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Greening as Reflects in Fairy-tales and Legends.

by Jurij Dobravec

(Introduction to the presentation)

Folk-tales, in particular fairy- or magic-tales, stand somewhere at the junction of culture and mythology. Historians would claim that they represent a beginning of the literature. Psychologists like Carl Gustav Jung or Bruno Bettelheim used them, respectively, for psychoanalysis and children therapy.

What about nature? Could we join nature to this junction.

Ever since I am ethically intertwined with those magical texts, I was wondering, what is the meaning of creatures, natural features, ecosystems which appear there. Not just characteristics and their roles, but, what is the meaning of natural processes displayed during the plot, and especially, what is the importance of human-nature interactions, presented by ancient artists.

For example, what is the point of the tree, planted by Cinderella on her mother's grave, which she watered with tears. Why her godmother or good fairy or donor birds - that we read about in different variants of the story - appear exactly under or at this tree, cultivated from the gift of Cinderella's father?

Or, what is behind the idea of the Grimms tale about The fisherman and his Wife, where pollution of the sea and natural disasters increased in parallel to luxury and power gained by protagonists. From my biological viewpoint, im asking myself, whether the environmental attitude of our ancestors towards other nature has been neglected during emerging phylosophy from theology and ethics from phylosophy. Or simpy ignored by enlightened scholars, who were streching to "higher" spiritual goals, or ideas of humanity excluding non-huan creatures.

According to general folkloristic teaching, despite being magic, fairy-tales mirror the reality. Many scholars study the role of creatures that appear in the plots. Some of them address the relevance of animals or plants in or for a particular culture. However, few studies only, examine the dynamics of coexistence of the beings displayed in stories, or compare reality of ecological dynamics presented there, despite this dynamics is being the same reality in the times of narratives’ creation.

Here I’ll report some results of my investigations extended to a broader European oral legacy. In the research of tale-collections from Slovenia, Russia and of Grimm Brothers, I focused on the human-nature relations presented. The chief question was, whether this interconnectedness bears an idea similar to modern environmental issues. I compared the ancient pathways of resolving stress between human and nature with our approaches, where mitigation and the adaptation are the most popular expressions.


[Muir, Zipes, Jonas, Gerrard, Thesz; Grimm, Afanasjev, IPCC]

NOEMIS Institute
Društvo JARINA Bohinj