of Nations series, and once again a selection from the folktale collections of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić. In terms of publications, it is impossible to separate the folklore of Serbia and Montenegro, so I was really happy to see that this book listed the actual source and location for each folktale - this way, I found six of them that were from the region of modern day Montenegro. Vuk himself descended from an old Montenegrin family, and according to some sources collected almost half of his folktales from there. The book, by the way, contains twenty-nine "female" (wonder) tales, and twenty-three "male" (humorous) tales. In the afterword we can read the detailed and fascinating true story of Karadžić's life and work. All storytellers should familiarize themselves with it.


The tale titled Real Steel from last week's Serbian collection turned out to be one of the tales from Montenegro. In this book, it is titled The Wily Bas-Chelic, and it is still awesome with its giant-slaying, princess-rescuing, dragon-army-mobilizing glory.
Tales were collected around the
Bay of Kotor
Also from Montenegro is one of the most beautiful, most symbolic stories in the book, The Magic Knife, in which a man has to bring three special horses to a Tzar to win his daughter's hand. The daughter helps the hero in secret, giving him a magic knife and telling him how to find the Field of Pearls, and gain treasures from a bush that has roots of honey and flowers of gold. Karadžić also collected a similarly beautiful tale from his home village, in which a princess demanded Three rings from her suitor - one of the sun, one of the moon, and one of the stars. An old woman helped the hero by undoing her hair, and using it to lure the three rings down from the sky.
There was also a Montengrin tale of Truth and Falsehood, in which two princes argued over which one leads to success (the former won, obviously, because this is a folktale), and another one titled The priest and the congregation, which was both poignant and hilarious. In it, a priest was accused of his prayers for rain being useless, so he asked the members of his congregation when they would like to schedule the rain for. They all began to fight, and eventually concluded that there is no right time for rain...
Among the non-Montengerin tales I especially liked the story of How Solomon the Wise was cursed by his mother. The wise ruler could not die until he had seen the deepest bottom of the ocean, and the highest peak of the mountains of the world. He had to resort to trickery to accomplish both.


This book contains Hungarian translations of several stories that I read last week in English; it has The Golden Apple Tree and Nine Peahens, Son of the Bear, Snake Husband, Hovering Castle, Bird Maiden, and the Tzar with goat's ears (it took me this long to realize his name is Trajan). Interestingly enough, the Hungarian translation of The Golden-fleeced Ram says the hero needs to build a palace from "fairy teeth", rather than ivory. I wonder if it was a translation mistake, since all other variants have ivory...
There was also a version of You can't please everyone (with father, son, and donkey), and a fun legend about Saint Sava and the devil which fell into a classic international trickster tale type. Saint and devil planted crops together, and by asking "do you want the top part of the bottom part?" the saint kept tricking the devil. Eventually the poor devil at least got back at him by inventing liquor...
There was once again a tale with Ossetian nart parallels - The father's oath listed all kinds of wonders from the underworld that a wise person had to explain to the hero.

Where to next?
Bosnia and Herzegovina!

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