Ukrainian Folklore: Fairy Tales

Ukrainian Folklore: Fairy Tales

Ukrainian folk fairy tales is a popular genre of Ukrainian traditional folk art. These stories, which have been handed down from generation to generation, embody wisdom of the ancestors, their life experience, feelings and dreams. The main idea of any folk fairy tale is that a good, kind, brave and honest person with an open heart always overcomes all obstacles and gains victory over evil forces. Let`s get into details and learn interesting facts about the characters and topics of Ukrainian fairy tales.

As for the main types of fairy tales in Ukraine, there are three of them: stories about animals, magic fairy tales and stories related to social problems.
Animal fairy tales tell stories about domestic and wild animals, birds and even insects. These tales have an expressive social undertone. The images of animals serve as an allegory for people with their typical behavior. In Ukrainian folk fairy tales, animals go to war, choose their leaders, love and quarrel – just like the ordinary humans. Usually such stories deride people`s imperfections and sins, such as jealousy, aggression and greed, and animals are used as symbols of these imperfections, for example, a fox may illustrate cunning. On the other hand, other animals may symbolize good features of people` character: a dog expresses faith and a horse embodies honor. The list of famous Ukrainian folk fairy tales about animals include “Rukavychka” (“Glove”), “Crafty hare”, “Cat and rooster” and other.
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Magic fairy tales come from the ancient times. They reflect life views, customs and traditions of the early periods of Ukrainian history. The main plot of such fairy tales is usually the fight between forces of light and darkness. Of course, evil characters from these tales, such as witches or black magician Oldekvit, are always defeated by mighty heroes.
Social fairy tales of traditional Ukrainian folklore appeared in the period of feudalism in Ukraine. These tales contain valuable information about life manner, problems and principles of people in that times. Social fairy tales usually highlight the importance of labor in people`s life and harshly condemn laziness. Ukrainians have been always well-known for their hard-working nature, which is expressed in all Ukrainian social fairy tales, such as “Wise girl”, “Grandfather`s daughter and grandmother`s daughter” and many other.
Along with household issues and cares about harvest, Ukrainian folk tales also tell about travels, romantic attempts to change the world for the better, lyric stories about love and devotion.
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All Ukrainian folklore characters may be conditionally subdivided into three main categories.
Evil Characters. As we obviously see from the name, they are those who do evil things. These characters may be fantastic (magician Koschei, old witch Baba Yaga, dragon with many heads in magic fairy tales), realistic (mother-in-law and feudal lords in social fairy tales) and allegoric (fox or wolf in animal tales).
Unfortunates. These characters are the victims of the latter. They can behave passively or fight evil forces.
Positive characters. These are mighty heroes, kind magicians, kind and honest people. These characters often overcome obstacles with help of symbolic magic items such as fast-walker shoes, hat of invisibility and many other.
In Ukrainian fairy tales, we can often find numbers 3, 7, 9 and 12. For example, characters have to solve 3 puzzles, pass 7 tests, cut off 12 heads of a dragon. Slavic people thought that those numbers were magical. Besides, they help to create a clear structure of a tale and to remember its plot easier.
Usage of many proverbs and comparisons is also typical for Ukrainian fairy tales. They make any story more vivid and expressive.
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Fairy tales also reflect important historical events. They often criticized unfair laws and traditions of the old times. For example, many fairy tales include a story about three brothers, the oldest of which is the richest one, and the youngest is poor. The youngest brother in such fairy tales is usually described as a handsome, smart and generous person, who in the end finds his happiness no matter what. In such a way, the story deride the tradition of inheriting all family`s possessions by the oldest brother.
As for a typical male character in Ukrainian folk fairy tales, it is often a honest and mighty man, who saves his homeland from enemies, releases a beautiful girl from capture and wins her love by his honorable behavior. He is an embodiment of masculinity, braveness, honesty and has a big loving heart, so he always gains victory over negative characters who stand in his way.
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An authentic female character of Ukrainian folk tales is a beautiful, housewifely and hardworking woman, a good mother and faithful wife. Ukrainian folklore does not limit image of a woman just to her beauty. The great accent is put on her moral quality.
Many well-known characters of Ukrainian fairy-tales are similar in their actions, but are special for having some individual features. For example, the boy named Ivasyk Telesyk, an authentic Ukrainian character, escaped from a dragon on swan`s wings; and mighty hero Kotygoroshko killed dragon with his large mace.
It is interesting that some very old Ukrainian fairy tales have no 100%-evil characters. The researchers say that this fact is explained by the origins of these tales. Their roots date back to the pre-Christian times. As we know, Christianity tends to divide everything clearly into black and white, good and bad. But in old Ukrainian tales there is no such clear division. For example, a dragon in old folklore tales offers a meal to a positive character that comes to him, and even asks if he wants to fight or to make peace. Mermaids in fairy tales can tickle a person to death if this person can not solve their puzzle – in such a way they punish for foolishness.
Some magic Ukrainian folklore tales have mythological characters with supernatural powers (Morozko, Slukhalo, Vernydub and other). They often help main character to get out of some hard situation, solving difficult tasks instead of him. They symbolize the dream of people to overcome the difficulties of life easily.
Of course, there are some humorous and satiric tales just to laugh and to have fun. However, almost all fairy tales are instructive in some way and tend to teach people particular positive patterns of behavior. They all include moral. Ukrainian folk fairy tales tell people to love their homeland, their family, to be honest, generous and kind.
Folk fairy tales are a great source of knowledge about values, humor, traditions and nature of Ukrainian people.
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