Reading Cultural Patterns Communicated through Fairy Tales
This paper analyzes the cultural patterns of Russia based on three Russian fairy tales, namely Baba Yaga (Terletski, 2012a), the Crimson Flower Russian Tale (Terletski, 2012b), and the Flying Ship Russian Folk Tale (Terletski, 2012c).
According to the Kluckhohns and Strodtbeck’s value orientations (Samovar et al., 2008), people of all cultures deal with five universal questions. In particular, these five questions aim to determine the character of human nature; the relation of human kind to nature; the orientation over time; the value placed on activity; and the relationship of people to each other (Samovar et al., 2008).
With regards to the Human Nature Orientation of the Russian culture, the three fairy tales depict that good and evil exist in the world, that is, there are the heroes and heroines who are good in nature but there are also the villains who are evil in nature. For example, in Baba Yaga, the little girl depicts goodness while Baba Yaga and the little girl’s stepmother depict evil. In the Crimson Flower Russian Tale, the merchant’s youngest daughter depicts goodness while the beast depicts evil, although the beast is portrayed as someone who really has a good heart. Finally, in The Flying Ship, Ivan depicts goodness while the king depicts evil. It can also be said that the beast in Crimson Flower depicts both good and evil in the same way that the merchant’s eldest daughters in Crimson Flower depict both good and evil. This can be considered reflective of the European culture, which has a dualistic – that is, good and evil – approach to human nature (Samovar et al., 2008). In particular, they believe that people can become good through education and learning.
When it comes to the Person/Nature Orientation, it is apparent that the Russian culture is oriented towards Controlling Nature. In Baba Yaga, this can be seen in the way that the little girl gave gifts to the maid, the dog, the cat, the gate, and the tree in order to tame them and to get their help so that she can escape Baba Yaga. In the Crimson Flower, it can be seen how the beast used the crimson flower in order to convince the merchant’s youngest daughter to stay with him. Finally, in The Flying Ship, it can be seen how Ivan was able to benefit from the gifts of the wayfarers, which was related to food, water, temperature, and other elements of nature. In modern day Russia, it can be seen how the Russians are proponents in technological advancements. Just .like the Americans, the Russians also believe that nature can be mastered. This is evident in the fact that they were among the first to send a man to the moon. Technology and science are also major parts of their culture, at least in the big cities like Moscow.
With regards to Time Orientation, it can be seen that Russian culture has a Future Orientation. For example, in Baba Yaga, the little girl went to consult her real auntie to ask for advice before she went to Baba Yaga’s house. This showed how the little girl anticipated the challenges she was likely to face in the future and thus, made the effort to prepare for them. In Crimson Flower, the merchant’s youngest daughter agreed to stay with the beast because of her hopes for a brighter future. Similarly, Ivan in The Flying Ship was determined to try and build the flying ship and to try and win the princess for his bride. This showed his optimism for the future. This also showed that he was not going to give up so easily. In present Russia, this orientation is evident in that, with Russia being one of the most powerful countries in the world, they always strive to find ways to maintain that power into the future.
In terms of the Activity Orientation, Russian culture has a Doing Orientation where accomplishment is measured by standards that are external to the person. This orientation also puts value on action and activity. In Baba Yaga, the little girl could be seen taking the necessary actions to escape from the witch. In Crimson Flower, the merchant could be seen actively seeking the crimson flower requested by her youngest daughter, and in The Flying Ship, Ivan can be seen taking charge of building the flying ship and wasting no time in getting to the palace. He and his wayfarer friends were also seen actively meeting the challenges posed by the king, In modern day Russia, this is evident the way Russians continue to develop new innovations and in the way they try to keep up with their counterparts, such as the United States and Great Britain, when it comes to progress and advancement.
Finally, when it comes to the Social Relationships Orientation, Russian culture can be considered to have an individualistic orientation where the goals of individual persons take priority over the goal of a group. For example, the story Baba Yaga focuses on the goal of the little girl to escape the witch, as well as the witch’s goal to eat the little girl. Although there were other characters who helped them achieve their goals, these other characters would not really benefit from the accomplishment of those goals. In the Crimson Flower, the beast’s goal of having the merchant’s youngest daughter stay with him was highlighted, as well as the youngest daughter’s goal to return to the beast on time. However, there’s nothing in this story that depicts collaboration. Similarly, in the Flying Ship, the story revolves around the accomplishment of Ivan’s goal to build the flying ship and marry the princess. There were also other characters who helped him accomplish his tasks. However, they were only helpers in the tasks and would not directly benefit from the fruits of those tasks in the same way that Ivan would. This is also reflective of Russian culture, which values independence.
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