Monday, September 14, 2020

Heroes in the wilderness (Following folktales around the world 168. - Georgia)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Georgian Folk Tales

Marjory Wardrop
David Nutt, 1894.

The book contains 38 folktales, grouped into three chapters: 15 Georgian tales, 8 Mingrelian tales, and 14 Gurian tales (the latter two are smaller ethnic groups in the western part of Georgia). It was one of the first English translations of the Georgian oral tradition. The author selected the tales from collections published in the Georgian language, and listed the sources in the introduction. The archaic language makes them hard to read occasionally, but the cultural references and more obscure phrases are explained in the footnotes.


My favorite story in the book was the one about The prince and the fox. A prince, running away from his abusive father, found shelter in the woods, where he befriended a fox, a wolf, a bear, and an eagle. At first he was afraid of the animals, but they soon proved they could take care of him. With the fox's leadership they built a palace, carved furniture, planted a garden, and even brought a princess from the city. The princess' father, however, sent a wily old woman who stole her back. The animals got her again, at which point the king sent an army against them. In a great battle the animals defeated the army. The prince could have lived happily with his bride... except he became ungrateful and mistreated the animals. The fox cursed him, and he died soon without an heir. From that day, the story concludes, the animals ruled the forest again...


There were quite a few familiar tale types in the book: Magician's apprentice (Master and pupil), frog bride (Frog skin, in which the hero also took a trip into the Underworld), twin princes who turned to stone (Ghvthisavari), magic flight (The prince), Cinderella (Conkiajgharuna, once again with a clever old woman), Two thieves, hidden strength (Kazha-ndii), princess who saw everything (The prince who befriended the beasts - his final helper was a giant jackal that burrowed under the palace), and princess on the glass mountain (The priest's youngest son). 
I once again encountered the tale type where a girl bringing food to her brothers is kidnapped by a monster, and eventually all the siblings are rescued by their newly born younger brother (Aspurtzela). Here, the tale was combined with the "three princesses in the underworld" type. In the end, the hero asked whether it was the princesses' or his brothers' fault that he had been left in the underworld, and the princesses declared that they had been forced to comply, therefore they can't be blamed (this tale type often blames the kidnapped women too). In another "hidden strength" tale (Geria, the poor man's son) the hero was killed, and his bride kidnapped by the villain. She gave him an ultimatum: either fight her in single combat, or let her grieve for six months. The villain was too scared to fight the feisty princess. In a "golden haired twins" type tale (The three girls and the stepmother), the girls tossed into a well were rescued by the youngest sister, whose hands turned into a shovel and pickaxe, and she dug her way out. The story of The king and the apple was an interesting variant of the "silent princess" type - here, a sleeping prince had to be awakened with the help of witty dilemma stories told by a magical apple. 
We had a guest appearance by a trickster: Nasreddin Hodja showed up to tell Shah Ali a story that made the king say "that is impossible!", thus winning a bet. Among other witty stories there was the one about a scholar who judges a sailor for not knowing how to read - only to find out soon that the himself doesn't know how to swim. And also the one where a wise man wonders why pumpkins don't grow on trees... until one falls on his head. 

Where to next?

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